Hello, my name is Jo and I am a knitter. For the record, I am not a grandmother; let’s just get that cleared up straight away. I decided to take it up about two years ago. I’d done a little bit of knitting, (or should that be “litting”?) when I was kid, so I was familiar with the famous rhyme, “In through the bunny hole, round the tree, up pops bunny and away goes he!” For that reason, as I sat at my dining room table, needles in hand, wool at the ready and a knitting magazine open in front of me, I reckoned that it’d be a breeze to start up again, and it was…sort of. I’ll rephrase that – it was more of a breeze once I discovered the joys of YouTube knitting tutorials.
My learning style, as I soon discovered, was ‘tell me, show me’ (and show me again. And again.) Many beginner knitters make the mistake of trying to learn from a book or a magazine and, for the majority, that’s really hard. Knitting is, by its very nature, a series of movements, therefore learning from static pictures is tricky. For this reason, YouTube is a fantastic resource for the basics of knitting, from casting on your first stitches all the way through to binding your finished work off at the end.
What do I need?
When it comes to starting off your knitting adventure, you really don’t need much equipment:
● Needles – these can be metal or wooden (or a whole host of other fancy types, but I’d stick with wooden or metal, if I were you.) Start off with quite a thick pair of needles; they’ll be much easier to work with on your first projects: 8mm – 10mm are good.
● Yarn – contrary to what everyone might think, you don’t always knit with wool. Wool is just one of the many, many types of yarn out there. You can knit with anything from cotton to acrylic to plastic bags – and they make pretty funky wash bags.
● YouTube – there are some great tutorials out there for starting off. Here are some starter searches you can do:
“Knitting tutorial casting on”
“Knitting tutorial knit stitch”
“Knitting tutorial purl stitch”
Where to start?
It’s best to start off knitting some little sample squares, or swatches, as they’re known. This gives you lots of practice with the basic stitches, of which there are only two – knit and purl. Yes, that’s right, every knitted jumper, scarf, hat or dress you’ve ever seen, is based on a combination of knit and purl stitches. Obviously there are fancy ways to render these stitches, and as you progress through your knitting life you’ll start to see all the different stitch patterns out there. But at the start, I found it very reassuring that I only needed to learn two stitches.
For a first project, scarves are often thought to be a great way to begin, but they can be, excuse me for stating the obvious, a bit long. As you’ll probably only be using one stitch throughout, it can take a while to knit up, and, so you aren’t tempted to stab your own eyeballs out by the end of your first knitting project, something shorter might be better. A cowl, or a snuggle snood is a good first project. Even starting with a hat isn’t really that tricky – you can keep it nice and basic and, as ever, our trusty YouTube has plenty of tutorials for beginners’ hats.
What to expect
When you finish your first project you’ll have a great sense of achievement. At the risk of making a sweeping generalisation, nowadays we don’t make much stuff ourselves; in fact, most of the time we’re not even sure how the stuff we wear, eat or use is made at all. Knitting has, at least for me, satisfied that urge to create, not just in an intellectual sense, but in a physical, honest-to-goodness ‘I made this actual thing’ way. Remember when you were little and sat surrounded by toilet roll holders, empty Fairy Liquid bottles and glitter, you were certain, absolutely certain that the rocket you were about to make would get to outer space? Well, knitting isn’t quite as awesome as that, but it’s near as damned it for grown-ups.
Another nice side effect is, once you get a bit more confident, and dare to (shock horror!) watch TV while you knit, you feel that you’re not just sitting watching TV, but you’re doing and achieving something at the same time. Imagine – making something and assuaging guilt at watching the soaps! It’s a win-win.
You’ll hear as many good things as bad things when people find out you knit – lots of people think it’s amazing and that you’re really clever (bonus!) Others find it weird (oh well!) And still others say things like, “Oh I couldn’t do that, I don’t have the time,” which, potentially, if you’re a cardio-thoracic surgeon with five children, two pet goats and a budgie, is a valid point. But if you’re a cardio-thoracic surgeon with five children, two pet goats and a budgie and you have a long commute, then no dice. You’ve got time to knit.
Handy links and tips
● Check out YouTube – it’s the best place for knitting tutorials. Shop around, watch a few and figure out the teaching style you like best.
● Ravelry is a great resource for patterns, forums and tricks of the trade. It’s free to sign up too.