What I Wish I Knew When I First Started Knitting (Part I)

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Today’s guest post is brought to you by Hannah from Rain Mountain Crafts! She’ll be sharing some tips that would have made knitting a lot easier when she was first starting out. Be sure to check out her blog to follow along with more of her knitting adventures!

What I Wish I Knew When I Started Knitting

Recently, I was reminiscing about when I first started knitting. The beginning of the new year had me thinking of past knitting projects, which caused me to consider how far I’ve come and where I’d like to go. I like to think that knitting keeps me humble — no matter how far along I think I’ve gone, my knitting is always there to teach me that I always have more to learn.

I learned to knit in college. I signed myself up for a class taught at the university’s craft center, and took the first few steps towards what would develop into a lifelong love. Thinking about those first months made me wonder, if I could visit newborn-knitter me, or any new knitter, what advice would I give?

Here are a few thoughts I had!


Don’t be afraid to struggle

I remember sitting in my very first class on “Knitting for Beginners” and feeling so confused. Holding the needles felt so awkward and foreign, and how was I supposed to hold this yarn? In short, I struggled — a lot! Everyone in the class did. It was a frustrating experience. I still remember the girl I sat next to turn to me and say “I thought this was supposed to be relaxing.” She didn’t come back for the subsequent classes; I did, but it took me awhile to reach the point where the needles felt natural, and at times it seemed like I was way slower at ‘picking it up’ than the other students. For example, when I was learning how to knit my first sock and struggling with the shaping, while another student was knitting a fair isle design on hers. Or working on my first shawl, and having to rip back the lace section 1 million times, because I hadn’t yet learned the wisdom of the stitch marker. I feel so grateful that I stuck with it — now knitting is a major part of my life, and I can’t imagine being without it.

My advice is, don’t be afraid to struggle. If anything, rejoice in it. Struggle means that you are learning and growing. Even now I struggle with patterns, techniques, new stitches. But if you stick with it, you’ll learn it. Later on, you can reminisce about the first time you learned how to make a YO and how you kept adding an extra stitch, and it just about drove you up the wall because you didn’t know any better…

That being said — if you are really struggling despite your tenacity, check in and see if perhaps there is a better technique you can use. Hate DPNs? Try Magic Loop! Did you learn to knit Continental? Perhaps try English. We all develop different styles and preferences, so a different method might work better for you.

And….sometimes struggling tells us our current limits. Perhaps you need to learn a new stitch, or practice more before you can knit that pattern. It’s OK to not be quite ready to knit that lace shawl yet. Sometimes we need to intuit where our skill level is, and feel good about it. Walking before running, right?



A lesson I learned is don’t be afraid to ask. I was so shy when I first started knitting that I didn’t realize I could just ask for help when I needed it. When we don’t ask for help, we inadvertently prolong the struggle-confusion-frustration cycle. I finally learned that I could just go to my LYS and there would be a horde of lovely knitters there to help me. Now, it’s my go-to resource.

How do you think all the great, brilliant knitters that we love and admire became proficient in knitting? They had to start somewhere, probably much the same as you or me. They developed their abilities over time, and I would hazard a guess that they asked for help when they needed it, questioned something that didn’t make sense, and applied critical thought to their creative process.

I learned the ‘long’ way that I shouldn’t feel embarrassed for not understanding something. I hope I can save some knitters from going through that as well. We all have different abilities  — some people have been knitting all of their lives, or have a deep understanding of a technique, or come from a family of knitters. What is wonderful is that most are more than happy to help. If you don’t have a LYS nearby, there are knitting tutorial videos on youtube, as well as online forums, podcasts, blogs, books, and online classes. There are so many resources available out there for new (and seasoned) knitters that we don’t have to even leave the house to receive help.

A lovely aspect of the community is that we are here to help each other. Most knitters that I’ve met are generous with their time and knowledge. All you have to do is show up and ask.


Get Social! (Join the community)

I think we are at a special time in the history of knitting — the community is so vibrant! There is so much information out there, it can be a little overwhelming at first. I have to admit, it took me several months of knitting before I signed up for Ravelry. At the time, I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of signing up for one more website. I am so glad I did! Ravelry is a life changing experience for a knitter. There are so many patterns to browse (tons are free), groups and forums to participate in, and friends to make. Plus, you get to keep track of your knits and queue up patterns you’d like to knit in the future. Through Ravelry, I’ve made some great knitter friends and I’ve participated in some KALs. Without this site, I’m not sure I would have had the opportunities to explore different knit styles or push myself to learn new techniques.

Another great resource is blogs. I love blogging and reading blogs, and there are so many wonderful fiber art blogs out there! Some go in-depth with tutorials and free patterns, whereas others are simply a space to share projects and thoughts. I love them both equally. When I was a new knitter, I searched all over for knitting blogs because I found them inspiring. My advice is to start one yourself! It’s enjoyable to look back through the archives and see how much you’ve grown as a knitter and how your creative process has developed.

Another knitting community I recommend is found on Instagram. I joined Instagram just a few months ago, and I wish I had joined earlier! There is a rich knitting community from around the world, and accounts with beautifully curated knits. It’s so inspiring to look through all the different projects — I suggest looking under the hashtag #knittersofinstagram first.

If you’re interested in taking a class, Craftsy has many knitting classes for all levels of experience. I’ve taken several classes and I’ve enjoyed them all. It’s an easy format to use, and you can learn at your own pace.

There are tons more resources online that I haven’t mentioned, but take some time to explore social media sites like pinterest, podcasts, youtube, and more. It’s fun and inspiring! Just be careful not to let browsing knits online take away from your actual knitting time…

As for offline groups, I also suggest looking in your area to see if there are any fiber clubs, knitting groups, or classes. Your local LYS might have a knit night or weekend classes, and another exciting experience is to attend a fiber festival.


Make Time for Knitting (Every Day)

As a new knitter, it can be easy to overlook your projects, especially if they’re frustrating or if you have limited free time. During the beginner stage, make time for a bit of knitting every day. This helps to build your muscle memory, learn the stitches, and over time makes knitting very addicting and hard to put down (main goal).

When I started knitting, I took a class that met twice a week for several hours. This was a good rate for me as a beginner, as I was a busy student and working part-time. I could practice during the week with my teacher and fellow students, and then on the other nights and weekends I could work on my projects by myself. This helped me stick to a schedule so that even when my life was very busy, I could still make time to knit. Now, my day doesn’t feel complete without some knitting.

What are some lessons you’ve learned?


Editor at Stitch&Unwind
Stitch and Unwind is the official blog for AllFreeKnitting.com, AllFreeCrochet.com, and AllFreeCrochetAfghanPatterns.com. You’ll see post from all three being contributed regularly. Once in a while you might see a post from our friends at FaveCrafts.com as well!
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  1. knittingdancer on Raverly says

    Don’t be afraid to rip out your work to where you made the mistake or even to rip it all out and start over.
    Ripping out is just a part of knitting. Use stitch markers and lifelines. Count your stitches every so often.
    Learn to read your knitting. Know what a knit stitch looks like, what a purl stitch looks like, what a knit 2 together or ssk looks like. Once you are able to read your knitting finding and fixing your mistakes are so much easier.

    • Sherry says

      Great advice! I am a ripper of sorts. Once I made a wrap that was too long on my arm, so I ripped it out. It took a year to knit it the first time because I us d small needles. The second time it took nearly as long. My friend nearly fainted when I told her I was ripping it out. Even so, I did what felt right for me, and now I have a wonderful piece that I love wearing. Don’t be afraid to rip!

  2. Marion Frazer says

    Try looking up all the many varieties of free help online, you tube has multiple versions of what you want to learn by different people and one person explains it her way, try another persons version…her way of explanation might just might be the explanation YOU understand…we all learn on different levels of input.

  3. Heather says

    Put in a lifeline on big projects, or in places you’ve previously made mistakes. A little lifeline has saved a lot of hard work on my part several times. And, I’ve also had the experience of putting one in and then not needing it.

    I would also suggest that not every mistake needs ripped out and fixed perfectly. If it won’t cause your knitting to unravel, and it is mostly unnoticeable, let it be. It can still be beautiful even if not perfect!

    Finally, dishcloths are a great way to practice and learn a new stitch. They are fun and useful, and a fairly fast knit!

  4. says

    LEarning how to make a knitting ball that you can pull from the inside It makes everything so mucheasier I am surprised that often I am teaching this to long time knitters.
    That and use a row counter
    Basically read everything you can and never stop to say I can’t do XYZ.. Don’t think just do it.

    And most of all – mistakes happen usually only you notice.Let it go.

  5. Sara Jean says

    Practice, practice. practice. I remember knitting a huge swatch until I could knit and purl without having to stop and think about every stitch. I agree with Heather that dish cloths are good, quick projects to practice stitches on. On the other hand, tackle a huge project like an afghan. I made a couple of afghans as my first projects. By the end of those afghans, I really had confidence in my stitches and had learned how I liked to hold my yarn and needles. I also agree that if you were taught Continental and didn’t like it or get it, try English knitting or vice versa. I was taught as a youngster to knit Continental and couldn’t figure out what I was doing. A few years ago, I came across videos teaching English style and like that much better. Now that I have been knitting for a while, I think I could go back to Continental if I needed/wanted to now that I understand better what I am doing when I make a stitch.

  6. thiry jane kassuba says

    My most important statement to all my new learners is to go at your own pace. There is not right or wrong way to hold the needles and cast on……some are better, but you’ll learn that as you learn. Have a ‘go to’ buddy that understands what you’re going thru. AND my best advice is to stay away from large projects until you’re confident with your stitches and your gauge……

    • Darlene B says

      Something I always tell brand new knitters is not to rip out every time you make a mistake. I have seen so many just give up because of this. I think if one keeps knitting despite a few mistakes, the rhythm of the stitching will become natural. And once that comes and the knitter becomes comfortable, then they will be ready to tackle a “project.”

  7. says

    I am fairly new to the knitting community. I don’t have a whole lot of time to spend doing it at the present time, however I do like doing it. I try to read all that I can or watch videos. Right now I am learning several things at once and am enjoying it because each one has its own challenges. I still have not mastered how to hold the needles or knit with some speed and accuracy. I feel I will get better with time and practice. It can be frustrating when you feel you should be able to get something (such as stitch or pattern) and don’t but the challenge is to keep trying, because it can be mastered.
    So in all reality I am enjoying the challenge in mastering the knit and my mind that I CAN do this!

  8. Misty says

    YouTube is a beautiful thing! When I’m not sure what a stitch is – I can watch someone else demonstrate it on YouTube!

    Don’t be stingy with yarn. Buy more than enough in the right die lot so you don’t get to the end of your masterpiece and run out. I like to buy yarn in line for afghans since it is hard to find enough of the same dye lot in stores.

    For projects you want to last forever, but good quality yarn. Why spend all that time and energy on a project that won’t hold up after several wearing a or washings. I prefer 100% Pima cotton yarn for most of my projects since I live in a warm climate.

    • Sage bowman says

      I live in a warm climate too. Where i live, there is only one(!!!) store that sells yarn and most of it is acrylic, ick. They do have a lot of lily sugar and cream though, which is fantastic. I’ve been knitting since i was six, crocheting since i was eight and i am thirteen now. I started a new project on my birthday, i make a granny square every day and by the time im 14 i will have a lovely blanket. MY grandma taught me how to knit and brought me into the fiber arts world, i really appreciate that. So, if you know how to knit, and have grandkids, teach them! It’s good quality time and it is a skill they will love forever.

  9. Francine says

    Set goals! Don’t be like me and buy yarn at a whim! Otherwise you will end up with boxes full of yarn for projects you even forget what they were for. Then you feel obligated to get the projects done!

    My goal in life, make the perfect socks…. I always have a pair of socks in my purse to work on when I am not home. AND I want to knit a sweater. I have found my pattern, and have purchased my yarn.

    And absolutely Google is my best friend for looking up stitches.

  10. Nasim says

    If you’ve made enough flat projects like scarves, dish clothes and afghans and want to try something more complicated but it seems too daunting make a baby version. Spending a lot of time and energy to make a sweater for an adult just to totally mess up and need to rip it out (like making 2 left sides of a cardigan and needing to rip one out completely) on a baby size, no big deal. It’s thw same idea as making a dish cloth tolearn a stitch make a baby size to learn to construct a garment.

  11. Ginger Jurickovich says

    I learned to knit when I was 15, 60 years ago. I still have my first project, argyle sox, because I didn’t know how insane that was for a beginner. They are hilarious to look at now. When I am helping someone learn to knit I always tell them that they can’t make a mistake I haven’t made myself, sometimes multiple times. No one was born knitting, even the best knitters were beginners once. One way I learned new stitches was that my mom (a non-knitter) would see something she liked & go to a shop, have them give her everything needed to make it & bring it to me. She never doubted I could do it, so neither did I. Knitting is basic, a knit stitch, a purl stitch & you can do anything, just different combinations. I like to start each day knitting, helps to loosen up aged hands. It’s my joy. My husband and I were together almost 55 years, he always wore sox I made, said his feet felt wrapped in love. Hearing that meant a great deal to me, I wish everyone happy knitting.

  12. Pat Sears Doherty says

    Help! I was showing off a project in progress to a friend–it is a wedding shawl from the allfreeknitting.com daily alert that comes to my email inbox–it is a 60-inch shawl that I am making for my daughter’s 30th birthday–and I am within 15 inches of the end. Well, the friend held it up and somehow ripped off the needle protectors–resulting in about 6 inches of the latest row coming off the needle.

    No biggie,I have repaired that far down before. Nope–the pattern includes several YO stitches and ssk stitches that create lovely v-shaped strategically placed holes—that are now one huge hole six inches down and wide. How can I repair them?

    I am desperate! I live in Albany, NY and have been mostly self-taught, but I am totally stumped. Is there anyone out there with some–fast–advice? My daughter’s birthday is August 11 and I was litterally looking at the finish line. Thank you!

  13. Lynn says

    A couple things I wish I had known from the beginning….

    Lifelines are your friends and will not only save your life, but your sanity.
    Stitch markers are not just “pretties”.
    Knit what you love – choose a pattern and yarn you love, doesn’t matter what it is, if you love it you are more likely to finish it.
    Other knitters love to help!

    When I first started knitting I picked a lace weight yarn for a lacey baby sweater, hat and booties. I didn’t know I should have started with a “simple” project. I didn’t have a baby, no plans at that point to have a baby (I was only 13-14 years old after all!!). I just thought it was adorable, the pattern was on the ball of yarn and I was ready to go. I finished it, my first child actually wore it – a good -6-7 years later! Took me awhile, but I found books at the library to teach me the stitches I didn’t know (before ravelry and before youtube).

    I stopped knitting for a few years, too many years truth be told! I woud occasionally buy some yarn, knit up a scarf or hat, but not regularly.
    When I picked it back up I would look at a pattern and think “That’s too hard; I don’t know that stitch; that’s too big a project” Always an reason I shouldn’t try it.
    I need to remind myself that each project begins with one stitch, and I don’t need to knit it all at once, just one stitch, one row at a time.
    How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
    Same with knitting!

  14. Cecilia says

    Keep all of your yarn labels and keep a record of projects where you write down what needles you used, any problems, and any future tips.

  15. Blake says

    Yarn shops are wonderful resources when you’re confused. The owners of these shops are almost always knitters and they are more than happy to share their wisdom with knitting neophytes. Also at these shops there are usually a few regular customers and friends of the owner hanging about knitting and they too are happy to help. When I first learned to knit it was before I had access to the internet and I was taught how to do cables at my local knitting shop. I thought cables were some kind of process that would require an engineering degree or something and I was shown how easy they are. Had I known earlier I would have started knitting with them a long time before I did.

  16. Aida F says

    I LOVE this article, thank you for writing it!! I learned to knit two years ago and I admit it was a frustrating experience at first. My first project was a Rib Knit scarf that I made for my son, I went through slipped stitches and frogging it so many times that I almost gave up but I stuck it out and completed the scarf, it wasn’t my pattern but I loved how it came out and got many compliments on it. I also made a knitted beanie but honestly I got discouraged because I just felt likt I could never knit fast enough so I just gave it up all together, had I just stuck with it I could’ve been a knitting master by now lol! It’s been awhile since but lately I have been contemplating transitioning from crocheting to knitting because even though I love making Amigurumi dolls, crocheting has been hurting my hands alot lately. Plus I want to get more into knitting hats, scarves, cowls etc. with the upcoming Fall & Winter seasons around the corner!! I can’t wait to start again and hopefully sell my products as well as gift away items to family and friends. 🙂

  17. Martha says

    Consider the process of knitting as a way of passing time, just passing the time, realizing you’ve made a mistake, don’t be afraid to unravel or first run a needle through the stitches of your work back where the mistake is and unraveling back to that point and beginning again. I recently started an involved lace shawl with beads to be added. I had about 15″ of approximately 45″ on my needles when I realized I should begin again. I sat quietly and ran an empty needle through the stitches and unraveled it and began again. I learned so much. Just the experience of undoing it and starting over was a valuable lesson. I did that a total of 3 times before I could move forward with confidence. It’s finished and I’m so pleased. I can hardly wait to start another project. Wish I’d had the patience to do that 30 years ago. I gave up too easily when I was younger.

  18. Brenda Wilkinson says

    A wonderful way to practice different stitches, techniques, and patterns is to make hats for premie babies. When done donate to a nearby hospital. When I first began knitting again (I was taught as a child but take it up seriously till I was an adult) I adopted the philosophy of the Pueblo Indians. They believe only God can create perfection so they purposely include a defect in their pottery. I don’t purposely make a mistake in my knitting but if I realize
    there is one that doesn’t affect the project and is a lot of work to correct then I leave it and go on without it bothering me due to this philosophy

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