Knitting Notes - Getting started

1a) These notes are for those completely new to knitting. 

b) First a few words about needles, yarn and tension.
c) That is followed by 7 YouTube clips I've selected covering the minimum you need to know to start.
d) And finally a list of a few things you will find useful as you learn to knit and start your first project.

2. Read the notes and watch the clips first, just to get and overview.

3. Get yarn and needles and the other suggested equipment.

4. Watch the clips repeatedly and follow the instructions.
a) Cast on 20 stitches for your first samples.
b) Be willing to ditch first attempts when things start to go wrong. Just pull the stitches off the needles and cut the work away from the ball. Start the exercise again. Remember it is all good practice and remember what Mary Smith says below, "DON’T BE AFRAID TO MESS AROUND AND / OR MESS UP - IT’S ONLY PLAY!"
c) Once you can knit rows comfortable work on getting your tension even. This can only be done by practicing knitting. See the Mary Smith quote and the link under 'Tension'. Make tension squares using different sized needles and different yarns.

1b) Needles, Yarn & Tension

A pair of needles

A Circular needle two points joined by a flexible tube.

Start with English size needles 9, 8,7 & 6. (3.75mm, 4mm, 4.5mm & 5mm). Keep them in same size pairs. Don't get long needles as they will make learning harder. You will only do short rows till you get the knack. Make sure you have points that are good enough to lift the yarn, but not so pointed they irritate your skin.

Good place to get knitting needles used to be charity shops: they were kept under the counter and you had to ask for them. If you find any circular needles you might buy them too. I like these as you knit back and forth in rows, they are compact to hold, and you don't drop a needle as you learn to manipulate needles, yarn and stitches.

Knitting Needle Size Guide: English to Metric to US Conversion Table

Nowadays there is a huge variety of yarns available in all hues, thicknesses and fibres. It is important to use yarns which are suitable for the garment you are making. But you will explore more about that once knitting.

Initially you need a couple of balls of yarn in different colours while you learn to knit. Best to use light colours so you can see the stitches and how they loop together more easily. Start with a medium thickness, smooth, but not slippery, yarn, similar to the yearns used in the YouTube clips mentioned below.

If you're able to visit a local wool shop you will can get advice on good yarns for a beginner and pick up a couple of balls from their clearance bin. Also browse the yarn section on Deramores' website (http://www.deramores.com/knitting-yarn). See the variety of yarns available and feast your eyes on the colours. Be inspired.

It is good to get into the habit of reading the labels round balls of yarn. They give helpful information. Below is the information I copied off one label:-

Brand Hayfield
Blend 100% Acrylic
Yarn Weight DK
Length 280m
Ball Weight 100g
* Tension 22 stitches, 28 rows to 10cm on 4mm needles
Needle Size 4.00mm
Care Instructions Machine Wash - Wool Wash - 40°CDry Clean - P Bar Can Tumble DryTumble Dry - Low HeatDry FlatCool Iron

* [Tension in knitting is vital to achieve good results.]

It is important to use yarns which are suitable for the garment you are making. But you'll think more about that once you have mastered the basics of looping yarn into even, structured, knitted fabric. And to do that you have control the yarn and get an even "tension".

So what is tension? It is the number of rows and number of stitches to a given measurement. When I learnt to knit it was the number of rows and stitches to the inch. Now, as you will have read from the above label it is the number of rows and stitches to 10cm.

Many new knitters think knitting a tension square before getting stuck into a new project is a boring waste of time. Not so. The tension square is key to getting it right.

To quote Mary Smith, "Think of swatching as PLAYING WITH YARN. It can give you inspiration, experience, knowledge, ideas. A beautiful yarn that you fall in love with in the ball may be no fun at all to actually knit with - and you’ll never know until you start knitting with it. It’s fun to buy single skeins of yarns just to play with - no finished item that needs to be completed. Try different needle sizes, different stitch patterns (Barbara Walker’s four books of stitch patterns are highly recommended), different color combinations, different yarns knitted together as one strand. Put hangtags on your swatches with yarn name(s), date, needle size(s) and stitch pattern(s) and save them for future reference. If it bothers you to have a lot of knitted squares or rectangles floating around doing nothing, sew them together into a blanket. DON’T BE AFRAID TO MESS AROUND AND / OR MESS UP - IT’S ONLY PLAY!"
(From Understanding Knitting Gauge: Some FAQs and Facts, Advice and Opinions by Mary Smith. earthguild.com)
The rest of Mary Smith's article is worth reading.
(Swatch = tension square. Gauge = tension. Charity shops are good for finding knitting books)

Mount your swatches on card, labelled with the information Mary Smith suggests and file in the ring binder.

Once you are knitting, use your ring binder to keep notes about the items you knit. It will become a good resource.

Seven YouTube clips covering the minimum you need to know to start knitting

Holding the needles and yarn http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bEPjwPZpEvk

Tensioning the yarn http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=o6kEYWaQZRQ

How to cast on http://www.instructables.com/id/Knitting-Lessons-Cast-On-Techniques/

How to do knit stitches http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Sjf37u6hdcM

How to do purl stitches http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=lkb0YyrzPWA

How to knit stocking stitch http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=g1gWJGGZbO4

How to cast off http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=TMAUORm-GK4
Useful to have:-
a) medium size crochet hook - useful for picking up dropped stitches

b) cable needle - short double pointed needle, useful for holding dropped stitches.
(Later will be used when knitting cables; advanced stuff)

c) darning needle, a sewing needle with a blunt point and eye big enough through which to thread the knitting yarn.

d) small pair of pointed embroidery scissors. (Do not use for cutting paper as will get blunt)

e) tape measure

f) small bag to hold a)-e)

g) notebook and pen, ring binder and card (cornflake box thickness)to mount samples you make. [Don't groan, it pays dividends and is worth the effort]

h) project bag to keep all the above in.


Weblinks (other than youtube) mentioned.