Where to start on beginning a project?

Hi there,

I really love this site and has helped me out so much in the past, so I’m reaching out again.

I’ve self taught myself the basics of knitting, tried a few small little projects on random balls of wool, but I really want to get my teeth into an actual project. I just want to try making a basic jumper but I don’t really know where to start, and from what I have looked into, everything just seems really daunting and off putting.

I just want something basic with instructions that are clear and easy to understand, as everything I’ve seemed so far is really complex and I just can’t follow it. Also, by having just used random balls of wool to practise on, I’ve really had to worry about gauge, but now I just want to try my hand at making something I could wear (I’ve dont things like scarfs - but I don’t actually wear them).

So I guess I’m wondering; a) how did you first go about actually making something to use and not just to practise with, b) is it possible to get a pattern and the wool together? as I get a bit lost as well with finding the right wool, so having the 2 together would be great !

Many thanks!


Lots of sites offer kits, which is the pattern and yarn together. I can’t think of any offhand, but I’m sure a Google search will net you several. I’ve never purchased one because I find them to be prohibitively expensive; I’d rather find a nice free pattern (there are thousands on Ravelry) and buy yarn from my LYS.

As for a good first pattern, I always suggest something from The Simple Collection by Tin Can Knits. The collection includes a shawl, pullover, cardigan, socks, scarf, hat, blanket, fingerless mitts, and cowl.


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If I were you, and the pattern suited me, I’d go for a boat-neck pullover with square-set sleeves–but only if you like and would wear that style.

Most of the people who come on here confused by sweater/jumper patterns get lost at the armholes, especially on the front. “Increase (or decrease) at the edge every (so many) right-side rows, and at the same time…” throws a whole lot of people. So does the idea of needing a second ball of yarn, or the other end of a skein, to get the shoulders even. The sleeves need to be increased or decreased to fit the armholes, as well. If you make a garment that is essentially four big rectangles, you don’t have to deal with shaping. A variegated yarn or something with a lot of texture doesn’t need a fancy stitch pattern to look nice. However, not everyone likes the boxy shape of such a sweater even if it’s comfortable.

It might help if you lay out a garment you already have and like and look at the way it’s built. If you understand the shape of the part you’re making, the directions will make much more sense. They’re not nearly as complicated as they seem. On some patterns, “decrease on this and every fourth following alternate row” is a hair-pulling exercise, where “decrease at each edge every inch” might sound clearer if your row gauge is good.

Top-down raglan sweaters sound complicated, but they’re easy once you get used to using your markers for the four increase lines that “grow” the sweater down from the neckline. If you use a long enough circular needle, you can try the piece on while you’re working on it, and seams are minimal.

Whatever you decide to do, you know we’re all here to help.


Start with hats! There’s a lot of repetition in a large project like a sweater–big expanses of the same stitch pattern–and the finishing takes forever. Instead, make your first serious project a basic stocking cap or beanie with an unusual stitch pattern or cabling. Once you’ve successfully completed a hat that fits well, you know how many stitches to cast on with and where to begin decreasing, so you can use the same base pattern and play with new stitch patterns and colors. It’s a short project (complete it in a day) and it doesn’t use a lot of yarn, so your commitment is minimal. You learn knitting in the round, using circs and dpns (circular and double-pointed needles), and decreasing, and there’s hardly any finishing at all since you’ve got no seams and you end with only a few stitches on your needle. The shaping experience and pattern-reading skills will help you once you’re ready to start a long project.

Poke around on Ravelry for a free pattern (here are some; I haven’t used them), or find a kit for a style you like. Or just cast on in a K2P2 rib, figure out the right shape for your head, and start getting complex as you go (see photo for three hats I did many years ago–all the same hat, just different cables).

Caveat for the kits: Even if you buy the wool and pattern together, your gauge won’t necessarily match the gauge in the pattern. You still have to swatch and possibly adjust your needle size up or down.

With these hats linked above they would require you to learn to knit in the round in addition to learning cables and shaping. Not impossible, but could be just as complicated as a sweater.

That said… my first projects were a scarf and some dishcloths so I could get my stitches even and nice before I started a sweater. My first sweater was when I’d been knitting for 3 months and it was a very simple top down seamless pullover sweater. What type of sweater are you thinking of? Pullover or cardigan? Short sleeved or long sleeved?

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Yes, as complicated–but with a faster result and less wasted time/effort/yarn if it doesn’t work out. Some knitters have more patience than I do. :expressionless:

Good suggestion above. Also, do you have a local yarn store (LYS)? A good one can be invaluable when you begin projects. They often give excellent advice on patterns and compatible yarns.

Pick a pattern that you like or pick several and we’ll be happy to help you out here and help you choose one as well.

True. I love to knit hats and don’t wear them so they are donated regularly. I’ve learned fair isle, cables, new stitch patterns…all kinds of things with hats. :wink:


Hi, thanks ever so much for replying. I did take a look at kits before I posted here and I agree, they did seem very expensive ! I’ve taken a look at the link you sent and the projects look great to get my hands stuck into something a bit more meaty !

Thanks again!


thanks so much for your advice this really has been most helpful. Its reassuring to know that you don’t have to do the most complicated of patterns and that simpler ones can get the job done as well. I like the idea of looking at items of clothing I already own and looking at their shapes, so will definitely be trying that :smiley:

So thank you again for all your advice, I’ll be taking it all on board .

Hi there,

I’ve already made a hat and some baby socks when I first started out, so this was why I was looking to move to something else. However I like the idea about hats with more patterns on (I’ve only done a simple beanie hat), as a good way to practise different stitches, so thanks !! :slight_smile:

When I first started teaching myself to knit, I was just knitting in rows any old thing, and also trying out loads of different techniques in a big book I had - including cables - so in themselves I get how to do these things, I’ve just never then put all the techniques together to make something I would then wear (the baby socks and hat were on a stuffed toy for a while before being thrown out haha !).

The only places I’ve seen so far where there is a big selection of yarn would be hobbycraft, and then other random shops that have decided to sell a few bundles of wool.

I did a while ago find a few patterns I liked, but in my excitement of printing a load off never actually looked at the detail too much, and when I went to start one was immediately put off as it was just a wall of text that sounded so complicated :frowning:

Sometimes those “wall of text” patterns are too complicated but sometimes not. Read through a pattern that appeals to you and that’s described as simple or for beginners. Even if every bit isn’t perfectly clear, working with the sts on the needles may help and as I said, we’re here to help out.
Good luck with your search. We all started where you are now.

I’ve done a couple of cardigans out of this book. Debbie Bliss is notorious for good designs but vague patterns–you can’t actually be a beginner to knit her beginner designs–but I was very satisfied with both pieces and got my experience with sweater shaping from it.

A couple of big things you can do, right now, to get ready:

Read the Glossary up in the right-hand corner of this site. That has all the common pattern abbreviations.

Learn to read your knitting. That is, learn to recognize a knit stitch, a purl, and a yarn over. I’ve seen beginners reduced to tears by ribbing because they cast on, say, 40, knit, two, purl two across, then can’t figure out what to do on the next row because the pattern says to “knit the knits and purl the purls.” If you know what the stitches look like, what to do is obvious.

You’re going to make mistakes. Everybody does. It’s only yarn. You can either fix the mistake or frog back and start over. The knitting police will not arrest you, and when your project is done, no one will ever know.

Not every project or technique will suit everyone. Some people despise doing ribbing or can’t stand brioche stitch or don’t like to use double-pointed needles. So what? Most of us don’t need to make clothing to survive. We’re doing it for fun. If it isn’t fun, we don’t have to do it. Also, no one is allowed to yell at you about your yarn choices.

When you’re using a sweater pattern, “right side” and “wrong side” throw a lot of people, as do the abbreviations RS and WS. When they refer to the actual right and left sides of a cardigan, they’re usually written out or otherwise clearly identified. Usually, “right” and “wrong” mean the face of your work that you mean for public view, versus the side that will be next to your body. Knowing which is the right side is crucial to some stitch patterns. Also, if you have to put your work down, you can remember you were halfway through a right-side row and you won’t make the dreaded “got turned around in the middle of a row” problem. The solution is simple: put a stitch marker, safety pin or paper clip on the right side of your work so you won’t forget. If you use a safety pin, and you know you’re going to lay the work down for awhile, you can write a note–“Row 5 of pattern is done”–and stick it on the pin.

The very first sweater I made was from a book called “The Yarn Girls’ Guide to Simple Knits” by Julie Carles. These patterns are explained VERY simply!!! After that I made my mom a cardigan from “Paton’s Next Steps Number 3: Create Your Own Cardigan”.



ooo thank you for this, I shall have to look this up :slight_smile:

Many thanks again !

The Paton’s title is actually a booklet from a set of booklets from 1-8. Each “step” is a different skill to learn. I have just about all of them and I love them.