When I was really stressed during my first year of grad school last year, my boyfriend encouraged me to join his mother's knitting group. I can't emphasize enough what a wonderful stress-buster knitting was! Not only was I learning a fairly easy new craft that provided me with customized, cute winter accessories but I also got to know some pretty incredible older women through the weekly group.
Running with a friend, devouring a stack of magazines, and hitting the bars are great—but sometimes, you feel the need for something different to mix up your weekend routine. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be highlighting fun, easy, inexpensive hobbies that you might not have thought of before! Enjoy our inaugural article on a fun, relaxing hobby that will add to your winter wardrobe, too.
As the leaves change colors and we start bundling up in cozy sweaters and chunky-knit scarves (and experimenting with new colors), now might be just the time to learn how to knit.
Knit? you’re thinking. Isn’t that an old lady hobby? Nope. Knitting has been gaining popularity among crafty young DIY-ers for the past few years. With just two primary stitches, it’s easy enough to pick up, and the rhythmic click of knitting needles and looping of soft colorful yarns winds away the stress we Type A ladies pick up over the work week. Plus, it’s a great way to feel in control of something from beginning to end (for once!). Here’s what you need to know to get started.
All you really need for your first scarf is a ball of yarn and a pair of needles. Jane Nickerson, yarn shop owner and knitter extraordinaire, recommends selecting an aran weight (or chunky yarn) for that first project, though she adds that many people recommend starting out with a worsted weight. This type of yarn is heftier, meaning you’ll be able to use a slightly larger needle (try a size 9), and only have to knit three or four stitches to the inch—so you’ll get some instant gratification as you watch your scarf grow.
Learning the Stitches
Use your first scarf to get the hang of “casting on” (putting stitches on your needle), “knitting” (the basic stitch), “purling” (knitting in reverse) and “binding off” (finishing your last row). You’re first piece doesn’t have to come out perfect—so experiment. If you’re a quick visual learner, take advantage of the expertise on YouTube, my immediate go-to whenever I’m trying to pick up a new technique.
If you prefer hands-on instruction, check out a local yarn shop. The experienced knitters there will enjoy bringing someone new into the fold, and it’s likely the shop even offers classes for beginners. Senior centers also often coordinate knitting lessons, where, for only the cost of your company, an older experienced knitter can show you the ropes.
As you get started, remember: The goal is to relax. One of the most common beginners’ mistakes is to tense up and make the stitches uncomfortably tight—which will only make the knitting more difficult.
Putting It Together
As you practice, you’re going to want to learn a few more techniques: how to pick up stitches you’ve accidentally dropped, how to add more yarn when you’ve come to the end of your skein (your roll of yarn), and how to measure the gauge of your piece (that is, how many stitches per inch with what needle size). You’ll also want to try different ways of alternating knitting and purling—which will determine the texture of your piece.
Here’s where finding a knitting community will prove handy. An experienced pair of eyes and hands can help you through these techniques—though they’re not terribly complicated, they’re easier to learn hands-on.
Once you’ve mastered knitting and purling, you’re ready to tackle more complicated patterns that require more shaping. You have a myriad of possibilities—hats, socks, mittens, sweaters, leg warmers. With each project you tackle, you’ll gain understanding of how the stitches combine to make a garment. And before you know it, you’ll be designing your own!
For inspiration, check out Ravelry, the online community for knitters. You can find patterns (many free), pick out yarn for your latest project, check out what others have been working on, benefit from their tips, and search for yarn shops near you.
So grab your yarn-inclined friends of any skill level and some hot chocolate or cider, and settle in to inspire each other and hone your techniques. Soon enough, you’ll be showing up at the office in a stylish sweater—and stunning your co-workers by telling them you made it yourself.