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Yiayia’s Knitting Guide for Beginners

Posted by Lee Ann Petropoulos on

This is the beginning of a series of posts about how to knit for those who have never tried it before. You will find the very basics here, and in following posts we will delve into some of the more interesting techniques. Read on and let's get started! 

Knitting is a popular craft that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. It is a great way to relax and de-stress, and it can also be a very productive hobby. Knitting can be used to create all sorts of items, from clothing and accessories to home decor pieces. In this guide, I’ll teach you the basics of knitting so that you can get started on this fun and rewarding pastime!

What is knitting and why should you think about trying it?

So if you're totally new to knitting - it's a form of textile art in which yarn is used to create fabric. I can pretty much guarantee you've worn knitted clothes or had a knitted blanket at some point in your life! It often get confused with crochet by beginners, but crochet uses one hook to create the stitches, while knitting uses two needles.


The word “knit” itself comes from the old english word cnyttan, which meant “to knot.” Knitting involves creating loops of yarn with a knitting needle, then slipping them off the needle one at a time to create a fabric - hence, creating a knot!

Knitting has been around for centuries and there are many different techniques created by diverse cultures around the world. It can be used to create a variety of items, such as sweaters, hats, scarves, and blankets. It can also be used to create decorative pieces, like afghans, shawls or pillow covers. I think it's one of the best ways you can create memorable gifts for loved ones, but just like any other skill, it takes time and patience, working on the art and practice of knitting to get good enough to create pieces you're proud of!

It's a great hobby because it can be done almost anywhere, and it’s a great way to relax and unwind. It’s also a great way to keep your hands busy, especially if you’re someone who likes to do something else while watching tv or listening to music. I also know people that use knitting to calm their nerves, such as when they’re flying, because it is easy to concentrate on it if you want to!

Knitting is also quite accessible, as it doesn’t require a lot of money or space to get started. All you need are some knitting needles, yarn, and a few other basic tools. And if you find that you love knitting and want to take it further, there are plenty of tutorials and guides online to help you hone your skills.

If you’re interested in learning how to knit, I would highly recommend giving it a try! It’s a fun, creative activity that can keep you entertained for hours and help you create beautiful pieces of fabric or clothing.


What you need to start knitting

Before you can start knitting, you will need a few supplies. The basics are:

- Yarn - Different yarns come in a variety of colors, textures, & weights and for a beginner, it can be very overwhelming! My best piece of advice here is to have a set item in mind before you take up knitting (a scarf, hat, etc.), and go into your local yarn shop and ask them for advice about which yarn to get. See Yiayia's Guide to Yarn Weights for more about different thicknesses of yarns, and Yarn + Project, A Love Story for more on matching the yarn to the project!

- Needles - Depending on what type of knitting you’re doing, the size of needles you need may vary. Most beginners start with either metal or wood needles in sizes 6-8. Again, speaking to a yarn supplier would be helpful here.

- Scissors - You’ll need these to trim yarn when you’re finished knitting. Any scissors will do really, as long as they're sharp - but the smaller they are, the more portable they are!

- Stitch markers - These will help you keep track of increases and decreases in your project.

- Measuring tape - Always useful to keep to hand, I'm sure I don't need to explain this one!

- Handi tool - These are used for so many purposes, they're a pretty indispensable piece of kit when you're taking up knitting. They can pick up dropped stitches, can be used as a cable needle, fix snags (those darn cats!!!), and much more!  If you don't know what those terms mean yet, don't worry - you soon will.

- A box to keep it all in!

I have a lot of beginner knitters ask me for these things when they first start out, so I've put together a handy beginner knitter essentials kit with everything in the list that you can buy and have shipped out to you if you're not near Mars Hill, NC!

As you get more comfortable with knitting, you may also want to invest in other useful supplies such as stitch counters, stitch holders, and cable needles, but for now, this set should do you for the essentials!


Knitting Patterns

So now you have all the tools you need to start knitting, how do you figure out how to knit the item you want? Well, that's where knitting patterns come in! These are handy guides that will tell you what type of stitches to use and how many rows to knit. It can seem like an overwhelming task but there are plenty of knitting patterns available online for beginners.

A pattern is like a recipe for cooking – it gives you the instructions, but it can be confusing if you don’t know the terminology or how to make the stitches they call for. So although you will want a pattern, if you are a complete beginner, get some help from a seasoned knitter to pick one that is suitable for beginners, then move on to the next section before stressing out over what it all means. However, by starting with a pattern, it tells you what type and weight of yarn to choose for your project.


The basic knitting stitches you need to know

Once you have gotten comfortable with the basic knitting tools and how to read a knitting pattern, it’s time to learn some basic stitches. These are the stitches that you will use most often when knitting, so it’s important to get comfortable with them.

There are only a few basic knitting stitches that you need to know, and they are listed here. As with anything in life, practice makes perfect, so don’t be discouraged if it takes a while for these stitches to sink in. Muscle memory is an amazing thing! The more you practice the stitches, the more natural it will feel. It will soon become automatic! 

Cast on & Bind Off - These are how you start and finish knitting a project. The cast-on method that you use can depend on your project, but the long tail cast on is my favorite and the one I’ll teach you to start with. There are other cast ons that are handy to know - see Knitting for Beginners: How to Cast On and Bind Off.

Knit - This is the basic stitch that all knitters start with. To knit, start with the yarn in the back of the needles. Insert the right needle into the front of the stitch on the left needle, wrap the yarn counter-clockwise around the right needle and pull it through the stitch.

Purl - The purl stitch is worked exactly like the knit stitch, except you begin with the yarn in the front of the needles. Insert the right needle into the stitch from the back rather than from the front, wrap the yarn counter-clockwise around the right needle and pull it through.

Knit two together (k2tog) - This is used to decrease stitches by knitting two stitches together as one. To do this, insert the right needle into the front of both stitches on the left needle and knit them together as one.

These are just a few of the basic knitting techniques that you need to know to get started. As you get more comfortable with knitting, you can experiment with different stitches and techniques. There are a ton of video tutorials online that you can find if you're more of a visual learner, or you can get in touch with me to learn 1-to-1!


How more complicated items like sweaters and blankets are made

So you've mastered the basics of knitting and you're looking to up your game. What can you make now? Well, some of the more complicated items include sweaters and blankets. Let's take a look at how to make each of these. 

Sweaters can be knit in the round (basically a knitted tube that fits around your body) but many patterns tell you to knit the sweater in pieces and seam it together when they are finished.  Your pattern will tell you to either: 1) cast on enough stitches to go all the way around your body and join the stitches for knitting in the round on a circular needle, or 2) cast on enough stitches to go half way around and knit back and forth until the front (or back) is completed. (This can still be done on a circular needle.) If working in the round, you will have to stop when you get to the underarm section and divide the stitches in half, working back and forth for the rest of the front and then the back. Then you will pick up stitches at the armholes to make the sleeves. 

Making a blanket is pretty similar to making a scarf, except that you'll cast on more stitches and knit for a longer length. You can either knit in one big piece or knit several small pieces and sew them together. You will want some kind of border that will help keep the edges stable – they might be worked along with the blanket or added when you finish.


So there you have it – a basic guide to knitting for beginners. Once you get the hang of the basics, you can start experimenting with different stitches and techniques to create all kinds of knitted items. There are tons of video tutorials online that can help you out, or you can get in touch with me if you need some 1-on-1 assistance. I'll also be updating this blog as I go with more information on all the different aspects of knitting, such as yarn weights, how to change colors, techniques you might want to learn, and much more!


Happy knitting!

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