April 4, 2016

On being a beginner; also, I made a hat!

There’s something thrilling about being a beginner. As a classic ENTP personality type I’m always looking for new things to do, but it’s only recently that I realised that a big part of the reason for that is that I really enjoy being a beginner, starting with absolutely no idea of how something works and facing a steep learning curve.
Brooklyn Tweed Fjord Hat

Sure, it’s gratifying to be intermediate or advanced at a craft, honing your skills and able to produce things which people swoon over. But as a beginner, there’s so much potential to get excited about, and so many new ways to think about the world that rarely come up when you’re experienced. Every time I do an art class I find myself quite literally seeing the world differently. When I’ve moved to a new country (9 times!) I’ve found it’s so exciting discovering a new neighbourhood, and knowing you have tons of exploration and surprise to come. Perhaps this reflects my optimistic nature, and the fact I tend to relish change rather than resist it (for the most part), but nothing fires me up quite as much.

And so, to knitting. After my triumphant but massively chunky purple scarf, I asked for advice here and was thrilled by all the suggestions pouring out of my knitting compadres. The general consensus was that I should make a hat, on smaller needles, so I pootled over to basically the only other knitting company I know, Brooklyn Tweed, and found the Fjord.

It seemed EXTREMELY HARD but everyone reassured me it was actually easy (p’shaw!), and thus it was decided. Pattern downloaded, I got my supplies over at the all-new Gather Here (just round the corner from my studio – so convenient! so dangerous for the wallet!) – I chose some Quince & Co worsted wool in cream, and picked up the various needles. Which makes it sound like I actually knew what I was doing – no, the kindly assistant in GH did it for me. Needles attached with plastic tubing, no less – all very high tech.

Brooklyn Tweed Fjord Hat

Carrie started me off with the long-tail cast on – so wondrous! Like a cat’s cradle in the playground. I then proceeded to knit, rip out, knit, rip out and knit a good two dozen times. Ah, learning. By the time I got to using Double Pointed Needles I was ready for a panic attack, but I watched a variety of Midwestern ladies on YouTube demonstrating the technique and just went for it. I adopted the very sophisticated approach of randomly doing decreases when I had too many stitches; I am led to believe that this might account for why my hat is slightly wonky. But there you go. I also had to learn to crochet for the top bit! How delightful.

And here we are, my lovely Brooklyn Tweed Fjord hat with tons of dropped stitches, wonky decreases and a bit of a hole at the top. But you know what? I’ve been wearing it nonstop. And there’s yet another joy of the beginner: even though you know that what you’ve made is pretty shoddy, quality wise, there’s an irrepressible joy at creating something for the first time. I love my amateur hat! And I look forward to being a knitting beginner for quite a bit more.

What are you a beginner at? Do you enjoy it as much as me? Also, now I have made A Scarf and A Hat, what should I do next?!

Brooklyn Tweed Fjord Hat


22 thoughts on “On being a beginner; also, I made a hat!

  1. Mary Flynn says:

    Check you out! I learned how to knit from the venerable Debbie Stoller’s Stitch ‘n Bitch. I mostly knit baby gifts now — they’re very portable and so cute.

  2. Alessa says:

    Wow, you’re about as confident a beginner as I’ve ever seen! If it’s slowly getting into spring in your part of the world, too, you might be interested in knitting a little shrug or bolero, in a cotton or bamboo rayon yarn? If you’re very confident, you can do one with sleeves or use a stitch pattern with yarn overs, so it results in a lace pattern. 🙂

  3. Annamari says:

    socks. That should be the next step 🙂

  4. anaenriquez says:

    Socks socks socks! I started knitting a couple of years ago (with a class at gather here) and did socks for my third project, after a dishcloth and a hat. I highly recommend the Rye Socks from Tin Can Knits. They’re made in worsted weight, which some people scorn, but it’s really nice for seeing your stitches and learning from your mistakes. And they go quickly.

  5. Maggie says:

    Fingerless mitts.

  6. Bethany says:

    I’m a new sewist who has been knitting for years. I would recommend fingerless mitts and more hats and scarves before moving on to socks. Have you found Ravelry yet? It’s amazing. You can search for beginner patterns of every description and see actual projects that people made and read about any trouble they had. It’s also a wonderful community of people who love (my original typo was live, which works too) textiles and making things by hand. I’m bethanyfos on Raverly. Say Hi! if you sign up.

  7. LinB says:

    Hurray for you for facing your fears and learning a new thing! Should you ever get to a point at which you have nothing but a wan fondness for and a faint shame of the hat, turn in into your family’s Hat of Shame. That is, whomever would formerly have been placed “in the doghouse” for an indeterminate period of time must now wear the Hat of Shame for some less-lengthy period of time. We found this very effective when our child was a toddler. (It was a really ugly hat.)

  8. Clio says:

    Hurray for you!! When I was a beginner, no one told me that socks are considered difficult. So, I threw myself into sock knitting and haven’t looked back. That said, socks are not usually a quick knit. A simple-ish lace scarf (like a feathers and fans pattern) would also be a good learning experience and teach you things like reading a lace chart/pattern, yarn overs, twisted stitches (knitting and purling thru the back loop) and other lace stitches.

  9. Charlotte says:

    Nice! I both love & hate being a total beginner – so frustrating but so satisfying too! I’d say an easy sweater or cardi in a DK or Aran weight. Hannah Fettig has some nice straightforward patterns you’d have no problem with. Otherwise try a simple pattern, such as fingerless mitts, that incorporates a new technique like cables.

  10. Janet says:

    Love the ivory colour on you. I agree there is definitely something thrilling about being a beginner – I love the way that possibilities just open up in front of you, and the fast learning curve on a new skill. I am also the proud owner of a wonky hat that I’ve worn to death this winter. I’m new to knitting too – and really enjoying a learning craft I can actually take around with me. For a next project, do you know anyone with a baby on the way or a small child? I’ve made two children’s cardigans since my hat and the second one has turned out really well. The first one was a bit wibbly in places. I’m hoping to work up to making a sweater for me…

  11. Helen says:

    I agree with Maggie, fingerless mitts.

  12. Personally I’d make another hat because hats are a quick and easy project for me. Cast on a multiple of 4 (84 or 96 work especially well for worsted or aran weight yarn), knit 2-4 inches of k2p2 rib, then a hand’s width (4 or 5 inches) of stst, then decrease in descending order k7 k2tog, k6 k2tog etc until you’re down to just 6-8 stitches, break the yarn and thread it through the remaining stitches. Wear slouchy with the 4 inch brim single or fold it up for a snug fit on cold days. However if your heart is yearning for greener pastures check out Purl Soho’s catalog or Tin Can Knits for ideas. Once you’ve knit a hat, you can do anything, but I might wait on fingering weight socks. Maybe try house socks in dk or worsted, or slippers? Definitely join ravelry if you haven’t already. You’re a knitter now!


  13. Rachel says:

    Boot cuffs are great small projects to practice different types of stitches.

  14. I’m a beginning weaver (using a frame loom I made myself from a knitting board, actually). I keep thinking about becoming a beginning knitter, but there are so many other things I want to begin first. I think a lined knit bag would be fun and useful.

  15. knitmo says:

    Socks are the next logical step. You practice knitting in the round, a bit of ribbing, a bit of mindless (or will soon be mindlessness as you work on the leg/foot on DPNs or circs) and you get to learn the magic of turning a heel. You well feel like a bad ass knitter when you’ve turned your first heel, and still feel really amazing after you’ve turned your 46th heel!

    If you’ve knit a hat, scarf and a pair of socks basically means there very little in the knitting pattern world that is beyond your grasp. If you can knit, purl, increase/decrease there is absolutely nothing skill wise in knitting that is beyond your abilities. It’s all order of operation, and different fibers to get varying results.

  16. Christina says:

    Love your approach to decreases, I must adopt it in my next project. Your hat looks fab. I enjoy learning something new but I find it also quite stressful because I have unrealistic expectations. I am exploring knit fabric, which I find difficult to work with. With regards to your knitting, I would go for the kill next and make a lacy scarf using big needles and soft luxurious yarn (I really like Rowan Kid silk). Quick to knit, no fancy techniques and absolutely beautiful to wear in Spring. Or autumn if it takes a little longer 🙂 Oh, and if you use yarn with mohair fibre, mistakes are literally invisible.

  17. I’m going to go against the grain and say sweater. Because hand knit sweaters are the best.

  18. Jane says:

    Your new hat looks fabulous! Excellent work, and the wonkiness of early projects is part of their charm. I’d suggest knitting Another Hat, but different – hats are excellent canvases for a lot of techniques, like cables and lace. If you don’t have a Ravelry account, I’d recommend signing up both for logging your projects and for OODLES of knitting patterns to get an idea of what’s possible.

  19. Well done on the hat, that’s on my conquer list for later this year. Last year I knit my first pair of socks and I can’t stop knitting them. I used a book my mum bought me called ‘Knit Socks!’ 17 Classic Patterns for Cosy Feet by Betsy Lee McCarthy, It was so easy to knit and I’m a beginner knitter. There is nothing like knitting your first pair of socks and wearing them. Another pattern I love is Paton’s Kroy Spiral socks which is a free pattern from Patons and doesn’t require a gusset or heel turn as it’s knit as a tube.


  20. Dawn says:

    That hat looks awesome on you! Congrats!!! And I love the way you describe your enjoyment of the learning curve of a new skill! I never thought of it like that! Maybe that’s why I’m also always picking up new crafts and projects. 😛

  21. Frau Leo says:

    It looks great an certainly not wonky!
    How about a striped shawl or cowl next? Or mittens for the winter? Or even a simple sweater?

  22. I love your thoughts on being a beginner, and didn’t even realize I had the same feelings until I read your words. I always thought I just liked trying new things, but you’re right–it’s so gratifying to face that steep learning curve, and then feel like you’re making immense progress as you go from zero to actually being able to do cool things!

Let me know what you think!