Beginners: Choosing a Project

One of the challenges in learning to knit is choosing beginner and novice friendly projects. Easy projects can be a little, well, uninspiring. Yet, starting with too difficult a pattern can snuff out a beginner’s enthusiasm and perseverance.

Especially for adult beginners, choosing an appropriate project is a very important part of learning to knit. There are so many beautiful patterns available. The thought of being able to recreate the gorgeous garments that fill the search pages of the internet can be intoxicating. However, the reality of the required skill level can (in contrast) be sobering.

There are some specific things to watch for when choosing a beginner or novice level project.

Skills Required:

There’s nothing wrong with choosing a challenging pattern. However you want to go into it with your eyes wide open.

  • Have a notebook and a pencil handy.
  • Read through the pattern (yes all the way through) before you even buy yarn.
  • Take your time and make a note of any terminology or instructions that are unfamiliar or don’t make sense to you.

There will likely be lots that you understand just fine, and there may be some things that you will have no idea what they are trying to tell you.

If you only listed one or two things that puzzled you, you should be able to manage the pattern just fine. If you find that the list in your notebook becomes lengthy, you may want to put that pattern aside for now and choose something a little less demanding. Now, if you want to go ahead with it, take the time to google those items on your list. Look for videos and watch as many as you can. As you make your way through that list you’ll have a pretty clear idea of whether you are feeling adventurous enough to take it on or not. It’s a good idea to try out those brand new techniques with some leftover yarn or an inexpensive yarn. Using a chunky weight yarn makes it really easy to see exactly what you are doing as you try new things out. When you’re done practicing, you can either keep the swatch for reference or unravel it to use the yarn for your next learning adventure. As for the pattern; whatever you decide is cool. Don’t feel bad for choosing to postpone (or abandon) a pattern as you develop your skills. You can come back to it at a later date.

Materials:

The finer the yarn, the more stitches it takes to complete a project of a given size. So, be honest with yourself about your level of persistence and perseverance. You know yourself. Decide how much time and energy you want to put into the project. If you want to make a sweater for instance, you could use anything from lace weight or sock weight (very fine) to a super bulky yarn. The look of the sweater will be vastly different from one extreme to the other as will be the amount of effort required to complete it. There are patterns to cover all the options.

Patterns will include a recommendation for what weight of yarn to use. They may specify a particular brand and line of yarn. You don’t have to use the exact yarn specified in the pattern. However, the weight of the yarn must match up. If you use the wrong weight of yarn the size of the project will not work out correctly.

  • When you’re ready to buy your yarn be sure you buy enough.
  • Assume that you can NOT return or exchange yarn.
  • Buy what you need, don’t go overboard so as to end up with a ton of leftovers.

Patterns usually give you a guide to how many grams and/or meters of yarn you need. If you are buying all the store has in stock of the yarn you want, be sure to check with them to be certain they can order more in, just in case you run short. Yarn is a fashion item, some styles are staples and are always available and usually in stock; others are only intended to be around for a season.

Tools:

Make sure you have all the recommended tools you need before you get started. Needles, stitch holders, a row counter (or a notebook to tally each row you knit), stitch markers… whatever you need, make sure you have it all together. If you are unsure, ask for help at your local yarn shop.

Motivation:

If you don’t like the look or feel of a particular weight of yarn once knitted up, it’s going to be very difficult to stay motivated to finish the project. You do need to really like the yarn. The more complex and labour intensive the project the more important it is to love the yarn and the pattern you’ve chosen. If every row feels like an endless challenge because the yarn is really fine, you’re going to need to find motivation somewhere. So loving the pattern and the yarn are critical.

Set yourself realistic reachable goals. When you first begin the new project, get a sense of how long a row takes you to complete. If there’s a pattern knitted into it, you may want to knit one repeat of the pattern in each sitting to minimize confusion.

Complex projects can be very mentally tiring. Work on them when you are feeling fresh and alert. Avoid distractions when working on tricky new things. Count, count, count. If you think you messed up; count carefully to see what you have done and compare it to the pattern before you take anything apart. The number of times I have ripped a project apart only to realize that I had not made a mistake in the knitting; I had miscounted when I was checking my work… UGH! When you start losing focus, finish up to the next point that will be easy to start from when you pick it back up. Then walk away from it.

It can be good to have a few different projects on the go. If you have an easy one that you can work on in between sessions of a complicated one, it can really help to keep from becoming discouraged. Making obvious progress on other projects that you work alternately can boost your feelings of accomplishment. Just do your best not to side-line the complex one too much so you don’t end up bummed by how long it’s taking.

“Some is better than None” is an excellent motto when working on knitting projects. Even completing one more row or adding one new skill counts as progress. And above all, have fun! 🙂

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