February 15, 2016

Wool & The Gang teach me to knit (sort of)

Ah, knitting. I never learned during my geeky adolescence (surprising, I know), but in recent years have been faced on a daily basis with incontrovertible proof that all the cool girls are doing it. First off, I just want to be in the cool girl gang. Second, I do see the appeal – having something you can do without an heavy machine in front of you, being able to craft and watch TV,  lots more lovely things to buy and pet and stash.

And thus it was that for Christmas, I asked for a Wool and The Gang kit… and as chance would have it, I ended up with a Rushmore scarf kit (I KNOW!).

TA DA! A monster purple scarf, just like I like them.

Wool and the Gang Rushmore scarf

I eagerly started on Boxing Day, on absolutely mahoosive wooden knitting needles that I’ve never even seen before. Plus side: I love chunky knits. Down side: they’re a little unwieldy, and I ended up contorting myself to stop them flying off in all directions.

Pretty soon, though, I, errrrr… realised something was up. Yeah. This was meant to be seed stitch, but turned into something else every foot or so.

Wool and the Gang Rushmore scarfLuckily I am surrounded by ladies who knit, so I popped over to my friend’s house, she frogged the whole thing, and I started again. I was pretty confused because I thought I’d followed the instructions, and surprisingly it turned out that several steps of the instructions were actually wrong and that was messing me up (not that it should have looked like the above photo, regardless). Has anyone else found this with Wool and the Gang? They have such a cool brand and beginner-friendly image that I was surprised (and even now I wonder if it was me, but several knitting friends have confirmed not)… but something to bear in mind if you’re starting with this one!

Anyhow, once I started… I didn’t stop! Yep, I sat in front of the TV and knitted this in probably about 5 hours, which was pretty satisfying for someone used to sewing timelines.
Wool and the Gang Rushmore scarf

The verdict? I’m not sure. I don’t think I’m bitten by the knitting bug yet, but I also feel I’m very close… But over to you, dear knitting readers. What would be a good second project? I like the idea of trying something harder than a scarf, but knitting jargon also freaks me out!

56 thoughts on “Wool & The Gang teach me to knit (sort of)

  1. Tamara S says:

    Ooo, that yarn looks luscious! And who doesn’t love purple? ???? As to a second project, I’ve always subscribed to the idea of just diving in to make whatever you want to make! Yes, there is jargon, but probably no more than with sewing. And you’re smart, you’ll figure it out, right? That said, depending on your goals, if you want something small or a way to learn and practice different stitches, I’d recommend some dish cloths or face cloths. You’d work in cotton, most likely, which isn’t very stretchy, but the projects are small, easily portable, and inexpensive. I’m an ex-knitter (an ex due to carpal tunnel) and I used to knit everything but especially loved lace. I do so miss knitting. Whatever you do, have fun with it!

    1. This probably sounds stupid, but I don’t think I realised you could knit in cotton! Is it like string?!

      1. Sarah Bailey says:

        Cotton yarn is easy to find, it’s not really string, it comes in various yarn weights, but it feels… stiffer, less glossy. More utilitarian. It gets better with washing though. Great for anything that might get wet, or summer-wear, or for sensitive skin. All the same rules apply re: quality, weights, how to use, although I recommend metal needles as the wood ones might be a bit too grabby unless they’re polished.

  2. Betsy says:

    Great first project – and so stylish! I would suggest trying something on smaller needles as they are easier to use. Also, circular needles are my favorite! Since you have knitting friends, they can teach you how to knit in the round so you can make a cowl, either a small one or an infinity cowl. My second project (several years ago) was the Irish Hiking scarf. It was fun because it was my first cabling pattern and looked much harder than it was to make! It’s a free pattern on Ravelry, so make sure you sign up for an account. Good luck and have fun knitting!

    1. Circular needles make people look so cool but they also confuse my little mind… But I guess there’s no way to learn other than giving it a go! I hear about people who sew “accidentally” starting with things are meant to be hard and because they don’t know they’re meant to be hard they breeze straight through them… maybe I can do the same thing with knitting!

      1. Somi says:

        I love your energy. I just started knitting myself and went all out. metal needles, circular needles, etc. Finished a hat over the weekend and used a methods I learned from a few tutorials to customize. Even learned using the continental method.
        The way I see it… as an absolute beginner, you’re learn from scratch so might as well learn the way the pros do it so you don’t have to learn again.
        Cool blog – can’t wait to see what else you have posted.

  3. I have a knitting obsession and check out Pinterest for lots of good ideas. I agree with the cowl idea or another scarf with smaller needles. It is really not so hard and almost every step has a youtube video to help you out. It just takes practice and starting slow and easy. You can do it!!!

    1. My two favorite blogs are Mason-Dixon Knitting and Fringe Association. I bet you would like them, too, especially the last one as she sews and knits – she just started two years ago and now has her own business!

  4. smonakey says:

    Welcome to knitting! You’ll become a yarn addict, yet! I second the Ravelry account, but only if you’ve got gobs of time to spare 🙂

  5. Jane says:

    I’d actually recommend a hat as a next project. There are lots of patterns on Ravelry that just use knits and purls, it’s a great way to learn knitting in the round & decreasing, and still comes together pretty quickly. Hats are also great canvasses if you want to branch out to more advanced skills like cabling or lace – there’s a lot of versatility for one little garment.

    1. ajlobster says:

      I was also going to suggest a hat – when I was just starting to knit, I liked hats because they were quick but incorporated enough techniques to be a good learning experience!

    2. Janet Perry says:

      A hat on smaller needles with finer yarn is a great next project since you’ll learn increasing and decreasing which will give you lots of options for the third and following projects. You are hooked and will continue to love it!

  6. carly927 says:

    The Craftsy Knit Lab is a really great beginner class/project. Beyond that, I find I’m much more committed to projects when I want the final product, so I jumped right into sweaters.

  7. My second project was the slouchy shroom hat from knitty. It’s really cute and not as hard as it looked. Good luck!

  8. knitmo says:

    A hat would be a great next project. You can pick up a skill or two with that. Scarves are a lot of work (if you do them in something other than super bulky) a hat would be less commitment, for sure.

    I always worked to learn a new skill or two with each project when I was learning to knit. My third project was a pair of socks!

    I’d recommend joining ravelry.com. There’s a wealth of information. The pattern database is amazing — you can see other projects knitters made with the same pattern, see what yarns they’ve used, read their project notes and find out where pattern errors might be. You search capabilities of pattern searching is amazing.

    1. LinB says:

      And you can do a square, sew up the sides and sew across in the top for a really fast, easy hat. Or do about 100 stitches of worsted-weight yarn on size 5 or size 6 circular needles (more if you have a big head) and do 2-3 inches of K2P2 rib, then just go round and round in stockinette until hat is as deep as you want it. Bind off. Sew top closed across top, or in an X, or gather in a tight circle and add a pompom.

  9. Sarah Bailey says:

    This big hat tutorial would be a great second project. New skillz: circular needles, decreases, POM POM GOODNESS, ribbing, stockinette. I love my big hat. 😀 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23gmF0WFXdI

  10. Michelle says:

    YAY! Another knitter! I feel like knitting is experiencing a big upswing lately. I’m never doing what the cool kids are doing, and yet, it does seem knitting is suddenly cool again. It’s a real bummer that the instructions with a pattern as simple as this were wrong. Have you joined Raverly yet? There are tons of patterns there to spark inspiration. I’m a firm believer that you should knit whatever you feel compelled to knit. The desire/want to complete a given project should help to push you through the learning curve, especially if you have knitter support available. That said. Hats are a great place to get comfortable knitting in the round, working decreases, and to play with new stitch patterns. Have fun!

  11. After knitting my own custom sweaters for years I don’t think I could go back to store bought. It’s just like making your own clothes! The finished project is so much better that the time and expense are well worth it. So I vote you try again and join Ravelry. That’s a rabbit hole of yarn-y fun!

  12. When I first learned to knit, I started with a scarf too. My second project was a hat, and I would definitely recommend that as I’ve had the knitting bug for 3 years straight at this point 🙂 Seriously shame on WATG for putting out a pattern with an error. There’s nothing more frustrating when you’ve just start out. I tried to knit a shawl after knitting for a few months, and I kept having problems. When I looked into the reviews where I got the pattern, everyone else was having the same issues – the lace chart was wrong! It really burned me, and now I always check reviews before starting a pattern. There’s nothing worse than trying to learn something new and running into problems that even experienced knitters have – an experienced knitter knows how to fix it, a beginner doesn’t, and that feeling of failure will keep a beginner from wanting to press on. *End rant* So yeah, I’d recommend a hat, lol. Just a simple one – I used the Basic Hat pattern by Ooo Baby Knits (it’s a free pattern on Ravelry). You’ll learn how to knit in the round which opens up even more options. Also I find it much harder to work with huge yarn, so this would give you a chance to try regular worsted weight which is so much more manageable.

    Anyway, yay for knitting! I hope you keep with it – it’s so relaxing!

  13. Mags says:

    A hat, cowl or simple triangular shawl! A smaller sized project made with a less chunky yarn will knit up reasonably quickly and it won’t be the end of the world to unravel a few rows if you make a mistake. I usually browse through finished projects on Ravelry to get an idea of how people found the pattern instructions. It takes time to be able to read a knitting pattern and visualize how the instructions will shape your project. It also takes time to be able to read your knitting and understand how to fix mistakes when they happen. I have been knitting for over a decade but I still need to turn to youtube tutorials for new techniques,

    If the volume of patterns available on Ravelry is a bit intimidating you could look at the purl soho website. They have some really nice and simple knitting patterns!

  14. reinharn85 says:

    That looks great! I love seed stitch. There is waaaaaay less jargon than with sewing. I like to think of knitting like this. It’s mostly just two stitches, knit and purl, which you’ve obviously mastered. The rest is just a combination of those two stitches with a couple of other frilly things like yarn overs, changing colors, cabling, etc. I would recommend doing either a hat or some fingerless gloves. Either way I would recommend learning a technique called magic loop. It lets you use a long circular needle for any diameter object. This way you only need one set of needles, not a set of straight, set of double points, and sets of all different diameters of circular needles. It can save you some serious cash and I find that it eliminates that clunky feeling with long straight needles or if your knitting something heavy like an afghan you don’t have all of that weight on the needles.

    Also check out sheep and wool festivals. My favorite is Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool in Rhinebeck, New York. there is tons of yarn obviously, spinning wheels, looms, Navajo weaving, tatting, good food, and tons of fiber animals my favorite being the angora rabbits and paco-vicunas.

  15. Laura says:

    The scarf is lovely! I also agree with the hat as a second project or what about a small toy? They are pretty gratifying to knit. You don’t have to worry about gauge and there are increases, decreases, seaming and potentially working in the round depending on the pattern you choose. Plus they grow really quickly because of their size. Ravelry has oodles of creatures!

  16. Thanks for all the hat suggestions! Think I know what I’ll be doing when the temperature is -40 in Boston…

  17. Fiona says:

    Welcome to the knitting community! I love reading about your sewing exploits and you have given me lots of inspiration to up my sewing game. I’m also very into knitting having been taught by my grandmother as a small child but didn’t really do much knitting until a few years ago until I discovered Ravelry! I love knitting cardigans and jumpers and there are sooooo many great patterns available – once you start it’s addictive plus there are so many resources out there don’t be put off by the terminology.

  18. toni says:

    While I don’t knit, I do crochet. I also think a hat or shawl would be a great second project. I’ve crocheted with fabric I strips sewn together, so anything somewhat resembling strips or string will do. Welcome to the cool ???? girls club! Lol

  19. Tanya Maile says:

    I love it! Great job! 🙂 I’ve made about 20 scarves now and haven’t progressed further than that, although I’ve done some different designs. Anyway, I am obviously no help at all!

  20. Annamari says:

    Welcome to the knitting world!
    I would recommend you to join Ravelry and you will never ever stop knitting from now on 🙂 (which of course will not affect your sewing. As a knitter myself I really want to learn to sew in the next 2 years when I am at home with my newborn son).

  21. My first project (after a little sampler) was a pair of socks because I thought I wanted something with a bit more excitement than a scarf. That was more than 30 years ago and I was addicted from that first pair of (well fitting) socks 🙂 As for my tips: knit something on smaller needles (which is better for your wrists anyway), choose something you really want to have and join Ravelry where you will find tons of inspiration. Welcome to the knitting clan 🙂

  22. Jennie says:

    Loving the purple yarn!! I would highly recommend this book http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/071532327X/sr=1-14/qid=1455630286/ref=olp_product_details?_encoding=UTF8&me=&qid=1455630286&sr=1-14 by Claire Crompton. I learnt sooooo much knitting projects from this book. I’ve not found any mistakes in it and little accessories make for lovely little projects to have on the go. I am slightly addicted to knitting gloves, although I knit them in the round on dpn (double pointed needles) so there are no annoying seams. Good luck with your knitting adventures.

  23. Thanks for the book recco Jennie!

  24. Anne says:

    This suggestion isn’t helpful for learning to knit, but http://www.colinette.com has wonderful yarns if you are going to continue knitting. You can get some of their yarns here, but a lot of their stuff isn’t available (or I can’t find it). The company is Welsh, so you could get someone to buy it in the UK and send it to you privately. Thanks for mentioning emmaonesock in your blog. I hadn’t known of them, but I love what I’ve bought from them.

  25. Sarah says:

    How about wrist warmers? They are like fingerless gloves. You make them flat then sew the side seam, leaving a thumb hole. Mattress stitch in knitting is like ladder stitch in sewing. I suffer from reynauds and my hand often get painfully cold but love wrist warmers as I can still craft whilst wearing them.
    My first knitting project was a scarf, knitted whilst on duty at a polling station during a 16hr election day. Its exactly the same colour as yours, my fave colour!

  26. Sharon says:

    Cute scarf! How about a simple hat next? Have you seen Susan B Anderson’s new book to teach kids to knit? It has great basics and some cute projects. I am learning how to knit after years of being a Wanna-Be and my first hat was the very simple Rikke by Sarah Young (free on Ravelry). I am working on a second and learning to change colors from the book. I am also attempting socks.. Useful, without having to fit perfectly 😉 Tin Can Knits has a great series for project progressions. So little time and so many project possibilities! Have fun!!

  27. Andrea Adams says:

    I love knitting! The downside of sewing is that you can’t exactly work on your dress while in line for the bank so having a portable way to be crafty is always a plus. I’m a self taught knitter and found this book very helpful when learning:

    The Chicks with Sticks Guide to Knitting: Learn to Knit with more than 30 Cool, Easy Patterns https://www.amazon.com/dp/0823006751/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_awd_wYoXwb9FR6W3P

    Hope you stick with it, and keep warm! I remember how brutal Boston winters can be 🙂

  28. Grace says:

    That color is gorgeous! I get the packaging appeal and cool image of WATG, but its a terrible idea to learn on big needles. It’s so hard on your hands and difficult to get that muscle memory down with over-sized tools. I recommend aiming for something in a worsted weight, size 8 needles for your next project. I always recommend wristers/mitts or a cowl as a first or 2nd project because they are essentially rectangles, but way shorter than a scarf so you won’t get bored. You can pick a pattern with some basic increases and decreases if you want it to be slightly more advanced.

  29. Linda Micheel says:

    Welcome to knitting! I just started knitting again after years and years of not knitting and I find it is really addictive. There are a lot of free patterns for everything on Knit Picky patterns from AllFreeKnitting. You can eyeball the patterns (which are labeled easy – intermediate – etc) and pick out things you’d like to try to learn. I’d also recommend looking over some books for patterns and stitches you might be interested in and buying a couple. There are also many good tutorials on YouTube.
    I prefer circular needles, specifically bamboo ones, because it’s easier to keep the work on, you can tie the needles together when you take a break so nothing falls off, and they come in various lengths, which is useful when you are doing different projects. I just sent Anna O’D (my daughter-in-law) a couple of scarves for the cold and a ladybug hat for the baby. I tend to knit for others more than for myself, and I always have some project going because it keeps my hands busy and soothes my soul. 🙂 The danger in knitting is going into fabulous yarn stores and buying way too much, just because it is beautiful and feels good! I especially love natural yarns. I learn something new with every project (ask me about my recent bobble adventure).

  30. Mary Ann says:

    There are a couple of groups on Ravelry that I really like, but my fave is “Designed by Vera Sanon” aka sunfunliving on Ravelry. I love how Vera designs knitwear-they are simple, elegant, wearable, and usually knit top down which has the advantage of try-ons as you go, AND NO seams once your’e done. Vera is a pretty well known knitter, so check her designs out.

  31. Jennie says:

    Welcome to the knit side! How about some garter stitch wristers? Cast on 30 or so stitches, knit stitch back and forth until it comfortably wraps around your hand. Seam a short bit from mid hand to thumb, leave a thumb hole and seam up the rest. Quick and satisfying knit!

  32. Andrea says:

    I don’t knit, but I crochet, and I really got into that when I discovered cotton color gradient yarn. That stuff is amazing! It has all the great characteristics of cotton – it’s fairly easy to work with (although it’s thin), it isn’t scratchy like some wools or acrylics, it doesn’t stretch, and it’s perfect for lacy summer accessories like shawls or scarves. And those colors! There are skeins/ cakes with very subtle gradients going from light to dark within one hue, or rainbow colors, or other cool color combinations. I just love these yarns!

    There are several different brands (and I’m not associated with any of these in any way). My favorite is http://www.wollfactory.de/lola/index.php. They’re based in Germany, which is convenient for me as I can save on shipping costs (but probably more expensive outside the EU), they have a fantastic range of colors and yarn weights (3-ply to 8-ply), and on top of that you can even create your own custom color gradients that they’ll make to order (I got one for my birthday that matches the colors I chose for bead embroidering a silk cocktail dress I sewed last summer – whoohoo!).
    But there’s also http://www.wolltraum.com/ (Swiss) and http://traumgarne.eu/ (German). If I remember correctly, I read in a crochet group on facebook that there are also American-based brands selling this type of yarn. If you’re interested, I could ask in that group and post some links…

    Oh, and I just love reading about your ventures into different crafts and all the beautiful things you’re making! I also love trying out new crafts and techniques, from paper crafts to jewellery making and from cake decorating to photography. And just when I thought I’d seen everything, you wrote about that sandal-making workshop you took. Brilliant!!! 🙂

  33. Melise Gerber says:

    Definitely make your next project a hat–hats are great early projects because they have elements that seem super scary (double pointed needles and/or circular needles) but they are really actually quite simple to make, plus they usually only require a knit stitch or a purl stitch (but not both) so you get good practice in. Go onto Ravelry, go to the pattern tab, and use the advanced search feature. Search for free knitting patterns for hats, and then scroll down and choose patterns with five stars and an easy rating. There are tons of free patterns that are really well written and can teach you while you work on them.

    Make sure to experiment with yarn and needles–much like using a ballpoint needle for knits, you want to use a needle that works well with the type of yarn you are using. If the yarn is slippery (silk, bamboo, some cottons, some alpacas), you want to use a needle that is less slippery, like bamboo. For “stickier” yarn (most wools), you might like the slickness of a metal needle, or rosewood. If you have a good yarn store near you, go in and ask them to try out some different needle styles on the yarn you buy, to see which ones you like best.

    As for knitting straight (scarf, many garments) with circular needles, it really seems weirder than it really is. Most of the movement when you knit is related to the points of the needles. Imagine taking your two regular knitting needles, and tying a long string between the knobs at the end of each needle. That might keep you from knitting with your elbows flapping out like a chicken, but as long as the string was long enough to allow you to move the points, you should still be able to knit just fine. Well, that’s what knitting with circular needles is like–you have the two pointy ends, you just have a long cord between the needles instead of the knobs and string tying them together.

    It is best to have a knitting friend around to help you learn, but don’t underestimate the value on on-line videos for helping you learn a new technique. I highly recommend knittinghelp.com, and of course YouTube–Lucy Neatby is a great instructor and her hair is purple, so you can’t beat that!


  35. Melise Gerber says:

    Oh, just two more cents…now that you have mastered seed stitch, you have all of the tools you need to knit anything that you want. Seriously, all knitting is just various permutations of the knit stitch or the purl stitch–as you keep trying new things, you will be shocked at how true this is. Impress yourself–pick a project with cables for your next project–a basic cable is unbelievably simple!

    I would recommend holding off on a garment for a little bit however. It’s not that you can’t make a perfectly good sweater as a beginner project, but as a Curvy Girl, the types of sweaters that most beginners make are not the most flattering. Adding shaping to a sweater is also simple–it only takes increasing (which, at its most basic, is knitting twice in the same loop) and decreasing (again, at its most basic, you stick your needle tip through two stitches at one time and draw through a single loop).

    The only tricky part about shaping in knitting is the way the increases and decrease stack up and are repeated to help the final project better fit our curvy shapes. And keeping track can be a bit daunting.

  36. Diane says:

    Knitting is wonderfully addictive once you get past some of the frustrations of learning. There are a ton of you tube videos out there and sounds like you’ve already got a couple good spots to check. A hat is a great smaller project to try out circular needles on or maybe a cowl. Ravelry is great resource for online patterns and their search engine is fantastic for sur.

  37. Katy Gall says:

    Check out Stitch House in Dorchester, they are a lovely yarn store (+ some sewing/quilting). I personally can’t stand knitting with huge needles and find medium-sized needles (5-8) projects a lot easier on my hands.

  38. Alessa says:

    Ooh, great scarf, I love the colour and yay for machine names! 😉
    I second the idea of a hat as a second project. Fingerless mittens are another idea. Ravelry has hundreds of great free patterns. 🙂

  39. Congrats! I recommend a shawl (to be used as a funky scarf) or a cowl. You can practice stitches in both without panicking (trust me). 🙂 Lovely job!

  40. Donna says:

    I think you should stick to the chunky wool and large needles as your project will grow quickly, making you less likely to get bored. Look at the chunky patterns in store, possibly a jumper and try something with a back ground pattern something similar to what you did with your scarf and another pattern down the front or down each breast side. Read the pattern before you start to get a fair idea of what you will be doing. You wont go far wrong with chunky, when buying your wool always make sure that all the balls are the same dye lot number. You did a gantastic job of the scarf!

  41. tinygoldenpins says:

    Make a hat. if you don’t understand the jargon, just google it. Hats are easy, relaxing, quick, and cute cute cute!!!!

  42. Erin says:

    A lot of good advice above. I just wanted to throw out the idea of reading “Knitting Without Tears” or just about anything by Elizabeth Zimmerman. I love her writing voice and after trying to learn and relearn knitting a few times she helped me ‘get’ knitting differently, both in terms of the act of knitting and conceptualizing the architecture of knitted things.

  43. The scarf came out beautifully! The most important thing is that you choose something you feel passionate about making. Knitting is a slow hobby and there isn’t time to make something because you feel like you should make it or it would be a good learning experience. It’s much better to learn on the fly than to kill your ardor by knitting things you aren’t passionate about. Browse on Ravelry or through your knitter friend’s magazines and books and choose something you think is fantastic. That is the surest path to knitting success.

  44. Jamie B says:

    And you thought fabric hoarding was bad; just wait.
    Another vote for circular needles! I love them!they have really helped my knitting (I’m somewhat new, too) as I find them easier to work than straight. And yes try smaller needles. ????
    And for Ravelry. Awesome and it’s free.

    Found WATG to be so-so. My sister and I did their free sweater pattern. You had to follow their methods (I did a lot of video watching) My sweater turned out wearable; not so much for my sisters. Wish they did PDF patterns.

    What has helped me is my local yarn shop did a mystery scarf-along. It was great to help overcome decision paralysis and try new things; it’s really helped my learning curve.

    I also love Untangling Knots. She has some great insight and great sweater patterns.

    To build on what she said above ???? about a slow hobby, I do a lot of knitting/crochet on the bus (which can be a challenge and an Olympic event at times) but it’s nice as its for a short time and I end up looking forward to my knitting time.

Let me know what you think!