so you want to knit :: part 1 :: getting started

When I was, I don’t know, 6 or 7 years young, my grandma taught me the basic knitting stitch and gave me a pair of her needles to keep for myself. I remember being so proud as stitch after stitch went sliding from one needle to the other, eventually stacking on top of one another enough to actually look like something. Something was taking shape and I was making it.

I don’t know how long that stint of knitting lasted, but I know that it had been several years when I picked my needles back up in college. See, there was this boy. He was tall and Swedish, handsome and smart. I wanted to impress him, so I knit him a scarf. We had chapel three times a week in college, and I would sit there, stacking stitch on top of stitch while listening to the speaker of the day. It was something to keep my hands busy and to woo my love. Then I married him, and set the needles down again (mission accomplished).

But in November I had this crazy little idea that I would make the gifts we gave this Christmas and whoosh, my knitting fever came back with a fury the likes of which it has never before had. I have been able to explore different stitches, shapes, methods, and even some crocheting this time and the more I learn, the more I am smitten with knittin’.

(ba dum ch!)

So, here we are. I let mention of my knitting obsession slip (ba dum ch!) from time to time around here, and I’ve gotten the question every single time:

How did you learn to knit?

Well, really you know now that it was my grandma, but this most recent time of dusting off my needles, I found myself very rusty and very much in need of assistance (but also very much lacking in time to have someone teach me).

This is how I did it!

Getting Started:

Supplies – the things I had on hand or purchased in order to start knitting:

  • yarn - use what you have around or pick one skein of a color that makes you happy
  • a pair of knitting needles – sizes 8 to 10 seem to be a good range to start with, big enough to see results but small enough to be versatile. I bought a set of 3 in different sizes so that I had some options (because different patterns call for different sizes), but you don’t have to.
  • a tapestry needle – a large and usually plastic needle used to sew in the ends of your yarn. You will want one of these for finishing your projects.


I would like you, friends and readers (who are friends I just haven’t met yet) to meet my knitting tutor and guru KNITTINGHELP.COM . I put that in caps because it is just.that.important. They have a very thorough glossary and very, VERY helpful video tutorials of all sorts of knitting stitches and techniques, from the beginner to the advanced. You don’t have to have a friend that lives near by who can teach you, there are very good tutorial videos right here!

To start out, wander on over to Kitting Help and watch the following videos linked in each item below (**with your needles and yarn in hand!** Watch, pause, imitate, replay, go back, try it again… until you’re comfortable with each skill):

  • learn to cast-on - this is how you start a project, how you get the very first stitches onto your needles. (There are a few methods here, I use long-tail cast-on.)
  • learn the knit stitch - the most basic building block of knitting, and one of  the only stitches needed for most “easy” patterns (including those below). **knitting with only knit stitch makes a pattern called garter stitch and looks like this.**
  • learn the purl stitch- the knit stitch’s younger and awkwarder little brother, this is the second most common stitch found in knitting. Not much harder than knit stitch, but a little different.
  • learn to bind-off - this is how you finish the last row of a project.

I had never really been a pattern follower, but I had also never really created much variety until recently. This new adventure I have begun with my knitting needles has lead me back to knittinghelp.com several times to learn what abbreviations mean that I find in patterns, to watch videos of new techniques, and to learn how to knit more cleanly (going back to fix mistakes, etc.). (Pretty sure cleanly is not a word. Deal with it.)

Tips – things I have learned in the last 3 months, or, things I have muttered under my breath while knitting in the last 3 months:

  • You will have to pull it out and start over sometimes.
  • It is better to pull it out and start over sometimes.
  • Find something that motivates you – a nice yarn? small projects? making something substantial?
  • It’s cool to talk and count to yourself aloud. Really.
  • Imitating exactly how the person on the video moves their fingers or holds their yarn can lead to more efficiency.
  • Sometimes imitating exactly how the person on the video moves their fingers might not work for you. Try different things in search of your comfort zone.
  • Your husband probably isn’t as excited about that new stitch you just mastered as you are.
  • Once you get past the initial hump of a new pattern, you will probably be able to do it without having a video or instructions immediately available. AKA: You will get better.
  • Absorb, absorb, absorb. Watch videos even if you’re not ready to try the technique. Use the knittinghelp.com glossary to look up terms you don’t know. Poke around the KnittingHelp Tips Page.

3 starter patterns – Ready to give it a go? Itching to create something? These are the exact patterns that I started with last November (and are still some of my favorites for quick, rewarding results).

easy coffee cozy

easy neck warmer

easy potholder

{photo credit goes to the pattern websites, each linked below the picture}


This is only part one of a series of ::so you want to knit:: posts. I hope you are excited to get started because I can’t wait to share more with you!


29 Responses to “so you want to knit :: part 1 :: getting started”

  1. Jenn

    YAY! Thank you! THANK YOU! I just started (once again thanks to you), and I haven’t really been able to move onto patterns because I don’t get them. But now…now maybe I can move on. So grateful for this series! :)

  2. Elizabeth

    Thank you for this series! I love seeing what you’ve made. Very inspiring. I’m a beginning knitter and know the basics, but would love to get better and learn to do cables. The cable hats you showed pictures of recently – I’d love to learn how to make those. And the rose you knitted for a headband – so-o cute! Looking forward to the rest of your knitting series! THanks!!

  3. Suzanne

    You forgot my Most Important Knitting Rule: BUY NICE NEEDLES. Even if you’re not sure you’re going to love knitting or stick with it forever, those cheap-o, super long metal needles make everything so much harder and frustrating. Wood is the way to go and the Clover brand ones are easy to find. I love that YOU love knitting so much now – my work here is done.

    • AllisonO

      O, no. Your work definitely continues. I think part 2 will be: “Make a friend you can text swear words to when you drop a stitch”.

      Am I right or am I right?

  4. Sidnie

    I am so excited!
    This will give me something to occupy my mind and hands in the next few months as things get stressful around here… and I love that I’ll have something to show from it.

  5. kim

    big ole yes to the wood needles!! I’m over the top addicted to knitting and have a bit of a ‘needle’ problem :) Thankfully my husband totally feeds it, so yeah for me. I just taught my 7 1/2 year old the knit stitch — what a joy! And I love the ‘drop a stitch’ saying! B/c how frustrating is that????

  6. katie

    part of my 2011 goals were to either learn to knit or crochet. you make knitting look SOOO easy and cute! But I am still so skerd to actually buy the stuff…what if I am no good? Eek!

  7. Amy K

    Thanks for this series! I’ve made a gazillion scarves, but afraid to move beyond the long rectangle! Would love to make hats for Christmas presents next year. My brother’s family lives in the Twin Cities so warm gifts are appreciated:)

  8. Karey

    YAY!!! I’m SO going out and buying “the basics” this week to get started! Goodbye having time to do trivial stuff like cooking and laundry and HELLO scarves and coffee cozies! (If you get hate mail – it *might* be from my husband wanting his wife back…) ;)

  9. Helen

    I MAY givethe knitting thing ago! Bought yarn and a crochet needle about 6 months ago and tried to figure out crocheting but that was disaster!! (and I have been back several times since and STILL can’t figure out what on earth I am supposed to be doing). SO maybe kniting would be better!! Maybe…

  10. Rebecca

    I recently went to a knitting workshop I found through Groupon and I love it! I have known how to crochet for years and years, but always wanted to learn to knit. One thing that I find helpful is finding videos on youtube of people to help me. There are some that are really good.

    One thing I learned at the workshop is that the wave of the future is items that use both knit and crochet to make the piece. There is a designer down here already starting to do it, so those who know how to do both will have an edge! :) Now, if only I was a better knitter and didn’t leave holes. I have no idea what to do about those. Guess I better go search youtube… :)

    Nice job with everything you spelled out! :)

  11. Sarah P.

    Thank you so much for posting this! I’m so excited!! I just recently tackled my first little crocheting project (a baby blanket for my daughter’s baby doll cradle… really little project). I enjoyed it, but I have really always wanted to learn how to knit and was too intimidated. The way you explained everything was perfect and so helpful. Can’t wait to check out the resources you noted and get started. Please please keep this series up!

  12. Annie

    This does make me want to start knitting! I started crocheting about 5 years ago and I like that. But maybe I’ll have to pick up knitting. You mentioned that you crocheted also, but do you like knitting better? If so, why? I’ve never tried knitting so I wonder if there are benefits to it over crocheting.

  13. melissa

    Thank you SO much for posting this! I learned to knit from a teacher in high school, and continued on and off throughout college, but with teaching and a new baby, it’s fallen by the wayside in recent years. One of my goals for this winter was to pick it back up and learn how to follow a pattern. I LOVE the projects that you’ve posted, and agree that I’m hoping you’ll share some of your cableknit hats and that awesome rose headband! Thanks for making my snowed-in day!! :)

  14. brittney

    Uh, thank you for this! Really! I was always a creative kid, but was never taught the art of knitting or using a sewing machine, etc. I have recently taught myself how to sew, and have long, long wanted to learn how to knit. So, yay! Now I can try!

  15. Ellen

    Thanks for posting this – I’ve been bemoaning the fact that I don’t know anyone who lives nearby who could teach me how to knit – this is perfect!

  16. Carrie

    I don’t understand reading patterns even with looking up what the terms mean.
    For example, After casting on 18, what does knit 2 mean and then BO 3? and so on..
    I can pick up a new stitch very easily, but reading and understanding what the patterns are actually saying to do is a huge set back for me, would love to see you elaborate on this! Thanks! (Hope I’m making sense)

    CO 18 and knit in garter stitch for 9″
    K2, BO 3, K7, BO 3, K1
    K2, CO 3, K7, CO 3, K2
    Knit 4 more rows of garter stitch and BO loosely
    Darn in ends, sew on your buttons and you’re ready for a refill~

  17. Sharone

    I have an almost identical knitting biography–down to the fact that I picked it back up again last year so I could make Christmas presents, and have since become pattern-crazy and am so much more confident about my ability to do the harder stuff. My best friends have been the book Stitch ‘N Bitch by Debbie Stoller and knitty.com. I can’t wait to check out knittinghelp.com!

  18. Abby

    I also have just picked back up my knitting needles and learned to crochet. Something about the icky cold weather makes me want to make warm cozy things. I think you should do a project link up thingy so we can get new ideas and patterns! I love the neck warmer you linked to, that is going to be next on my list.

  19. Sarah

    I have never knitted anything, nor had the desire to, but this post makes gives me a strange itch to try it! I have three boys, so I have no idea what I’ll do with all the things I’d make, but I’m totally gonna try it! I already contacted my sister in law, and she has needles I can borrow to try it out! Thanks for the push!!!!!!!!

  20. Catherine

    I’ve used that last pattern on a much larger scale to make baby blankets. It works beautifully!

    Thanks for posting all of this! Can’t wait to make the coffee cup sleeves.

  21. Meg O.

    First of all – I found another “O” blog! YAY! Come give me a visit! I thought I was the only “O” blog. Obviously you’re waaaay more popular than me. Haha.

    Anyway, I love the idea of learning how to knit, but it’s cold maybe one-two months total out of the year where I leave. Knits are so pretty! I wish I could wear them more.

  22. Allison

    Hello O’Baby Momma, I know how much you like to knit by what I read on your blog so when I came across an article in Parents magazine (Feb. 2011) I thought of you. Now through Feb. 28, you can knit/crochet newborn baby caps for children in need. This cause was started through Save The Children.org. If you are interested, the article noted that you can find easy, free patterns at GoodGoes.org or at your local Michael’s store. Just thought I would share. Thanks for sharing so much on your blog. I enjoy reading it and it helps me along the way as I raise my son (24 months).


  23. Charlotte

    When I move to Wheaton I am going to start knitting again. I’m kind of excited about it and your post inspired me more! Actually I really want to crochet a blanket. But that might be too hard.


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