Essential Equipment for Beginner Knitters

What do you really need to learn to knit?

If you’re new to the world of knitting, then the equipment you need might seem a bit daunting – what do you actually need? What brand should you choose? Even if you’re a well seasoned knitter it can be confusing!

Before I learnt how to knit, I wanted to check that I could actually perform this mystical looking art before spending out on equipment. So I grabbed some chopsticks, a scrap bit of yarn and sat down with a youtube video (you can see the result here). So you really can knit with the bare essentials! The equipment you need really depends on the type of knitting you’ll do. So if you had to narrow it down, what do you really need to learn to knit? If you’re a more experienced knitter, look out for future posts building on the equipment list.

 

Knitting Needles - Equipment for beginner knitters - Gem Davis Design

1. Needles

Can’t go far without these. But which ones? If you’re a complete beginner, then I would recommend 4mm straight needles. 4mm is the most common needle size used in patterns, particularly for DK yarn (double knitting – the most common yarn size) so it’s great for beginners. Then there’s the question of what type – metal, wooden or plastic? That depends on what you feel most comfortable with. I started with metal pony needles like these, as they are the easiest to find in shops. However I now find them quite hard to knit with. Different types of needles have different qualities, the slippery nature of metal needles makes it easier to slide yarn over the needle, which is good if you have a yarn that catches easily. They are also useful for knitting at small sizes, as the stronger material is unlikely to bend or break. On the downside, metal needles tend to be slightly heavier, and might be a bit hard on your hands if you have arthritis.

I use bamboo needles, so I can tell you more about those than the others. This also applies to other wooden needles – Wool and the Gang do a lovely set of rosewood needles. Bamboo needles are very light, which is great if your knitting is getting heavy! They’re smooth under the hand and not cold, which is one of the things I dislike about picking up metal needles. If you’re using a slippery yarn like cotton, it makes it much easier to control the yarn as the wood grips it better. They’re not so great at small sizes because they can get quite bendy, and break quite easily. Saying this, I’ve only broken one needle so far! (Touch wood).

I’ve never used plastic needles, and I haven’t seen many in the shops so I can’t tell you much about these!

 

Tape Measure - Equipment for beginner knitters - Gem Davis Design

2. Tape Measure

This is an item that you may well have already, but if not then you will definitely need one. They are not expensive and are often given away free with knitting magazines. You’ll want one that has both centimetres and inches on it, as different patterns will use different units.

Tape measures are needed to make sure you are knitting to the right size. Tension is measured in a 10x10cm or 4×4″ square. I’ve seen a square rule with the measurements around the edge which would be useful! But a simple tape measure is all you really need.

Continue reading “Essential Equipment for Beginner Knitters”

Pinglette Snood by Anna Maltz

The Pinglette snood is my first finished knit from Anna Maltz’s book Penguin. If you follow me on Instagram you will know that I was lucky enough to win this lovely book at Pom Pom’s Christmas party last year. I of course promptly went over to her stand to say hello and buy some yarn to get knitting! Lots of the projects from the book were on display, and it was very hard to choose where to begin. Anna was very kind and signed my book for me too!  

 
The yarn is such a lovely colour, a deep black with threads of grey lightly showing through. It feels wonderful to work with, and I can’t wait to feel how warm and cosy it will be. 

  
The snood is made up in the Linen stitch, one I hadn’t used before. It’s simplicity to knit and lovely texture means it is definitely something I will be using again. The stitch is made up of K1, Sl1, so you have to be careful you slip the right stitch, a mistake I often made! As you can see below it results in a rather obvious gap. I don’t actually mind it because I don’t think it looks ugly, and I remember what I was doing when that happened – it was late at a family gathering, so there was dim lighting and I was chatting, neither conducive to perfect knits. I quite like it that way.

  
Instead of decreasing and increasing to shape the top and bottom, Maltz has decided to use different size needles to achieve the same look. I quite like the idea, although my shaping doesn’t seem to have worked at end of my knitting! I think I cast off fairly loosely which has ruined the shaping. 

    
The pattern also says to knit on circular needles, but I didn’t have the right size for that so I knit it on straight needles. The only difference was that I had to add in a P1, Sl1, row.

  
 So now the snood is finally finished, and I very much enjoyed knitting it. I would certainly recommend the pattern, it’s great for a simple knit, and the large needles make for a nice contrast to my sock knitting! The cold weather is back this weekend so I’ll get a chance to wear it…

  
I think I’ll tackle the Humboldt jumper next! 

How to Block Knitting (if you don’t have all that fancy equipment)

Unless you’re blocking something everyday, you can make do it with what you already have.

I’m one of those lazy knitters. I don’t tend to block much (or swatch, but that’s a whole other issue…). The joy of finishing a project is just too much, I will always want to put it on and use it straight away. Now I’ve read that blocking only really works on projects made with some wool content, so as most of my knits have been made with acrylic I think I’m OK.

Due to this lack of blocking in my life, I don’t have any of the equipment for it. As with a lot of things however, I find you don’t need it. Unless perhaps you’re blocking knits all the time and fancy making life easier. I manage to get by just fine with things I already own.

What you need:
  • 2–3 towels
  • Pins
  • Tape measure (if you’re blocking a fitted garment that needs to be a certain size)
  • Mild shampoo or wool wash
  • Something to pin into

The amount of towels depends on the size of the knitting. One is needed to lay the item down to pin into, and the rest to dry it as much as possible before hand. The last point is your preference. I use a cutting mat to pin into, or you could use a piece of foam board, or even just the carpet, it works perfectly well.

Some people like to block their knits after seaming all the pieces together, this means that you have a good idea of the shape the garment is supposed to be, plus it’s done all in one go. Others prefer to block their knitted pieces separately before seaming together, having never done this I’m afraid I can’t say what the advantages are. If you prefer this method please let me know, I’m curious as to what you think!

Step One:

First you need to fill a sink or bowl with lukewarm water and add your choice of shampoo/wool wash. You don’t want to use hot water, as you’ll be in danger of felting the fabric – this happens when the fibres are rubbed together in hot water, causing them to stick together.

How to Block Knitting soak in water
Step Two:

Now add your knitting to the water, being careful not to move it around too much. Make sure it’s fully soaked and leave it in the water for around five minutes.

Step Three:

Once your knitting has finished soaking, drain the water and then rinse your garment with fresh water to get rid of any soap.

Step Four:

Get the towels ready! Carefully take your knitting out of the water and lay on a towel on the floor. To get rid of the excess water roll the towel up with the knitting inside, squeezing as you go. If there’s still a lot of water left over then repeat the process.

How to Block Knitting Pinning Down

Step Five:

Grab a dry towel and lay it over the mat or area of carpet where you’ll be blocking. Lay the garment down, and pull it into the right shape. Make sure the measurements match those of the pattern, and use pins to pin down tricky sections.

And you’re done! Now you just need to wait for it to dry. Good luck with your blocking, and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask! The pattern is my free bunny snood – get it here!

How to Block Knitting

Top 5 Tips for Finishing Projects

Small or large, these 5 top tips will help you finish!

Finishing projects. I don’t think I’m the only one with an issue with this, and I’m not just talking about knitters (I know most of you lot have far too many knits on the go at once!). I just find it hard to finish things. Even though that’s the best feeling, when you can be proud of what you achieved (and show it off!), something new is always more exciting. I’ve been pretty strict with myself recently however, I’ve ripped back all the knitting projects I’m not likely to finish. I now have just two on the go, one simple and one more intricate for variety.

So how can you combat this? Here’s five tips for finishing projects.

1. Set a deadline

You may already have one, if you’re making something for a specific event or for a client. Either way, this is the first rule in finishing things. Pick a reasonable amount of time, don’t pick something impossible as you’ll only feel disheartened if you can’t achieve it. On the other hand, don’t pick such a long length of time that you get lazy about it. You want this thing done!

2. Create action steps

This kind of ties in with the previous point. By breaking down your task, however simple or complicated it is, you are making it much more manageable and are more likely to finish. If you are knitting something then you could use the different sections in the pattern or go by length – say I’ll knit up to here by the end of the weekend. If it’s a more complicated project you’re doing, like designing your website, then choose small tasks and plan them out. Sometimes looking at the big picture isn’t the best idea.

3. Make time

Nobody has time, you’ve got to make space for it. Schedule in time for your projects and then stick to them. I like to write things down in a planner, but you’ve got to find a way that works for you because there’s no point writing everything down if you never look at it again. I know, it’s hard. We all have lapse moments. So make sure you plan for that as well, and give yourself an extra bit of time just in case, I know I’ve needed it a few times.

4. Keep motivated

There are some tasks that you just won’t want to do. Maybe you have to schedule a meeting and you feel nervous, or you might just not have the energy that day. This is when you need to take a break. It sounds counter-productive, and you’ve probably heard this elsewhere, but you need it. Your mind and body can’t keep pushing all the time, if you’re panicking, go for a walk. If you’re feeling un-motivated, check out an exhibition. Or, and this is for those of you who work on your own, give a friend a call or better yet go round to see them. This break in routine will leave you refreshed and in a better mind set to keep going. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself. Don’t of course use this excuse all the time, it’s a balance after all!

5. Don’t give up

You’re not a quitter. You can do this. Look at where you’ll be at the end, remember why you started. And don’t get too serious!

Instagram Update – Panic and Post Notifications

The Instagram world is in upheaval. But wait before you turn on those post notifications.

There has been a lot of talk, a lot of panic, and now a lot of back-peddling, all over some changes Instagram announced it was going to make. I had written a post about the alarm that has swept through the Instagram community, but then came reassurance that it wouldn’t all happen immediately. I also noticed a few others were coming to the same conclusions, so I decided to wait and rethink a little.

Know Your Facts

If you’re not addicted to Instagram like me, I’ll fill you in. On March 15th, Instagram announced that it would be making a change to the timeline. Instead of showing posts chronologically, they will be ordered using an algorithm showing you the posts that are most important to you first. Note: important, not popular.

Change is very rarely welcomed. It’s well known that the many changes Facebook has made to it’s site over the years has mostly been met with anger, and petitions to change it back. When Facebook bought Instagram back in 2012, it put a lot of people nervous, so I guess we knew something like this would happen eventually.

When this timeline change was announced, it’s fair to say it annoyed rather a lot of people. I follow a lot of small businesses, and Instagram is a key way for them to interact with their followers. It’s a great platform for relatively unknown people to show their work and get feedback, gain followers and create a sense of community. Since this announcement, they’re worried. I’m worried! The instant reaction is to think that small accounts will find it hard to reach people. But it’s already hard to reach people, you’ve just got to work at it. You’ll still need to post great content and engage with your followers, that’s not going to change.

Do I Need Post Notifications?

It is a worry, but come on guys, I think we all need to take a step back and relax a little. I don’t know who first thought of turning on post notifications, but it coursed through Instagram like wildfire. Scrolling through my feed I saw so many posts encouraging people to turn on notifications for that account. People were scared, but their worry was feeding off everyone else and growing. I even saw a tip to turn off updates for the app so the timeline wouldn’t change.

I follow a lot of people. 733 at the current count. Could you imagine how annoying it would be if I put post notifications on for even just the handful of people I really want to keep up with? It would be just as easy to simply look up those accounts myself, and in doing that they would probably appear in my feed anyway, as they were important enough to search for. Take a second to think about it. Do you want your phone buzzing every time someone posts a photo? It would likely be annoying, but also distracting. I try to limit my Instagram/Twitter usage to particular times in the day, so I can focus on it for that period and not get distracted when I’m working on other things. If your phone kept going off your attention would be divided.

It’s Not the End of the World

There was no way Instagram would always stay the same. There are always updates, and we may not always like them, but there’s usually not a lot we can do about it. They might make changes based on suggestions by users, especially if there’s a large group with a similar feeling, but it’s hard to say. Since I haven’t actually heard of anyone who agrees with this particular update, I would be curious to see what Instagram does about it. Remember though, it’s not the end of the world. Instagram isn’t disappearing. You’ll still see photos of coffee and avocado on toast.

So don’t put post notifications on. I don’t want to be clogging up your time. What I do want is to get the most out of Instagram, and keep the community alive. The only way to show that an account is important to you is to interact with it. So comment on each others posts, post great images and choose your hashtags well. Keep using it, because it won’t exist without you. The main thing we need to remember is that we really don’t know what the outcome of this will be yet. Hold your horses, it will take time to figure out how this affects us, and what changes, if any, we need to make.

On a happier note, did you see my free knitting pattern this weekend?