Thanks to knitting whiz Cathy Hammen for sharing her expertise, amazing videos and instructions for this 101!
Photo courtesy of Cathy Hammen
When you first begin knitting, it can feel somewhat intimidating, especially if you have ever watched experienced knitters go at the speed of light, and carry on a conversation with you, all while watching something on television. It just feels like they are mocking at your feeble attempts. I first tried to learn from another beginner, believing this would be more encouraging than my first attempt to learn to drive a stick-shift from an old pro…who kept telling me they couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t getting it. But then again learning to knit from a beginner just perpetuated further confusion and frustration. From what I was able to understand, I knew I wanted to learn more, so I promptly went to my local yarn store (LYS) to explore books or classes.
A few questions later, I was slightly more discouraged and felt I was never going to learn anything from those experts, so I grabbed a small book they recommended, “I Can’t Believe I’m Knitting”from Leisure Arts, Inc., and some oversized plastic needles. I found some old second hand yarn at home…where several hours and several expletives were used to fully grasp casting-on (co), but I finally figured out the slingshot method of casting-on and then the single cast-on. A few videos I made will hopefully make things a bit easier for you:
The best first project to gain your confidence in knitting is a scarf. Knitting a scarf allows you to practice many different skills all at once, from the basic knit (k) or purl (p) stitches, to lace patterns, ribs or cables. You can throw any yarn or concept into the length of scarf, and it can even serve as a reference for the future. For your first project you will need a few things:
Yarn– This should be something relatively easy to unravel, nothing fuzzy at first, mistakes happen…keep it easy on yourself.
Needles– These can be anything from sharpened pencils to high end bamboo. If you have two new pencils lying around; you can start learning now.
Patience– A self-taught knitter will need a lot of patience from the start, and with every newly learned stitch, and with some confusing wording in patterns, but the payoff is always so sweet…beautifully handmade works! Take it slow and be repetitive. Count your stitches after each row, as a beginner, to be sure you are not inadvertently increasing or decreasing somehow. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of other knitters.
Once you have cast on stitches for your scarf’s desired width, practice with the knit (k) and purl (p) stitches:
Once you have reached your desired length you are left with binding off (bo):
Binding off (bo)
By now you can see that I have shared a few abbreviations (co, k, p, bo) you will notice in patterns. A quick search on YouTube will assist you with more advanced stitches when you are ready. Becoming a self-taught-knitter these days is much simpler than in years past. There hasn’t been a stitch I can’t find a demo for online.
When you are ready to try to learn to read patterns, many online resources serve as a library or retailer of knitter designed patterns. My favorite site for browsing is www. Ravelry.com. Patterns are usually free, while others are relatively inexpensive. The site can also be an invaluable resource for inventorying your yarn stash and knitting to-do list.
I hope you enjoy your new hobby and never reach any limitations.
By: Catherine Flora Hammen
Shepherdess note: I have to say that this video definitely helped in my understanding of basic knitting and what a stitch looks like. Check this out!
Thank you for this 101 Kathy! I'm just learning how to knit and referred to your videos for help. I think the best way to learn to knit is to have a very patient friend to teach you!
The friend who taught me lent me a book called "Kids Knitting" by Melanie Falick. The illustrations make knit and purl very clear and their are super cute projects to do, too!
This is wonderful, a few years back I taught myself to knit using online tutorials! Ravelry is great and www. knittinghelp.com is great for tutorials too. I also learned a lot and built confidence in my knitting by knitting discloths. They are small and give instant gratification, also can help you learn a variety of stitches in one project.