No one starts out as an expert knitter. It can seem a little daunting...maybe even a little intimidating at the outset. Admiring other knitters work can have you thinking you'll never be as good as they are this crazy craft. But the truth is, we were all beginners at some stage and even knitters who are picking up their first set of needles in retirement can rapidly advance to creating knitted works of art.
Some have even gone on to be designers!
All you need to do is take it one small successful step at a time...and with a little bit of helpful insight from your new knitting friends, there won't be any project to tough for you to tackle.
To that end, we asked 100k knitters for their best tips, the tips that were absolute game-changers for them when they were first learning to knit. Here’s the hard-won knowlege they wish someone had shared with them.
We've briefly explained where necessary, summarized all the best advice and divided it all into handy sections for easy access!
What Supplies Should You Invest In?
The world of knitting supplies is vast and you can end up spending a fortune! We covered in detail what we think beginning knitters should focus on, but our community came up with three major areas: needles, yarn, and stitch markers.
Buy the best yarn and needles you can afford. You’ll have a better experience with higher quality supplies. For yarn, as one knitter said, you want your projects to look handmade, not homemade. We’ll look at yarn in more depth in the next section.
If you plan on buying a lot of skeins, buy a ball winder. You must wind your skeins into a ball before you can knit with them.
- As one knitter said, you can never have too much yarn. Catalog your stash and keep the labels for the yarn you use. You’ll need the care instructions so you don’t machine-wash a project made with hand wash-only yarn!
You won’t need a pair of every size needle straight away. Buy the needles as you need them, and keep a record of what you have. That’ll stop you from buying duplicates. Many knitters also recommended using circular needles for anything larger than a scarf. If you choose this route, use interchangeable needles. You only need to buy the tips, and you can reuse the connecting cables.
- A final clevert thought from one knitter recommended making up a few ‘grab-and-go’ notion bags. You won’t need much in each, just stitch markers, a crochet hook (for picking up dropped stitches), small scissors, and a tape measure. You can grab one for any project.
- But if you realize you don’t have a specific tool? Don’t let that hold you back—you can improvise most knitting tools!
How to Choose Patterns and Yarn
Now we’re getting into the fun part—patterns and yarn! How do you know which ones to choose?
- The overwhelming consensus was to pick a pattern and yarn you LOVED...even if it might be a little more advanced than your current skillset. If your feelings are just "meh" on either one, your project is likely doomed to ever make it off your needles from the start.
- It’s also important to buy yarn only when you have a pattern to use it for. (Us knitters violate this rule ALL THE TIME as we hoard yarn and build are stashes, but it really is sensible.) Otherwise, you risk running out of yarn while you’re knitting. Make sure you have enough yarn from the same dye lot to knit the pattern. Add one extra ball, just in case.
- Remember to choose the best quality yarn you can afford. If you're going to invest time in knitting a project, you deserve the best yarn.
Pick a pattern that isn't too difficult for your level of ability and check your work every few rows. Start small and simple, and work your way up to more complicated projects.
- If you find a pattern you like, knit it ten times in different colors. Each time you do so, it's a new project!
- it’s also perfectly fine to choose easy patterns. It can be very therapeutic to find a mindless pattern and get lost in the rhythm. If you all you want to do is stockinette or garter - you do you!
- That said, look for inspiration everywhere and be open to trying something new. With each project, try something more challenging if you want to advance. Step outside your comfort zone!
- Use an app like Knitcompanion to catalog your patterns. It can even convert patterns and charts into easy-to-follow instructions. One knitter admitted, “It changed my life!”
- Another knitter advised you should choose colors and patterns YOU like even when you’re knitting for a friend. If they don’t like it...you will! (Sneaky, hunh? But we like it!)
- For better visibility, use needles and yarn of a contrasting color. This makes it easier to see your stitches.
- If you’re knitting with dark yarn? Use a strong light and a white pillowcase on your lap to see what you’re doing more clearly.
- In the end, remember patterns are just guidelines. Adapt them to fit you and you’ll end up with the exact project you wanted. The designer’s instructions vary, so find one you click with and follow their output.
- Keep your pattern with your unfinished work so you can always pick it up whenever you want.
Casting On - How to Get Your Knits Right From the Start!
Now you’re ready to knit! Umm...well, not quite. The knitters recommended a couple of things to do before you cast on.
- Read the whole pattern twice before you start.
- Underline anything important and highlight the size you’re making throughout the pattern.
- If the pattern has a chart, color code the stitches.
- When you come to knit any repeats, use the same color stitch marker you used to color the chart.
- Also, remember that clockwise and counterclockwise matter. A lot. Especially when you're doing yarn overs.
- ALWAYS swatch for the project and measure your gauge. Doing so means you’ll know that the finished project will be the right size. You can also use the swatch in a test wash to check how the yarn holds up!
- When you cast on, cast on the stitches once, but count those cast-on stitches twice...maybe three times!
- If you’re knitting in the round, be sure the stitches aren’t twisted before you join them. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a twisted project. There's no fix for that - you'll have to frog it and start over.
- Apart from that, hold your needles and yarn how it's comfortable for you. Everyone knits differently, so don't be afraid to find your own "right" way.
- That’s why it won’t help if you compare your work to that of others. Enjoy your own knitting first.
Don't let the pattern win! If you start a project and you run into difficulties, don't give up on it. Try YouTube or join a group where you can ask other knitters for help to get through the tricky part. Even knitting groups are on Zoom now!
- Don't be too shy to knit anywhere—knitting is a great way to pass the time on a long commute (uh, if you're not driving) or stuck waiting at the Doctor's office...or during your kid's never ending little league game!)
How to Fix Knitting Mistakes (Sometimes Before They Happen)
While you’re knitting, it’s inevitable you’ll make a mistake. We all do it, and it’s a normal part of knitting. What advice did our knitters have about dealing with mistakes? (Hint: It wasn't throwing it across the room or giving it to the dog.)
- Remember, frogging isn't a failure, it's part of the process.
- Be careful when frogging projects made with cheap yarn as it can fall apart. (Another really good reason to work with the best quality yarn you can afford.)
- Always check for errata before starting a new pattern. That way, you can avoid making mistakes that are in the pattern itself.
- You've heard the saying stop and smell the roses? Well, stop and admire your work. Frequently. It'll help catch errors quicker.
- But if you make a mistake, you can resolve it (perfectionist) or class it as a one-off. It's not a flaw, it's a design element!
- Lifelines can be a great way to avoid having to tear projects back to the beginning. A fantastic tip from was using 1/8 satin ribbon instead of yarn or a stitch holder! The ribbon is much easier to remove without getting snagged on the working yarn.
- Keep a crochet hook handy to pick up dropped stitches.
- Don’t give up! If you don’t succeed at first, try, try again. If you can't figure out a pattern or mistake, sleep on it. The solution almost always looks obvious the next day!
- Finish the row you’re on before you put your knitting down.
- Use a row counter to help you keep track of where you’re up to in your pattern.
- Finally, knitting lace and drinking wine don't usually mix well. Hopefully, that will help you avoid some common issues. (One knitter mentioned, “Don't knit after taking Ambien,” probably a smart idea too)
How to Finishing Your Knit Projects Like a Pro (Even if You Just Started Knitting Yesterday)
With any luck, you won’t need to fix many mistakes. You can focus on getting a neat finish. The knitters certainly had plenty of solutions for that, too!
- Take care when you’re knitting a button band. They can make or break a sweater!
- Mark the edge of your work with pins to help pick up stitches evenly.
- Achieving a neat edge on your projects is easier than you might think. Slip the first stitch of every row as if to purl. Then knit the last stitch of the row through the back loop—no matter what pattern says. This gives a beautiful selvage that looks great and makes sewing up easier.
- Unless you only make small projects, you’ll probably be using several balls of yarn, or your project may have color changes, so to save time, weave in your loose ends as you go on large items.
- DPNs are an excellent tool for knitting smaller items like socks or gloves. The downside is you can end up with ladders in your work between the needles. To stop this from happening, pull tight on the third stitch on each needle.
- Once you’ve bound off a project, make sure you block it. It’s the easiest way to make stitches look even and opens up lace patterns so they look their best. Blocking can also be crucial to achieving the right size. Expect a HUGE transformation.
- And even though there were some mixed feelings on this one--finish what you start before casting on something new. Casting on a new project is always exciting, but your confidence grows every time you finish an item!
Learning How to Knit and Advancing Your Skills
- Remember, even in the most complex patterns, there are basically only 2 stitches—knit and purl. If you can knit those, you can try almost every other stitch.
Get a stitch dictionary and knit a few practice squares using scrap yarn to learn tension and practice fixing errors. This will help you build your confidence before you tackle a project.
- If you’ve already cast on a project that uses new stitches partway through? Use lifelines in the previous row before trying out those new stitches. If it goes wrong, simply tear back to the lifeline and then put those stitches back on your needles.
- Use a solid color of yarn when learning fancy patterns and cables. Self-striping yarns look beautiful, but cables or lace can disappear among the color changes.
- When you’re learning, knit every day, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. This is a great way to help build ‘muscle memory’ in your fingers. You’ll also become familiar with terminology and techniques much easier.
- Don’t rush to learn to knit as much as you can immediately. Speed isn't everything. Take your time. The learning curve is steep but worth it.
- Once people know you can knit, you may find people asking you to knit projects for them. Sadly, not everyone appreciates the time and effort that goes into making a garment (we call them "knit worthy").
- Remember, knitting for yourself is normal, not selfish. Practice saying "no" to people who want you to knit for them. One knitter even said, “Only knit for those who understand the work that went into it.”
- Oh and don't forget to be proud of yourself for learning to knit! Even better, call yourself a yarn artist. Every project is a work of art.
Top Knit Techniques You’ll Want to Learn ASAPSo far, we’ve talked about casting on, binding off, and knitting in between. What were the other techniques the knitters thought you should know?
- Start by learning how it works. Each row is a spiral that interweaves together.
- As part of that, learn how to ‘read’ your stitches. (This tip was mentioned quite a few times.) This is helpful if you need to count rows or stitches you’ve already knitted.
- Learn how to use knit markers and a row counter. These make knitting repeats much easier to track, so you have fewer mistakes to correct.
- As for correcting mistakes, learn the art of frogging, also known as unknitting or tinking.
- Both the long-tail cast-on and cable cast-on methods got votes from the knitters. A form of stretchy cast-on will also be useful, along with a stretchy bind-off. You’ll never have cuffs that are too tight again!
- Using circular needles and Magic Loop is a great way to master knitting-in-the-round without using DPNs. This means you can avoid laddering (or losing a needle from a project in transit).
- Learn to read a chart, since many patterns use them for cables, colorwork, and lace.
- When you progress to Fair Isle, learn to carry the yarn in the back for a neater finish.
- If you’re keen to knit cables, learn to knit them without a cable needle. It’s one less tool you need.
- Continental knitting is a great technique that suits left-handed knitters. It’s also a faster knitting technique, so try it if you want to create things quickly.
- You may sometimes find that your ball of yarn isn’t a continuous length of yarn. Instead, it has knots throughout where makers tie shorter lengths together. Learning how to deal with knots will stop your work from unraveling later.
- The Russian join can be another great technique, as this helps you create a seamless join from one ball to another. No more weaving in ends!
- As for finishing your work, knitters recommended you learn to sew an invisible seam. The Kitchener stitch is also a seamless way to finish socks, (and it really helps to talk yourself through it out loud).
Your Knitterly Health and WellbeingFinally, we couldn’t have a knitting advice post without including wellbeing. This side of knitting sometimes gets forgotten, but it’s just as important as patterns and yarn. After all, knitting is a great form of therapy—but you don’t want it to cause you pain!
- Always knit in a well-lit area. This makes it much easier to see what you’re doing, helping you avoid eyestrain and mistakes.
- If you’re knitting for an extended period, stop and stretch frequently. Knitters hold tension in the shoulders and it can become painful if you don’t take breaks.
- Get in the habit of keeping your wrists straight to avoid straining them.
- If knitting starts to feel like a chore, take a break. In fact, stop knitting either when you’re tired, or your hands hurt.
- Knitting can be an obvious activity when you’re stressed, but that can also make you more likely to make mistakes. So, when stress knitting, use a project you don't care about.
- Knitting should be something enjoyable. Don't rob yourself of its fun by putting unrealistic expectations on yourself. Make it an experience—set the stage with the right music, a cozy spot, and your favorite beverage.
- Don't be afraid to say all the curse words if it goes wrong. In fact, mumble as you work. People will think you're casting a magic spell! And in many ways, you are. You’re turning two sticks and a ball of yarn into something you can wear. What’s that, if not magic?
The Most Important Tip of All for New Knitters - Enjoy Yourself
That’s a lot of advice to take in. It also skimmed over the most common suggestion: enjoy yourself! Knitting is a fun activity that can lead to new friendships, beautiful handmade items, and greater self-care.
Bookmark this post so you can come back throughout your knitting journey. And if you’re a seasoned knitter, let us know your top advice for new knitters!