Don’t let teething problems hold you up, just follow our expert advice and you’ll be able to cast on with confidence.
1. Tension matters
“It’s important to do a tension square first if you want the correct result from your knitting pattern,” says Andrea Bösche from Purple Valley Wool Shop in Paignton. “Everyone knits differently, and you may need to change your needle size up or down to ensure you match the pattern, which a tension square will show. It’s also the easiest way to tell if you like the knitted fabric – much better than realising it’s too thick when you’ve got to the end of your project!” Check out Purple Valley Wool Shop.
2. Get tooled up
It’s frustrating not having the right tool to hand, especially when you’re trying to concentrate on other things like following a pattern. Gadgets serving more than one purpose will simplify your knit kit, so that valuable knitting time isn’t lost rooting around in your project bag. The elephant gauge from KnitPro is a needle sizer, yarn cutter and tension measurer all in one! Similarly, investing in a set of interchangeable needles ensures you will always have the size you need, and the circular versions come with different lengths of cord for added versatility.
3. Take note
It might sound obvious, but reading the pattern through carefully before you begin and ensuring you understand it is essential, whatever your level! Always have a pen and notebook on hand when knitting – you’ll find them invaluable for keeping track of how many rows you’ve done, or for working out those tricky ‘at the same time’ instructions. Also, if you alter something slightly – for example, the number of rows in a sleeve – always note it down to ensure you do the second one exactly the same. You’ll thank yourself for it! Kelly Connor Designs has a lovely range of knitting themed notebooks starting at £3.50.
4. Go big or go home!
Pepita and Alberto from We Are Knitters advise beginners to start out with chunky wool and large needles. “Choose the right project for your level, and if you get stuck, don’t be afraid to ask someone. You’ll only get better with time so don’t give up!” Using bigger needles and thick yarn makes it easier to see and correct mistakes, plus your project will be finished in no time. We Are Knitters have a terrific selection of kits suitable for beginners such as the Downtown Snood kit, £35.
5. Read the label
1 Size of your ball
2 The length: This will help you to work out how far your yarn will go.
3 Washing and caring instructions
4 Tension square: The number of stitches and rows in a 10cm square of stocking stitch in the recommended needle size.
5 Recommended needle size
6 Shade number: This signifies the colour.
7 Dye lot: Yarns are dyed in lots, and each lot has a number. It’s advisable to stick to the same dye lot within a project as there may be a colour variation between different lots
8 The composition of the yarn
6. The art of substitution
What happens when you need to replace the yarn that’s specified in the pattern? Denise Gannon from Craft Arena, a busy yarn store in Essex, has the following advice: “To substitute yarn, refer to the ball band and compare the tension, needle size and length of the yarn with your pattern, choosing a yarn that matches as closely as possible. Make sure you work a tension square to ensure you’re happy with the result, because even if the yarn looks the same, it may knit up differently.”
7. Wind skeins into balls
Nicky Jerrome from Frome Yarn Collective has some great advice on this: “The first time I bought a skein of yarn, I had no idea what to do with it but was too shy to ask. I very quickly got in a horrible tangle! Turns out I should have wound it first. You can do this by hand or invest in specialist equipment. Like many local yarn shops, we have a swift and ball winder in store so we can wind it for you. Never be afraid to ask if you’re not sure – I wish I had back then!”
8. Recgonising knit and purl
A key way to become a more effective knitter is by learning to read your knitting, in other words looking at the fabric and being able to identify different stitches. This is very simple (provided you’re using a yarn with good stitch definition). On a piece of stocking stitch fabric the knit stitches on the right side of the fabric resemble little ‘v’s. On the reverse side, each little bump represents one purl stitch.
9. Counting rows
Once you’ve learned how to identify your stitches the next step is learning to count rows, which will help you measure tension and keep track of where you are. On the knit side, simply count the ‘v’s, which sit neatly on top of each other. On the purl side, the bumps nestle together to create ridges that are easier to see if you stretch your fabric a little.