You can knit beautiful and usable things if you learn the basics, follow good patterns and use the yarn recommend on them. But if you want to become a pro knitter you need to also understand how different materials and stitch patterns affect the fabric qualities, know the math behind knitting and learn to read your knitting.
1. Basic techniques
The first step in learning to knit is to learn the two basic stitches knit and purl. As well as how to cast on and bind off the stitches. There are several styles of making these stitches but the most common ones are the Continental and the English style (throwing). With the English style, the working yarn is held in the right hand, and with the Continental style, it is held in the left. I prefer the Continental method because it allows me to knit faster.
Here in Finland knitting is considered to be a basic skill and kids are taught to knit already in elementary school. If it’s not a school subject in your country nowadays there are plenty of videos online from which you can learn. There’s also a very friendly knitting community and the more experienced knitters are very happy to share their wisdom with the beginners.
A perfect beginner project is for instance a garter stitch potholder made of thick wool yarn.
- It is a nice and small project and doesn’t take too much time.
- Wool is very pleasant material to knit with. For instance cotton feels much harder on your hands and with cotton yarn it’s harder to produce even fabric.
- You can practice at first only the knit stitch and worry about the purl stitch later.
- The gauge (the size of your stitch) isn’t so important here.
Some good alternatives are for instance a garter stitch scarf, a basic hat, or a dishcloth. After mastering the basics you can move on to more complex techniques such as colorwork and lace. Here you can find a list of knitting kits that are suitable for beginners.
2. Develope your muscle memory
Learning the basic stitches does not usually take more than a few hours but developing your muscle memory might take a while. After you have practiced enough you learn how to knit faster and your knitting becomes more even. Eventually, you don’t even have to look at your hands while knitting.
My best tips for developing muscle memory: Start slowly, give yourself some time and knit a lot.
3. Learn to read your knitting
Learning to read your knitting makes it a lot easier to spot and fix mistakes. It also speeds up the knitting process because you can tell by looking at your knitting which row of the chart you previously made or how many decreases you have already done. It helps you also to memorize stitch patterns. After learning this skill you don’t have to worry about losing your row counter or notes.
Since the aim of knitting is usually to produce some item that can be worn or used otherwise, selecting a suitable yarn for your project is also an essential skill. For instance, if you pick a yarn that is not good for socks they get worn out really quickly or make your feet sweaty. Also, there are certain types of yarns that are not good for colorwork or cable knitting. Before you learn this skill you can always select the yarn recommended by the pattern.
I have already written a few articles on this topic:
Lastly, if you want to be able to design your own knits, knit without a pattern, or adjust existing patterns you need to learn a little bit of knitting math. In knitting, there is always a formula for everything.
For instance, there are only a handful of ways to construct a sweater or sock. When you learn the steps and math behind a certain construction method you can easily knit items without a pattern. For instance, a formula for sock toe decreases could be something like decrease every other row until approximately 50% of the stitches are remaining, then decrease every row until 30% of the stitches are remaining, graft the toe.
Thanks to the simple logic behind knitting I have been able to make a bunch of knitting calculators that allow you to adapt for instance heel patterns easily to different stitch counts.