Knit 101: The Adult Beginner Knitter

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when you’re a beginner knitter, everything seems difficult. It’s so easy to get frustrated with your progress—or lack thereof—and just throw in the towel. Or, in a fit of rage, rip out all of the knitting you’ve managed to do with your limited skills and burn the whole mess in a fire.

Photo Credit: ilbusca | Getty Images

I’ve been on my sweater journey for a few months now and I haven’t managed to progress past the gauge swatch stage. This is partly a time problem—I have a lot going on these days, and knitting tends to fall to the bottom of my priority list when I’m busy—but it’s also a learning curve problem. I think I should be able to grasp this new skill easily, and when I can’t, I’m really tempted to just give up.

As adults, we don’t often learn new skills; we tend to do the same things over and over because they’re familiar. We don’t push ourselves outside our comfort zones. We might occasionally take up a new hobby, but if it’s more challenging than we were expecting, we give up and go back to our old pastimes because they make us feel confident and competent—we don’t have to worry about embarrassing ourselves by failing at something new.

I’m guilty of this bad habit, and not just with knitting. My husband has been trying to teach me to skate ski (classic Nordic skiing’s faster cousin) for a couple of years. I can classic ski fairly well—I mean, if you can walk, you can classic—but skate skiing really trips me up. I usually manage to get into a good groove if I’m on a flat stretch of trail, but it doesn’t take much (a hill, a branch on the trail, a light breeze) to knock me out of it. And even though I’m in pretty good shape I tend to tire quickly when I skate, and as I fatigue, what little technique I have falls apart. I find the whole thing so frustrating that I’ve been tempted many times to just sell all my gear and stick with classic skiing.

On the trail! One more thing that keeps me going with my skiing: beautiful views like this one!

And yet, I persevere. No matter how frustrated I get, I can’t completely give up skate skiing. I’m determined to get it. And if I keep practicing, someday it will all click, right?

That’s how I feel about my knitting journey. It’s been really disheartening to realize that I’m struggling to even make proper gauge swatches—how on earth will I make an entire sweater if I can’t even make a swatch?—but I know that if I keep at it, I will improve. And despite my frustration, it’s actually nice to get outside my comfort zone, to push myself a bit, to make my brain and my hands work in new ways.

When’s the last time you learned to do something new? If it’s been a while, I encourage you to get out there and try something you’ve always wanted to do. Learn a new language or take a photography course or sign up for guitar lessons or take up skydiving. Or learn a new craft! Challenge yourself to try a new hobby, and don’t give up when you hit a speedbump. Persevere. If I can do it, so can you.

—Rachel

P.S. In case you were wondering, my most recent swatch was big enough to actually give me an accurate measurement, but I was still quite a bit under gauge. (The gauge called for in the pattern is 15 stitches and 22 rows = 4 inches in stockinette stitch on size 9 needles; I got about 20 stitches and 29 rows in 4 inches.) My knitting mentor, Laura, said I needed to use bigger needles. So up I went, to size 10.5. I haven’t quite finished the swatch yet, but there’s a huge difference between the two already. Fingers crossed that I got it right this time!

beginner knitter

Gauge swatches for my Killarney Tunic. One is too small and the other one is probably too big, and neither has the gauge I need. Let’s hope the third time is the charm with these!


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