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

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Today’s guest post [3] is brought to you by Hannah from Rain Mountain Crafts [4]! 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 [4] to follow along with more of her knitting adventures!

What I Wish I Knew When I Started Knitting [3]

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!

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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?

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Ask

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.

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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.

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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?