Absolute Beginner Question!

Hi, I plan to start watching videos on knitting for beginners. I would love any advice on my first shopping list to prepare for lessons. What are the basic and best tools needed for an absolute beginner to carry me through a first project (hopefully a scarf!)? I think all I need is a needle and some yarn, but type and size would be helpful in case I get overwhelmed shopping and give up before even starting! Thanks!!

Hi. Welcome to the wonderful world of knitting and to KH.
You need needles, I’d suggest at least a U.S. size 8, maybe 9 or 10, some worsted weight (#4) yarn in a light solid color (it will be easier to see your stitches than with a dark or mixed colors yarn) and watch the videos here. The FREE VIDEOS button has all kinds of help starting with Casting On. There is a 3 part How to Knit: A Complete Introduction for Beginners also. Plastic, acrylic, or bamboo needles seem to work best for learning as the stitches don’t slide off so easily. You might consider a set of circular needles, the needle tips are joined with a cable, and use them just as you would straight needles and skip chasing down the needle that gets dropped and hides.

I can give you a tip? Dont knit tightly lol.i made that mistake - see this page: http://knitty.com/ISSUEspring05/FEATloosenup.html

Certainly you can tackle any project you want for the first one, but I recommend one that’s shorter than a scarf–maybe a potholder, dish scrubby, or coaster. I recommend this because there’s lots less opportunity for errors in a small project, its not as daunting, and the quicker you finish something, the sooner you’ll get that feeling of accomplishment. When learning to knit, you can feel like you have 16 (dumb) thumbs, and when you’re trying to do a large project on top of that learning curve, well, let’s just say that often being able to accomplish some small project can make or break you and a new craft.

If you get stuck, come back here and ask for help–or conversely, search Knitting Help for your answer. Lots of good information here for beginners up to pros!

Try knitting some tensions squares (gauges) … every pattern for a sweater or garment will have basic tension/gauge instructions. These are often just in stocking stitch (one row knit one row purl).

This will give you an idea of how many stitches and rows you knit for a given yarn and needle size.

My tension/gauge was too loose at first, but now I find I’m pretty well spot on.

As GrumpyGrandma mention, Amy’s How-to Series is a good starting point for beginners. You can follow along at your own pace, pausing where necessary. I believe Amy mentions in the videos what size needles are good for beginners, just in terms of knitting up quickly and being able to see your stitches.

All three videos in the series are linked up here:


I second Antares in looking at first projects other than a scarf. I have learned to knit several times in my life and I think the mistake I made was always starting with a scarf. It eventually becomes tedious and uninspiring and I would eventually give up. Recently I decided to learn to knit again and I started with a dishcloth. It took me about 3 days. I learned long tail cast on, knit and purl stitches and did my first ever increases and decreases. The fact that each row was a little different kept it interesting. Having a finished object was also rewarding and motivated me to jump right into another project.

We have a directory of free dishcloths patterns on KH. Nearly all of them are beginner level.


A knitted cozy is another great beginner project:


Best of luck!

David, you are so right–I’m glad you spoke up. I remember knitting gauge swatches for YEARS and YEARS. They never ended up very big, but I would knit one or two, put them down for a while, and then knit another one or two several months later. And I was just trying to perfect casting on, knitting, purling, and binding off (well, sometimes I would bind off).

I didn’t know about KH then, and it wasn’t until I stumbled upon this site that I was really able to make much knitting headway. In fact, if it weren’t for Amy and Sheldon’s instruction and the answered questions I’ve gotten on this site, I’d still just be making a few swatches a year!

The videos are excellent–so very thorough and well explained! Take a look at them when you get a chance. After buying material, that’s probably the next best step you can take.

I would recommend making small projects which use just the knit stitch. If you knit every stitch on every row, it’s called “garter stitch”. Not the best looking fabric in the world, but it teaches you how garter stitch looks, and how the yarn moves with just the knit stitch.

I would also recommend using a colorful yarn with lots of different colors. The colors will change as you knit, to keep things interesting and fun. Also, the color changes will help you see the difference from row to row as you work. A really great thing for a beginner to watch.

Here’s a colorful yarn like I’m talking about:

Berroco Lullaby 2 by Shandeh, on Flickr

As for projects to make, click this “Beginner Knitting Patterns” link for some small projects to make while learning to knit.

Take your time, and watch each stitch as it is formed. You will be glad you did, because later on, you will notice immediately if you make a mistake.

Good luck!

I’m not an absolute beginner but I haven’t knitted much either and I don’t like knitting on circular needles. They twist and get tangled up easily and I spend more time making sure the yarn is behind the needles for the knit stitch and in front of the needle for the purl stitch than I do knitting some times. I read a tip online about using a steamer to straighten the wires out but they start curling after I’ve knitted for awhile and I can’t very well steam them when the stitches are on the needles.

The one good thing about circular knitting is you can knit stockinette stitch with just the knit stitch. I just made a cowl which is a good beginner’s project if you use just one yarn. Its just a tube. I did curse my needles a lot during this project though.

Are your circular needles the correct length for your project? A 16 inch long circular will work well for hats and small diameter cowls. A 24 inch circular will work well for sweaters and large diameter cowls.

Knitting flat with circs just takes practice like everything else knitting. Also, not all circs are created equal.

Very true. I’m spoiled with really flexible cables that don’t insist on curling up.

Yeah. If my choice was only inflexible cables or straights…I’d probably crochet again. :teehee:

The length wasn’t a problem; I had more than enough stitches and the needles were Addi’s. I plowed through it and it wasnt that bad but I was thinking for an absolute beginner, it would be discouraging.

I have one set of Addi turbos and I’ve been fighting that bleeping cable and hate it! It curls, it kinks, it tries to wrap around my neck and strangle me. The socks I have on the Addis are on hold until I get the WEBS Nova size 0 which shipped out today. Yeah, the right cable makes all the difference.

OK, so I exaggerated when I said it tries to choke me. It does manage to get tangled in my fingers. That cable makes knitting not fun.

Addis are not my favorite either, but some people love them.

It’s becoming more common for beginners to start with circs.

@KnitandPurl - there’s a difference: you’re talking about using circulars to knit “in the round” … I’ve not tried that yet, but I use them in lieu of straights as men’s garments tend to hang VERY heave on the needles if you’re knitting a sweater or vest (I’ve knitted a few of those in my time).

My two cent’s worth.

It looks like my experience is not the norm for beginners here. I don’t want to confuse the OP so I’ll stop here. My only reason for sharing is to share one beginner’s experience with another.

But while I’m at it in case some one has a solution, another annoyance is that stitches don’t slide from the cable to the needle easily. No doubt I make them smaller by putting them on the cable to check them. Of course, the simple solution would be not to pull my work but it evens out the stitches and makes it easier to spot mistakes.

@Dave, I’ve knitted flat swatches with the circulars. If I knitted a heavy item like a blanket or heavy sweater, I definitely would use circulars.

KnitandPurl, as Jan said, not all circs are created equal. Some allow the stitches to slide from cable to needle tip more easily than others. When I first started I used some Boye Circs and the join on them doesn’t allow the stitches to move over it easily. My Knit Picks set of interchangeables has a smooth join and the stitches slide much more easily. Still, when I’m knitting socks 2 at a time, the end stitches can be a bit of a nuisance because I intentionally have knitted them tighter and I have to encourage them some as they move from cable to needle tip. Some cables are more determined to curl than others and the cables that resember weed whacker cord can be the worst, that’s what my Boyes have. What’s most important is what works for you. If you prefer the straight needles, then use the straight needles. I don’t think any of us wants to tell you that you should or must do anything the way we do it. Enjoy your knitting. If it works for you, it’s right for you. Your experience, thoughts, and opinions matter too.

Nothing wrong with voicing your opinion, K&P. It’s good there are so many choices of needles so everyone can use what they like best! :thumbsup:

As for stitches sliding…that can happen depending on needle and cable size and material or even stitch size or fiber or even whether you knit tight or loose. It’s mostly only happens to me if I’m using larger needles. They have to taper to the cable so when stitches get to the cable they naturally shrink up a bit which makes it hard. Fortunately I don’t like big needles and rarely use them.