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Learning to Knit – Again

November 30, 2013

Sew Well - Learning To Knit Again

About a year ago a friend and I tried to pick up knitting.  She took to it pretty quickly and made it a decent way through a scarf, but I never made it past casting on and the first few rows of a knit stitch.

Maybe it’s the season, or maybe there’s something about having a little one on the way, but I recently decided to try to pick it up again.  Sadly, I’d forgotten everything I’d learned last year.  And, I hadn’t left myself any helpful notes or clues as to what I’d found helpful while learning the first time around in my only blog post about my efforts.

I decided that this time I’m going to walk myself – and, thus, all of you! – through my lessons as I go.  That way if it’s another year before I pick up my knitting needles again, I’ll know where to start.  Or, if any you are also feeling the urge to learn to knit, perhaps these notes and videos will help you, too!

Since I lost steam pretty quickly last time, I decided to start with a pattern this time so that I’ll have an end goal to keep me motivated.  I’ve chosen a small project in the hopes that it will actually be achievable before I get distracted by the holidays or the impending arrival of the little one.  What pattern did I chose, you ask?  The Pixy Newborn Hat by Palak of Make It Handmade, which is a free online pattern.  It seems easy enough – cast on, knit two purl two for the brim, and then knit, knit, knit for the bulk of the hat.

So far, I’ve made it through the brim, plus a little extra.  Here’s how I got where I am.

First, I needed to find the loose end of the yarn from the skien of Lion Brand Yarn in a lovely (and what I’m considering gender neutral!) charcoal color that was kindly gifted to me by a good friend back when I lived in the Bay Area. I used this video to find the start of the yarn:

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This method seems pretty simple, just pull from the center, not from the side. Although maybe it was just my inexperience, but I had to pull quite a lot from the center to find the start of my yarn. I ended up making quite a mess! Are there better ways to prep yarn? I’ve seen a lot of yarn balls out there, but if the yarn pulls nicely from the center of the skein once you get it started – and it seems to based on where I am now in my knitting, I’m not sure why you’d want to go through the extra effort to wind a yarn ball. Any advice out there from the knitters?

UPDATE:  I’ve now heard a few times in the comments that pulling from the middle tends to make a huge tangled mess when the skien collapses after there’s too little yarn left in the middle to hold it together.  Good to know!

Next, I needed to cast on 40 stitches. I watched a few different videos, but here’s the one I ultimately followed to learn how to cast on:

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Other videos used one needle and a long tail, two needles and an entirely different way of handling the yarn, and more. Is there a best method? Or, are there just a variety of different methods with everyone preferring their own particular style?

Now, I’m hoping to make a hat, not a scarf, so I needed to knit in the round. I’m choosing to use double-pointed needles because they’re what I had, and right now I’m trying to keep new supplies to a minimum. I’m not sure how well I’ll take to knitting, especially considering I haven’t touched it in nearly a year!  Plus, I’m still trying to finish up a few projects from my last job, which means I’m working for free these days and only bringing in a small paycheck based on tutoring and other small jobs I’ve been able to pick up in my spare time. Couple that with a new baby on the way, and you get a tight budget!

So, anyway, double-pointed needles it is for now.  After I cast my first ten stitches onto my first double-pointed needle, I paused and followed this video to add a second double-pointed needle:

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I then cast on another ten stitches, added a third needle, and repeated until I cast on all 40 stitches.

But, at that point I still had a long stretch of cast-on stitches, not the loop that I wanted. I found this video helpful for creating the join between the first cast-on stitch and the final cast-on stitch:

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Next, because I wanted to make version of the hat with the cute little hem band, I needed to learn how to knit two knit and two purl stitches for the first several rows. Here’s a video I found that shows how to knit two, purl two:

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The trick for me was learning to pull the thread to the back before beginning each set of knit stitches and then pulling it to the front before beginning each set of purl stitches, each time making sure not to loop the thread over the needles in any way that would create an extra stitch.  I can’t tell you how many times I started over because I just couldn’t get it down before watching this video.

Now that the hem band has been completed, it’s just a matter of knitting the knit stitch for a total of 35 rows. Oh, yes, and then stitching up the top, but we won’t go there yet!  Except, maybe it is just my inexperience, but doesn’t it look like there’s some other type of stitch at the edge of the brim?  Maybe a row or two of pure purl stitch?  Anyway, even if there is, I’m just a teeny bit past that now and don’t have the courage to go back and try to change anything unless I find some sort of major mistake.  A bit of brim trim that no one will even know should be there in the first place does not currently count.

Anyway, wish me luck!  And, let me know if you are inspired to learn to knit along with me, or if you already know how to knit but have better resources than the ones I’ve posted here.  I’m all ears!

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35 Comments leave one →
  1. November 30, 2013 8:26 am

    Check out Tilly and the Buttons blog! Tilly asked for advice in starting to knit and got lots of great tips on knitting resources. Good luck on your project! Oh, and as I told Tilly: get a Ravelry account. Lots of free patterns!

    • November 30, 2013 8:33 am

      Thanks! I just saw her post! And, I already have a Ravelry account, though I haven’t been very active with it yet. It’s good to know that it is a source for more free patterns. Hopefully getting a few finished knit makes under my belt will have me hooked!

  2. November 30, 2013 9:16 am

    You’re doing your first project on double pointed needles??? I still think it’s tricky to get those first couple rounds started! This hat is going to be so cute, I just love a tiny baby in a chunky knit :)

    • November 30, 2013 9:21 am

      Yes, I know – double pointed needles. But, they’re what I have thanks to a Mystery Craftsy knit box and a true lack of knitting knowledge! And, I want to make a hat! Plus, it really feels like I imagine it would on regular needles, only I have to pay attention to a few more pointy things that can sometimes get in my way as I’m stitching.

  3. Lyrique permalink
    November 30, 2013 11:17 am

    I’m glad you posted this, because I have no clue how to knit. I have admired so many pieces that others have made, particularly those of Kay of http://kaythesewinglawyer.blogspot.com/ and Jean of http://jkaori.blogspot.com/. I just started from your references and spent a lovely hour or so learning how to begin. That was fun!

    • November 30, 2013 11:19 am

      Yay! I am glad to know someone else actually benefitted from my posting all these videos. There are so many YouTube videos out there on knitting. Just set your sights on a pattern and go for it!

  4. November 30, 2013 11:25 am

    Ooh I just love knitting! A great portable craft for when you can’t lug your sewing machine around. I also heard it’s great for getting more craft time in when you have kids ;) As for the ball winder, you mostly just need that when you have a skein that hasn’t been wound into a ball yet, and even then they can usually wind it at the store for you. For cast-on stitches (I recently found a new method after doing the same for years), I think different methods are best for different things. Have fun!

    • November 30, 2013 6:00 pm

      Oh! A ball winder?! I always figured yarn balls were hand wound. I’m also looking forward to having the confidence and knowledge to know different methods for casting on!

  5. November 30, 2013 11:50 am

    YouTube is how my brother learned to knit well. I can knit slowly for myself… good luck on your endeavors!

    • November 30, 2013 6:00 pm

      Thanks! YouTube has been excellent so far! My sister-in-law learned that way as well.

  6. November 30, 2013 1:35 pm

    Oh my! Talk about throwing yourself in the deep end with dpn! I’ve been knitting about a year and only just ordered myself some dpn’s online to do sleeves in future sweaters. Remember if you get discouraged you could always knit flat (and for a baby garment still using a pair of your dpn’s) and sew up the sides. I saw a cute square baby hat on ravelry. The internet is extremely useful for knitting tutorials – often my lifesaver! Good luck :)

    • November 30, 2013 6:02 pm

      I do like to jump right into things, I guess! So far I haven’t had any more difficultly with double-pointed needles than I imagine I would have with regular needles. I had to watch more YouTube videos, but most of the mistakes I made, I imagine I would have made regardless of whatever needles I had chosen! I think the hat I’ve chosen could very easily work knitted as a square and then seamed together, especially since the top is already supposed to be seamed. I haven’t gotten that far yet… Thanks for the luck!

  7. Nikki H. permalink
    November 30, 2013 3:13 pm

    I think the trim at the bottom of the brim may just be from the way they cast on the stitches. I used to cast on a certain way that left a really flimsy edge, but recently learned how to do it using a long tail and your thumb. I like it a lot better because it creates a more substantial trim. I have had an itch to knit the past couple weeks, too. I’ve kind of dabbled here and there for awhile but want to get faster. YouTube videos are definitely a life saver.

    • November 30, 2013 6:03 pm

      Thanks for the tips on the brim. Mine doesn’t look quite like theirs, but at this point I’m happy enough with it as is that I don’t care!

  8. November 30, 2013 5:12 pm

    Youtube is great for learning how to knit. I am a novice knitter as well, and own a couple of books, but videos are the best! Good luck with your sweet newborn hat!

    • November 30, 2013 6:04 pm

      I have gotten a lot out of watching videos. I haven’t looked into any knitting books, but I have been very happy with what I’ve found on YouTube.

  9. LisaB permalink
    November 30, 2013 5:16 pm

    Congrats on learning to knit and on dpns no less!

    I clicked through to look at the hat and the possible trim at the edge of the brim. What I see in the first picture is just a knit cast-on followed by the k2,p2 rows followed by the plain knitting. The brim has been turned to the outside, so the wrong side of the plain knit rows shows, which means it looks like purl stitches. Does that help at all?

    • November 30, 2013 6:04 pm

      Oh! It could be turned to the outside… That makes sense! Thanks!!!

  10. November 30, 2013 5:57 pm

    As far as finding the end of a yarn ball, the ones that come from the store I find it very difficult to get the end from the inside, basically doing just as you mentioned, grabbing whole bunches of yarn before actually finding the end… also when you pull the yarn from the inside, eventually the whole ball collapses when enough of the inside has been turned into knitting, leaving a tangled mess! So I don’t do any of that, and simply knit from the outside of the ball instead. If I am worried about the ball rolling away, I either plop it into a deep bowl, or into my knitting bag, which keeps it under control

    • November 30, 2013 6:05 pm

      Good point about the skien collapsing. I’ll have to watch out for that! And, thanks for the tips on how to keep the yarn ball in one place!

    • November 30, 2013 6:58 pm

      I was coming here to say this – every time I pull my yarn from the middle, it makes a huge tangled mess when the ball collapses. So I pull from the outside, always always always. The only tangles I get now are LT-error :)

      For learning, I really think the best way is hands-on! See if you can find a knitting group to join (if you have a local yarn store, that’s the best place to start- most have weekly knitting nights), or start your own! I meet with a group of friends once a week and we knit for a couple of hours. It’s a wonderful way to relax (especially since we meet on Mondays, the day we need relaxing the most haha) and learn new techniques or knit along with someone!

  11. November 30, 2013 7:35 pm

    Welcome to knitting!

    No, there’s really no better way. Most of the sort of yarns you find at craft stores are going to have the same nest pull out of the middle. Better yarns, such as those from yarn stores, generally either don’t have that problem or are sold in hanks from which you wind your own ball. Hand-winding is just as easy as using a winder, really, but if you’re winding from a hank make sure to have someone hold it.

    Regarding cast-ons: when the edge doesn’t matter, people generally go with their favorite cast-on. There are whole books written on the subject; when to use a long-tail or a cable or a knit-on. Do you want a stretchy edge? A decorative one? A rigid one?

    When I learned to knit, http://www.knittinghelp.com and the website for the knitting guild association, http://www.tkga.com, helped tremendously.

  12. November 30, 2013 10:39 pm

    I was wondering the other day if you ever completed a knit project. Glad to see you’re trying it again, I think you’ll love it! It’s so relaxing! :) I learnt knitting 1 year ago from Craftsy classes, both Stefanie Japel and Susan B. Anderson are awesome! But you can learn without those classes as well. Go you for starting on DPN :) my first project was Stefanie’s lace scarf but my second Susan’s not so itty bitty giraffe. I guess I was a little impatient too haha.

  13. November 30, 2013 11:10 pm

    The best way to care for your ball of yarn while knitting is to snip a corner of a ziploc bag, slip the yarn into the bag, and pull the end of the yard (from the center of the ball) through the snipped corner. The bag will compress the yarn ball and keep it nice and tidy. To reiterate what some other commenters said, more expensive yarns will generally be sold in hanks as opposed to balls. A hank is a big loop of yarn twisted to better show the color/texture of the yarn than a ball that you might buy at a chain store or big box. Hanks must be wound into a “cake” (basically a ball). Don’t ever try to knit directly from a hank – you will regret it as I once did! :) Good luck, can’t wait to see what you make!

  14. December 1, 2013 6:40 am

    YouTube was a huge help to me when I first started knitting, too! Actually, it still is. =) Whenever I come across something in a pattern that I don’t know how to do, the first place I turn to is YouTube. And Ravelry is the most amazing knitting-related thing ever.

    I can’t wait to see your finished hat! Knitting is addicting. I enjoy it so much, and honestly I’ve done more knitting than sewing this year. I knit while riding in the car, watching DVDs, etc. It’s so convenient to just stick some yarn and needles in your bag to take along anywhere.

  15. December 1, 2013 9:54 am

    I am also a newbie! Had learned the basics many years ago but never really loved it. Recently I ventured into making the Miette Cardigan. I learned the long tail cast on and several new stitches…even the magic loop. I took a private online class plus watched loads of youtube videos. I am now learning how to do continental knitting. Here is my review on the cardi in case you decide to do it too. http://bombardone.com/sewingprincess/2013/11/miette-cardigan-beginner-knitters-review/

  16. December 1, 2013 11:04 am

    Hi! Palak here :) so, so thrilled that you’ve decided to take up knitting again, and that you are starting with one of my hats! I use a long tail cast on (which creates a row of knit stitches). For the picture, I turned up the brim of the hat, so I think that the extra purl stitches you are seeing is the back of the cast on row.

  17. Missy permalink
    December 1, 2013 3:23 pm

    Have fun knitting, and don’t get sucked into Ravelry that you end up spending more time gathering ideas than actually knitting (not that that’s ever happened to me :P )!

  18. December 1, 2013 11:03 pm

    I vividly remember when I first learned how to knit (about 2 years ago) and I could NOT figure out how to purl. It was beyond frustrating. (It did click eventually haha.) The thing about knitting is, once you learn how to do everything – knit, purl, cast on, cast off, and knit in the round – it is so much fun. I hope that you enjoy knitting up your first project!

  19. December 2, 2013 7:30 am

    Thanks for all the tips!! I’m determined to teach myself how to knit this winter too! Like you, my first attempt to learn was with my sister, who took to it like water, and I was left sort of… I don’t know… fumbling! Well no more!!

  20. December 2, 2013 4:09 pm

    If you like books, I recommend the ‘Stitch and Bitch’ books – they are funny and the author has really good pointers for beginners. http://tiffanysnotionsandknits.blogspot.ca/2013/01/knitting-book-recommendation.html

  21. twotoast permalink
    December 3, 2013 10:21 am

    Yay for knitting! I am a sock knitter so knit in the round all the time. My top tips would be:

    Cast ALL your stitches onto one DPN (double pointed needle). Using the method in the video above, you can probably use the same size needles as you would be knitting with as this cast on is very stretchy. If you use the ‘long-tail’ method, use considerably larger needles as that is a tighter method. Once you have all your stitches cast on, distribute them on the needles (evenly or as per the pattern) and join into the round. You should find this easier to work with, and you don’t have dangling needles as you continue to cast on. If you use all the needles to cast on, you can end up with lengths of yarn in between each needle.

    I only knit from the centre of a ball of yarn if it had been would into a ‘cake’. You can do it with commercially wound balls of yarn and it has the advantage of the yarn not bouncing around all over the place as you pull more yarn to knit with. The knotty mess from the centre is affectionately known as ‘yarn barf

    Looking at the picture of the pattern, it appears that the brim has been folded back, revealing the wrong side of the first couple of rows of knitting.

    Once you are comfortable knitting in the round, consider circular needles (try http://www.knitpicks.com, I love their ‘Options’ range), only about $5-$6 each – stay clear of the cheap (but branded circulars) that do not have flexible cables – they will put you off circular needles in a heartbeat. Knitting with circulars is a lot faster – is is like knitting with two needles, so less changes moving your stitches around. They are also a bit more secure than DPN’s as you only have two ends to worry about!

    Another thing I just thought of, if you are getting ‘ladders’ between the last stitch one DPN and the first stitch on the next DPN, instead of knitting the first stitch of the DPN to try and combat the slack yarn, knit the second stitch tightly – that seems to reduce the laddering. In reality, the laddering tends to sort itself out during wearing/washing etc.

    Great to see you have joined Ravelry – I am twotoast on there, so if I can be of any help . . . . let me know! Incidentally (and I hope that I am not going to upset anyone here) I really wish we could get a website like Ravelry for sewing – it is so easy to navigate, post projects/stash, review patterns, belong to groups etc. PatternReview.com could be soooo much smoother :)

    Phew, hope that helps – I’ve got some sewing to get back to to!

  22. December 5, 2013 10:48 am

    You may have already figured out many points, but just in case……. Every person has a different experience, but for me the points below were/are important.
    1) Knitting with good quality, mostly natural fiber if not 100%, yarns. Because it’s inexpensive, I think many beginners just pick up cheap 100% acrylic. It’s harder to knit, it doesn’t feel good on your hands while knitting, and it’s not warm to wear. (provided that acrylic has its place) Just like in sewing, the material quality is really important. You’ll end up loving and enjoying the finished project better and longer. You’ve spent days and hours making it, right?!
    2) Bamboo needles are easier to handle. At least, I feel so.
    3) Hands-on learning is more fun
    4) knttinghelp.com has simple and short videos for “decoding” each knitting abbreviation. Who can ever remember all these stitches and abbreviations~!? Very handy.
    I love knitting because it forces me to sit down. (Oooooo, you’ll know what I mean once your baby pops out and you become a mommy!) Also, unlike sewing, you can knit anywhere. I’m not agitated or frustrated easily if I ever have to wait at the doctor’s office, get stuck at the airport, or when I’m waiting for a friend who is ever so late, IF I have my knitting project with me – it’s my chance to knit. Happy knitting!

  23. December 5, 2013 10:59 am

    I forgot to say, visit Acorn Street Yarn Shop if you haven’t.

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