What is Knitting?
Knitting is an ancient craft that is both practical and fun.
Basic knitting is pretty easy to learn. There are basically just a few stitches which can be combined and adjusted to create an almost endless number of effects.
Many items can be knitted with a handful of basic techniques, but there is an infinite number of additional techniques that can be learnt to keep the hobby interesting and challenging.
One can knit flat panels, cylinders or complex three dimensional shapes.
It is a clean hobby and it is easy to transport work in progress.
As well as enjoying the knitting process, the end results can be very practical for your own use, as gifts or to sell.
What Can I do With It?
There is so much you can do when you know how to knit! There are literally millions of patterns available plus it is fun to design your own.
One of the most popular types of knitted project are clothing items such as sweaters, cardigans, jackets and many other types of clothing. You can make clothing for adults, children or babies – or even for dogs and other animals.
Particularly popular are accessories such as hats, gloves and scarves. These are quite quick to knit and make great gifts or craft stall products.
I personally particularly like making knitted toys and dolls’ clothes.
Many people knit blankets, shawls, comforters and other flat items. There are lots of fun techniques to create pictures, patterns, textures and an endless array of colour schemes.
There are lots of household items that can be knitted, including phone and other gadget cases, bags, pillows and cushions, baskets, doilies etc.
You can knit teeny little dolls’ clothes using uber-fine needles, right up to huge fluffy blankets that are knitted on your own arms (yes, really!) – and, of course, everything in between.
Could I Make Money with this Craft?
Quality knitwear sells well. Because there is such a very wide range of products you could create with knitting, it is a handy skill for the budding craft seller.
I personally have done well at craft fairs selling small, low cost knitted items such as keyrings, Christmas decorations and baby shoes. Larger projects can be more difficult to sell as the increase in time required to make them can cause the price to be prohibitively high.
Some countries have legal requirements for the labelling of garments made from wool and other animal fibres. Please check for your own country, and those of any countries you intend to sell to.
As with most crafts, one of the keys to getting sales is to be offering products that are not easily found elsewhere, are very high quality and for which there is a good demand.
If you would like to know more about selling your crafts, please check out the Craft Seller Success Podcast. You can listen to the podcasts or read the full, illustrated transcripts if you prefer. Available here on the Tin Teddy Blog, iTunes and various other podcast locations.
How Easy Is It to Learn?
Probably the best way to learn to knit is with someone teaching you. They will be able to quickly spot any mistakes you are making and help you correct them.
However, it is definitely possible to learn from books or videos.
If using a book, look for one that has lots of large, clear photos of the various stages so you can easily replicate them.
There are many, many videos available on YouTube to help you learn to knit. Once you have mastered the basics, you will be able learn all sorts of fancy techniques later on too.
Many towns and cities have knitting clubs that welcome beginners. As well as enjoying knitting with others, you will be able to get advice to help you improve more quickly. Ask in your local wool or craft shops if they know of any local clubs.
Some wool and yarn shops offer lessons or classes in how to knit. Many friendly yarn shop owners and workers are happy to offer tips and advice, especially if you are buying yarn, of course!
My mother and grandmother taught me toknit when I was young and I can’t remember much about it. Since then I have taught myself many new techniques using books and online videos.
One of the things I most love about knitting is that there are always new styles, techniques and designs to learn and create.
There are some very good knitting classes on Craftsy. I have done quite a few of their courses and they have always been very professional, detailed and fun. There are LOADS of knitting courses, covering all sorts of techniques and projects.
What Equipment Do I Need to Start?
All you need to start knitting is a pair of knitting needles and some yarn that is suitable for those needles.
Knitting is usually done from a written pattern. More experienced knitters can create designs on the fly, though it is not quite as easy to do this as it is for crochet, for example.
You can buy patterns from many sources, either for individual items for in collections or books. There are lots of free patterns available online.
If you have never knitted before you will need to learn the basic stitches before you can tackle a pattern – as well as learning a bit about how to read a pattern.
What Might I already Own?
Many families have some knitting needles already. I inherited boxes full from both of my grandmothers. Old needles may have a different type of measurement on them.
Here in the UK the standard for knitting needle sizes is to just measure the width of the needle in millimetres. Previously, the needles had their own sizing system which (confusingly) had numbers that got larger the smaller the needle’s width. There are many charts online to covert between the two systems, and many knitting patterns and books give the old size too.
Handy hint – if there is a particular size or sizes of needle that you often use, mark them with nail polish or washi tape so you can quickly grab them when starting a new project.
American knitting needles often use a different sizing system too. Again, there are charts to convert if you are using a pattern that is from a different country to your needles.
A good, sharp pair of scissors is a must. Many knitters use the small ones that are designed for embroidery, or the type that look like little shears (Japanese style scissors). As long as your scissors are sharp enough to cut your yarn, you can use whatever you have around to start with.
It is easy to keep track of how many rows you have knitted by just making marks on a piece of paper. It is tempting to do this on the actual pattern, but if you then knit the pattern again you may get confused by multiple marks.
A sturdy, clean, dry bag is needed to store your knitting when not in use or if travelling around. Many a beginner knitter has used a simple grocery store carrier bag for this.
What Will I Need to Buy?
If you are learning to knit from a book or course, get the size of needles that they recommend.
If in doubt, I would recommend 4mm needles as these are probably the most commonly used. They work perfectly with worsted or double-knitting yarn. This yarn is very economically available and used for many types of project.
If you want to knit socks or other items that require “knitting in the round” (ie knitting a cylinder shape rather than a flat panel) you will require double-ended needles and/or circular needles. These come in the same sizes as standard needles. You can use them for flat knitting too, by the way.
Below is a picture of my latest project, a white hat with a faux cable pattern. It is a nice easy pattern which is very easy to remember so I can knit it whilst watching television! The yarn is Aran weight and I am using size 6mm double-ended needles. Because I am kntting “in the round” there will be no seams to stitch at the end.
You will probably need a large-eyed, blunt sewing needle to sew up your knitted creations. There are ones available that are marketed for knitters but many people use tapestry needles too. As well as traditional metal needles there are also cheap plastic needles which are both suitable for younger knitters and an economical option for everyone (they work fine, just make sure the ones you have are smooth to the touch).
Patterns – there are literally millions of patterns available for knitters to choose from. Look for patterns that say they are suitable for your level of experience.
What Materials Will I Need?
Yarn! The world of yarn is a big and exciting one. You will soon discover that there is an almost infinite number of colours, weights, thicknesses and textures of yarn available.
Most people practice using economical acrylic yarns. Don’t buy the expensive yarns (even though they may look lovely!) until you are a bit more experienced and confident that the project will turn out ok.
It takes time to get used to knitting and new knitters usually have issues with tension. This means that their finished knitted pieces may appear holey, misshapen or lumpy. With just a bit of practice this will improve. Until then, stick to the cheaper yarns – and don’t be afraid to unravel a project if it looks bad – and reuse the yarn.
Most patterns will state what yarn was used to knit the finished item shown in the picture/s. Using different types and brands of yarn will, of course, give somewhat different results. With experience you will know what you can substitute for what. If buying in a yarn shop, ask the sales assistant for help.
What Else Do I Need?
There are various accessories for knitting available. Some are pretty essential but many are options and you don’t need to rush out and get them right away.
Scissors – as sharp as possible. Many knitters use the small type, often called “embroidery scissors” or the shear style ones. These can easily be kept in your knitting bag.
I like the shear style of scissors, sometimes called Japanese scissors. These have a little cap and are safer to store in my bag or for carrying around.
These are used to mark the beginning of rows or places in a piece of kntting that you need to come back to later on. They are particularly important for use when knitting items “in the round” – ie cyclinders rather than flat panels.
I use cheap plastic padlock style markers, but you can get some really beautiful handmade ones too.
Whilst you can just keep track of your rows etc by making little marks on a scrap of paper, having an actual row counter is a nice addition to your knitting supplies.
For many years I used the barrel shaped counters that go on your needles. You just turn the end of the barrel to increase the digits. These are great as they are permanently on your needle so hard to lose. However, they are not usable with double-ended or circular needles and you may need a few different sized ones if you use different sizes of needles. I don’t think one can get them for very small or very large needles at all. They are cheap and easily available in yarn shops etc.
I now use a simple “clicky” counter that was just a few pounds from eBay. I sometimes hang it on a cord around my neck so I don’t lose it whilst working. There are quite a few varieties of these counters now available and they are easy to use and rarely expensive.
You can get phone apps for counting rows too.
Glass headed pins
These are useful for holding bits of knitting together before you stitch them. I strongly recommend you only use the sort of pins that have LARGE heads on them. If you use small sewing pins they can easily get lost in your work… and no one wants to discover a stray pin later on.
You can also use the little plastic clips that are sold for quilting to hold larger pieces such as squares for a blanket.
I don’t use one of these, but I know people who do and swear by them. The yarn bowl is a largish ceramic, pottery or similar bowl. It has a slot and/or a hole in it through which you pass the end of your yarn before you start knitting.
The bowl holds your yarn safely so it doesn’t roll around the floor.
There are loads of beautiful and interesting designs of yarn bowl available – there are some particularly attractive handmade ones being sold on Etsy.
Fine needle and sewing thread
You may need standard sewing needles and thread for adding accessories such as buttons, beads and sequins etc. Or for adding felt or other fabric parts.
If you want to knit cables – a beautiful twisted effect that looks like rope cables running up the knitting – you may need short needles called cable needles. These are used to temporarily hold stitches so that you can cross them over other stitches.
These look like large safety pins. You can slip stitches on to them and fasten them to keep the stitches safe. They are used for many garment patterns. I use actual safety pins for dolls clothes.
You can use yarn as a temporary stitch holder too, though this is not as easy as using an actual holder. Stitch holders are very cheap to buy and well worth getting if you are going to knit patterns that require them.
You may want fabric to line knitted bags or bakets, to add pockets and other details to garments or for making clothes for knitted toys etc.
Buttons and notions
Some knitted garments and household items will require buttons to fasten them. You may also want hooks and eyes, zippers and other similar notions.
These are all easily available from craft shops, haberdasheries and online suppliers.
This is a handy item if you have a lot of needles which do not have their size written on them. The size wore off some of my oldest pairs of needles many years ago. And some cheaper needles never have the size on them in the first place.
I have a few gauges and they come in many sizes, shapes and designs. The one I use the most is pictured below. It has slots for measuing knitting needles (it works with crochet hooks too) and has mm and US sizes on one side and mm and old English sizes on the other. There is also a built in ruler which is handy.
This gauge came free on a knitting magazine.
A crochet hook can have many uses to a knitter. Once can also combine crochet with knitting in various ways. For example, one can crochet a border on a knitted item, or crochet accents to add to something knitted.
You don’t need to learn to crochet to be able to knit, of course, but if you can do both you will open up lots of exciting possibilities.
I will be doing a guide to starting out in crochet in the future.
Where Can I Learn?
For many people the best way to learn is to be taught, one on one, by someone. I was taught to knit by my mother and grandmother when I was a little girl.
There may be classes in your local area and many towns have knitting clubs where you may be able to learn.
You can also learn from YouTube and other videos. Seeing how someone actually knits is often easier to copy than following illustrations in books.
Having said that, there are many great books with instructions on how to knit. Look for one with large, clear illustrations or photos so you can clearly see what you should be doing.
There are some great online courses in knitting that can also help you learn how to create knitted items of your own.
Be aware that knitting techniques can vary from country to country. I was taught to knit in the way that is most common here in the UK. A few years ago I taught myself the rather different “continental” technique from YouTube videos – I find this quick for basic knitting and less of a strain on my hands and wrists. You may therefore find that one video or book shows a different technique to another – use whichever you find the most natural and comfortable.
How Can I Save Money on this Craft?
Knitting needles are not very expensive, however you may be able to save by buying second hand ones. My local charity shops (thrift shops) often have needles – and even bundles of needles – for very low sums. This can be ideal, especially when starting out.
I own a lot of vintage needles and they are mostly made of metal. These are very sturdy but some people don’t like using metal needles as they find them cold, or noisy (they can click when you knit).
Newer needles are often made of aluminium which is lightweight and very sturdy.
Nowadays a lot of knitters like smooth wooden or bamboo needles. My personal favourites are the KnitPro brand which are really a joy to use.
Plastic knitting needles are also available but quality can vary significantly with these, so do check them before buying if you can. The very low priced ones are sometimes not very smooth and will snag your yarn as you try to knit. I know knitters who only use plastic needles because they like the feel of them though. One of my favourite pairs of needles are some very bright, sparkly pink ones that came free on a kids’ craft magazine! They look great and are a joy to use.
The quality of your finished projects will be affected by the quality of the yarn. You can’t expect budget acrylic yarn to feel as lovely as hand-spun alpaca wool.
For many knitting projects, though, budget acrylic yarns are going to be just fine. These are often available in supermarkets and discount shops (pound/dollar shops) as well as craft shops.
Most commercial knitting patterns will say what brand of yarn was used to create the samples of the finished project that you see in the pattern. Usually you can, if you wish, you a different brand to get a very similar effect. Be aware thought that if you use a different weight, brand or type of yarn then your results will not match theirs. Many new knitters are frustrated when a project they knit with budget yarns doesn’t look as lovely as the pictured examples – that use expensive real wool yarns. With experience you will get better at judging how to substitute yarns and still get great effects. Don’t hesitate to ask the advice of your yarn seller on this – be sure to take the pattern with you when going out to buy yarn.
If you are planning a big project, it can be more economical to buy the yarn in bulk up front – many online yarn companies offer discounts for bigger purchases.
If you are going to need more than one ball/skein of yarn in a particular colour for your project, do buy all you need at once so as to be sure the dye lot numbers on the bands match. Many yarns will vary slightly in colour from batch to batch and it can show in the finished project.
You could unravel finished knitwear to reused the yarn. A second-hand mohair sweater may be significantly cheaper than buying the same amount of mohair yarn new, for example. Be sure that there are no (or very few) holes in the garment and especially that there are no areas that have worn thin. Unravelled yarn will usually be “kinky” which can affect how it looks when reknitted, especially if knitted on different size needles to the first time.
Many knitters use their odds and ends of yarn for small “stash busting” projects etc. Even very tiny pieces of yarn can be saved and used as stuffing (filling) for future projects.
There are huge numbers of free knitting patterns available online. Be aware though that many of these are not properly tested and may have errors. But as you become more experienced with knitting you will find it much easier to spot and correct any errors. Look for clearly written patterns. Sites like Ravelry are a great source for patterns.
If you don’t have any stitch markers on hand you can use scraps of yarn in a different colour to the yarn you are actually knitting.
Anything Else I Need to Know?
There are no international standards to how knitting patterns are written, though most pattern writers use the same or very similar techniques. The bigger the variety of patterns you have worked, the better you will be at using future patterns.
There are some variations between knitting terms in different countries – even those that speak the “same” language. For example, here in the UK we say we “cast off” when we finish knitting and remove the yarn from the needle. In the US they tend to say they “bind off” instead.
Yarn has different names in different places. Here in the UK the most commonly used knitting yarn is called double knitting. In the US it is called 8-ply or worsted.
There are lots of websites with charts to convert these terms, plus you will get used to the most common ones very quickly.
Some knitting techniques, such as cable stitches, can be shown as written instructions, or with a diagram or chart. Often the pattern will include both so you can use whichever you prefer.
Charts are often used for patterns and pictures that are knitted in. There can be some variation in how these charts are drawn but they tend to be pretty self-evident and, again, you will soon get used to the most commonly used conventions.
Creating your own patterns
Once you have mastered the basics of knitting you will be able to create your own patterns. I started off by converting and adding to existing patterns. I liked that jacket… but the sleeves were too short.. so I made them longer. This bag is a lovely shape, but I like the pattern on this other bag more… so I mixed-and-matched to get the first bag with the other pattern on it.
After a while you will start to understand how patterns work and it becomes much easier to create new ones.
If you want to sell your patterns, please do ensure you have someone else test knit them first. It is very frustrating to buy a pattern that has errors. All patterns MUST be tested thoroughly to be sure they are accurate and contain everything they need to be usable.
Links to Knitting Supplies and Books on Amazon
Here are links to some useful supplies from Amazon.com (top) and Amazon.co.uk (bottom). If you buy from any of these links, I may receive a small commission from the shop for sending custom their way. This is at no cost to yourself. Thank you.
Knitting Courses on Craftsy
I am rather a fan of the website, Craftsy. Here you can enjoy a wide range of knitting courses – everything from learning the basics, to all sorts of exciting new techniques. Some courses are free, others you can either buy individually, or subscribe and have access to the full range.
The links are affiliate links. If you purchase from Craftsy after clicking them, I may get a small payment from Craftsy. This is at no cost to yourself. Thank you.