Welcome to part two of my How to be Crafty series! Today I'm talking about knit and crochet. I'm pretty much a self-taught knitter and crocheter (although I've certainly had some tips and pointers along the way). I've been crocheting for about three or four years now and knitting for just over one year. You can check out some of my completed projects on my Ravelry page.
To give a little background, I don't recall having any sort of experience with knit or crochet growing up. I taught myself to crochet while expecting my third baby (who's now 3 1/2). I was in the habit of checking out every craft book I could find at the library (I still do), and came across a crochet book with how-to instructions I thought I could manage. So, I bought my first hook and used some really cheap craft yarn to make a terrible-looking pot holder (which I was too embarrassed to use and hid in the back of a kitchen drawer before I finally pitched it).
Learning to crochet was a little more complicated than I thought, and soon found that I needed more than just text and diagrams (it took me a few late nights and not-too-few tears to figure that out!). Soon after I moved on to making dishcloths (which I still use) and my projects grew and evolved from there.
My experience with knitting is much the same, only I held out on learning it for the longest time because I was chicken. Fortunately my mother-in-law helped show me the basics and I was in love. Now, knitting and crocheting are two of my favorite crafts. They're great for working on during a movie and can be very relaxing.
So, if you're relatively new or have no experience working with yarn at all, I'm here to tell you that you can figure it out! Here are some tips and pointers to help you out:
Before we get into talking too much about the hows of knit and crochet, it's important to familiarize yourself with your medium--yarn. There are several different types of yarn, all of which fall into three main categories: synthetic, natural, or a mix of the two. Different yarns are good for different things. Acrylic yarn is super easy to wash, and natural yarns like alpaca are super-soft and great for items you'll wear.
There are also different textures and thicknesses of yarn. Not to mention the rainbow of colors to choose from. You can even make your own yarn out of old t-shirts or plastic bags. The type of yarn you'll want to pick will usually be specified in the pattern you're choosing.
Yarn also comes in a wide range of prices, with synthetic yarns being the cheapest and fancier ones (like alpaca, wool, etc.) being most expensive. I think you definitely get what you pay for. I only recently started working with more expensive yarns, but have fallen in love with their quality.
But I do recommend picking out a fun affordable yarn to work with when learning to knit or crochet. You don't want to feel too intimidated to "mess up" with the expensive yarn and stop before you start. Sugar'n Cream cotton is also a great inexpensive yarn for beginners (I used this for all my dishcloths).
Hooks and Needles
Even simpler than sewing, all you need is a hook or pair of needles and some yarn to crochet and knit. Hook and needle sizes range from 2-12 mm thick (sometimes they go bigger for jumbo-sized projects).
Knitting needles come in longer and shorter lengths, and also come as circulars with a cable attached between two needles for circular knitting. Crochet hooks are usually a standard length (unless you're working with a jumbo hook). Much like picking your yarn, you'll pick your hook and needles based on what your pattern says.
You can buy hooks and needles in separates (one hook or one pair of needles in one size) or in sets (a range of different sizes). If you're just beginning, I recommend just buying one size at a time. That way you're not breaking the bank and you haven't made too much of an investment if you find knitting or crocheting isn't for you. On the other hand, if you have the money and want to splurge on a whole set, go for it--just read a few customer reviews online first to be sure you're getting a good one!
The Learning Curve
Now, you may be like me, you've picked up a knit or crochet book and found dozens of adorable patterns for sweaters, socks, baby hats, stuffed animals--you name it--and can't wait to start. But you're quickly disappointed when you look at the instructions and it all looks like gibberish to you. There are strange abbreviations, a million rows, weird phrases like 'binding off'--you don't know where to start.
Most books will have a section that goes over some of the basics in knit or crochet with diagrams and text (some are more well-written than others). But you can find yourself going cross-eyed trying to figure them out, and it's hard to check if what's coming out in your hands is what they're describing in the book. So, if you have a friend or relative who knits or crochets I highly recommend asking if they can sit down with you to teach some of the basics. If you don't know any yarn-crafters, online videos are your next best bet (and sometimes they're actually a little easier to understand).
Once you've gotten down some of the basics--like chain stitching and single and double crochet stitches, or casting on and knit and purl--you're ready to start something simple. Did you see that key word, simple? Like learning anything else new, it's best to start with something small, like a pot holder or dishcloth, before you embark on a month-long project (you may never finish!).
It's Okay to Cry
I might sound silly saying this, but you really may find yourself frustrated to tears when you're first learning to knit and crochet. Not that it's rocket science to figure out or anything, but it definitely takes wrapping your mind around several new techniques. And there will be times when you have to undo 5, 10, or even more rows after discovering one tiny mistake. It can start to feel like a lot of hard work for nothing at times.
When you do find yourself frustrated, give yourself a break. Put it down and come back to it when you have a clear head. If you're smart (like I've learned to be), you won't let it get the best of you, and you'll soon find those beginner's tears long gone.
When you persevere through a project and find yourself stitching those last few rows, there's no greater feeling. Well, except if it's a gift for someone, then seeing them enjoy it can be even more gratifying. And sometimes that scarf/hat/sweater you were working on so long won't turn out quite the way you'd hoped. But the victory will be in finishing something. It's easy to let a project fall in the sleep pile, but it takes strength to keep going and see something to the end (just like anything worthwhile in life).
To get you started on finding your own how-to sources, I'll share a few of my favorites:
Books--The Knitting and Crochet Answer Books are my go-to sources for just about any question I have. Sometimes it can be a little difficult to find what you're looking for if you don't know the exact terminology, but it's an essential guide I always keep on hand. Even better, they're small enough to fit in my purse for on-the-go projects!
Blogs and Websites
Attic24, Lindamade, The Purl Bee, and luvinthemommyhood are my all-time favorite knit and crochet blogs.
Ravelry is an amazing site for both knitters and crochets--you'll find forums, free patterns, and you can keep your own notebook of projects.
YouTube is my favorite place to look for how-to videos. You can look up just about any stitch or other aspect of knit and crochet and you'll most likely have several videos to choose from. I love having the visual aspect--I can knit or crochet along with the video and see if my work is correct. The Knit Witch is a great channel for knitting. I don't have any particular favorites for crochet.
There you have it, my little rundown on teaching yourself to knit and crochet!
Did you find this post helpful at all? I would love to hear your own story of learning to knit or crochet. And if you have any questions I didn't cover, don't hesitate to ask!