I'm new to this - I'd appreciate some advice :)

Hi all,

I’ve never knitted before and would like to take it up as a distraction from writing up my PhD thesis, however I seem to be a bit confused. I’d like to start by making a patchwork blanket (a fairly big one, not a baby blanket). I hardly know a thing so any advice on the following would be GREATLY apreciated :aww:

So first off, how do I choose what yarn to use? I’d like the blanket to be nice and soft and snuggly - any suggestions?? The problem I have is that I need to buy the yarn online as I don’t know of any stockists near Coventry. Also, does the yarn all have to be the same weight?

Could anyone recommend a good size for a square - how many stitches should I cast on, and will the number of stitches have to change if the yarns are different?? Also, I read that different yarns recommend different size needles - how does that affect the size of the square? Maybe I should get all the same weight of yarn and just try different colours and stitches? Oh it’s all so confusing!

'm sorry if these are all silly questions but I haven’t a clue where to start and would love some hints if anyone has time to share with me.

Please please help me!:knitting:

Here’s some info and some advice. . .

Info, first:
The squares can be as big or as small as you like. Just keep in mind that the smaller they are, the more sewing together you’ll have to do:) . The yarn can be any weight you’d like, but at least for your first blanket, I’d keep the squares all the same size. There is a crucial part of knitting-- one of the biggest mistakes knitters make is ignoring this factor-- and that is tension. We do (if we’re smart) what’s called “swatching”, that is, making a swatch of the pattern we’re going to knit and then measuring it. Here’s where the pins come in-- if you use bigger pins, the stitches will be bigger (and looser), and so the size will come out bigger. If you use smaller pins, the stitches will be smaller (and tighter) and so the size will come out smaller. You’ll notice that pins go up in .25 or .5 mm. That’s because those tiny increments will affect the size of the stitches. On a blanket, it’s not so crucial. But on a jumper-- if you’re supposed to have 4 stitches per inch and you’re getting 4.5 sts. . .let’s say you’re knitting something and you want the finished size to be 40 inches around the bust. You would need to have 160 sts at 4 sts per inch. But if you’re getting 4.5 and you cast on 160, you will only get 35.5 inches in your finished measurement. That half stitch difference knocked off 4.5" of your jumper and will change the fit drastically.
Most yarns have a little diagram on the label which show the tension/gauge the yarn was meant for, and a suggested needle size to obtain it-- but many knitters have to use a different size needle to get the right gauge. It will show how many stitches (across) to fit into 4 inches/10 cm, and how many rows (up and down) to fit into 4"/10cm. It doesn’t mean you HAVE to get that tension, but the drape of the fabric will come out differently if you get a different gauge.
For a first project (but see below), it’s probably a good idea to knit each square with a different color in the same yarn and use the same pins. But if you want to be daring and use different yarns, just make sure that each square is going to come out the same size. So you’ll have to use different amounts of stitches for different types of yarn to make sure that happens.
This is all about the width-- the length is easy; just keep knitting until it’s as long as you want it to be.
If you are doing this without a pattern, keep this is mind: if you do stocking stitch, that is, every other row is all knit stitch and the alternate every other rows are all purl stitch, the edges will curl. The ones which are sewn together will be kept flat, but the outside ones need some sort of border. There’s an entire sticky thread on this forum about that.
The one other thing to keep in mind if you decide to get different types of yarn, is that they should all require the same cleaning-- you don’t want one that needs to be washed in hot water and another in cold!:slight_smile:

And now the advice:
Don’t worry about the blanket right now. For now, just get some 8 ply - 10 ply weight yarn and some 5mm-ish pins and just start practicing. Just knit away and get used to the technique of making stitches (there are how-to videos on this site). But just knitting squares and sewing them up into a blanket is not a bad way to learn to knit, come to think of it.

P.S. It all seems confusing right now, but really, there are only a few techniques to learn-- the knit stitch, the purl stitch, increases and decreases, casting on and binding off. That’s it. There are a couple of things (made up from the above 6 things) such as cables and short rows, and learning how to switch colors, but that’s really it.

Thanks a lot for your helpful advice sandy57th, I really appreciate it! :slight_smile: That’s a good thing to know about the knit/purl alternation thing as that’s what I had intended! I saw a pattern where someone had knitted half the row then purled the rest and repeated until halfway accross the square then switched. It looked really nice - would this also cause the squares to curl? I supppose I could always knit some sort of a trim at a later date when I’ve picked up the basics.

Even if the squares curl up (which they probably would with knitting half a row and purling half a row) they’ll lie flat when you join them, so you don’t need to worry about that.

The first thing I knit was a baby blanket done in squares of alternating knitting and purling for a nice pattern with garter stitching on the edges… it was a great project to learn on.

Practicing your stitches making afghan squares is an excellent way to learn to gauge, learn to control your tension and just get a feel for your yarn and needles.

As for yarn… It’s really hard to suggest a yarn to another person, because we’re all so individual as to the textures we like/dislike. My suggestion would be to pick up some cheap yarn, make some swatches, block them and then test them against your skin to see what you like and don’t like. I know from experience the special hell of picking the wrong yarn for a blanket and being itchy from it.

At least the homeless shelter benefited from that experiment, which was where I learned to do test swatches.

One of the most fun projects I had came from a book of dishcloths. If you use worsted weight yarn, whatever you like in the way of wool or acrylic or what might be, and the needles that make your stitches look good, and you knit a dishcloth, it’s going to be bigger than it would be knitted with smaller, smoother cotton. In fact, it will be a nice size for an afghan square. While I bought the pattern book I used, there are hundreds and hundreds of free dishcloth patterns around. If you start with a very plain one and work your way up to more complex ones as you build skill (and courage :slight_smile: ), you’ll soon have a sampler afghan and a whole lot of knitting techniques down pat.

Most of all, have fun with whatever you make. Knitting is supposed to be fun and relaxing, not some dreadful exercise in getting everything Exactly Right.

There’s a site I can’t link to at the moment, but if you Google for “dishcloth boutique” it should come up. It has about 5 pages of dishcloth patterns with all kinds of stitch patterns and that would be great for afghan squares.

Thanks so much suzeeq, I’ve just looked at the site and there are some great patterns there! The only thing I’m a bit confused about is the gauge/tension - if I use the same needles and the same yarn (in different colours) can I not worry about this bit until I have got the hang of it?? Thanks :happydance:

I would say don’t worry about it, you’ll get an even tension after some practice. When you sew them together they ought to come out okay.