As I've often mentioned on this blog, I never really learned to knit as a child (I did finish the mandatory socks and mittens we were all expected to knit in elementary school, but I hated it and decided never to touch yarn or needles again) and only taught myself to knit after I turned 20. So there are a lot of things I've had to figure out for myself as I've had no one to show me the ropes or help me when I was stuck.
I've made so many mistakes, but (hopefully) learned from every one of them. Some mistakes I had to repeat more than once before figuring out what I was doing wrong. Still I wish I could now go back and tell the beginner version of me a few things I've learned during the past few years - especially after I found Ravelry and a whole new world of knitting. I'm sharing them with you, because some of you might still be in the beginner state and I'm hoping to spare you from the same mistakes I've made.
12 THINGS I WISH I KNEW ABOUT KNITTING AS A BEGINNER
- The importance of gauge: I'm not sure why it took me so long to understand it. I believe the right gauge is the most important thing when knitting from patterns. Of course there are patterns (such as some scarves) where the gauge is not important and you just knit until you get to the size/length you are pleased with, but if you want to knit anything that should fit properly, checking your gauge is essential. I'm still often very lazy about knitting swatches (I'm too eager to start to bother with them) and usually check my gauge only when I'm a few centimetres into the pattern to see if I need to change needle sizes. The wrong gauge is often the main reason for ill-fitting garments, failed projects and frogging.
- Yarn weight: I knew that some yarns were heavier than others but dividing yarns to groups A, B, C and so on (like the labels printed on the sleeves of the skeins) didn't really convey the same meaning to me as the term "yarn weight". This has also a lot to do with the aforementioned gauge, and it's important if you are substituting yarns for others. No wonder my first creations didn't quite fit me properly.
- Blocking: something I had never heard of before. This wasn't taught at school. I'm pretty sure I would have been much more pleased with my socks and mittens if they were blocked and neat instead of the wrinkly uneven mess they were (no one can expect a fifth-grader to knit all neat and smooth). I probably wouldn't even have sworn off knitting completely. Oh how many things I've frogged because they looked nothing like the sample knit photographed in the pattern even though a lot could have been saved by a simple wet blocking and flat drying...
- There are so many more yarn alternatives than the (often poor quality) selection of the local super markets. I'm still discovering this new world of endless yarn choices, fibres, colors and beautiful skeins!
- Knitting is so much more than the basic (boring and ill-fitting) sock they teach you to knit at school. There are more patterns, techniques, textures, color combos (and so on) than you can ever learn or have time to try. That's what makes this hobby so fascinating!
- Steeks. I would never ever have dared to knit open the front of a fair-isle cardigan had I not seen it done successfully on Ravelry.
- Knitting socks two-at-a-time: or mittens or sleeves or just about anything you need two of. It never even crossed my mind that you could do that! Starting the second socks has always been hard for me - I could just have a whole sock drawer full of one-of-a-kind socks that have no pair if I had my way. First of all, it's the whole feeling of "been there done that" and I'd already like to move on to the next project and the next inspiration. Secondly there's the whole making it match the first one, as in remembering how many rows you knitted before the heel and making sure your gauge stays the same (I knit looser when I'm tired).
- Short rows: the "wrap and turn" technique and the German short rows. Before I learned to knit short rows this way, I was always left with holes in my knitting. Also learning to knit (or purl) the wraps together with the corresponding stitch made all the difference, which actually brings me to my next point:
- k2tog, ssk, p2tog and ssp: Before Ravelry all I knew was k2tog and s1 k1 psso, which does not give as neat a result as ssk. I didn't know how to ssp either. My first attempts at mock cables and lace was quite messy before I figured out the right way to knit those decreases...
- Knitting is pretty darn cool! It's absolutely no way anything to be ashamed of or to be done in secret, nor is it "granny-like" or old-fashioned. I've learned to take pride in the fact that I'm crafty and that I can produce beautiful knitted items that I love to wear and give as gifts.
- Magic Loop Method: I've never touched DPNs for circular knitting after learning this. They are clumsy and I hated the "ladders" (looser stitches) that always appeared between the needles.
- One more very important thing I've learned through Ravelry: I'm definitely not alone with my love for knitting! I've found out that there are so many others like me, a whole wonderful community of you guys!
Have I forgotten something? What would you like to share with the beginner-you?
I'd be so sad if I didn't know how to block and my mittens were left looking like the ones on the left.
Learning the Magic Loop Method has made knitting so much easier for me!