News If I knew then what I know now - on the LoveKnitting blog

Published on February 5th, 2016 | by Merion


If I knew then what I know now…. knitting

Hindsight is a wonderful thing!  What would you tell your beginner knitter self, now that you’re more accomplished?  Merion looks back on those dropped stitches and ponders…

If I knew then what I know now - on the LoveKnitting blog


When you teach someone to knit, they (hopefully) benefit from all the lessons you have learnt along your knitting journey.   If you look back, what would you have told your garter stitching beginner self?   I’ve had a good think about the lessons I’ve learnt and these are some of the things I would say…

1. Start with bigger knitting needles and yarn!  I remember desperately trying to knit with tiny needles and yarn – if only someone had said, try it with bigger needles, you’ll be able to see the stitches and understand them!

2. Read your knitting!  I wish someone had taught me how to “read” my knitting earlier – understanding how increases and decreases work, and which way they lean – a little bit more than “the bump is the purl” – reading your knitting is the key to not being fearful of mistakes, and speeding up!

3. There’s no need to finish something you don’t like.  This is a big lesson.  Why do we constantly feel we should invest time in something we are not enjoying?  A dreadful book, a pattern that doesn’t look as nice as you thought  – an impulsive colour choice? A sage lesson for us all! If you start knitting something and you realise you’re a) not going to like it after all, and b) never going to wear it – then stop and frog! Nobody is going to judge you for changing your mind!


If I knew then what I know now - LoveKnitting blog

4. Choose colours you will actually wear.  We are often over-excited by colour and we make impulsive, snap decisions –  but, I would encourage you to stop and consider before you buy yarn for a garment:  what will it match in my wardrobe?  Will I wear it?  This might help to curb the purchases of lime green, pumpkin orange and bubblegum pink.

5. Knit the right size.  I would counsel anyone to always be realistic about size and fit.  Wool particularly will grow, and so try not to make something TOO big – and conversely, be realistic about making something big enough, after all that work, you’ll want your garment to fit. This is a time to be honest with yourself, measure, check the pattern size measurements and positive ease.

6. Knit what you WANT to knit, not what you think you should want to knit!  If you don’t like cables, don’t knit them.  If you like plain knitting, KNIT plain knitting!  If you love very fine yarn, knit with it.  It’s very easy to fall into competitive knitting in a group – I know that sounds bizarre – but it happens!  Knit what you love.

7. I wish I’d knitted more for myself than other people right from the start.  Selfish?  It does sound it – but suddenly I realise I have been knitting for years with little to show for it!

8. I wish I’d valued my knitting more highly – other people don’t love your knitting as much as you do!  Value your efforts – however much of a beginner you are!  Don’t talk yourself into a corner “it’s only my third attempt”, or “I’ve dropped lots of stitches” – learning to knit is a big achievement, so recognise your hard work!

9. You don’t have to learn EVERYTHING.  Some people will never knit socks or lace – that’s not because they can’t, it’s because they don’t want to…  I felt I should knit everything, and master as many skills as I could, but now I feel I don’t need to – the world will not stop because I have never mastered Entrelac.

What would you go back and say to yourself at the beginning of your knitting journey?  Please tell us in the comments!

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About the Author

Merion admits that her stash is wildly out of control, but has many projects in dream-form! She loves knitting, crochet, Shire horses, cake and garden swing-seats.

Last updated: August 8th, 2017.

39 Responses to If I knew then what I know now…. knitting

  1. Eva says:

    This is a great post!

  2. Celia Hunt says:

    I knit jumpers for greyhounds and greyhound rescue kennels. Currently on number 160.

  3. The_L says:

    Totally in agreement with #6 here–but I was the weird outlier! I started with doll clothes, which require fine yarn and tiny needles. My recommendation to anyone working with those small needles is USE READING GLASSES. EVERY TIME. They magnify your stitches so you can see what you’re doing better.

  4. Pamela says:

    These are such great tips, especially learning to read your knitting. I wish I tried to do that earlier. I wish I could tell myself to start by watching videos – not trying to learn from a book! It was a bit of a slow start but now I’ve picked up quite a few skills.

    Also, I started out my crafting life by learning to crochet first and then tried to pick up knitting. I think when you do that you view knitting as like the older, cooler sister of crochet and it seems very intimidating. But it’s not, it’s so approachable. So glad I learned!

    • Merion says:

      Hi Pamela –

      I quite agree – videos are much easier than learning from books!

      Merion and the LK team

    • Karen says:

      When people want to learn to knit and crochet, I advise them to learn crochet first. This is because there is only one “tool” to manipulate, mistakes are easily corrected, It works up fast, and you learn a lot of the same terminology (yarn size, gauge, etc.) that will transfer to knitting. It builds confidence in the beginner to actually complete something where mistakes are easily corrected.

  5. Carol Cowan says:

    Good knitting is spoiled by shoddy sewing up. Learn how to sew your seams neatly and take time over them.

    • Merion says:

      Hi Carol – quite right! In our fantastic Smiles team here, we have a lady called Claire who is fabulous at sewing up, and we are trying to persuade her to share her and tips in a blog post! So many knitters fall at this hurdle and it’s so important!

      Merion and the LK team x

  6. Kathy LeLievre says:

    “Get a larger size needle or hook” is the first thing I tell all beginners that need help that happen to be in whatever store I am in and they are all very grateful. Most say, “Is that why it’s so tight?” Then I explain tension. I tell them to get a durable light colored yarn when they are learning, one that can be ripped out and/or cut off and thrown away. If you can’t rip out your work you might not be a knitter or crocheter. And, yes, get a color you like. Plus I teach them how to read the band on the yarn. It seems none of them have ever looked at the band on a skein of yarn. It’s also helpful to have needles/hooks that are a contrasting color to your yarn.

    • Merion says:

      Great advice Kathy! Tension is difficult for new knitters – I always say there is no wrong tension, just wrong needle size!

      Thank you for sharing your handy tips!

      Merion and the LK team x

  7. Teri says:

    YouTube was made for knitters. So much great help out there and you can replay to your heart’s content until you catch on. Go for it!

    • Merion says:

      Hi Teri – thank goodness for video and being able to replay! I absolutely agree!

      Merion and the LoveKnitting team x

  8. Janet says:

    Think twice about knitting in dark colours if your eyesight isn’t perfect, or invest in a good lamp!

    • Merion says:

      Ah Janet, very true! I never knit in dark colours in the evening!

      Merion and the LoveKnitting team x

  9. Sharon says:

    I would tell myself to use the best quality yarn I could afford because I made the mistake when learning to knit to think knitting in cheap yarn wouldn’t matter but it’s better to use something good so it knits up well, maintains its shape and last so you can be proud of your efforts.

    • Merion says:

      Hi Sharon – thank you for making such an important point – to knit with the best yarn you can afford. Some people are not able to knit with wool for allergy reasons, but there are lots of affordable fibres now that are easy on the hands and blended too. You are investing a lot of time and energy into knitting something that you are hopefully going to wear or use!

      Merion and the LK team x

  10. Ree says:

    Stick at it – I had at least 3 right handed people try to teach me a leftie without much success but thanks to my nan having the patience of a saint and getting me to mirror her hands whilst sitting in front of her I learnt to knit I am now able to knit bespoke commissioned pieces

    • Merion says:

      Fantastic Ree!

      I have a left handed knitter friend, and she knits totally differently to me! That’s something we should feature on the blog to help any other left handed knitters! Thank you!

      Merion and the LK team x

    • Karen says:

      I am left-handed, but taught myself to crochet and knit from books, not knowing there was any other option. I think it took me longer to get on to it, but now am thankful I don’t have to reverse everything.

    • Virginia says:

      I have two left handed sisters. The advice a left handed aunt gave my mother was to teach them to knit right handed as else wise patterns would never make sense. One became a good knitter . The other never managed

  11. Joan says:

    I remember my nana teaching me to knit – squares for blankets I think. The blanket that I said I would make for Hungarian refugees in 1956 is still not made and became a fmaily joke every time I got some knitting out. I wonder why some of my favourite knitting now is squared but ornate blankets?? I also wish both my mum and nana could see what I am knitting these days – unfortunately both passed on before I realised what fun and therapy knitting can be,

    • Merion says:

      Hi Joan,

      I feel the same – I hope my Gran can look down and see me knitting – and being surrounded by all these lovely yarns! I bet your beautiful ornate blankets are a million miles from those first blanket squares!!

      Merion and the LoveKnitting team x

  12. Jenny says:

    I read some advice from someone in Simply Knitting which struck a chord: Don’t start with a scarf! They’re boring and take ages. Start with something smaller and don’t be scared of a bit of basic shaping. My first crochet project was a scarf – it’s only just long enough to wear and seemed to take forever – but with hindsight I’d start with a hat or an amigurumi figure – the beauty of crochet is how well it lends itself to 3D shapes.

  13. Merion says:

    Hi Jenny – yes that’s a good idea too – once you’ve mastered the basic stitches! Thank goodness for the cowl, I say – a very nice short scarf indeed! And bigger yarn for speed!

    Thanks for sharing such good advice!

    Merion and the LoveKnitting team

  14. Cindy T says:

    I wish there had been videos around when I was first learning!!! The only thing I had to learn from was books. (and my dad & Grandmom) New knitters have so many more options for learning these days!!

    Anyway, if I could go back in time I would tell myself to KEEP TRYING! Don’t give up so easily.

  15. KimP says:

    Number 7 resonates with me the most. Most of my Ravelry projects went to someone else! I also would add that making gauge swatches can actually be fun and blocking can work miracles the majority of the time 🙂

  16. Lynn says:

    This is a brilliant blog and full of good advice. I am self taught and pretty determined to get it right. I have taught 5 little girls and 2 lads to do simple knitting on No 8s with DK it is very satisfying and I love to see them focus on the in, over, round and off!! They struggle a bit at the beginning and end of rows – any tips?

    Whilst writing, could Love Knitting have some kind of wish list system so customers could put by stuff. It’s often the postage that puts me off?

  17. Josie Poetknit says:

    TyThank you Merion for this warm thread! What a gracious blogger you are! Very welcoming.
    I have been knitting now since a road trip my family took when I was six years old, from New York City to Quebec City. My mother taught me with great patience and enthusiasm.
    I made a rainbow scarf and was “hooked!”
    I have been at it off and mostly on, For sixty-four years (yikes!)
    My one addition to your advice is:
    “Don’t be afraid to rip out mistakes that bother you, though don’t be a perfectionist either!
    Learn how to rip down to the row before the mistake. If you have a mistake that bothers you half way up the front of a sweater, by the time you get to knitting the sleeves you might lose momentum to finish or finish and then not wear it with pride or give it to the intended with pride. Just go back and rip it!”

  18. Louella says:

    I see all the yeas for watching videos but I would say know what kind of learner you are. Some learn best by reading or listening. If I had to depend on a video to learn anything I would never have started knitting 60 years ago (or cooking, sewing or raising chickens)

  19. Val says:

    I learnt to knit at school in the 1950’s, in those days people knitted things to save money, school jumpers etc. I never learnt how to sew knitted garments up, just used to back stitch seams etc and have always disliked the finishing off process. Then I went to a knitting workshop to learn finishing techniques and after years of knitting it was a revelation! I now use mattress stitch which gives an invisible seam, and short row shaping for shoulders instead of following the commercial pattern instructions which mostly all give you the stepped edging that is so awkward to seam. Youtube is great if you want to learn new skills also. So I would say have open mind and the courage to try new ways of doing things as there are so many different cast ons, cast offs etc etc. Happy Knitting!

  20. Bracken says:

    Really good post. I am someone who has continued with several projects which I hate. Now I will be brave, save my yarn and frog them all! I currently have 7 ongoing unliked projects and just one which I will complete because I like that so lots of retrieved yarn here. I am also guilty pf knitting things TOO big. I like big baggy jumpers but recently one in particular was much to huge to be comfortable. Thank you for writing this. It has sorted my head out so now I can maybe get productive again.

  21. Alison B says:

    Hi, my grandma taught me to knit and crochet when I was little, and I have gone on to do both for many years. Although I don’t often knit for myself, mostly for other people. I have lots of unfinished cardigans ,mainly small sizes that I found difficult to follow the patterns and thought I will finish this later and I’m afraid they never saw the light of day again until I recently found them in the cupboard ! Oops I am currently knitting a cardigan for myself, doing the sleeves just now. I knit both sleeves at the same time, so that they are the same length and I case I get fed up and only knit one!

  22. Anna says:

    I am still at an early stage in my knitting journey and have loved the combination of a book and youtube. The book gives a nice overview of techniques that are out there along with a structure for building up skills but youtube has helped me make sense of the stitches. I also loved using a chunky yarn for my first project not only because it helped my see and understand the stitches, but because I had a scarf to show my success in no time at all.
    For projects that matter, gauge swatches are essential and blocking a revelation.
    Another challenge for me has been the yarn/pattern dilemma – do you find the pattern you like and buy the yarn to match or vice versa! When starting out, I have found it easiest to use pattern/yarn combinations that others have tried so that I can know what to expect. With time, it is becoming easier to modify projects and adapt the yarns.
    Think about joining a website like ravelry!

  23. Barbara says:

    I wish I’d learned to knit when I was younger (started in my 50’s). It took me several years to not be afraid of what I perceived as difficult – circular needles, cables & color changes. I wish someone had told me it’s okay to accept compliments for the work you put into a project.

  24. Christel says:

    I agree with every point, but most of all with 4. choose colours you’ll actually wear and match with your wardrobe. There’s so much temptation and sometimes pressure to buy the latest yarn and colour everybody is crazy about. But when you choose to invest in more expensive yarns, you don’t want to spend your money in vain. Which doesn’t mean I’ve never bought a colour on impulse that I didn’t like that much later on and swapped. But I try to buy, match and wear.

  25. MJ, the SKEINdinavian says:

    I could say so many things about others comments, mostly agreeing wholeheartedly with them. Space is short and so is time!

    Love your post! I agree with “7. I wish I’d knitted more for myself than other people right from the start. Selfish?” I think not. I believe it would have made me a better knitter with a broader approach to my efforts. That is not to say I did not learn along the way. I did!

    I ALWAYS wanted to learn to knit but ended up having to teach myself. I wanted to knit so I could make cardigans for myself. If all the stitches I knit were cardigans for myself, I would need a larger chest to store them in!

    Other than that, knit what YOU LOVE in the COLORS YOU LOOK GOOD IN. If anything else is important, you will know it soon enough. And for Heaven’s sake, get a good lamp!

    MJ, the SKEINdinavian

  26. Amber says:

    Great comments and great post! My piece of advice would be to try it before you buy it. Particularly if you are someone like me who has physical challenges and has acquired of a wide variety of knitting needles and or crochet hooks that after a short period of time I found that they were too uncomfortable to continue using. With this being said I try to loan out the needles that I am no longer using to my fellow needle workers who have expressed an interest in trying that particular style of needle or crochet hook. If they find that they have fallen madly in love with it that object usually finds a new home. I have also had my fellow knitters let me try their set of interchangeable needles before I bought them and found that I did not like them.

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