Advice for the Novice Knitter

IMG_5715I was asked recently by a beginning knitter if I had any advice when it came to learning the craft and art of knitting. What was funny, was seeing how their face twisted into inquisitive when I was mentioning things that I don’t think they considered, nor had seen in pamphlets. Because I treat knitting as a more metaphysical accomplishment, my concepts on ideas for the novice knitter are a shade different than what you might generally hear.

1. Don’t let anyone intimidate you. There are some knitters out there that will smack you down for not knowing every stitch or technique there is. Smile, remind yourself they were once beginners, too, and carry on with your path. But always smile 🙂 You are learning!

2. Scarves are amazing, but go big when you first learn. Scarves can be a great way to learn basic stockinette and garter stitches, but after a while, I think you get stagnant. You can get easily bored. Go big! Think of a sweater, or socks, anything that will constantly keep you on your toes and learning new things every time you pick up your work. You’ll be surprised at how much you retain, and how much you learn so fast if your brain is open and looking for the next technique needed to finish your first prized piece.

3. Learn to listen to yarn. Go to your local yarn store, pick up hanks and skeins and FEEL them, and listen to how you react to them. A relationship with yarn is no different than it is with people. Some yarn you are immediately attracted to. They feel good, they look right….but, holding it for a while can tell you something different. It can be difficult, demanding, and hard to work with. Looks aren’t everything. Listen to your yarn, see if you agree with each other.

4. On the same hand, don’t dismiss yarn. Just because it is acrylic doesn’t mean it’s bad. Acrylic has an important place in projects. It can be washable and puke friendly (as I like to call it, for the baby’s sake), and can feel quite comfortable. Don’t hesitate to go make a blanket with acrylic. It actually makes more sense. And don’t hesitate to treat yourself to some really good cashmere or alpaca if you have extra cash. Every yarn (like people) have a place in this craft. Don’t dismiss something because it wasn’t made “organically” or isn’t made of “natural fibers.”

5. Learn to be patient with yourself. You will make mistakes. Mistakes are one of the best lessons learned in life. You learn what works, what doesn’t. You learn. So as you work up some of your first pieces, you’ll pull them apart realizing how badly you screwed things up. That’s life, isn’t it? You get something wrong, you try again. You don’t toss the whole thing in the trash and say, “Screw it!” Nope! You see where you went wrong, you learn from it, and you correct it, and begin again.

6. Tithe with your knitting. Your first desire is to knit yourself something. The minute you get the hang of it and get a feel for those needles, your mind leaps instinctively to knitting gifts for others. AND THERE IS A REASON FOR THAT! Knitting is a craft of giving. Always will be. Every time you knit a stitch, you’re putting into life, into reality, a moment of kindness. Whether its a blanket, or a scarf, or socks, you are putting into motion the art of giving. Someone will receive your work. So, as you work up things for yourself, and things for others, be sure to be generous with your new craft. Knit something up for charity sometime, knit up kindness for those in need.

7. Don’t be a knit snob. As the first piece of advice told you not to be intimidating, once you get a handle on things, don’t boast about it, don’t claim yourself a higher degree on a knitting scale. Be proud, but not a braggart. Offer help and advice for anyone struggling. Keep the community close. Anyone who attempts to learn this craft already has a particular gift of giving that should be cultivated and nourished, not dismissed. And no matter how much you learn, there is always MORE to learn.

8. Never knit angry. Your emotions bleed into your work. No matter what is happening in your life, you’ll see it in your gauge, in your stitches. Things going bad? Step back, breathe, pick up those needles and remember, you knit to give of yourself…and the last thing you want is your work to hold all of your bad energy. Listen to music that makes you want to dance, or a show that makes you laugh. But, never knit angry.

9. Hear your thoughts. Knitting can be a moment of meditation. Hear yourself, listen to yourself. It can be a great place of quiet in your mind and appreciate that. Hear closely to the whispers that pop into your head while you knit. You’ll learn so much about yourself.

10. Enjoy yourself. Don’t take this knitting world too seriously. And people who do are probably not as impressive as they appear to be. The action of knitting can be incredibly enjoyable, watching your pieces come to life in the form of a sweater, or a teddy bear! But, the better part comes from finishing it up…and handing it over. You are going to have great moments knitting. You’ll love seeing it all come to fruition, but I promise you, nothing will give you greater joy than watching the smile on the face of the recipient of what you made. Your life, your love, your giving will all be rewarded by that one smile on their face, and it will be beautifully addictive. As a knitter, your great reward is giving. Enjoy that idea while you’re knitting! It should make you smile and knit more!

Remember that when you start to cast on, you’ve already tapped into a better part of who you are, a more giving part, a more connected part of the world and it’s crazy people. And your finished product is your moment of love shown in form.

By all means, share this bit of advice from one old knitter to a new one. This is one of the best communities you could ever be part of.

Now, go cast on!




  1. This is true for crochet, too, and cooking and crafting of most sorts. I love your phrase, “tithe with your knitting.” It’s how I function with crocheting these days. Most of what I crochet is immediately given to someone else. 🙂

  2. That was beautiful and for some reason brought me to tears this morning! I started knitting a few years ago and my second or third project was a sock. I wanted a challenge, well I went wrong somewhere and gave the sock to the dog. BUT I went right out and bought more yarn and made a beautiful pair of socks for my next project. I don’t look at mistakes as a bad thing but just part of the journey or part of the process that I love to do. I would add one more “rule”. If you are left handed, knit left handed! I got tired of people telling me that you can’t knit left handed. With the internet it was easy to learn once I found a few left handed videos. Have a beautiful day!

  3. Very good advice for a beginner knitter. I started with scarfs but have proggresed to poppies and bed socks for a local nursing home. Next project is a sleeveless vest. Knit what you enjoy and gives you pleasure!

  4. Terrific writing Gregory. I did so enjoy reading it – and agreeing with all of it, of course! Why aren’t you writing regularly for a magazine or a newspaper? We have a very well-known writer this side of the pond, Jack (she’s a young woman) who started a blog because she was very poor and found it unbelievably difficult to feed her family on benefits, which she was receiving through no fault of her own. She wrote recipes on her blog and now she’s a successful, published author. You have had a difficult time and could blog about ways to get through those sorts of times. Give people tips, advice, share your insights and help others in your situation get through it. Is there a local freebie newspaper or church newsletter (you don’t have to be a believer) you could write a column for? You write so well and so spontaneously. Nurture that talent as much as your knitting talent!

  5. I agree with everything on your list, especially being patient with yourself and tithing. I think it’s easier to tithe with crochet because projects take a lot less time. Knitting is an investment and I guess people feel unless they really like you it’s not worth bothering. There are also people out there who don’t know how much time crafting with fibre takes and therefore believe the gift is not worth anything. Knit/crochet on!

  6. Beautiful. I especially agree with ‘enjoy yourself.’ Knitting is something that gives me hours and hours of pleasure and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else half as fun with my precious time. I love your blog 🙂

  7. “A relationship with yarn”…I love that, and it’s so true! And…”your emotions bleed into your work” – what a sentiment. In February, friend of my was killed in an attack on ISIS. She’d been a hostage for years, and suddenly her name and face were splashed across every newspaper in the country. It was terrifying and surreal, and the only thing I could think to do to cope with her death was to knit. So I knit a shawl out of grief, and to honor her memory and our friendship. I picked yarn that reminded me of her…the fiber and the colors, and I freehanded a design that I thought she’d like. It was all I could do, and I gave that shawl everything I had. And I feel like that’s part of the beauty of the craft.

  8. Love this for sure! I agree that people need to definitely not let people intimidate them out of learning to knit. I had an experience where the person I was trying to have teach me told me to just give up because I was never going to get it! I let that get to me for awhile, but then I started trying to teach myself by watching YouTube videos and now I can at least do some basic knitting! And the best part is definitely being able to give your creations away!

  9. I’m sorry, but I give practical advice when I teach people to knit – much of this sounds like new-age millennial tripe. “Don’t knit when you’re angry” and “learn patience” are the only ones from this list that I give my students. And even then, I won’t tell them that with Row #1. I tell them USEFUL things, like “work with light-colored yarn and dark-colored needles so you can see what you’re doing” and “OK, now this is going to hurt, but I want you to take this piece you’ve been working on for 20 minutes and RIP IT OUT. All of it. Because every ripping-back from then on will be less painful.” I tell them that knitting is a skill that is learned over time, not in 15 minutes. I tell them that the first time I tried cables I’d been knitting for 12 years and I HATED them, but now I’m much older and have much more patience and I knit cables into nearly everything I make. “If you hate it, don’t make it.” “If it frustrates you, put it down and do something entirely different, be it for an hour, a day, or a week – a fresh perspective will sometimes be all you need.” And one last thought: “Don’t get ambitious until you’ve been knitting for a few years. I taught my cousin to knit and she decided the first thing she’d make was a sweater for her husband. It had cables, bobbles, and every other fancy stitch you could imagine. It took her YEARS to make. And he hated it. Probably from all the negative emotions and cussing and hair-pulling that went on as it was being created, but I saw him wear it ONCE, when she gave it to him. And shortly after that my cousin decided she didn’t like knitting anymore.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.