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Tips for New Knitters: What I Learned From My First Project

An avid knitter for over 10 years, Donna enjoys sharing her free patterns and knitting experience with other fiber fans and yarn lovers.

In this picture, I'm proudly wearing my first knitting project!

In this picture, I'm proudly wearing my first knitting project!

My Knitting Journey

When learning a new skill or hobby, you always have to start at the beginning— knowing nothing and then slowly building your knowledge base. It can be scary to try something new, especially as an adult, and frustrating to learn the techniques and steps to master your new skill or activity. In 2010, I decided I wanted to learn how to knit. Trust me—it was not an easy or quick process.

I Learned to Knit as an Adult

I don’t have the stereotypical story about learning to knit as a young child from my mother or grandmother. My mother knew how to knit, but she wasn’t a great maker of things and rarely finished a knitting project.

Instead, I started knitting in my mid-30s. I was living in the midlands of South Carolina and a knitting shop had just opened in our rural town. Knitting's popularity had risen again and I often saw images of beautiful hand-knit items all over the web. The interplay of color and texture in these knitted pieces immediately attracted me to them. I loved the idea of stitching and twisting the yarn together to create something unique, handmade, and magical.

My First Visit to a Knitting Shop

So I went into the shop with great expectations and an old pair of my mother's size #8 needles, and the women in the store showed me the basic steps of knitting. These women were wonderful. They were patient. They offered me cocoa. After a few hours (literally), I left their shop with the desperate hope that I could still knit on my own without their help.

At home, I continued the steps I was shown. I knit for hours each day, afraid that if I stopped I would forget what I had learned. I dropped stitches but didn't know it. I added stitches that shouldn't have been there. But I continued to knit, excited to make something of my very own.

I found a silhouette of a bird online and used it as a template.

I found a silhouette of a bird online and used it as a template.

My First Project Was a Bit Boring . . .

After several weeks of work, I had a knitted piece that was roughly 22 inches by 14 inches. But the stitch pattern was the same on both sides (I now know this is called "garter stitch"). It was kind of boring. One end was about 1 1/2 inches wider than the other and there were noticeable holes and bumps in my knitted material. This was not the glorious garment I had envisioned wearing with pride. But then I came upon an idea to make my first knitting project into something special.

. . . But Then I Added an Embellishment!

I went back to my local shop to be shown how to bind off my knitting and join my two ends in a loop. Then at home, I went to work again. I found a silhouette of a bird on the internet and used it as a template. Using various scrap fabrics, I traced the outline of the bird and some leaves onto different fabrics, cut them out, and stitched them onto my cowl. Some knitters might call this cheating, but by embellishing my badly knit and basic loop I had created a wearable and unique handknit accessory. I was happy!

This is my finished knitting project with appliqued bird and leaves.

This is my finished knitting project with appliqued bird and leaves.

Lessons for Beginning Knitters

Today, years later, I am truly addicted to knitting. I regularly write articles on knitting and have published a number of original knitting patterns online.

Here is my advice to beginning knitters:

  • Stick with your first project. Don't give up or give in when things aren't looking so great.
  • If your finished project isn't what you had envisioned, think of a way to enhance it and make it into something you'll use.
  • If you are just making swatches, think about adding embroidery, beads, or patches and turn them into coasters! If you have a bigger swatch, add buttons or velcro and use it as a cup cozy!
  • Make your first project into something you'll use every day and show it off with pride! Then move on to your next project.
  • With every project, you'll find yourself getting better and braver. Just keep knitting!

Questions & Answers

Question: How do you block a knitted sweater?

Answer: Here is a tutorial for blocking your knitted items:

© 2013 Donna Herron


Donna Herron (author) from USA on September 07, 2014:

Hi Kimberly - What great advice! It's my new motto :) Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

Kimberly Schimmel from Greensboro, NC on September 06, 2014:

I always tell students there are no mistakes, only design opportunities.

Donna Herron (author) from USA on January 13, 2014:

Hi Beautiful Mess (great username!) - Thanks for your kind comments! If you do other crafts, I'm sure you'll enjoy knitting or crocheting. You can probably use these skills in collaboration with the other crafts you already do to make some really cool projects.

Great to meet another ex-Midlander :) We used to love going to the restaurants and small shops in Lexington.

Alex Rose from Virginia on January 13, 2014:

I love this! I was at the store picking up some yarn for crafts the other day, and somebody asked me if I knew how to knit or crochet. I'm thinking I might try and pick it up!

Also - I used to live in the midlands too! Right in Lexington.

Donna Herron (author) from USA on January 05, 2014:

Thanks, Heather! You're never too old to learn something new, but I think I would have given up on knitting if I hadn't come up with a way to transform my first project. I try to keep this in mind with every project I make now - if it's not coming out the way I hoped, I can always either start over or make it into something else (hopefully something better!).

Heather from Arizona on January 04, 2014:

This is one of my favorite pieces that you have made. I love Hubs that showcase your amazing handiwork and also give a little sneak peek into your world and creative process. Your bird sketch is lovely and translated beautifully into your finished piece. I also loved that you started knitting in your 30s-- this makes it totally doable for me. You've taken away a lot of the fear, intimidation, and difficulty that I "used to" associate with knitting. Such a great Hub! Thanks for sharing :)

Donna Herron (author) from USA on December 31, 2013:

Hi kidscrafts - Thank you, as always, for your kind words! Maybe part of the creative process is figuring out how to fix or cover up your mistakes? :) Hope you have a wonderfully creative and happy 2014!!

Hi kikalina - Thanks so much for your vote up and comments! I appreciate it!!

kikalina from Europe on December 31, 2013:

What a nice scarf. Voting up.

kidscrafts from Ottawa, Canada on December 31, 2013:

Thank you for writing about your beginnings in knitting! I think that what you say about not stopping and just finishing is true for everything. Your first piece of knitting is beautiful even if there is no special pattern in the knitting and your idea to add a little thing to decorate is brilliant. It shows that it's always possible to change things that might not be perfect..... and even if it's not perfect it gives a little something special to the piece.

I am looking forward to see your next productions in 2014 :-)

Happy New Year to you and your family!

Donna Herron (author) from USA on December 31, 2013:

Thanks WiccanSage! When I started knitting, I doubted I would ever make a sweater. It seemed like an impossible goal. But now I've knitted quite a few, and they are usually easier than they look :) It's just a matter of following the directions - sort of like reading a recipe.

My advice is to start off with something easy - maybe a vest - that contains directions and knitting terms that you are familiar with. Choose a design that you will like and wear. Once you complete your first sweater, you'll be ready to move on to a more difficult pattern!

Thanks for stopping by and commenting!!

Mackenzie Sage Wright on December 31, 2013:

That's beautiful. I never got far in knitting though occasionally I do still make a scarf or potholder. I never had anyone teach me either and always dreamed of knitting sweaters but at this point I'm doubting I'll ever get there, lol. You look like you're really good at it, I'm impressed. That's such a beautiful piece and the applique just sets it off. Nice work!