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An Eccentric Aunt’s Guide To Learning To Love Knitting

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In my ongoing decent into eccentric aunt territory, I have become…a knitter. A person who knits in public.

And like a lot of knitters, I will wax poetic about how much I love to knit, and how soothing the rhythm of the needles can be, blah blah blah. But when I have my knitting out (because I’m the kind of person who knits in public, because why not) I meet two kinds of people: Those who knit. Those who don’t think they can knit. It’s because of this I’m going to share a bit of information on how to learn to love knitting. An eccentric aunt’s guide to learning to love knitting, so to speak.

An Eccentric Aunt’s Guide To Learning To Love Knitting

The thing about knitting is that you have to be willing to knit some absolute crap while you get the feel of it. And when you’re struggling, it can be discouraging when experienced knitters make it look effortless. This is because they already knit a whole lot of ugly scarves that were too embarrassing to give to anyone they weren’t related to. They…we have also picked up a whole lot of information by trial, error, and accident over time.

If you want to try knitting, or if you’ve tried to learn to knit and think you can’t, here are some things I found to be true. 

1. I conquered the needles by reading Knitting for Dummies. I’m not even joking. It had big line drawings that I could look at and copy. But if you Google “how to knit,” you’ll get all kinds of YouTube videos. The basics are covered in free videos.

2. Ravelry.com is this incredible database of patterns and yarn. They also have forums and interest groups, like knitters for charity or knitters who love Harry Potter. You can search the database with keywords like “scarf” or “free” or the size of the yarn you want to use.

3. Knitters are always keen to talk tips and techniques, and a knitting circle can be the best thing ever. (You can often find one through your local yarn shop.) But it’s best not to show up with your needles still in the package and assume someone will be excited to teach you the absolute basics.

4. Once you’re at the store, with its mind-boggling array of fiber, a good place to start is with some worsted weight yarn. (It’s versatile, makes good hats and scarfs, and easy to find in any chain craft store.) On the yarn package, it will give a suggested needle size. A US 7 is pretty middle of the road.

5. Start with shorter needles. You can find most sizes in 10” or 14” lengths. I don’t knit with long needles unless I have to. I think the extra length makes them extra unwieldy (even now).

6. I personally love wooden needles, and you can usually find inexpensive bamboo ones at your craft store. I found them easier when learning because the yarn doesn’t slip as easily. Some people like metal needles for the same reason—it’s easier to slip the yarn. But for me, I needed one less thing to worry about moving around when I didn’t want it to.

7. Practice with a durable, acrylic yarn that doesn’t look too fuzzy. You’ll be able to see the stitches with more definition as you learn a knit from a purl, and so on. And since these are usually cheap, you don’t have to be afraid of messing it up.

8. That said, it’s worth it to knit with a yarn you enjoy the feel of. You don’t have to jump straight to silk and alpaca. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but something you take pleasure in working with, whether it’s the feel or the color. You’ll knit more and learn faster.

9. I found the same to be true for patterns. The quicker I started challenging myself, the more quickly I learned.

10. Speaking of knots—remember how your dad told you all day about the rabbit goes around the tree and back down the hole and so forth? Make yourself a mnemonic and don’t feel silly whispering it under your breath as you go.

11. And just like the rabbit and the tree, it’s not actually helpful until you do it a lot. Tie a bowline once, and you’ll forget how to do it. Tie it a dozen times, and it sticks. Tie it a hundred times, and you can do it in your sleep (or more importantly, in a hurry). Or in the case of my grandmother, who knit during Cowboys games on TV, without looking and really really fast.

12. Knitting can be as cheap or as expensive as you want. You can get a giant pound of yarn at the craft store, or you can pay beaucoup bucks for hand-dyed, spun-by-the-fingers-of-angels unicorn wool. The same goes for patterns—between the internet, the yarn manufacturer websites, the patterns on the yarn package—you can knit your whole life without ever paying for a pattern. But it’s nice to support the designers, just like you would an author you enjoy. (You can search Ravelry by any keyword, including “free” or the type of wool you have on hand.)

13. Knitting is great to do while you’re binging on Netflix, incidentally. You can get lots of practice and figure out what’s the fuss about Gilmore Girls at the same time.

These aren’t exactly expert tips because I’m no expert. There are many things I don’t know or haven’t wrapped my fingers around, so to speak. But these are the things that I’ve found that keep me enjoying the process of learning, and I hope you will, too.

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