I have zero need for a good scarf, let alone a bad one.
February 19, 2021 8:30 AM   Subscribe

I want to knit! I'm a low-skill knitter, and I want to just do really simple projects to get better at the simple stitches. But it feels really wasteful, because the end result isn't anything useful. Any suggestions?

Ideally, I'd just make scarf after scarf after scarf. But I literally never wear scarves, nor does anyone I know. I've done some more challenging projects before (I knit a dog! It was awesome), but I don't want something that takes a lot of close attention and careful work. I want, instead, the sort of project where I can just let my fingers be busy while I listen to podcasts or watch TV.

Whenever I try to undo knitting, the resulting yarn is all wrinkly, and it falls apart easily. So just working on a scarf, undoing it, and then re-doing it doesn't seem like a useful option.

What might be some useful ways for me to practice my knitting, given that I don't actually have any need for scarves or similar knitted things?
posted by meese to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (31 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
This is the perfect case for the Ballband Dishcloth. It won’t take long, you can practice different skills, and they really are very useful in the kitchen.
posted by chocotaco at 8:35 AM on February 19 [11 favorites]

Knit squares, sew them together into a rectangle, possibly finish the edges with blanket stitch, boom you have a blanket. Give these away to places where people or animals might need them, or just hang them on the lamppost with "take me" on them.
posted by runincircles at 8:36 AM on February 19 [10 favorites]

You could make blanket squares and stitch them together. An extra blanket is a good thing to have, and if you don't want it, you can donate it. Warm Up America takes blanket squares to make blankets for people who've lost their homes to disasters, for example. And very simple hats (need not be done in the round-- the "pussy hat" for example was a joined rectangle) are useful for people experiencing homelessness.
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:36 AM on February 19 [4 favorites]

My wife's first project was a scarf knit but much much wider; we use it as one of those small blankets that goes on the back of a chair and it works really well for that. A longer one with lighter weight yarn could be a runner for a table.
posted by dbx at 8:38 AM on February 19

Also popping into mention dishcloths. They're my wife's go-to knitting project when she wants something small and generally quick. Plus they're really useful and make nifty gifts to boot.
posted by jquinby at 8:40 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]

Have you done hats? I am also a fairly low-skill knitter but have sometimes enjoyed hats because with circular needles I can just keep going round and round mindlessly (til the decrease part, but that's a small portion), and warm hats seem like something you could donate if they're decent.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:40 AM on February 19 [7 favorites]

Please google 'donate knitted'. There are a number of organizations that would get your knitted blankets, scarves, and hats to people who would LOVE to have them.
posted by amtho at 8:43 AM on February 19 [9 favorites]

Two wide scarves stiched together and stuffed with fabric scraps would make a useful draught excluder for the base of doors, if you live in a place where this might be necessary.
posted by doornoise at 8:43 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]

Project Linus has a list of endorsed Blanket Patterns.

Also check with your local animal shelter. In pre-covid times ours would gladly welcome small blankets to put in kennels with their animals.
posted by librarianamy at 8:43 AM on February 19 [2 favorites]

I make a lot of big triangular shawls. I would never wear a scarf, but I wear shawls constantly. Purl Soho has a ton of really simple and elegant patterns, this one for a garter triangle wrap can basically be made with any size needles and any yarn as long as you like the resultant fabric.

As for the yarn being wiggly when you unknit, you can put it back in a skein and soak it and that will remove the wrinkles. I don't recommend doing that just because you can definitely make a lot of functional objects that aren't scarves.
posted by k8lin at 8:47 AM on February 19 [3 favorites]

I knit 100+ 4x4 squares and turned them into a jacket. It was really easy, actually.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:47 AM on February 19 [7 favorites]

You should be knitting the kinds of projects you actually enjoy and want to have. Even something like a sweater will have a lot of stretches of “knit until it’s six inches long” or whatever where you can zone out and watch tv.
posted by cakelite at 8:48 AM on February 19 [6 favorites]

Pot holders. My father was a Chef and he had a group of local ladies that would knit him pot holder clothes from a special yarn called Kitchen Cotton Yarn, basically a thick pure cotton yarn. They are amazing as pot holders. I still have one of his of them I use every day, 10 years after he passed and it works great if now a little singed around the edges. The stitches are thick like this but bigger and without the tab.
posted by wwax at 8:51 AM on February 19 [4 favorites]

Since you mention your yarn getting all wrinkly and falling apart when you undo knitting - what kind of yarn are you using? Yarn with more than one ply (looks like little ropes twisted together) will hold up better to multiple uses. You can use steam to remove the wrinkles - don't iron it, especially if it's synthetic, but hover the iron over it on the highest steam setting.
posted by zeptoweasel at 8:51 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]

This is a little counterintuitive, but I highly recommend that you find a very simple sweater pattern and knit that. A simple sweater is just a tube (or two squares) for the body and two tubes (or rectangles) for the sleeves; the only complicated part is attaching those pieces together. But if you have previously knit a DOG, you will well be able to take on the challenge of the sweater's yoke, and that's only a tiny percentage of the actual sweater. The vast majority of the work is exactly what you want - miles of easy knitting that you can do while watching TV.

Anything listed on Ravelry as "miles of stockinette" or similar should be what you're looking for.

Blankets are also good, especially granny square style blankets, as people have said above. Shawls also make lovely gifts, in my experience.
posted by branca at 9:02 AM on February 19 [3 favorites]

The pattern search on Ravelry is very good, and allows you to search patterns by skill level and quantity of yarn required. It may be worth browsing there to see if any of the patterns marked "easy" look interesting.
posted by Lycaste at 9:07 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]

Sounds like socks are for you! A plain sock is basically a whole bunch of knitting in circles until you get to the breath-taking excitement of turning your heel, then it's back to knitting in circles until the thing is the right size. Then do it all again for a pair.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 9:12 AM on February 19 [11 favorites]

Knit bags.
posted by trig at 9:26 AM on February 19

For a while, I was knitting nothing but baby hats, which I donated to a baby hat charity. A lot of knitting for charity is kind of bullshit, but this charity supplies every newborn at the hospital with a hat, so at least I know they go somewhere. So that's a possibility. Baby hats are pretty quick and easy once you know what you're doing.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:37 AM on February 19 [2 favorites]

The Simple Collection by tincanknits on ravelry is a collection of free patterns designed for low-skill knitters who want to make a variety of simple but attractive garments. The patterns are extremely easy to follow (and customize, if you're eventually into that), come in an enormous range of sizes where that's relevant, and each of them has long stretches of doing nothing but knitting plain garter stitch or stockinette.

I've made the Flax Light sweater from this collection twice and am planning a third because it makes a really nice easy sweater and it's a great tv-watching or podcast-listening project that I don't have to pay a huge amount of attention to.
posted by darchildre at 9:58 AM on February 19 [3 favorites]

You can make a bag as easily as a scarf. Just make a scarf that is as wide as the bag and twice as long. Then fold the fabric in half and sew up two of the the sides. You can knit a strap, add a drawstring or zipper, or just leave it as is. Other people can use these even if you don't.
posted by soelo at 10:09 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]

I agree that stronger yarn won't fall apart after being undone. I've done a lot of unknitting lately and I've just wound the yarn around a piece of cardboard and reused it. The end are a bit more frayed, so I trim them back a lot, but I don't worry about the kinks since the yarn will just be knitted or crocheted again.
posted by soelo at 10:13 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]

I too was a low-skill knitter and I just moved on to sweaters because that's what I wanted. You can always look stuff up; I did it a lot; and things turned out fine.

This year I'm knitting socks, because everyone needs socks and having a lot isn't a problem. And I'm using socks to teach myself new stuff. I started with the Tin Can Knits Rye Socks to learn how to make socks. Then I picked simple patterns with one "new-to-me" feature. I learned ribbing on this pattern, cables on this pattern, and reading a cable chart on this. I plan to learn very simple colorwork with this, and then move on to a pattern that shows you how to adjust and custom-fit a simple sock. Eventually I'll move on to Fair Isle patterns.
posted by Hypatia at 11:47 AM on February 19 [2 favorites]

Nthing the recommendations for socks and anything from the Tin Can Knits simple collection! Socks can feel intimidating because ugh, heels, but for the most part a basic sock pattern will be both simple and relatively quick to finish, and don't require any skills more complicated than decreases and picking up stitches.

But really, it all boils down to what you want out of knitting. If you really just want something to do with your hands, then you could keep making simple scarves and donate them. If you want something to do with your hands and end up with something you could use or gift to people in your life, projects like socks or sweaters without much shaping (see above re: "miles of stockinette") could be good. If you have specific things you'd like to make once you become more skilled (lace, colorwork, cables, etc.), Ravelry pattern searches can be refined by difficulty level, type of item, techniques used, weight of yarn, yardage of yarn, etc. and can make it really easy to find something that matches both your current skill level and the materials you have at hand.
posted by quatsch at 12:18 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]

If you really just want to make scarves, I guarantee there are people who want them. As an example, around the start of winter, some kind community members sometimes bring in collections of hand-knitted scarves for the international students who are studying at our university. We send out an email, and the free scarves are usually gone within an hour amid many smiles and thanks. It's such a wonderful physical representation of a community welcome.
posted by past unusual at 12:32 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]

Scarves for homeless people? From experience giving away winter clothing, plain dark colours are generally preferred.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 12:34 PM on February 19

I like dishcloths the size of a sponge, rather than the size of a washcloth, and when I knit my own they can be the perfect size! I highly recommend "Red Heart Scrubby Yarn" held double with a cotton yarn to makes dishcloths the texture of a sponge.

I have knit myself approximately 11 of the Sockhead Slouch hat by Kelly McClure. It's the perfect project for me because: (a) it's a fine yarn, so it fits in my smallest purse; (b) it's a fine yarn so the hats take a long time, and I don't have to find a new project as often (or ever knit a new gauge square!); (c) it's simple enough I can do it in a meeting or while enjoying a glass of wine; (d) it's a versatile enough hat that I like having it in 10+ colors, but also it makes great gifts.

Excuse me for going off-prompt with crochet, but my other favorite project for keeping my hands busy is these crochet amigurumi octopuses . They are my favorite specifically because they have no seams (I use safety eyes, instead of sewn-in beads), so I can completely finish one in a 60-minute meeting. I have a bowl of them on my desk and people LOVE getting them as gifts.
posted by copperdrake at 1:35 PM on February 19 [3 favorites]

I literally just learned to crochet yesterday, copperdrake, and I am going to go crazy with those octopuses.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:39 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]

I'm thirding (fourthing? fifthing?) dishcloths/washcloths as an excellent way to practice new stitches in knitting. They are small, quickly finished and great even made with the cheapest cotton (I like Bernat Handicraft). You can give them away - people like dishcloths - and interesting stitches like moss/seed stitch or mosaic make them nice and bumpy which is a big plus in dishcloths.

There are 1000s of patterns on Ravelry.

In the past, I've made Doctor Who dishcloths, Star Trek cloths, and learned how to do mosaic knitting. I learned double knitting to make a dishcloth with my work's logo - and it was way more popular at our charity auction than I thought it would be.

Variants on the basic dishcloth include tea-towels, swiffer mop covers, coasters, etc.
posted by jb at 2:33 PM on February 19

I’ve been done some loom knitting with cheap circular plastic frames from Amazon. Hats, snoods etc. It is simple, doesn’t require much attention or mental effort but quite calming and therapeutic.
posted by ElasticParrot at 7:19 PM on February 19

Response by poster: Many of you are vastly overestimating my knitting capabilities :-)

Making squares sounds like a really good plan for me. I can stack them up and then decide what to do with them later. Also, if I mess up and make one really ugly, it won't be the destruction of a full project, just a small square.

As I get better at knitting, I'll be working through all the rest of the suggestions you all have offered. Thanks, everyone!
posted by meese at 9:44 AM on February 20 [3 favorites]

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