We all struggle with our first knitting project, sometimes producing fantastic or horrible results. Here's marketing manager Annie Hartman Bakken, sharing her first knitting experience.
A detail of the famous dishcloth.
The famous dishcloth, alive and well after 10 years.
My first knitted project… and notes.
As soon as I got the marketing assistant position at Interweave, I ran to the local craft store to teach myself to knit. With a sense of panic, a set of size 10 metal needles, a skein of acrylic tweed yarn, and a beginner’s worksheet, I set out to cast-on. Believe it or not, this part was easy. Following the photographs and handy instructions, I cast-on 20 stitches. Done!
Note: Now that I know a thing about casting-on, I’ve discovered that I was performing a very tight knitted cast-on, which was not what the instructions were telling me to do.
Note: Keep in mind, I knew nothing about purl stitches yet, so unaware of what I was trying to do, I was just attempting a garter stitch scarf. I’d make it for my brother. He’d wear anything.
Now, to actually knit. Inserting the needle into the first stitch, weirdly twisting, and voila! I had a mumbled mess of knots on now my right-hand needle, which was awkwardly still attached to the yarn on the left-hand needle.
Note: I wasn’t dropping the yarn off the left-hand needle to transfer the stitches!
Nothing was working. I took off the yarn off both needles and tried again. Cast-on 20 tight stitches. Done! Inserting the right-hand needle into the first stitch on the left-hand needle again, weirdly wrapping the yarn around the needles, twisting, pulling. It wasn’t working out for me. And I had another tight ball of mess.
After about five attempts at this, I cut the jumbled, messy yarn off, threw it away, and put the needles down. This was a disaster.
But I’ve always been determined. Reading through the instructions carefully, slowly following each step, and not getting frustrated with a couple more failed attempts, I had a row of tight garter stitch done.
With my new-found skills I knitted and knitted, for days. My 5-inch scarf had holes in it, and seemed to grow into a giant triangle. Something that first-time knitters will appreciate, I was somehow adding stitches to every row, but not in a uniformed pattern.
This was an Ugly. Scarf?
I ripped it out.
I grabbed my little beginner’s worksheet to start over. But, then the experimental bug got me. What’s this purling? I’ll try that. Can I switch it up to make weird patterns? Let me try that. After another day or two of knitting for no reason I had a less-holey, less-triangle-shaped scarf of part garter, part stockinette, part weird.
I ripped it out.
At this point in time the yarn I’d been using was crimped and tattered, with various knots. It was not usable. I threw it away. Now the skein of yarn I had was half the size, not enough to make a scarf. Well, I’ll make a big square. Why not? A dish towel, I thought.
What you see here is the end result. It was an experiment in when to switch from garter to stockinette and what side of my knitting was actually the back and what was the front. Somewhere along the way, I discovered how to make sure the edges didn't roll and added a garter edge. It’s lovely, isn’t it?
It’s been ten years and this dishcloth is still alive and well, a bit stained. I did give this to my brother, and he put this towel under the dish rack he has on the counter. He nicely snapped a photo of this dishcloth in the state it’s in today.
Since this adventure with the dish towel, I’ve knit sweaters, shrugs, scarves, and hats with cables, lace, and even colorwork. When people say “you just need to know how to knit and purl,” they’re only partially right. Also important is the need to understand how the fabric comes together. How a cable forms, what makes the yarn-over turn into lace. So, for those that are just beginning to knit, don’t be frustrated. Screw up here and there and then take a look at the mistakes. I think the best way to learn is to allow yourself to make mistakes and not worry about correcting them. After all, if anyone is looking that closely at your dishcloth, kick them out of your house.
The Knitting Daily Shop has some great resources and patterns for first-time knitters. Here are some of my favorites:
1) Overdyed Ragg Scarf: this easy-to-knit lace scarf is knit for the two ends, grafted at the middle. And, the lace stitch pattern is easy to memorize and completely reversible.
2) Champlain Cap: This cute-as-a-button garter stitch cap uses easy short-row knitting techniques, and I love the button closure.
3) Knitscene Easy 2010: This popular special issue sold-out, but you can still download the electronic version. Full of stylish, beginner-friendly patterns, this magazine has some of my favorite knitted accessories (flash mitts!) and some basic, classic sweater designs.
4) The Knitter's Companion! You just need this, trust me. Beginning knitters, seasoned knitters, young, old, everyone should have this book. It's a great quick reference for any snag you may come along when you're knitting.
5) One Skein: This is a book that I've turned to again and again for knitted gift ideas over the years. I think every knitter should have this on their shelf. With all the projects only taking one skein of yarn, they're quick to knit and give you an opportunity to play with some of the fancier, luxury yarns on the market.