Our “needle works” contributor Phyllis Howe helps you brush-up on your knitting skills as well as avoid time consuming, yarn-wasting mistakes …xxx
I know why knitting has swamped the nation. It’s relaxing, community-oriented and just plain fun. So, if you’re wanting to begin or to take knitting up again, here are some tips to consider:
1. Choose Wisely!
OK, you’ve fallen in love with a wonderful pattern with a great fit and fabulous detail. While that may definitely be a project in your future, you’ll want to insure that your first project goes easy. Choose something with a simple shape that you can complete in a relatively short period of time, like a scarf, wrap or throw. Nothing reinforces success like success, and there are some very chic patterns out there that don’t require unqualified attention to every detail. Go for those, and you’ll feel like a knitting winner.
2. Choose Your Yarn Carefully!
On the one hand, you may not want to make your first project out of cashmere that costs $45.00 a skein. On the other hand, you don’t want to spend a lot of time and effort on your project, only to feel not-so-good about wearing it out of the house. There’s a high quality yarn for every taste and budget. When possible, it makes good sense to use the pattern’s recommended yarn, if available. Check online to see if there’s a yarn store near you, since stores specializing in yarn will have a good range of choices. Wool is always a good choice. Light weight wools can be used in every season and it’s a fiber that’s very forgiving of mistakes because of its natural give and take. It can tolerate being taken out and re-knit without losing its good looks. Some blends are also wonderful for new knitters. This is where a good yarn store can be invaluable, so it’s worth it to seek one out.
3. Knit a “Gauge Swatch”
A “gauge swatch” is a small sample (usually about 4″ square) of the stitch you want to knit, using the needle size and yarn weight that is suggested. NO ONE wants to knit the gauge swatch, they want to jump right in and knit up their new yarn fast. The truth is, however, that no two people knit exactly the same way, and you may not knit to the exact specification that the pattern states. When the swatch is finished, you measure the number of rows and stitches to the inch and compare it to the gauge of your chosen pattern. If your sample is smaller than the numbers specified (i.e. the pattern gauge is 5 stitches per inch and you are getting 6 stitches per inch), go up a needle size and make another gauge swatch. If your sample is larger than the pattern, step down a needle size and try again. This is VERY important when you are knitting garments. While a stitch here or there doesn’t seem like a big deal, they add up to many inches of difference in the fit of the garment, turning a large into a small or, worse yet, turning a small into baby clothes.
4. Knit with a Pal – or two or three!
Find someone to knit with. Nothing will teach you faster than having a fellow knitter by your side. Check out that local yarn store. (In NY, try Knitty City). See if your local yarn store has group classes or set times when knitters just bring in their current projects and hang out together. Then watch and learn! If you don’t live near a knitting store, see if there is a knitting group in your community. Many groups meet informally at the local library or community center. Knitting is a terrific group activity, as you get more experienced you can knit and chat at the same time and making it social will also make it more fun to learn.
5. The Internet is your friend!
There are so many options on line, many of which include video demonstrations so you can see exactly what’s going on. My first rule when in doubt is to google. Try entering “knitting how to + video” and see what pops up. Some sites that immediately come to mind are: Knitting Help, Knitty, Learn to Knit.
In the end, the most important thing to remember is “HAVE FUN”. This is a highly enjoyable and relaxing hobby and well worth the time and effort you put into it, but the point is to enjoy it!