I’ve been sewing for as long as I can remember, but knitting is more of a newly acquired skill. About 5 years ago, I just decided one day that I would learn how to knit. Both my Grandmothers are amazing knitters and I felt like it was in my blood, that I must be able to do it. Armed with some cheap metal needles and horribly bright pink acrylic yarn, I knitted a babies jumper. It didn’t turn out perfectly, but it wasn’t bad and from then on I tackled many new projects.
Neither of my Grandmothers live close by, so in this digital age, I taught myself the easiest way I knew how, via the Internet! And if you’ve come here because you want to learn how to knit, then I’m going to show you all the equipment and sites you need to know about to achieve that! I’m not going to show you ‘how to knit’, that has been done by a great number of sites already, but I will show you where to find these sites that proved to be so invaluable in the days when I was starting out. I’ve also listed what you need to get started…so, let’s get knitting!
At the most basic, all you need is a pair of needles and a ball of yarn to get you started. Because of this, knitting can be a fairly inexpensive hobby to take up, but the cheapest needles and yarn aren’t always the best.
Like I said above, I started with some cheap metal needles on my first project. They hurt my hands and certainly didn’t entice me to want to knit more. Soon enough I bought my first pair of Bamboo needles. Sure, they cost more, but they were less than $10 and made a world of difference! They are softer on the hands and just a pleasure to knit with. I also find that they are less slippery than the metal ones. So if you start out with metal needles, but hate them, don’t be afraid to try another kind of needles.
These days, I use Bamboo needles or my Denise Interchangeable Needle Kit. I find these needles almost as comfortable to use as Bamboo and I was sold on the idea of the kit essentially containing so many pairs of needles. I haven’t bought another pair of needles since, so it ended up saving me money in the long run. If you’d like to know more about it, take a look here.
As I mentioned, needles come in all different shapes and sizes. Thinner needles produces finer knitting. Circular and double pointed needles mean you can work a tube, like a sock or hat without a seam running up the side. Your pattern will tell you what needles you need. I’ll talk about patterns in Part 2 of this series.
If you want to sound like you know what you’re talking about, then it’s called ‘yarn’ not ‘wool’. Yarn can be made from wool, but also acrylic, cotton, alpaca, silk, bamboo, cashmere, possum fur and all kinds of other things as well as blends. My Grandma has even spun some yarn from Samoyed dog hair! Yarn comes in a ball, ready to use, or often in a twisted up hank or skein (pronounced ‘skayne’). These will need to be wound into balls to use easily.
I started off my first project with some cheap acrylic yarn. It’s not that bad and will do a good enough job for most things. It does make my hands sweaty though. Wool is nicer on the hands, but can be itchy for some people. You can also get lovely (expensive) wool yarns that feel so silky you wouldn’t believe they’re wool.
I think starting out with acrylic yarn is fine, but take a look at some other varieties too. When I make things for myself I never use acrylic. I can’t wear acrylic clothes because they make me sweaty and stinky so I avoid acrylic yarn. If you’re knitting for babies, it can sometimes be a good idea to use acrylic instead of wool as some babies get irritated by wool. Cotton is usually a pretty safe bet.
When buying yarn, always hold the ball up against your neck for a minute. You can gauge how warm it is and also tell if it’s itchy at all. Also, stick your nose right in and have a smell. Some yarns smell terrible and that’s enough to put me off buying them! If you need more than one ball for your project, make sure you buy them from the same dye lot. This number is printed on the paper ball band and matching them up will make sure you get a consistent colour throughout your project.
The ball band contains a lot of information such as the fibre content of the yarn, what needle size is recommended (helpful when you are trying to match a yarn to a project) what gauge/tension you can expect for the needle size (how many stitches and rows you will get per inch or 10cm) and also the care instructions and dye lot (mentioned above).
Yarn comes in different weights (thicknesses), so you will need to consult your pattern to know which one to buy. I’ll talk about patterns in Part 2 of this series.
Here is a list of other items that are handy to have when starting a knitting project:
Scissors – For cutting yarn
A blunt tapestry needle – Used to weave in your yarn ends or join your knitting pieces together. Find one with a nice big eye (hole) to make threading your yarn through easy.
Tape measure – To check how long your pieces are. Patterns often say ‘knit for 10 inches’ or similar
Crochet hook – Why does a knitter need a crochet hook? They come in very handy if you drop stitches. That means they fall off the knitting needle and can start to unravel.
Notebook and Pen – Can be handy to take note of where you are up to if you need to stop knitting.
Stitch Markers – These are useful when you need to mark a certain point along the way of your needles. They simply slide onto the needle between the stitches. I usually use small safety pins or rubber o-rings. You can also buy pretty looking ones.
A Knitting Bag – You need something cute to put all your knitting stuff in. Here’s one I made my friend using my Big Tote Bag pattern.
Ok, so now you have all your equipment sorted out! In Part Two of this mini-series, I’ll talk about online resources and the kinds of patterns to get you started.