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Learn to Knit


In my last post I gave a high level overview of what it takes to go from someone who learned to knit once to a fully fledged knitter. This sort of knitter is someone who has a degree of confidence in the basic knitting techniques required to complete a project, and habitually uses those skills to create multiple projects over time.

I believe there are three separate skills required to make that switch. And they are:

  1. Learn to Knit

  2. Learn to Follow a Pattern

  3. Learn to Finish a Project

Today I want to dig into that first point, Learn to Knit.

This is a pretty obvious step. But just because it's obvious, doesn't mean its easy. I have met countless people who can remember a time when someone tried to show them how to knit, but it never stuck. This concept has bugged me.... why doesn't it stick? How is it that knitting is a skill that so many people have exposure to, yet relatively few of them make it to a place of confidence? After teaching lots of Learn to Knit classes, I have a couple of ideas as to why this happens.

  1. The person doesn't develop the necessary muscle memory.

  2. The person isn't inspired by their materials.

  3. The person doesn't have a clear vision of why they want to knit.

Let's take a look at each of these issues, and what new knitters can do to work through these issues.

Be Patient while Developing Muscle Memory

This is the critical component to learning to cast on, knit, purl, and bind off. It absolutely has to be come automatic for you to be a successful knitter. Learning how to execute the specific steps successfully a few times is great and necessary, but it wont produce anything if you don't learn to do it automatically. The problem with developing this muscle memory is that it is incredibly awkward. Adults aren't really used to feeling awkward in our fine motor skills, so we tend to experience a lot of anxiety at this point. I recently took up spinning, another craft that requires some very specific fine motor skills that I had not developed and I couldn't believe how frustrated I felt! Thankfully, I was with a number of other skilled spinners who egged me on until I got that basic rhythm and wasn't constantly breaking the yarn. It took a solid hour and I felt stupid for 55 minutes of it. Learning to knit is much the same way. I have watched people mechanically execute each of the 4 basic steps of the knit stitch over and over again for several minutes until suddenly their hands just seem to know what to do. After another few hours working that stitch over and over again while watching Netflix, those movements start to get ingrained in your mind and they're well on their way to becoming totally automatic. It is really, really important that you work through this super awkward initial phase. It's also important to know that everyone goes through it, though usually for different lengths of time. So that feeling of awkwardness isn't you being bad at it... it's your mind paving those initial neuron pathways so that your brain and hand know what to do the next time you execute a particular maneuver. After that, each time you execute it, that path will become smoother and smoother. So patience with yourself and the process your mind is working through is absolutely key.

Choose Inspiring Materials

The next critical component to learning to knit is to work with materials that you absolutely love. Knitting is incredibly tactile and if you're working with scratchy yarn in your least favorite color using needles that squeak when you try to work the basic steps, you will instantly hate it. Heck, I hate knitting if I’m not working with my specifically chosen needles and yarn.

So, while this could be a whole blog post by itself, here are some basic guidelines on selecting your introductory materials:

  1. Select some gorgeous yarn, in a medium weight, that isn’t too slippery. Don’t worry about how cheap or expensive it is… the goal is to be in love with it. I personally would recommend Malabrigo Rios, a lovely inexpensive washable wool, which you can buy here.

  2. Choose some sharp bamboo circular needles like these. If you choose a medium or worsted weight yarn, you’ll want work with US size 8 or 5mm. The bamboo gives you a comfortable surface to work with, but won’t allow your stitches to move around without you moving them.

  3. Treat yourself to nice little tote to keep your new supplies in. A pretty bag is so inspiring. I’ve developed a bit of a problem at the target dollar spot. They always have these delightful little totes for $3-7! It’s more than I can resist!

Know why your Learning! When you walk into that first class, or start that YouTube video, or sit down next to your aunt while everyone else is watching the Thanksgiving Day football game, know what you’re after. Are you learning so you can knit for your new baby? Are you looking to develop a mindful habit? Do you have a particular project you have your eye on? If you don’t have a clear vision of why you want to learn, you won’t get through the initial awkwardness described earlier. When you go from running a meeting at work to feeling like a kindergartner learning handwriting, you’ll need something to focus on, otherwise your ego will take over and you’ll lose interest.

So, if you’re one of the people I described earlier, who has been exposed to knitting in the past, yet can’t execute the basics confidently, I hope this helps you diagnose where you went wrong and what you can do about it!

Knitting is an incredibly rewarding craft and I want you to get the amazing benefits it has to offer! Let me know how I can help! Oh! This is probably a good place to do a bit of self promotion. I do have a comprehensive Learn to Knit class available over here. And if you’re not quite ready to go that far, you should sign up for my email newsletter! When you sign up, you’ll get my free learn to knit guide, then you’ll receive some tips and tricks on learning to knit every week.

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