advice from a newbie knitter

Yes, I’m still a newbie knitter and am offering advice.  First is, all knitting patterns should be taken as guidelines.  Unless you are either really average, or of the same basic proportions of the person writing the pattern, or its a loose shapeless sweater, changes and adjustments are likely necessary.  So make the pattern with waste yarn first, or be prepared to rip it all out, and re-do.

What makes a pattern easy or intermediate?  All knitting is based on two stitches, the KNIT and the PURL. everything else is a variation of the two.  Doing a stitch in a particular way is what creates the pattern.  Have seen patterns marked easy that were so complex they were head scratchers.  Then have seen patterns marked intermediate that were based on garter stitch only, and the only thing complex about them was to pick up stitches from a finished edge to create a decorative edging.  There are easy sock patterns, yet most sock patterns require knitting in the round, reducing stitches, switching from knitting in the round, to knitting back and forth and rejoining back to the round, picking up stitches from a finished edge.  If a sweater required all that, it would be considered intermediate or advanced!

Learn on waste yarn if you can.  Pick up cheap yarn at your local wall mart or similar store.  Yarn is frequently available at thrift shops as people are thinning out their stashes.  Sometimes they’re partial skeins left over from a project.  Sometimes a number of skeins that were never used.  Unfortunately, this yarn is often unmarked.  but it is easy enough to tell what it is, and how much it is.

Most yarn that is given away like this is going to be synthetic or synthetic blends.  Putting an end to a flame is what will help identify the yarn.  Remember that synthetics can and will burn, as will cottons and many natural materials, so be prepared.  Put the end to the flame, and as soon as the flame is out, smell the smoke.  If it smells like wool, wool is in it.  Feel the end.  if its a hard lump, then its synthetic.  If both, its a blend.   To be on the safe side, wash your unknown yarn in cold water. 

Check the guage of your unknown yarn.  Just knit a swatch. You may have to experiment with needle size.  Knitting swatches of patterns is the best way to learn the complexity of a design, get used to the complexity of the design,  and decide if you really want to use a particular design in your work.

Then weigh the yarn.  While patterns and teachers talk about the length of the yarn, and how many yards (meters) make up a pattern, you can’t measure the length of your unknown skeins.  So go by weight.  most synthetics or synthetic blends weigh about the same.  Bulky yarns will have less yardage than a fine yarn of the same weight.  But at the same time, a bulky yarn will have less stitches per inch, less rows per inch, so the weight per square area seems about the same.  Its close enough to work.

In general, knitting a pair of ankle socks is considered to need 100 grams of yarn, 50grams per sock (28 grams approximates one ounce). an anklet is 30-35 grams each.  One single knee sock is 100 grams, 2 such skeins (or 4 x 50gram skeins) for a pair.  Since I ‘m taller and heavier than average, 100 grams is not quite enough for a real, true, up to my knee sock.  Have to add about another 10-15 grams to finish the toe – or go short.  And that’s how we all end up with these 80 and 90 gram balls that wind up going to the thrift shop.  OR, you can use that smaller ball to make a pair of anklets or wristlets.  Having a little ball of 30 grams or so, gives you that bit of yarn you need for doing a seam, repair a tear, or use as waste yarn for a provisional cast on.

what kind of needles to use?  1/2 a century ago, learned to knit on metal needles.  Never heard of bamboo ones.  We also had nylon and plastic.  Have discovered that bamboo  needles allow for a tighter, consistent stitch.  But bamboo circular needles, for me, are too short in the needle end.  they are uncomfortable to hold.  Have purchased a set of adjustable circulars.  These are marvelous.  You can make up a set of very long single points, or a very very long circular needle that can be used to do straight knitting.  This is much more comfortable than trying to knit a coat, skirt, poncho, or throw on straight needles.  They come fairly large diameter for bulky yarn work.  If you do a lot of traveling, a small kit like that can let you easily  carry an assortment of needles with you for any project.

watch for terminology.  Garter stitch when working with straight needles, is knitting every stitch and produces a particular pattern.  Garter stitch when working in the round is knit one round, purl the next, to create the same pattern.  Stocking knit stitch is just the reverse.  On straight needles, knit and purl every other row, on circular needles, just knit every row.

Last, suggest writing out a project.  write it out in full detail so you can more easily keep track of how many rows, or pattern repeats, or adjustments need to be made.  Example, a sweater is for  43″ circumferance.  But you need, with ease (that is, you measure 43″ and don’t want it skin tight so add 2 inches) 45″.  If your guage is 5 stitches per inch, the pattern is calling for 215 stitches. at 45″ you need 225 stitches.  If there is a pattern of stitches, that has to be adjusted too.  So in writing out the pattern you can note that.  Or you need to make a pattern 2 inches longer, and in guage that is an extra 10 rows.  So you need to note that you have to do an extra — pattern repeats. Personally, have found that noting on that paper, every time you’ve done a row, or pattern repeat, mark it on your notes. then when you put the piece down, you know exactly where you are in your design. This is particularly important if you need to make sure a back and front are going to align, or you want your socks the same height, etc. even one row can throw that out of alignment.

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