So, you’ve just started knitting and you have some nagging questions. Or, you haven’t even picked up a pair of needles yet and feel overwhelmed and want some guidance! We’ve gathered up some of your most frequently asked beginner questions to put your confusion to rest. We know how intimidating knitting can be – and we’re here to help!
So, without further ado, let’s get into the knitty gritty.
I’ve never knitted before! What should I make as my first project?
This is my recommendation for a first project: make a scarf with chunky yarn!
You will need to buy the yarn (I recommend Lion Brand's Wool-Ease Thick & Quick) and a pair of straight needles (I recommend 10 mm). Make sure you also have a pair of scissors at the ready! Here is a great pattern and video tutorial that is free online from Sheep & Stitch.
A scarf is a great first project because it is incredibly simple – a long rectangle! To make a scarf you will need to learn how to cast on, do a knit stitch, and cast off. These are the most basic skills and can be used to make a ton of different projects once you get comfortable with them!
I recommend chunky yarn to start with because the project goes faster and you feel more accomplished. It’s also easier to see your stitches since they will be larger, which will help you better understand what’s going on when you knit.
Another great beginner project is making a simple knit hat. Hats are much easier than you’d expect! We actually offer a workshop on making your first hat, so check it out if you want hands-on guidance!
What yarn and tools do I need?
When you’re knitting, at the very least you’ll need yarn, knitting needles, and a pair scissors. But, as you may have noticed, there are tons of different types of yarns and many kinds of needles. You may have also seen some other tools like stitch markers or tapestry needles. What is all this stuff?
Let's Talk Yarn
What kinds of yarn are there? There are many types of yarns, from natural fibers like wool, alpaca, and cotton to synthetic fibers like acrylic. You can even get novelty yarns like ribbon or T-Shirt yarn, or recycled yarn made out of plastic bags (plarn) or through other methods. The options are incredible!
But what yarn should I use? When choosing a yarn, think about what you want to make. Are you using a pattern? They’ll recommend a yarn to use, including the material and thickness (or weight). Not using a pattern? Think about how sturdy or soft you want your yarn to be for your finished project. For example, you might want a hat to be thick and warm, or a basket to be tough and sturdy. If you’re making a sweater that will sit against the skin, you’ll want something soft and not scratchy.
Ultimately, choose a yarn you like!
What is yarn thickness or weight? Yarn comes in many different thicknesses, often referred to as weight. Weight is usually ranked from 0-7, with 0 being the thinnest to 7 being the thickest. This ranking is usually on the ball band or label on the yarn. There are also a variety of names for the different weights, usually paired with a number. Here they are:
- 0 - Lace
- 1 - Super fine, fingering, or sock
- 2 - Fine, sport, or baby
- 3 - Light, DK (double knit)
- 4 - Medium, worsted or aran
- 5 - Bulky, chunky, craft or rug
- 6 - Super bulky
- 7 - Jumbo or Roving
The above ball band is on a ball of Lion Brand Heartland yarn.
How many balls/skeins should I buy? Depends! What do you want to make? If you have a specific pattern in mind, go by their recommended number of skeins. The yarn might tell you! Look at the label. But in general, you'll need one ball for a hat, 2 to 3 balls for a scarf, and 6 to 8 balls for a sweater. I recommend airing on the side of caution. If you aren’t sure if you’ll need 2 or 3, go with 3!
What's Up With Knitting Needles?
When it comes to knitting needles, you’ll notice that they come in different sizes and materials, as well as different types: straight, circular, and double pointed.
What are knitting needles made out of? Knitting needles are made in a variety of different materials – the most common being wood, bamboo, plastic, and metal.
Wood needles tend to be a bit grippier, while metal or plastic are much more slippery. If you know you tend to knit tight, try out plastic or metal! If you knit looser, try out wood! Wood may also snag natural fibers, so keep that in mind as well when choosing your material.
Mostly, you’ll have to try out a variety of materials before you find your favorite. There are no right or wrong needle materials to use.
What are the different needles sizes? The size of your needle can be broken down into two parts: the length of the needle and the thickness or circumference of it. The thickness of the needle is usually either written in mm or an equivalent US size. You can refer to the knitting needle size chart below or another online source to convert sizes.
Knitting Needle Size Chart by Knitter's Pride.
Does needle size really matter? Short answer: yes!
Why yes? Needle size determines the size of the loops you create while knitting. This changes the way the finished fabric will drape and look. If you want a tighter knit, go for a smaller needle size. If you want a looser knit, go for a larger needle size.
Which needle size should I get? If you are following a pattern, the pattern will recommend the size knitting needle(s) you'll need for the project. Make sure you get the recommended size! If you are looking to match a pair of needles to a certain yarn, the yarn may have a recommended needle size on the ball band. Usually you will choose a needle size that “matches” your yarn. Thicker yarn is usually paired with bigger needles, while thinner yarn is paired with smaller needles.
So, what’s up with the different kinds of needles?
Straight needles are probably what you picture when you think knitting needles – two separate needles with one blunt end and one pointed end. These are best for knitting flat pieces like a scarf or blanket.
Circular needles are two needles connected by a cord. Usually the cord is made out of plastic or metal and is bendable, while the needles are not. Circular needles are usually used to knit in the round. This means that the resulting fabric will be a tube instead of a flat piece. You can also use circular needles to knit flat pieces. This is especially useful if you are knitting a large piece.
Double pointed needles (or DPNs) are a set of five shorter needles with both ends coming to a point, as the name suggests. These needles are usually used to knit in the round, and are especially useful for creating tubes with a small circumference. These are most commonly used to knit socks!
A Couple of Other Tools
Let's briefly go over some other common tools for beginner knitters! Tapestry needles, pom pom makers, and stitch markers.
What is a tapestry needle? A tapestry needle is a thick, blunt needle used to sew yarn. You'll often need a tapestry needle to weave in loose ends and seam different knitted pieces together.
What is a pom pom maker? As the name suggests, a pom pom maker is a tool that helps you make a pom pom! Pom poms are actually really easy and fast to make -- and are also super fun!
What are stitch markers? Stitch markers are small hoops used to mark a stitch or place in your knitting. This can help you remember where you started the beginning of a row or a certain knitted motif. They are super handy, and it's nice to have a few on hand!
From left to right: tapestry needles, a pom pom maker, and some stitch markers.
I hope this brief guide to yarn and knitting needles was helpful! If you have more questions we'd love to hear from you so we can answer your questions in subsequent knitting guides.
Stay tuned for Part 2. In the mean time, enjoy knitting!