How Do I Learn How To Knit? | All of the resources I used to become an intermediate knitter in 6 months

2020 has been the year of people collectively returning to the ~domestic~ hobbies that were once a regular part of everyday life. While my sourdough bread is still left wanting (and I've burned out on rewatching Anne with an E) I have managed to go from nearly zero to pretty decent knitter in just a few months. 

Because I'm sure I'm not the only one who still wants to pick up new hobbies during this year that wasn't, I collected all of the resources I used to learn to knit from home. 

Real quick tip:
Here's the thing, learning to knit has a pretty steep learning curve. If you're starting completely from scratch, give yourself a lot of grace and patience, and allow yourself to make mistakes and start again. If you don't you're asking to get frustrated. Throughout the rest of the post, I'll sprinkle in little tips to help lower that frustration. Knitting is supposed to be chill and relaxing, not stressful and frustrating. If it is, put it down and come back later. 

My Background In Knitting

I should admit, this is not the first time I learned to knit. The very first time I was about 12? I think? But that was so long ago it basically doesn't count right? I also have a general knowledge from both my mom and my mother-in-law being prolific knitters. So, let's say I started with a kindergarten knowledge of knitting. I also have a bunch of yarn on hand from a weaving phase last year. 

Picking Your First Yarn

If you don't happen to already collect yarn and hoard it Smaug-style in an antique dresser-thing like I did, you'll have to buy some yarn. Most big-box grocery stores have some yarn, and craft stores usually have a pretty decent yarn selection. For shopping from home, Knit Picks has yarn that runs from super cheap to luxe. 

Your first yarn should be something you're excited about! Pick your favorite color and texture that won't bother you (ie I'd never work with fringey or faux-fur yarn because it makes the hair on the back of my neck stick up, nails on a chalkboard style). I'd stay away from dark yarn colors because many people have a hard time seeing the stitches in dark colors. Also - pick a bulky yarn! Until you get the muscle memory that helps you knit with less concentration, you'll want a yarn that is big and easy to see and feel. For your first yarn and needles, go cheap! It will hurt your wallet less if you end up hating it, and you won't stock up on a bunch of yarn you don't like once you learn your preferences better. Trust me on this. 

The yarn above is fingering weight (really fine) hand-dyed yarn (read= expensive). You can totally buy stuff like that but I wouldn't use it for your first project. 

Your First Needles

Every craft store has a section of long-ass knitting needles. Like 16 inches long. These are NOT IDEAL for beginner knitters and I have no idea why people always recommend starting with straight or long needles. For me, personally, I use circular knitting needles on every project regardless if I'm knitting in the round or not. I find them much easier to manage and less painful to hold than long straight needles. 

Is this my personal opinion? Yes. Is it also true that you don't see a lot of fresh young knitters knitting with longs? Also yes. 

Once you've picked your yarn look at the label - it will tell you what size needles work with that yarn. Then, I'd buy a long set of circular needles in that size. You could totally buy traditional long knitting needles, just prepare for some hand cramps. 

Some Knitting Terminology You'll Need To Know Before Starting

Like I said, the learning curve for knitting is steep. Each step has multiple terms that may or may not apply. When you're first starting, you'll need to know these three things then add to it!
  • Cast On- The first step in knitting is getting that first row on the needles (called casting on). This is something that a lot of never-before-knitters struggle with. And, unfortunately, you can't go to the next step without it. A lot of people, when they're learning to knit, have someone cast on for them till they get the hang of things. BUT with the whole pandemic situation that's probably not an option. 
  • Knit - The basic knitting stitch is called the knit stitch! You'll do a lot of these to make up the bulk of your work.
  • Cast Off - To get the work off the needles without unraveling, you'll need to cast off. This secures the stitches so you can impress your friends with your new scarf!

Your First Project

It's a scarf. Why does everyone knit a scarf as their first project? It gives you a nice long time to practice your stitches. 

Brown haired woman with knit scarf
This isn't my first knit scarf (my mom knit it actually!) but it will give you the right idea.

Your first scarf will go a little something like this: Cast on a bunch of stitches, knit every stitch and every row forever and ever, get almost to the end of your yarn, cast off. 

There are a LOT of knit your first scarf videos on YouTube but my favorite is from Sheep & Stitch - it slowly goes through the steps of knitting your scarf.

Another hot tip:

When you're first starting out, pick projects that have video tutorials. Even as I became more comfortable knitting and understood the gist of what I was doing, I couldn't read a knitting pattern. There are SO many awesome video tutorial patterns that walk you through step-by-step. Then when I looked at the pattern alongside the video, the pattern would make more sense. I would literally start my pattern search on YouTube to find videos that accompany patterns then go back for the pattern.  

Knitting YouTube Videos To Teach You To Knit

I don't know about you, but I'm a visual learner. I'm also not the most patient person so using videos that I can pull up at any time and stop, restart, and stop again are super beneficial. My 2020 knitting journey would not have been possible without these videos. 

It shouldn't surprise you that there are thousands of videos teaching knitting techniques on YouTube. Knitters tend to be passionate folk that doesn't want the art form to die. Keeping an art form from dying out means teaching new people! 

On YouTube, there is an almost overwhelming number of videos for any possible knitting query. But, a lot of these videos are old, or weirdly out of focus, or their hands keep moving out of frame, or the sound is nearly impossible to hear. I'm not saying that these videos hold no value, but until you get the gist of what you're doing, you'll want to stick with videos that won't increase those frustration levels. 

The best knitting-help youtube channels are:
  • Very Pink Knits - There isn't a topic she hasn't covered, seriously I watch a Very Pink Knits video at least twice a week if not more. The videos are always clear, cover one specific topic, and include slo-mo to help you follow along. 
  • Sheep & Stitch - Check out their total beginners series
  • RJ Knits - RJ has a ton of great tutorials for lots of different knitting levels. 
  • B.Hooked Crochet and Knitting - Again, great beginner tutorials that are clear and concise for you to follow. Also crochet! If you're into that sort of thing (I am).

With all that being said! You should be well on your way to starting to knit! Make a scarf, then another scarf, then a hat, and before you know it you'll be knitting socks and sweaters. Or at least that's how it worked for me. 

Curious about what knitting projects I used to go from beginner to intermediate in just a few months? 
  1. It started with a hat. Because I knew the gist of knitting I figured it wouldn't be too hard, right? Maybe not! I probably should not have started with knitting in the round but hey, I got there eventually!
  2. Next up- the Billie Beanie. It's worked flat and seamed up the back, this project was great practice for knitting and purling and taught me how to do decrease stitches. 
  3. From there I really jumped into things with socks - more on my sock journey here
  4. And during the sock months, I continued to follow my goal to knit a sweater this year. I started with the (free!) Flax pattern from Tin Can Knits. This ended up getting unraveled because I didn't like how it fit or my yarn choice. Since then I've found the (also free) Brick sweater pattern by Clare Lee which I think is maybe a better alternative to the Flax pattern for your first sweater. 
  5. Although I didn't finish my Flax sweater, I did learn a lot and moved on to the Autumn League Pullover by Two of Wands. This (again FREE) sweater pattern is more involved than the Flax sweater and I think it turned out great! It's the orange sweater you'll see below. 
  6. Now my to-knit list is as long as my arm and I'm confident I can knit any basic item, no sweat (and intermediate projects with only a small amount of sweat and swearing). Next on my list to learn? Colorwork!