How to Start Knitting Adventurously

Do you remember the first time you picked up knitting needles? I don’t—partly because it was 30 years ago, but mostly because it was far more nerve-wracking to pick up my first pattern. That  fear stayed with me through several early projects because, honestly, I didn’t choose well. When a pattern calls for size 2 needles, and you buy worsted yarn, it’s not easy to get gauge. I also didn’t know how to match my beginner-level skills to a project’s demands, so I just barreled on through and worked things out by frogging a lot. In other words, I figured out how to start knitting by simply diving in, enjoying success after experiencing a lot of failure. Patterns back then might not have contained some of the cues we now enjoy, or else I didn’t know how to decipher these subtle hints. In Love of Knitting, the cues have been and will remain quite obvious, so that new knitters—and people teaching new knitters—can avoid some pitfalls. Adventurous knitting, where we push ourselves a little farther each time, doesn’t have to be fatal.

Reading the Signs to Start Knitting

Every Love of Knitting project begins with useful markers. Right after the pattern name, you’ll see its skill level. We use CYC guidelines for difficulty levels (beginner, easy, intermediate, and experienced, defined in “The Basics” at the end of every issue). Most Love of Knitting projects fall into easy or intermediate skill levels, with maybe one or two at the experienced level. Beginner projects show up occasionally but not often.

Skill levels help you choose the adventure level you want.

Skill levels help you choose the adventure level you want. See all the patterns from Summer 2016 here.

How  can an adventurous knitter use these skill levels—especially if said knitter is just starting out? First, think of these levels as guidelines. A newbie knitter doesn’t have to stick to “beginner” projects. In fact, newbies will advance more quickly if they don’t shy away from more complex projects. The trick is to try out a complex technique on a small project, rather than attempting a sweater right away. Try out shaping methods on a hat. Practice color changes on a cowl. Make a lace scarf instead of a great big shawl.

In fact, Love of Knitting always offers a highly useful small project designed to teach a new skill. Meet the swatch-cloth, a basic square that can decorate your kitchen or powder room. Or make lots of them and sew them into tote bags, blankets, and so on.

How to start knitting applied edgings.

How to start knitting applied edgings.

These swatch-cloths teach a skill or stitch technique. For instance, in Winter 2015, Lorna Miser shows how to apply 3 decorative edgings to a stockinette-stitch square. In Spring 2016 and Summer 2016, Lorna covers graphic knit/purl designs, laid out in charts. Coming up in the Fall issue, Lorna will return to charts for cable patterns; we’re planning an openwork square for Winter to unlock the mysteries of lace.

If I could send a message back through time to myself, I’d tell Just-Started-Knitting-Deb to make some swatch-cloths. Nowadays, when I talk to beginners about stretching their skills, these are the first projects I recommend.

My number 1 tip for knitting adventurously: start knitting with a swatch-cloth.

My number 1 tip for knitting adventurously: start knitting with a swatch-cloth.

Weigh(t)ing the Yarn–How to Start Knitting Painlessly

Consider yarn weight as you start knitting.

Consider yarn weight as you start knitting.

Another helpful detail in every Love of Knitting pattern is the yarn weight icon. It’s the first bit of info listed in the project box. Trust me: it will help you select the proper yarn for a project, whether you’re diving into your stash or buying something new.

Setting Off on Your Knitting Adventure

When I taught at the college level, sometimes it was hard to make students believe they would learn more if they took chances. Knitters need to take risks too—not with every project, but often enough to expand their skills. Love of Knitting offers many simpler patterns for the days you want to relax. It also provides adventurous opportunities, with plenty of teaching information. That’s the balance I’m aiming for, as knitter and as editor.

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