How NOT to Knit! Tips to save any knitter a headache

How Not to Knit

When I was 13, my best friend and I decided we wanted to learn how to knit. This was in the early 00s, and the home crafter trend was just starting to pick up. However, we were mostly into this idea because we could make iPod cases and fingerless gloves and skinny scarves. OH, THE SKINNY SCARVES!!

Lorelai Gilmore, Queen of the Early 2000s Skinny Scarf
Lorelai Gilmore, Queen of the Early 2000s Skinny Scarf

Now this was before YouTube (yes, there was a time before YouTube) so we learned to knit from this thing called a book. We had no one to check our form or videos to compare our style against. I have tiny hands so, of course, I learned wrong but just right enough to be able to produce results. Slow, painful knitting results.

But the results were satisfactory enough, and I enjoyed the thrill of creating things to such a degree that I was hooked. (Get it, hooked? I guess this would be a funnier pun if this post were about crochet. But, alas, I only knit. And “needled” doesn’t mean much in this context.)

So I kept knitting! For years! Fifteen of them so far, to be exact. Along the way, I have made innumerable scarves (including the first one my husband has ever worn!), a few shawls, several gloves, assorted regrettable bags, one or two blankets, and one embarrassing bikini that never saw the light of day.

There are lots of resources out there to help new knitters learn HOW to knit, but I thought it might do some good to document how NOT to knit, as I have explored the subject quite thoroughly. My findings are as follows:

1. Don’t rest the needles in your lap.

This is honestly the most critical advice I can provide. When I started knitting, my hands weren’t big or agile enough to properly hold both needles at once. To compensate, I prop my left needle up in my lap and move my left hand forward and back over the needle with the yarn as I work. Sometimes my finger / thumb get into a good groove moving the yarn, but often times I’m choking up on the yarn and compensating over and over again. My right hand is active and holds the needle that I’m building onto, which is the correct form so at least I’m half-right.

The main reason I warn against this poor form is because it’s awkward as hell and slows me down significantly. I also find that my left hand cramps up fairly often and I can’t knit for longer than about 40 – 50 minutes at a time. On top of that, it’s really tough to knit in a confined space like on an airplane. Just learn the right way and stick to it, even if it seems tough at first. 

2. Don’t freestyle a design.

I’m not saying don’t ever freestyle a design, but at least wait until you know some different stitches and can plan things out before you get started. I ran into this on the aforementioned, ill-fated bikini project. Knowing how to shape a piece by adding and dropping stitches is not enough!

I really recommend first getting familiar with basic stitches, then some cool textures, and then exploring patterns. Once you start looking at patterns you will see some more advanced vocabulary being used. Don’t be like me and see words you don’t understand and then run. Take the time to learn the tools you will need to be a successful knitter long-term.

This is easier now, of course, with the internet. It is your friend. Use the internet. Use it to establish your baseline familiarity with the process of knitting first, then use it to follow your first pattern. After you feel comfortable with a few different patterns, especially when you have to knit multiple pieces together, THEN freestyle your own. 

I guess what I’m saying here is pretty basic, but still something I wasn’t able to do myself: walk before you run.

3. Don’t abandon a project for years and then just pick it back up.

This one should seem obvious. While the act of actually knitting is a bit like riding a bike, each individual project is not. How could I just abandon a project?! You may ask. See above about how slowly I knit. I have a relatively short attention span and have started and stopped many projects over the years.

The one I have most recently picked back up (and have since abandoned again, lol) is some misled vest idea. In this case, I quit it because it’s going to require a lot of work and also I had no real vision. On top of that, I think the yarn I picked for it is kind of ugly. Whoops. 

Anyway, I think the real culprit in abandoning projects is how wide they are. The wider each row, the slower you see progress. When progress isn’t quickly and readily apparent, I get bored. When I get bored, I quit! The danger here is that I forget the stitch pattern or, in some extreme cases, what I was trying to make in the first place. 

I think the better lesson here might actually be: if you’re tempted to abandon a project, really abandon it. Rip out the stitches and save the yarn for something else. Because if you aren’t feeling inspired or invested in finishing the project, you won’t! So don’t force it. Move onto the next project that you actually want to work on instead. 

4. Don’t knit while drinking.

Again, somewhat obvious and not a hard rule, but knitting while intoxicated is not the best way to knit. There is no Hemingway-esque charm, no pithy rule about “Knit Drunk. Tie all the ends in and haphazardly try to make it look good sober.” Look, I absolutely understand the temptation, but I really must warn against this.

Why? Because you’ll lose count. Or you’ll drop a stitch. Or because you’ll inadvertently add three extra stitches but in weird increments across the piece and it will be impossible to get back into a normal pattern. Well, maybe not impossible. I was recently able to slowly get a project back on track after several drink-happy rows, but it wasn’t easy. 

So while it may be tempting to sip & stitch, do so with caution. Your project’s success hangs in the balance!

Well, there you have it. That’s how I would not knit, based 100% on personal experience. Let’s see if I can take my own advice now. ;o)

How NOT to Knit, tips and recommendations from someone who learned the wrong way first.
How NOT to Knit, tips and recommendations from someone who learned the wrong way first.


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