Knitting with Needles

Tips for Beginning Knitting by Michelle Bell 

So you want to knit? It’s relaxing, creative, and can give you a sense of accomplishment when you finish that sweater for your sister. Before you jump into something as large as a sweater, however, there are a few things to keep in mind to keep yourself on track.

The first thing you want to know when a newbie knitter, is to try working with natural fibers in the beginning instead of synthetic ones. Natural fibers such as wool and cotton are almost always easier for beginners as they are not as “slick” and not as easily dropped off of the needles. Speaking of slick, you also need to be careful about what kind of knitting needles you start with. Wooden needles are often the easiest because they are not as slick as the metal and plastic ones that are also available. Also keep in mind that larger needles are often easier to work with as the stitches come out larger and it is easier to see what you are doing. It may also be easier to find that dropped stitch before all of your hard work unravels! Needles are numbered according to their size with higher numbers indicating larger needles. A 10 or a 13 often makes a good starting size. A combination of larger wooden needles and a good cotton thread can do wonders in building your knitting confidence.

If you are making an item of clothing such as a sweater, be careful of the gauge you knit in. Gauge is simply the number of stitches you have done per inch of fabric you have made. When you are preparing to start a large project it’s a good idea to knit a small swatch of fabric in the same stitch that you will be making the larger piece. This allows you to compare your gauge to that called for in the pattern, and make any necessary adjustments. For instance, if a sweater pattern calls for 40 inches of stitches, with 5 stitches per inch, you need to cast on 200 stitches. If you are stitching at only 4 stitches per inch (i.e. your stitches are much larger) you would only need 160 stitched to make up the 40 inches called for in the pattern. That or your sister may be insulted by the final size! If you are stitching too large, try a smaller needle, or adjust your technique to achieve the required gauge.

One last tip that really can come in hand is to buy plenty of yarn from the same dye lot for the project. You don’t want to run out of midnight blue when you are almost done with the sweater, and then find that the new dye lot on sale for that color is too purple! If you do run out, your best bet is to bring your piece with you and see what will make the best match in person. Another yarn manufacturer may have something much closer to the color you need to make the big finish.

So are you itching to learn more (or could it be you have a wool allergy)? Search in your area for one of the Stitch N’ Bitch clubs that are popping up all over the nation. These are based loosely on a series of books by Debbie Stoller- Stitch N’ Bitch: The Knitter’s Handbook is a great beginner’s guide to pick up at your local bookstore. If you don’t feel like changing out of your PJ’s, try one of these informative websites:,,
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