I’ve written a number of posts now on how to knit. However, there are some common problems that beginner knitters struggle with that don’t necessarily fit in a how to knit post. They cover a variety of topics, but definitely deserve to be addressed. Many of these problems can be very frustrating, and I would hate for you to quit knitting because of them. Learning to knit is like anything else. It’s learning a new skill. It takes time. It takes some level of muscle memory and some brain memory. If you have to keep looking things up, that is absolutely okay! For example, if you delve into something like socks that require grafting (stitching together), you will come across the Kitchener stitch. I have met so many people that don’t remember how to do it, and they get frustrated. It can be so hard for people to remember, that you can actually buy key chains and other things with the directions on it. Having to repeated look up anything is completely normal, and I would very much encourage it. For the first year or two, depending on how many projects you do, you will probably need to continue to look up how to cast on each time. I know I did. I kept forgetting. And with my brain fog, some days I still get confused and have to go look it up to reassure myself that I’m doing it right. 🙂
One of the initial problems that knitters have, and I covered this briefly in the first how to knit post, is gauge and tension. Gauge is how many stitches or rows/rounds you get for every 4″. This has a huge impact on garments. Tension is how tight you hold your yarn as you work. As a beginner, your knitting is going to be crazy tight. I mean really tight. So tight that as you try to knit, you are going to hear it squeaking. Again, this is normal! This is why I recommend starting out making dish clothes. As you learn to knit your stitches will loosen. If you are making a scarf, this will make for a very wonky scarf that is tight on one end and loose at the other. What you are looking for, are stitches where your knitting needle can be slipped in to knit or purl, with no effort, but not so loose that everything is just dropping off your needles. You want that stitch sitting on your needles to cover the needle, with just a small amount of slack. It’s hard to explain, but when your stitches stop squeaking as you try to knit them, you are there. To get there, you will need to figure out how tight to hold your yarn. When you knit a stitch, you are never going to pull it tight. When you hold your yarn, you are going to have it held just tight enough that it will tighten the stitch for you, but it will still slip through your fingers as you work the stitches. Unfortunately, the only way to learn this is repetition. Some people can figure it out quickly, others take longer. Your speed is just right for you.
When it comes to gauge, this is going to be a lifelong thing that you will need to keep in mind. This is not just for beginners. When a designer writes a pattern, they write it for their own gauge. Gauge is different for every knitter. It depends on so much. Your needles will change your gauge, the temperature in your house, how you are feeling. Everything can loosen or tighten your gauge. Depending on how much pain I am in on any given day can mean that I have to pay attention to my gauge. Especially if I am knitting a sweater. For example, in the sweater I am working on right now, I had to tear out the sleeve. My gauge really tightened up compared to the body. I am re-knitting it looser, and it now matches the body. The important thing is to not lie to yourself. If your gauge has changed, accept it and work to fix it. Don’t do what I do, and think oh it might be okay. It’s never okay. lol Your gut understands more than you do. Take the time early to do the fix.
Another problem that new knitters run in to is the randomly added stitch. You are chugging along just fine, and then realize you have 3 extra stitches on a row. You will do this less and less as you improve, but this is terribly common with beginners. We’ve all done it. But, how did it happen? Well, when you are dealing with stitches that are too tight, you can very easily knit a stitch, and split the yarn that is the stitch of the left needle. That inadvertently makes two stitches. You get two stitches from one thread of yarn. You have bisected the yarn. And 9 times out of 10 you don’t even notice. The number of times you do this, will decrease as your stitches loosen, but it’s good to keep your eyes open. Here is what a split stitch looks like:
As you can see the needle has split the yarn. It can blend in so well that you can keep on going and really not notice. When you split it, you will notice that all your knit stitches make nice lines going up your piece, but then there is this little hole, which you can see to the right of the knit stitch in that second picture. This is the split part of the stitch that should not be there. As you get more comfortable with how your stitches should look, it will get more obvious. Now, this isn’t just a beginner problem either. Some yarns have a very loose twist or are just fluff that makes it super easy to split. You might hear talking about how yarn is ‘splitty’. This is what they are talking about. They get cruising on a project and their needles just keep splitting the yarn. Sometimes they are left with an extra stitch, but something the entire yarn comes off the left needle, and you are left with a stitch to the right with only half of the yarn caught. This can create a weak point, and can be very annoying. Just know that this can happen to even the best of us. If you find a spot like this, check out my post on fixing errors. You can either rip back to fix the stitch, or you can drop down to it to fix it. That post will give you details on how to do that. You can use these methods if you have split your stitch and have extra stitches now. Or, depending on your pattern, if you can find where you split the yarn, you can head over to the post on decreases, and just knit the two stitches that were supposed to be one, together. It will reduce it back to a single stitch. I’ve done this many times, and it’s a super easy “cheat” to get back to the count you need.
This last bit is all about confidence. When you start learning a new skill, it can be a mess. And it can be that way for a while. You will need to learn to embrace the process. Even the ugliest of dish clothes will still clean your dishes. 🙂 And everyone has started somewhere. Never think that you can’t do something. I was told that for a long time, and it caused me to stop knitting for about 15 years. There is nothing you can’t do. Whether you can master it is a different statement, but you can certainly do it. Who cares if it looks a bit messy the first time. Like anything, practice makes improved. Again, that’s why I love small projects when you start. It gives you so many options to learn a multitude of techniques with so little commitment. 😀 But, if you want to branch out into something bigger, do it! Pick a pattern and dive in! Read through the entire thing before you start, and if there are parts you don’t understand, head to the internet to look it up. There are so many people that have blog posts or video’s on how to make a garment, or how to do certain types of stitches that you will quickly have all the information you need to conquer it. Also, ignore the difficulty rating on patterns. All that means is that if it’s harder than a beginner level, there are techniques that you will need to look up and learn. You’ll never grow as a knitter if you don’t dive in to the more difficult patterns. However! If you just want to make simple scarves and that is your happy place, then darnit keep making those! Knitting is all about your happy place. I have friends that feel bad for only ever making garter or stockinette scarves. But they enjoy every second of it! Sometimes it’s because they don’t think they can learn something more difficult, which should never cross your mind. Of course you can, but only if you want to. This is all about your happy place, not mine or any one elses. Rock what you make and have fun!!