Has anyone wanted to start a knitting project as part of their quarantine ambitions? How are things going a few months in? Still at it, or has the spark fizzed a little?
Learning any craft, hobby or skill, especially as an adult, is a rather ungrateful process. You have to train your motor skills to handle an unfamiliar task. You will need to dedicate your undivided attention to what you’re doing. Finally, you will have to refrain from getting discouraged when the outcome doesn’t immediately resemble that of someone who has been practicing this skill for years.
As an adult, I feel this undertaking can be more challenging than in our formative years. I think it’s due to the fact that as adults, we have already learned, perhaps even mastered so many things that, starting from zero, feels like a serious setback. For youths, on the other hand, learning is literally all they have to do in life, so that blocker isn’t really there.
All of that said, here are my tips to start a knitting project without giving up.
1. Choosing your knitting project
Let me guess, you’re knitting a scarf? That’s great! It’s straightforward, simple and gives you a concrete sense of progress. But what about something a tad more impressive, possibly not as time-consuming all while matching your beginner skills?
There are a plethora of patterns available on Ravelry as well as in the knitting section of your local library. However, if you’re looking for a one-stop-shop, I would suggest checking out Wool and the Gang. They offer all sorts of modern patterns and categorize them by difficulty level. So why not try a summer tank top, a snood, a pillow cover or even a sweater! Whatever you choose, consider the following:
- Go for a uniform stitch – any pattern will add more complexity.
- Generally speaking, how patient are you? If you don’t think you’ll take to knitting, go for something small like a snood or a sleeveless boxy top.
- Look for a piece that uses thicker wool. It will be easier to see your progress and what you’re doing.
- What kind of budget do you have?
2. Understanding your pattern
This may come as a shock but knitting is an exceedingly repetitive sport. With this in mind, any added difficulty such as a pattern will also be repetitive. So, before getting too adventurous and hating yourself for it later, I suggest steering clear from fun patterns, funky sleeves and multi-coloured pieces. They’ll be plenty of time for those shenanigans later.
In every pattern, you will find the following: a yarn suggestion along with the number of balls or grammes needed depending on the size, the needle size (available in both US and UK sizing hopefully), the tension and the instructions themselves.
The tension is one of those things you may overlook but it will save you time, effort and a potential meltdown. Essentially, it indicates how many centimetres you should expect to have from a certain number of stitches. By creating a small square sample before starting your masterpiece, you’ll have a better grasp of the tension of your work in comparison to the example. There’s nothing like finishing a project and it not fitting to put a damper on your day.
The knitting instructions themselves use a boatload of abbreviations. It may seem intimidating but you’re more or less doing one or two movements. For reference, at the back of every knitting book, there should be a glossary similar to this one.
3. Choosing your yarn and needles
Choosing your yarn will depend on your project and, in turn, the needles you’ll need will depend on the yarn. Luckily for you, the pattern you’ll go for will suggest a specific yarn and needle size. So, before you skip over to your local yarn shop and fall in love with a ball of baby alpaca, make sure you have a pattern already lined up.
If you find a pattern you like but aren’t enthralled by the yarn suggestion, you can always swap it out for something else. Just make sure your alternative requires the same needle size and has the same tension. That way, you won’t need to make any adjustments when following the pattern instructions. When looking at the label on the yarn, check the following:
- The number of yards per grams: The pattern you’re following may suggest a number of balls based on yardage or weight but it doesn’t obviously mean that the yarn you’ll find will correspond to those measurements.
- The colour lot number: At the back of the label, you’ll find the lot number which refers to the batch a specific ball of yarn belonged to when going through the dying process. It may seem trivial but make sure that all of the balls you’re using belong to the same lot. This will avoid having a line across your work that you won’t be able to ignore later and will drive you crazy. As a forewarning, the sales section of a yarn store is a breeding ground for different lot numbers.
Rules of thumb
- The smaller the needle size, the longer and more tedious the project will be.
- Needle sizes are recommended for a reason. You can’t just use any old needles for all of your projects.
- Needles come in UK and US sizes and, yes, they use a different number system. Something to make note of before heading to the shops.
- Cotton is a great, inexpensive, durable option, especially for a summer piece. And, it won’t shrink in the wash – score!
- Darker colours are trickier to use and you can’t see what you’re doing as well as when working with a light colour.
- Polyester may be cheaper but it will make you sweaty.
4. Handling a mistake without panicking
Mistakes will happen and will most likely induce a little panic. There are a few ways of correcting them, the easiest being to undo your lines until you undo the mistake. Yes, it is tedious but it’s great practice and, if it gets too much, you can put it down and pick it up tomorrow.
All in all, better take the time to do it properly the first time than to rush through it and never wear/flaunt your work. It’s not because it’s your first project that it shouldn’t be a success.
5. Taking your time to finish your masterpiece properly
Finishing and assembling your piece is just as important as starting it. I know you want it to be over with, and you want it assembled, and wear it now, but don’t rush it. Is it worth marinating chicken? Does it make a difference to let dough rise overnight? I’m glad we agree.
If you’re making something that requires assembly, the blocking technique will not only make this process easier but it will also help the pieces to sit properly, and remove any unwanted kinks. In essence, it requires you to:
- Soak each piece (adding a dash of softener is an option) in cold water for 5-10 minutes.
- Wring it out gently by laying each piece onto a towel and rolling it up.
- Pin your pieces to dry onto a gingham cloth surface – a picnic blanket is perfect. This will serve as a pinning guide so as to ensure your pieces are shaped properly. When pinning, you don’t want to overstretch your pieces, nor do you want them to overlap.
- Let them dry completely.
Once you have perfectly flat pieces of knitting, you are ready to assemble! My preferred method is the mattress stitch. It is seamless and ridiculously easy to get right.
There we have it! Five long-winded tips to help you start a knitting project without giving up. I’ll leave you with a couple examples of easy cotton tops recently completed as a little knit-spo!
Happy knitting friends!