How’s your holiday knitting coming along? Mine’s fine, but only because I don’t really have any specific holiday knitting goals. Sure, I’m doing holiday knitting, but pretty much as the mood strikes me. Earlier this week, a friend asked what would make a good “starter kit” for a new knitter, and I had a great time answering that question. We’ll look at my answer later in this post, but first, let’s take a look at what I’ve been up to in the past week. It’s been kinda busy.
This Week In Podcasts
I am completely caught up on my knitting podcasts as of the time of writing this blog post. It was another good week for knitting related podcasts. I listened to episodes from Knit 1 Geek 2, Ewe University (two episodes!), Fiber Hooligan (also two episodes!), Knitting Pipeline, and knit.fm.
In Knit 1 Geek 2, there was lots of fun talk about Doctor Who, since we’re in the midst of celebrating 50 years of Doctor Who. In addition to the Doctor Who talk, there was apparently some talk about Thor 2, but I skipped that because I haven’t seen the movie yet (and don’t know when I will).
I continue to love Ewe University as one of my favorite knitting podcasts. I think it’s because the “In The Classroom” segment is always so interesting, and not always directly related to knitting, but Dr. Kelly does a great job of bringing the fiber arts to the classroom appropriately. Episode 13 focused on Abraham Lincoln. It was very interesting to hear about the many obstacles Lincoln faced through his life, and how he worked to overcome them. Episode 14 focused on self-control and included some interesting scientific discussion about the theory of how exercising self-control is similar to exercising a muscle.
Catching up on Fiber Hooligan was fun. In the episode with Ron and Theresa Miskin from The Buffalo Wool Co., it was really cool to hear about making yarn from buffalo. I would love to knit with buffalo yarn at some point — it sounds very luxurious. The episode with Betsy Hershberg was one that I initially didn’t have much interest in, as I thought it was going to focus on knitting with beads. I’ve not tried that yet, and haven’t had any near-term plans to. However, after listening to this episode, I’m a lot more excited to try. As a bonus, in addition to talking about knitting with beads, it was amazing to listen to Betsy talk about how she knits — about her knitting philosophy. It sounds like she and I have a similar philosophy that focuses around just trying things out. She told a story about how, when she was learning how to knit, she would ask her mentor about how different things would work out. Her mentor’s response was awesome: “I don’t know. Try it and see what happens.” I know that can be a frustrating response for someone who needs to know the outcome before starting the journey, but it really is a freeing philosophy. It’s what I try to do, not just when I knit, but in most things I do. Sure, I sometimes end up with a finished product that isn’t exactly what I would have liked, but I always learn something along the way. For me, actually going through the process is extremely important. Betsy also talked about left-brain/right-brain people, and how people who don’t necessarily consider themselves creative can be creative by going through a process — they can find the creativity by doing the work. I very much relate to that. So even if you don’t think you’re interested in knitting with beads, I highly recommend the Betsy Hershberg of Fiber Hooligan as a great all-around listen.
It was great to hear Paula and her friends on Knitting Pipeline again. Knitting Pipeline will always be one of my absolute favorite knitting podcasts, as it was one of the first things I discovered when I found knitting things online, and Paula really helps create a family community through her podcast. In Episode 153 – Magical Maine Retreat, Paula catches up with Bronwyn and Sarah and talks about the recent Main retreat. It sounded like a lot of fun. Washington is still recovering from the recent tornadoes, and you felt that in this episode of Knitting Pipeline, but Washington is also very much moving forward.
Finally, knit.fm Episode 4 was about buttonholes. Again, I can’t praise this podcast enough for its ability to take instructional material and bring it to a level that can be understood in an audio podcast. I’m sure I’ll be re-listening to this episode next time I work on a garment that has buttons and buttonholes!
This Week On My Bookshelf
I’ve had my eye on Annie And The Swiss Cheese Scarf by Alana Dakos for a while now. Last week, it was briefly on sale for 50% off, so I picked up a copy. Maybe when she’s older, Blueberry will enjoy reading this book with me and learning how to knit.
This Week In Ravelry
On the Ravelry forums, I’ve continued to be active in the IBK group, and am becoming more active in the Knitting Pipeline group. In the IBK group, we’re in the middle of a sweater ornament swap, and I sent my sweater to my swap partner on Saturday. It should arrive by Wednesday, and I’m excited to see how it goes over. In the Knitting Pipeline group, I pitched in on the “chatter” post with a little talk about felting.
I added a few patterns to my queue:
- Annie’s Swiss Cheese Scarf by Alana Dakos — it goes with the book
- Playful Stripes Cardigan by Alana Dakos — the pattern was a free bonus with the purchase of the book. It’s a cute sweater, maybe I’ll knit it up for Blueberry at some point.
- Knitted Bunny by Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer — I saw this bunny at a yarn store in Maryland, and the shop owner pointed me to this simple pattern. I think it will be fun to knit my angora-based yarn into this.
- Gramma’s Dishcloth (Grandmother’s 2nd Favorite) by PJ Allen — very similar to the traditional Grandmother’s Favorite Dishcloth pattern, but tweaked to appeal to my sense of symmetry on the corners. With just a few modifications to the traditional pattern, this pattern creates a dishcloth that I like even better.
This Week On My Needles
My needles have been clicking with some fairly simple knitting this week.
I put the finishing touches on some mittens for Blueberry. They’re based on a pattern shared by one of the members in the IBK Ravelry group. Check out my project page for the details. I had so much fun knitting these mittens. I haven’t been able to get them both on Blueberry’s hands at the same time yet, but I’ll keep trying. This pattern makes a great starter mitten, with plenty of opportunity to embellish and enhance it to your own tastes. I highly recommend it.
I’ve been knitting a bunch of dishcloths. Some of them are going to go to the IBK group’s charity of the month. Some of them are probably going to be stocking stuffers. And some of them are going to be used to scrub the dishes in my house.
I finished the sweater ornament for the ornament swap in the IBK Ravelry group. No pictures yet, ’cause the design on the front of the sweater is still a surprise.
I knitted a second sweater ornament out of dishcloth cotton, because I thought it might knit up interestingly. It did — it’s kinda like a muted candy cane. And it’s kinda neat that it matches one of the dishcloths I have now, too. So it seems that one ball of Lily’s Sugar’n Cream will yield either 2 dishcloths, or 1 dishcloth and 2 sweater ornaments (probably). For this one, I did the cardigan, and attached a couple of buttons to it. It was a fun project, and only took a couple of hours to do.
My gift knitting is still on the needles, and I’m still clicking away at it.
Knitting Starter Kit
With Christmas just around the corner, you may be considering getting one of your loved ones some tools to enjoy this knitting passion we all share. Recently, I led a knitting workshop and ended up teaching one of my friends who had no knitting experience how to knit. She really enjoyed it, and decided she wanted some knitting tools of her own. Her husband informed me that I needed to give him a list of things she should get to start with so that he could give them to her for her birthday.
I had a lot of fun coming up with a list of things to get a beginning knitter. Some of the folks on the IBK Ravelry group chimed in with their suggestions while I was putting this together, and I think we came up with a good, well-rounded selection of items to get anyone started with knitting. Take a look at the list, and let me know how you’d change it.
I decided to put a kit together with the idea that a beginning knitter could start with simple scarves and dishcloths. Most of my suggestions are project-agnostic, but where they are specifically for a particular project, I will note it. Most of these items can be purchased at your local big box store like Michael’s or Wal-Mart, but I will send you to your local yarn shop to get yarn for your scarves, as well as a get a peek at what’s out there beyond the basics.
The first thing to do is sign up for an account on Ravelry. This free website is a great source of patterns (many for free), lots of discussion groups, and a great place to put pictures and notes about your knitting projects. It’s social media for knitters (and crocheters, and spinners). (Free)
A great source of knitting instruction is Craftsy, an online training site. All the lessons are video recorded, and you can watch at your own pace. Instructors also stick around in the forums, so students can always interact with the instructors. I’d recommend a fundamental class like Knit Lab, which teaches the basics. I’d call this semi-optional for the knitting starter kit, ’cause you can also pick up a lot of what you’d get in the class from YouTube, asking friends, etc., but having the class available to you is great. ($20)
Knitting needles come in several styles (straight, double-pointed, circular), are made from lots of materials, and come in all sorts of sizes (thicknesses). I recommend starting with some basic straight needles. For dishcloth knitting, get some size 5, about 9 inches long. For scarf knitting, get size 11, about 18 inches long. The length of the needle will dictate the maximum width of the scarf. So a shorter needle is fine, for thinner scarves — and maybe you’ll only find 9 inches or so at the store, that’s fine. I recommend bamboo as a good starter. Stay away from aluminum — while they’re lighter, they have a lower coefficient of friction, so it’s easier for stitches to drop off, especially for beginners. ($5 – $10 per set of needles)
Small scissors for cutting yarn. You probably already have scissors or a knife that will work, but having a dedicated set of scissors to keep with your knitting stuff is nice. A set that folds into itself (hides the points) is extra nice. ($5)
Yarn needles for weaving in the ends. The basic ones are blue plastic. They have blunt ends so that they don’t split your yarn when you’re using them. ($1)
For dishcloths, get Lily Sugar’n Cream Cotton. It’s pretty cheap, a couple of dollars per skein. Get a skein that has fun colors in it for a multi-colored basic dishcloth and a skein that’s a solid color for a dishcloth that has a picture as part of the design. ($5)
For scarves, go to the local yarn shop (LYS) and tell them that you want wool yarn for a basic scarf in worsted weight. Let them show you some options and pick a color and price point you like. One skein is enough to start with, expect to pay between $5 and $15 for it. You will have more expensive options available…. Just remember you want wool (or at least primarily wool, if it’s a blend) and worsted weight. Maybe bulky/chunky weight. This is a great opportunity to talk with someone at the LYS and get their advice. ($15)
Please don’t get acrylic yarn. This is why I’m sending you to the LYS for yarn for the scarf. What you’ll find at the big box stores are going to tend towards acrylic. It’s inexpensive, but it’s just not nearly as nice to work with, nor as long-lasting, as a wool or wool blend.
- Dishcloth: Grandmother’s Favorite — great, basic, dishcloth (free)
- Dishcloth: Gramma’s Dishcloth (Grandmother’s 2nd Favorite) — I like this one better than Grandmother’s Favorite, as discussed above (free)
- Dishcloth: Doctor Who TARDIS Dishcloth — or any of a number of dishcloths that have a picture on them (free)
- Scarf: cast on ~20 stitches (or however wide you want the scarf), knit every row until it’s a long as you want it, bind off (free)
Next Step Knitting Accessories
What I listed above will make a great knitting starter kit. There are lots and lots of other things you can add. Here is a list of the next handful of accessories I’d recommend.
- Row counter: this lets you keep track of your rows easier than making marks on paper and slips right on your needles while you’re knitting, so you’ve always got it with you.
- Stitch markers: they’re little rings that help you keep track of where you are in a row. For basic dishcloths and scarves, you don’t need them, but when you move to projects like shawls, they will become indispensable.
- Tape measure: you’ve probably got rulers and yardsticks already, so this is low on the list. But, eventually, you’ll want a dedicated tape measure for your knitting/sewing projects.
- Project bag: something to put your knitting project in while it’s in-progress. For a long time, my project bag was a little paper sack from Starbucks. That’s very utilitarian, but it gets old. There are tons and tons of great project bags available — both mass-produced, as well as hand-made. Search for project bags on etsy, e.g., for some ideas of what’s out there.
- More interesting patterns. The patterns I mentioned above are all free, and there are a bunch of free patterns out there. Once you’ve been knitting more than a little bit, you’ll probably find that some of the things you want to knit are not available as free patterns. There’s nothing wrong with that — some people make their living my designing and selling patterns, and it’s only fair that, as knitters, we pay them for the hard work they do in creating these patterns. Many patterns are available for purchase on Ravelry. There are also books full of patterns, and you can find a wealth of patterns at your local yarn store. Have fun exploring all the options out there!
Well, that’s it. I think that starter kit will get pretty much anyone from being a non-knitter to being a knitter. And remember, there is lots of help out there for the beginning knitter. You probably know people in real life who would love to help you become a knitter. There are people at your local yarn shop who want to help you, too. And the internet is full of help — from tutorials on YouTube, to classes on Craftsy, to groups like those found on Ravelry, there is a wealth of information and help at your fingertips.
So, friends, what did I leave out? Join the conversation by leaving a comment with what you think is essential to have in a knitting starter kit — tell me where your ideas differ from mine.
Until next week, keep on knitting for the ones you love!