How I learned to knit

First steps – or where did I put those needles?

I really learned knitting at university. I picked up the needles mainly because I wanted to do something creative again and  just watching the telly was getting a bit boring to be honest.

My Mum had actually shown me how to knit the year before I picked up the needles again myself in 2012. She showed me how to knit and purl, and to cast on and off. At the time I took the needles and some yarn with me. But it went straight from my suitcase into my drawer where it only reappeared to be put in a box to move to a different flat for my 3rd year. This all meant a bit of a search to find the needles and yarn when I had decided to try again.

Once located I figured out how to cast on after trying around for a while. Figuring out which way to insert the needles for knit and purl stitches and how to get the yarn on the needles proofed a bit more difficult. And here I have to admit to stereotyping knitters. For me saw knitters as old ladies with absolutely know clue about computers and the internet. Yes, I am embarrassed about it! Had I known what wealth of knowledge was available online my first few steps in knitting could have gone a lot more smoothly than they did.

In the end, with the help of a flatmate and a lot of patience I did figure out how to knit and have more less not stopped since.

The two most important lessons in my first six months of knitting

Note: I had fully intended to show you the ‘masterpieces’ that were my first knitting attempts but after searching for a very long time the only pictures I found are ones that are very blurry and awfully lighted so that the things I wanted to illustrate aren’t even visible.

For secret Santa with my flatmates I was given the book ‘Knitty Gritty: Knitting for Absolute Beginner ’ which explained a few more things I kept asking myself but also caused some confusion. The book teaches English knitting and I had learned continental from my Mum. As a result, I learned early on that there are different ways of knitting and that there is no wrong or right. It had been something I was fretting about because I had rediscovered knitting in a rather improvised way. I think I had put pressure on myself to do it perfectly and the book helped me realise that there was no wrong or right way to knit and that my way of knitting was perfectly fine if it worked for me. And yes, that year my family got there first hand knitted items for Christmas.

The second lesson I learned a little later. One of the things that confused me about knitting and pattern instructions was ‘knit through back loop’. My mum had taught me the knit stitch as knit through the back loop. So any instruction to knit through the back loop was very puzzling. What that actually meant became clear when I knitted my first garment: a cardigan where the sleeves where knit in the round and the body back and forth. Suddenly the difference between knitting through the back loop and just knitting made perfect sense. I had knitted the body stitches back and forth and the sleeve stitches in the round. In hindsight, I have to admit that I am not really sure how it escaped my notice that my knit stitches looked not as even as what I had seen knitting to look like in my book and online.

Here is a swatch I knitted up to show the difference. Can you see it?

At the bottom of swatch: knit stitches; at the top: knit through the back loop.

However, please don’t think that knitting through the back loop is wrong as a rule. Combination knitting is a way of knitting where you insert the needle in the back and due to a different way of purling the stitches the stockinette stitches turn out not twisted. If you want to find out more about this, I found this video form quite good in explaining how it works.

So, how did you learn to knit? Any major obstacles or invaluable lessons learned during those first projects?


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