One would assume that knitting, like other new skills, would have road map to proficiency. Spoiler: it doesn’t.
As a teacher I provide the basic skills of the craft: cast-on, knit, purl, bind-off. At the end of 2.5 hours I bid my fledgling knitters a fond adieu, to fend for themselves. Sure I invite them to take more classes with me, and some do. Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer to the questions “What now? What can I make?”. There are an overwhelming amount of resources for techniques and patterns that its nigh impossible to give a short answer that is sufficient. It would take another 2 hours to navigate the possibilities.
You PRACTICE. Becoming proficient in a new skill takes patience, persistence, and practice. I watched a TedTalk in 2019 given by Josh Kaufman, and it has changed the way I teach. The crux of the talk: Learning a new skill takes 20 hours of deliberate practice. Totally doable, 45 minutes a day for a month.
What can I make?
Anything you want! Which is super ambiguous. We all have different reasons for wanting to knit, and different levels of adventure. Dishcloths (garter and other basic/repetitive patterns), garter stitch scarves, fingerless gloves (knit flat and seamed) are all great places to start. If you aren’t put-off by tedium, you could make a simple blanket as well. Think about the type of project that would fit into your life when you choose what to make. If you live in Southern Florida, a heavy wool scarf may not make much sense; but a light, airy cotton/linen scarf might.
Regardless of where you obtain your pattern (see below), here are a few guidelines to help get you acclimated.
1. Read the whole pattern. Make note of any new skills you need to acquire.
2. Clarify any questions you may have. If K2, P2* doesn’t make sense to you yet, write out the pattern long hand, line by line. K2, P2* becomes: Knit 2 stitches, Purl 2 stitches, repeat to the end of the row.
3. Gather all materials. Yarn, needles, notions.
4. Start the project, trust the pattern. Sometimes things won’t make sense until you try it.
5. If you get stuck, ask for help! Many patterns offer pattern support, don’t be afraid to reach out to the designer with any questions. Believe me, we want to know if our instructions are confusing or incorrect. Ask another knitter, most of us are really friendly.
Take a class
As a teacher, I’m a bit biased on taking a class. Had I known how AFFORDABLE classes were, I could have saved myself quite a few headaches during my journey. See what project classes are being offered at your local yarn store (LYS) or large craft store (such as Joann’s). Being able to interface with an instructor is a great way to answer questions in real time. Knowing that you have someone to explain techniques and assist you if you get stuck takes some of the pressure off of you to “get it right”. You can also find local instructors for private lessons on the Take Lessons site.
Books and Magazines
When I first started knitting back in early 2002, the online resources for knitters were not as robust as they are today. Besides my printed learn-to instructions, I relied on books and magazines for patterns. Books are a great resource, because in addition to patterns, many provide a skills review.
Hip to Knit is one of my earliest book purchases, with patterns that are simple enough for beginning knitters. After almost two decades, a lot of the project photos look dated, but that doesn’t make the content less relevant. Change up the color palettes to keep the items modern. As a beginner I made at least two pairs of the two-needle mittens, and the basic roll brim hat (which I still wear).
There are so many magazine publications for knitters. I like Knit Simple Magazine for its visually striking patterns and easy to follow instruction. Vogue Knitting and Interweave Knits make great eye-candy. Beware, some of the patterns are not suitable for inexperienced knitters.
There is an overwhelming amount of information on the internet. I recommend getting a Ravelry account. You can search patterns, see other people’s projects, find communities that share similar interests, as well as keep track of your own projects (my favorite feature). Two other favorites of mine: Tin Can Knits and Knitty. Both offer patterns and tutorials. Knitty is entirely free and Tin Can Knits has a mixture of free and paid content. And not to state the obvious, but follow this site!
Happy Knitting! Stay tuned for more exciting knitting adventures with Cinna of Miscellaneous Design Studio.