The Thinking Knitter: Teaching a Friend to Knit

You are sitting in a richly colored velveteen chair at your favorite coffee shop, enjoying a bit of knitting time. The friend you are waiting for appears, and you ask, “Do you mind if I knit while we visit?” Of course she doesn’t mind, and you are delighted to knit on. Could you be more content? Only if she were knitting, too.

Interest is in her eyes, and the words just pop out: “I could teach you how!” You want her to know the sense of adventure you experience every time you pick up your needles. Suddenly, you realize you never have never considered teaching a friend to knit, and a mini jolt of panic hits.

It’s easy! You don’t have to be a walking encyclopedia of knitting knowledge in order to share what you know. If you can make a slipknot, cast on, knit, and bind off, you can show a friend how to make something fun. Guarantee success with felted first projects: Felting covers up a multitude of sins, such as uneven stitches, inadvertent increases, and holes that seem to come out of nowhere. Your friend will be more lighthearted about any mistakes, knowing that they will all be obscured in the felting process.

I like to choose a worsted-weight yarn and midsize needles for a beginner to work with. With too-small needles, the results are too slow in coming. Too-large needles make it awkward to achieve even tension right away. A size 8 needle with a nice worsted-weight wool will make for a pleasurable first -experience. It doesn’t matter whether the needles are straight or circular, but I find that beginners tend to like the stability of short, straight bamboo needles. I like to have new knitters start with small squares of about five inches—just like gauge swatches. With small pieces, the sequence of making a slipknot, casting on, knitting, and binding off is easily repeated several times, cementing the process in the new knitter’s mind.

Have your own yarn and needles to work with when you teach a friend to knit. To begin, demonstrate each of the four basic techniques: making a slipknot, casting on (use the long‑tail method), knitting, and binding off. Have your friend repeat the motions a few times to get the hang of them. If you can’t quite find the right words to describe each action, simply read the text out of your favorite knitting technique book. You will be showing your friend how to find necessary information, and you will refresh your own knowledge at the same time.
Now make some little squares. Cast on twenty to twenty-five stitches and knit every row until the square’s length is equal to its width. This won’t take long, even for absolute beginners. Bind off and show your friend how to weave in the ends. Make several squares.

What do you do with four, six, or eight little woolly squares? You felt them into coasters! Make them to match or in a nice palette. Show your friend how to felt them in a sink or in the washing machine. Stack the felted squares and tie with ribbon for a boxed set! The practice squares become the real deal—instant accomplishment.

The next step in the fun is to make something larger. A felted tote bag is just the thing: a few rectangles, a few seams, a spin in the machine, and voilà! A container for your friend’s sure-to-grow knitting universe.

You’ve just shown someone down the knitting path, and it may be that you enjoyed the giving as much as she appreciated the receiving. Time together meant sharing more than simply knitting—what a great path to a deeper friendship.


Designer VICKI SQUARE is the author of The Knitter’s Companion (Interweave, 2006) and Knit Kimono (Interweave, 2007). This article originally appeared in Interweave Knits Summer 2009.


Teaching a friend to knit is easy with the help of Interweave!

One Comment

  1. Anonymous at 1:02 pm June 18, 2018

    Don’t you have to use wool yarn in order to felt?

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