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Links for the Beginning Knitter

22 March 2012
Mallory Knitting

A Very Good Sport: Mallory learning to knit a hat, using DPNs, even. I didn't tell her they were hard.

You all know I love to spread the gospel of the sticks and the string. When I left the U.S., one of the most difficult goodbyes was to my knitting students and to the discretionary time that allowed me to teach knitting. [I might be able to do it in the UK in a little while, but for now I just don’t have the space in my calendar or my head.]

But I had underestimated the addictive quality of teaching people to knit, especially beginners. I love watching people go from non-knitters to knitters. It’s especially fun to teach hats, because they can be completed relatively quickly, and there’s nothing more exciting to a new knitter than a completed project. And poor Mallory walked right into this gaping maw of knitting teacher need about a month ago. She’d knit a scarf before, but that got repetitive and boring.

Aside: I do wish we could come up with a better first project than a scarf. Maybe a kerchief (head or neck) or a seamed cowl would work. I know exactly why we have people knit scarves – lots of practice, big long rectangle – but I have had so many people come into my classes who learned to knit long before, got bored with their scarves, and almost never came back. I myself learned to knit a few little squares, and then socks. But that’s another story for another time.

Mallory's First Hat

First hat! Check out the excitement on her face.

Anyway, the sentence “I might like to knit sometime” was barely out of Mallory’s mouth before I was racing upstairs to grab yarn and knitting needles before she changed her mind, Mr. Trask cheering me on as he saw another opportunity for me to give away yarn.

[Let me just say that Mr. Trask really took one for the team here. We were having a Justified marathon, not a very girlie endeavor, and then suddenly he was watching TV with not one but two knitters…girl knitters, in fact, who kept muttering to each other about “bring the yarn to the front between the needles” and “don’t worry, you’ll only be knitting on two of these DPNs at once.” Mr. Trask is a very patient man.]

We started with a simple ribbed hat made of leftover pink yarn from my Tea Leaves Sweater (which, by the way, turned out just fine, and I really should post a photo or two). Then Mallory had the nifty idea to make a wavy hat, shifting the ridges of the ribbing every row or so, and we found some delightful green yarn in my stash. Then I lured her back to scarves with the Irish Hiking Scarf, a simple cabled number, and now she is working on a top-down sweater by Stefanie Japel. We made her first foray into yarn shop joy a couple of weeks ago, dropping in to Port Meadow Designs for some gorgeous Mirasol yarn for her sweater.

Mallory's Second Hat

Mallory's second hat - with a pattern she improvised herself.

I’m luring her even further into the knitting abyss by convincing her to make an Albers Cowl while working on the sweater (you know how nice it is to have a mindless project as well). Soon, she will have two projects on the needles at once! A rite of passage indeed.

Anyway, I thought now might be a good time to post some links that I usually give out in my beginning classes. And I got all excited about the internet and found some other items as well. Here’s what I came up with. What would you add to the list?

One last thing: I know you all are wondering what happened to the pink yarn left over after Mallory made her first hat. Right? Right? The answer is that it became my first baby project. I know, I know, I said the first project would be out of the Alisha Goes Around, but you all gave me so many choices for that yarn that I still haven’t decided. Also, this yarn was pink. And we’re having a girl. So the last bits of this yarn seemed destined to go to her.

In the comments yesterday, my father suggested I show the results off to you guys. So here are a tiny hat and socks:

Hat and Socks for Baby

A little hat and little socks, for the little girl who will come in July.

And here are some links to help the beginning, and not-so-beginning, knitter.

The Basics

  • Ravelry. A knitting and crochet community with all kinds of information on yarns and patterns, plus forums in which many helpful knitters will talk to you about a variety of subjects (some even having to do with knitting).
  • Knitting Help. Videos of any stitch you might be able to think of, and other techniques as well.
  • Craftsy. Knitting classes online.
  • Knitty. Free patterns, articles, general fun.
  • Encouragement. A video of a guy teaching himself to knit. Spoiler alert: it does not go well.

Answers to Your Beginning (and not-so-beginning) Questions:

Charity Knitting


And, finally, Randomness:

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Jeannie permalink
    22 March 2012 9:24 am

    What a cool post! Everything you always wanted to know about learning to knit but were afraid to ask….. just awesome.
    I’m in foggy Baltimore today and mulling over which yarn store to discover. Ok, I’m really in Timonium.
    Life is good 🙂
    P.S. I love your little pink knits for l’enfant.

  2. Brooke permalink
    22 March 2012 9:57 am

    LOVE the hat and socks; the color is absolutely edible–like little toes and ears!! I would add to your list of helps; she’s got wonderful close-up videos, a very slow and deliberate and easy-to-understand (for me, at least) manner, and video books you can download and access anywhere anytime. ALMOST as good as having you for a teacher…

  3. consuelala permalink
    22 March 2012 11:03 am

    Very helpful and great job Mallory! Loved the Encouragement video…it made me feel quite advanced and superior!

  4. Lynda permalink
    22 March 2012 1:21 pm

    I think scarfs are terrible projects for beginners. I nearly quit over my first one. I’m thinking that pot holders are the perfect size for first projects – they’re useful, they’re small, they include the basic three, same as a scarf: cast on, cast off, knit back and forth. Also, they double as tension swatches, as pattern swatches for not too large patterns (like a lace repeat or double knitting), knit on the bias allow you to practice increases and decreases, and flat round ones for learning to knit flat circles from the middle out (or the outside in). The only thing I don’t see them for is learning to join in the round, and that’s where hats come in.

    • Kathleen permalink*
      23 March 2012 10:51 am

      Lynda, this is an excellent idea. I can’t recall what my first project was supposed to be, but it could well have served as a pot holder. I meet lots of second-time beginners who quit the first time over their scarves. Long live the pot holder!

  5. Kay Trask permalink
    23 March 2012 12:03 am

    Love, love, love the pink hat and socks for “the little girl who will come in July,” aka my granddaughter! So cute!!! I am halfway done on the blanket and knitting, knitting, knitting!

  6. consuelala permalink
    23 March 2012 2:09 pm

    I know I already responded…but I want to point out that Kathleen taught me my first hat! I was going along quite well until we got to the DPNs. We ran out of time in the class and I struggled on my own and did finish it, but I later donated it to Good Will because it had so many mistakes. However, I have since gone on and knit many hats, and I know the encouragement and fun I had from that first hat class with her is what spurred me on. Well done Kathleen! (And I agree hats are a good first project, but I also like scarves for the knitting practice I got. However, I didn’t know how to fix mistakes then so I started the first few over every time I made a mistake, and this REALLY made the project seem like it took forever…)

    • Kathleen permalink*
      24 March 2012 8:45 am

      Aw, shucks…thanks, Consuela(la)! I have always thought that class might do better with an extra half hour, or an hour meet-up the following week. I’m glad that you hung in there with the DPNs!

  7. 26 March 2012 3:59 pm

    First of all, I *love* the scrumptious baby knits. Doesn’t it just get you excited to start knitting the baby items? Being pregnant is what ultimately got me back into knitting after learning as a kid. Secondly, great links! It’s so fun to watch people light up when they first learn to knit. One of my kids just had her 11th birthday sleepover, and a gaggle of girls all gathered around while my daughter taught them all to crochet either with crochet needles or with their fingers. They all worked together to make a very, very, very long rope. 🙂

  8. 28 March 2012 8:54 am


    Thank you very much for sharing our appeal for baby hats.

    We also have knitting patterns to raise money for Doctors Without Borders, including a few aimed at beginners which are not scarves.

    Check out our garter stitch headband pattern which is a good introduction to increasing and decreasing.

    Finally, welcome to the UK. I hope you settle well and enjoy living here.

    Happy Knitting
    Clare – p/hop co-ordinator

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