On Knitting: Beginners Row

Since I began knitting in December 2005, I thought I'd post a few thoughts on my first experiences, and mention the first patterns I used, just in case anyone else out there is a newbie like me and might be looking for easy (and I mean EASY easy) patterns to start with. Because I had a bit of a hard time finding things I could make "beyond the rectangle."

Yes, my first project was a scarf. And this is a good first project, no doubt. Also, since I was using the first yarn I'd ever spun, it was pretty much "novelty" yarn (lumps, bumps, thick mostly, but balding occasionally)--and that provided challenge enough for me as a brand-new knitter.

But after I finished the scarf, I wanted to make something I could wear--something that was NOT a scarf! Hence, it had to be something NOT rectangular. However, with my relatively short attention span (and given my frustration and discouragement levels), I knew better than to tackle a sweater, so I decided to make a hat to match my scarf.

It sounded easy enough, but every darn pattern I found called for circular needles! (Or, worse, for circular AND double-pointed needles!) I've since learned these are really no big deal, but for my mere second foray into the knitting world, the thought of such odd contraptions were terrifying. The only knitting I knew involved two long, straight, preferably quite fat needles, with points at only ONE end: nothing to tangle (yarn itself was certainly tangly enough), nothing too skinny, and certainly nothing with extra points or in quantities of three or more.

My first scarf and hat, Alex Zorn's "Hot Head."


"Stitch'n'Bitch: The Knitter's Handbook" to the rescue: Debbie Stoller's guide not only has great how-to's (I finally figured out how to see the difference between knits and purls on p. 54), but I found the perfect easy hat pattern. And it's knitted on STRAIGHT needles!

On pgs. 162-163 you'll find Alex Zorn's "Hot Head" hat. It's a cute "knit 2-purl 2" ribbed hat worked on size US 10.5 needles (and you could make it longer if you wanted to turn it up at the bottom and have a girlier look). It worked up great in my hand-spun yarn (which was starting to improve but still quite home-spun).

I made five of these hats from home-spun llama and sheepswool. You can see a picture above, or read more at:

Anyway, I was able to move on from there to the Kittyville Hat ("Stitch'n'Bitch" pgs. 165-167, or at www.kittyville.com). This was the hat I really wanted to make, because I was dying to have a hat with cat ears! (Yes, it has ears. On top.)

My Kittyville Hat and wristwarmers. We're about to head into our third winter together.

So I plunged in with the circular needles, and it really wasn't that bad. A bit awkward, but not terrible. (Just make sure you don't get circulars LONGER than your project--you can't knit a 22" inch hat on 29" circular needles. I know, because I had to exchange a pair of 29" needles.)

Besides being able to knit in the round on circulars (and knit stockinette without ever having to purl, cool!), you can also knit straight across them. Then, without connecting the yarn in the round, turn them around and knit back across. (I did this by mistake when I started my hat.) I just finished a baby blanket for friends this way. (My biggest project to date, but the blanket will be another post!)

We interrupt this post to show off the baby blanket. In the middle are the Chinese characters for "life"--supposedly.

The trick (besides the circular needles) with the Kittyville Hat was switching to the double pointed needles. You have to do this because the round hat gets smaller at the top--too small to stretch around your 16" needle anymore. But once you've gotten into the swing with the circular gadgetry, the little double pointed ones are basically the same thing (or you can pretend they are). You just knit onto one little chopstick from your circular, then onto the next double-pointed stick, then the next (and maybe the next), then you have your knitting on a little circle (ok, so it's really a triangle or a square) of double-pointed needles instead of the circular one.

As long as you can keep your knitting snug between the double-pointed needles, you'll be fine. I thought you'd be able to see stretch-marks where I knitted from one to the other (especially with stockinette)--but no! Just give the stitch an extra tug when you start the second stitch on each needle.


As a new knitter, the final challenge for me with this pattern was I-cord. I've read that I-cord stands for Idiot Cord, but I guess I'm such an idiot that I couldn't find any written directions that made any sense to me. (I have to complicate everything.) I even made a 6-stitch wide tube about 57 rows long, stitched it closed, and attached it to my hat before I found this fabulous little quicktime video on how to make I-cord. Go here and click "Play Video" --

I love the part where she says, "It's relaxing to knit I-cord," because I was NOT relaxed. But post-video instruction, I frogged my 57-row monstrosity (with relative peace) and made real I-cord. What a relief.

I guess sometimes you just have to be shown.

Anyway, my Kittyville Hat came out great, ears, earflaps and all. Stay tuned and I'll tell you where I found a great (and easy) pattern for fingerless gloves. Maybe I'll even share my pattern for the gloves I designed to match my Kittyville Hat, if anyone is interested.

Ciao for now,

Added 22 October 2008

I still love both the hat patterns mentioned above. Too bad the Alex Zorn hat isn't a free pattern, but the Stitch'n'Bitch book is well worth it for anyone beginning to knit. The fingerless glove pattern I reference is VooDoo Wristwarmers available free at Knitty.com, a pattern which I have made now several dozen times, at least. Here are my initial thoughts on the Voodoo pattern. If you knit, you should definitely make both Knitty and Ravelry (my ravelry name is okitten, say hi!) regular stops during your online travels.

Irish Hiking Scarf and matching Wristwarmers. Do not fear cables!

If you prefer to use only straight needles, here is a really lovely free wristwarmer pattern that is worked flat and then seamed up the sides. It is a good introduction to cables (they really are easy, honest!) although you could also work the pattern without the cables. I made both the scarf and the wristwarmers and love them.

Happy knitting, and feel free to drop me a comment--I'll still get it and would love to hear from you!


sereknitty72 said...

There is a pattern in Holiday Knits by Sara Lucas and Allison Isaacs for "tipless" gloves that looks pretty easy. I say this because I contemplated making them (so that means I read that pattern and deemed the difficulty within my crazy range) but never got around to it...They look cute though and you could probably just knit shorter fingers...Also, have you ever looked into knitting with the "Magic Loop" instead of double pointed needles? That's what I use for all of my socks now and it's a pretty humane process...

mlj1954 said...

definitely look into the Magic Loop . . . and actually you can Magic Loop with really any kind of flexible circs. I despise dpns.

KnitWit said...

I found some basic knitting instructions for anyone just starting out.

Basic Knitting Instructions for Beginners

kangaroo said...

hey there...just found your blog and read the more recent posts, you're hysterical...wanted to comment on this one because i just posted my first knitting project, a version of the hot head pattern you mentioned. happy new year!

Obsidian Kitten said...

thanks kangaroo! i still love that pattern--and still wear the hat!