I have been teaching myself how to spin (on a spinning wheel, nothing to do with a stationary bike) and in doing so it's reminding me how frustrated I was when I was teaching myself how to knit. I kept having issues but didn't know how to even phrase my problem into a query that I could search. And meanwhile in the tutorials, Perky Miss Perkmeister: Knitmaster 3000 would click clack along at a million miles an hour, never running into the same problems since she was clearly born with inherent knowledge and acumen. As I continue to spin, I'd like to post something in a similar vein but for now I'm starting with my fiber roots: knitting. This is not a how-to-knit. You can find that anywhere. This is a collection of solutions to the problem/s: why the actual fuck is...
What needles should I start with?
I neither forgive nor forget, so I'm really a joy to be around. Therefore you'll understand the gravity of the situation when I say I've never forgiven the clerk who, on the day I decided I wanted to learn how to knit, refused to tell me what needles to buy.
Me: "I would like to learn how to knit. What needles should I buy?"
Her: "Well it really depends on what you want to make."
Me: "Well, I'm just learning, so what would to recommend for a beginner?"
Her: "Well it really depends on what you want to make."
We went probably eight rounds. I didn't know enough then to say what I should have said, which is,
"I don't want to make anything except a few badly formed knit and purl stitches in a row, you cow!"
So if you are starting to knit, my recommendation is a pair of regular knitting needles, size 7 or 8. Maddeningly, the size number corresponds not at all to their circumference or radius. When I say regular knitting needles, I mean not circular needles, and not double pointed needles (or DPNs). Circular needles have a wire connecting them and are used generally for knitting circles like hats (though I hate using them), for making suuuuuuper wide things like a triangular shawl, or for doing wacky other techniques that you don't need to know about. DPNs are my favorite needles because they let you knit "in the round" meaning in a circle without having to worry about a wire poking out disturbingly. But they're a little advanced so hold off on them.
I like size 7 or 8 because you can use that size with about any yarn you like. They're not too finicky to hold and they're not too unwieldy. I prefer bamboo or any kind of wood over metal. Using metal needles, I find my stitches rocket right off the needle. People who like metal prefer them because they like the slippery stitches, but I'd rather work to get the stitches to come off the needle when intended than have them bursting off the needles like someone just yelled "FREE FOOD" in a GameStop. There's also some cool-ass carbon fiber needles that I like a lot, but they're super spendy.
I can't cast-on so eff this.
It really sucks that the hardest part of knitting is the first part. And it's not even knitting. It's just a ritual you have to go through before you can get to the Good Stuff, like how you have to get through Star Wars Episodes I - III before you can watch A New Hope (OMG I'm kidding).
I suggest starting with the long-tail cast on. And I have NO idea why people insist on starting with a slip knot. With a VERY few exceptions, it's totally unnecessary. You can sort of skip the cast-on if you really must by doing a little reverse loop and and over, but you may as well get it over with and learn it.
Unfortunately I don't know of a lot of great how-to-cast-on videos. Not that I'll do any better, but I created one using the long-tail method.
I started with 10 stitches and now I have 15. What gives?
When I started knitting this took me *so long* to figure out. After you've been knitting for a while stitches will feel almost like living beings to you, each with their own characteristics and personality. But when you're just starting, it's all a bunch of knots you're trying to tame, and you're not sure what's a stitch and what makes it a purl, what makes it a knit, and where one stops and the next one starts. So troubleshooting this one was a bear for me.
You cast on your stitches and they're stupid tight. Like, so tight it's hard actually knit them. But those cast-on stitches are the first stitches you've ever worked with, so you think they're all supposed to be like that. You knit your 10 stitches and turn your work. But that last stitch is so loose feeling. You try to pull it tighter but nothing happens. AHA! figured it out! You must pull that stitch around. Great. Purl back!
In wrapping that stitch around to get that taut feeling that you think you need based on those cast-on stitches, you've actually pulled the poor stitch almost 180 degrees so that instead of dangling below the needle, both its little legs are sitting on the needle. Now you inadvertently do something advanced: knit into both sides of the stitch, which is called an "increase." It adds a stitch to your knitting because you start with one stitch, and create two knit stitches from it. It's hard to visualize so I hope the video helps.
Why does every tutorial look so goddamn different?
You're starting to feel pretty confident. You've got knit. You've got purl. You think it may be time to try a k2tog or something. So you type it into Duck Duck Go. You find a cool tutorial. And... what in God's green underpants? That's not how you knit! Why does it look so different?
There are two ways to knit.
(There are actually way more than two. I learned a way once that involved draping the yarn around your neck like a necklace.)
But there are two primary, popular ways to knit, at least in the beginner stages: English style and Continental style. I think there's some history there, like the English couldn't POSSIBLY do something as parochial as knit in the manner of those on the lowly continent. Or something.
I prefer to knit English style. It's how I learned. For me, especially when doing complicated lace, I find that I have a better time visualizing what the yarn is doing when I knit English style. In English style you hold the yarn in the right hand and you move the yarn around the needles, keeping the needles relatively stationary. Continental style is usually considered faster. You hold the yarn in the left hand. The yarn stays relatively stationary and you move the needles around the yarn.
While you end up with the same finished product, the making of it looks very, very different, which can be quite frustrating if you're trying to learn. I would recommend picking a style and sticking with it while you're learning, and then when it's time to master a new skill (k1fb anyone?!?) include the style in your Duck Duck Go search terms. Personally, I think it's easier to learn English style because I find it easy to watch what the yarn is doing. Also I find the purl in Continental style to be painful. If you're coming from crochet, start with Continental, it will feel more natural. As you get more advanced, I'd learn how to do both styles, as swapping between the two can help you adjust your tension, it can help ease cramping hands, and if you ever want to do crazy color work, you can actually knit with two balls of yarn at the same time, one in Continental style, one in English style (seriously. It's called Fair Isle knitting.)
I created a video showing the differences. At around 45 seconds, confusingly, I misspeak and say, "I prefer to knit Continental" as I'm knitting English style. Sorry. I meant to say, "I prefer to knit English style." At 9:26pm it's so past my bedtime.
Usually 240 characters is enough.