Over winter break I decided to pick up a new craft: knitting. I’m not exactly sure why I decided to give it a try, but I think I was excited to show off anything I made in the future. My mom, the craftiest person I know, sat down with me a few days after Christmas and taught me the basics. I was hooked.
My mom, who is a seamstress by trade, said she enjoys knitting because she likes engaging in a craft dating back hundreds of years, connecting her to women from several generations. She also says picking up her needles and knitting a few stitches instantly relaxes her.
I like knitting because it’s fun and a relaxing way to pass the time. I also enjoy it because wearing, or using, something that I’ve knitted gives me such an accomplished and proud feeling. I look down at the scarf I’m wearing and know that I made every stitch on that scarf happen. It’s powerful.
So far, I’ve knitted two scarfs and I’m almost done with a pillow cover. While those don’t seem like big accomplishments in three whole months, I only knit maybe three to four hours a week.
To get started with knitting, you really only need four things, one of which you probably already have. Pick up a ball of yarn, knitting needles, a yarn needle and a pair of scissors.
I wish I had known earlier, but Wal-Mart has a great selection of inexpensive knitting needles and yarn. Pick up a pair of larger sized needles, possibly U.S. 8, 9 or 10. There are many different materials knitting needles can be made out of: plastic, aluminum, stainless steel, bamboo or wood. Each have different advantages and disadvantages. I prefer a metal needle because they are smooth, cool to the touch and won’t warp like plastic. Until you try them all out, you probably won’t know your favorite.
Buy a needle with a large eye that the yarn can fit through, sometimes called a yarn needle or a darning needle. If you don’t have scissors, pick up a pair of small, pointed scissors.
Finally, you choose your yarn. Find something in a material and color you like, but find something that’s not lumpy, slippery or hairy. Those are better for advanced knitters. A smooth “worsted” weight yarn is the best choice for a beginner.
Once you have your supplies, you need to learn a few of the basics. Learning how to make a slip knot, how to cast on (attaching the yarn to the knitting needle for the first time), the knit stitch and binding off (securely removing the yarn from the knitting needle) are necessary to knit anything. There are several places to look for tutorials.
YouTube: This source is probably the best for a complete beginner. The visual and audio combination is very helpful when learning the basics. Find short videos and watch them over and over again until you get the hang of it.
Books: A traditional source for learning the basics, a book can be a great source for a variety of tutorials, tips and even simple patterns. I had a gift card from Christmas, so I purchased the “Idiot’s Guide: Knitting” from Barnes & Noble for about $15. A photo-filled, full-colored book is necessary for learning.
Pinterest/ Blogs: While sometimes Pinterest can be better for eye-candy and inspiration, occasionally I stumble across a great blogger who teaches the basics in a helpful, concise way. Learning extra stitches, extra cast on and cast off techniques or fun patterns is the next step in improving your knitting.
After you learn the basics, try your first project. A great pattern for beginners is a simple dish cloth or wash cloth. Using a 100 percent cotton machine washable yarn, knit up a simple square.
Cast on 40 stitches.
Knit in garter (knit) stitch for as many rows as it takes until the wash cloth is square.
Weave in ends with yarn needle.
Your new wash cloth is totally usable, washable and 100 percent handmade. I hope you find the craft as entertaining and fulfilling as I have.
Claire Galvin is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.