Everyone tells you how great knitting is, science has done studies on how it calms your mind down, and you really want to buy one of those cute pins that says something like, “I Knit so I Don’t Kill People,” but the truth of the matter is that you DO want to kill people – right after you burn your yarn and needles to the ground.

I get it. Knitting is hard. At first. There’s a huge learning curve, and when you spot a mistake several inches below your current spot and you need to take out, it can be wildly frustrating.

But don’t give up because that’s something everyone goes through. Stick with it, continue to practice, and you will become one of the zen knitters you see sipping tea on their porches. (Or at least, that’s my end goal.)

One thing that is a huge help is tension. Not tension in your neck or back (you’ll never be a zen knitter that way!), but tension in your yarn.

When you’re new to knitting, it’s hard enough to focus on what the needles and yarn are doing instead of adding another step to the mix, but something as simple as wrapping the yarn around your finger can give the yarn some extra tension, make it taut, and help achieve a neater row of stitches.

Wrap the yarn around your finger once.

Wrap the yarn around your finger once.

I know it’s not the most natural feeling, but go ahead and get into the habit now because it will help you achieve the results you want when you do master the knit and purl stitches.

Wrap the yarn a few times around your finger. Wrap the yarn a few times around your finger.

There is no wrong way to hold the yarn (except to not hold it at all). You can wrap it a few times around your finger, slip in between a few fingers, or you can even wrap it around you neck – anything you want to do so long as it holds your yarn taut.

Weave the yarn in between your fingers. Weave the yarn in between your fingers.

I made a quick little video that highlights the difficulty of knitting when you aren’t hold your yarn properly.

Let me know what you think! Any favorite way you hold your yarn?

The first time I walked into the yarn aisle at a craft store with the intent to purchase and buy yarn, I was completely overwhelmed! There are baskets upon baskets, and usually multiple rows filled with so many varying colors, thicknesses, and, most importantly to me, varying softness levels.

A terrible habit, but one I’ve never been able to break, is slowly walking down the aisle, feeling every skein to determine if it was soft enough to be chosen for one of my projects. It’s an especially terrible habit because at a few stores the softest were going for $80/skein!

But you’re a beginner, so don’t let those scary prices put you off. You can get some really cheap yarn for a few dollars. For a few more dollars, you can get some nice quality wool.

Three different weights of yarn. Three different weights of yarn.

A quick glance down the yarn aisle at any major store will have a variety of skeins in a variety of prices. In my experience, if I shop at the larger craft stores, like Michael’s or even Wal-Mart, yarn will range from $1/skein to about $15/skein.

I recommend buying only one skein for now. Since you’re beginning, you’re new and you’re most likely making smaller projects so only one is necessary at the moment.

Since you are beginning to knit, I recommend using aran or worsted weight yarn. Sometimes it will be labeled as 10 ply as well. Aran or worsted weight yarn is thick enough to see and work easily with, and can be used on any number of projects

Bulky weight yarn is also acceptable, but I do NOT recommend super bulky. While it seems large and easy to knit with in theory, it is very easy to get confused and begin knitting one super bulky stitch as two stitches, and soon your project will begin to grow – which is not what you want!

For similar reasons, yarn weights smaller than worsted weight are smaller and it can be harder to see what you’re doing.

So in summary, for your first project: Aran/worsted weight yarn. One ball. Any color. Any material.

A small sample of my needles. A small sample of my needles.

Picking out needles for beginners is always tricky. There’s usually a good chance of sticker shock when you first start shopping for needles because they can be pretty pricey. You want something that’s good quality, but cheap, but a nice size because you want to use them again.

I’m going to recommend what I think are the best, but I want to warn you that there’s a very small chance you’ll pick them again in the future so I also want them to less expensive as well.

Straight Needles Straight Needles

First, let’s look at straight needles. Most beginners pick these up and use these for their first project. They have a knob on one end, which prevents the stitches from sliding off and your project becoming unraveled. This sounds helpful, but really, that’s the only benefit I can think of for straight needles. And to be honest, usually only beginners use straight needles. They are not very versatile when it comes to future projects. Pass if you can.

Double Pointed Needles Double Pointed Needles

Next are double pointed needles. Exactly as it sounds, the needles are pointy on both ends. Double pointed needles are sold in packs – so you get 4 or 5 of the same size. You’ll knit with all of the needles to create a 3-D object – like sleeves, socks, a cute little amigurumi figure. DPNs are also necessary if you want to cable, which, obviously you will want to do. A pack of these are essential for most projects.

Circular Needles Circular Needles

Finally we have circular needles, which are two needles with a cord connecting them. Circulars can be great if you’re creating something large, like a blanket or something large and round, like a sweater.

Between the three, I would say double pointed needles are the most versatile for a beginner and are what I would recommend… but then that brings us to the sizes.

As you probably noticed from the pictures above, there are many different sizes of needles, ranging from hardly larger than a splinter to larger than a drumstick. It all depends on what kind of yarn you’re working with and what you want the final project to look like.

US size 8, engraved on the end of the needles. US size 8, engraved on the end of the needles.

Oh, and did I mention that there are 4 different size categories? There is the US size, the UK size, millimeters, and centimeters. Usually the US size and the size in millimeters is printed somewhere on the needle for easy locating, but it’s usually handy to keep a conversion guide nearby as well.

Additionally, needles also come in different lengths. You can get short ones that are about 4 inches long and I’ve seen some circulars up to 60 inches in length.

But wait! Did I mention you get a choice of material for your needles as well?

I’ve worked with quite a lot of different materials, and it really comes down to personal preference.

Plastic: These are usually the cheaper needles, which is great if you don’t want to spend a lot of money. The downside is that they’re cheaper quality and a little difficult to move the stitches back and forth.

Bamboo or Wood: Wood needles are great to grip onto and easy to handle, but they can break and you can even get splinters. Some of mine also have bite marks from where the cats got into them.

Metal: These are also more budget friendly, but stitches slip right off the needles very easily. They also get colder a lot quicker – brr!

So what to do?

For our beginner projects that use worsted weight yarn, I recommend double pointed needles in either wood or plastic in a US size 6 or US size 7. You can certainly go larger, which will create a looser cozy (i.e. more holes), but I wouldn’t go much smaller than that until your fingers get used to knitting.

As far as price, you don’t want to go too cheap because you will be learning on them and so you’ll need something solid, sturdy, and easy to hold onto, but since you probably won’t use them again for awhile, I wouldn’t spend more than $10. Look for sales in your local stores and check ebay for lots of used needles.

Knitting can be such a fun hobby and you get fun, warm articles of clothing out of it. But it’s also incredibly frustrating at times, especially when you’re a beginner and you’re ABSOLUTELY SURE that you moved your yarn over so it makes NO SENSE that you have extra stitches.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. That fun will come later.

Let’s start with the basics. You need yarn. You need needles. You need them fairly cheaply because why spend tons of money on something you don’t even know if you can do yet? There are only  hundreds of different types of needles and yarn – which do you choose? Oh, yeah and, of course you’ll need patterns.

I’m going post all of this information for you and more to make shopping for your first set of needles and yarn a breeze in the next few days. Best of all, I’m going to post videos so you can really understand how to cast on, knit, and purl.

And then, of course, practice, practice, practice!

You can make a scarf if you want, but that takes awhile and it’s a little boring. And anyway, I’m not sure about you, but I have more than enough scarves at the moment. When I practice my stitches, I just practice going back and forth – then I rip it all out and start over.

When you’re ready to actually make something, I’ve got two projects (almost) ready for you: the basketweave cozy and the XO cable knit cozy.

The basketweave cozy is perfect for beginners. It’s a fairly straightforward pattern, and it teaches you to knit and purl in the same row. It’s tricky moving the yarn back and forth (don’t worry, I’ll explain that) without adding additional stitches – a common mistake among beginners.

The XO cable knit cozy is also perfect for beginners, but it’s just one level up. You’ll be alternating your purls and your knits just as before, but I’ll also teach you how to cable. There are front cables and back cables so you’ll be prepared to cable anything after this little cozy. 

Let me know if you have any questions. Feel free to let me know if there’s something you’ve been dying to make. Don’t forget to sign up for the email list so you can be notified first when a new blog post is up or when my courses are ready! 

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