Learning to Knit


There are a lot of options for learning to knit. If you’re a very private person who prefers to do things in the comfort of your own home, YouTube is a great place to start. There are practically unlimited options there for teaching yourself to knit. I tried several of them in my quest to learn, and none quite worked for me. I still wanted to learn, though, so I looked into other sources. It turns out that the yarn store I go to had classes. And there was one coming up in just a week or two. So I got signed up, and by the end of the two hour class, I’d learned all the basics. By the time I’d driven the half-hour home, I’d forgotten most of them – but I had them stuck in my head somewhere, so the videos made a lot more sense this time, and I was able to pick up the craft again more easily.

I will have a specific list of resources on Saturday, and next week I’ll even be doing my own series of tutorials on how to knit. If you’re interested in learning, I hope you’ll stick with me. Maybe my photo tutorials will be helpful to you.


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Where to Buy Yarn


This post will be short and sweet 🙂

There are loads of places to buy yarn, and yarn to fit every budget. You can get skeins from craft stores like JoAnn and Michael’s, and virtually every yarn in those stores will be under $6 ($10 If you go for the super sized ones). Any regular store that’s big enough to have a crafting department will also have yarn. I’ve purchased from Walmart and Fred Meyer (a supercenter type store here on the west coast, owned by Kroger) before.

There are practically unlimited sources for buying yarn online. I’ve never bought yarn from an online company before, but I’ve read on some forums about a few, and most come with good reviews. Hobium Yarns is one. Handsome Fibers is another.

And then there’s my favorite: the local yarn store. I frequent Oregon Knitting Co., but I’ve also purchased from Nitro Knitters. Because these shops are local to you, they’ll be different depending on where you are. A lot of the, have similar inventory and prices, so it’s just a matter of finding one you like and developing a relationship with the owners and employees. 


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The Yarn Stash and How to Store It

There’s a time in every knitter’s life when you have a yarn stash – even if you’re a project buyer. Almost no project will use up an exact even number of skeins with no leftovers. A pair of toe-up socks is the possible exception (though I’ve never made those, so I don’t know from experience, only what I’ve heard). If you’re a stash buyer, your yarn collection will grow even faster. Eventually you’ll have to figure out how to store it all.

Because I’m a project yarn buyer, my yarn stash is rather small. I keep the leftovers from other projects in a “Dokument” wastepaper bin from IKEA. It’s taken me about 18 months to get to the point where my little bin is full. There have been a few times when I’ve bought yarn “just because,” and most of those yarns are sitting untouched in my bin, which is why I don’t buy yarn this way. Despite the fact that they don’t get used terribly often, though, it’s quite convenient to have yarn around. Just last week, my kids were invited to a birthday party with only three days’ notice. Rather than buying a gift, I decided to see what yarns I had on hand and I made a hat and mitten set for the boy. If I hadn’t had that yarn stash, however meager it is, that wouldn’t have been possible.

For stash people, a small wastepaper basket won’t do the trick for storage, as you might guess. So if you have enough yarn in your house to open a yarn store of your own, what do you do with it? Here are a few photographic ideas from around the internet. None of these photos are mine.




Finally, here’s an article from Lion Brand on dealing with your yarn stash.


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Buying Yarn “Just Because”


If you like knitting or crocheting, but you don’t think in a pattern-first mentality, you might be a “yarn stasher.” This is the kind of person who goes into the yarn (or craft) shop with nothing in mind.

They might be out of yarn, but not have a new project in mind yet.

They might be having a down day and decide on a little retail therapy.

They might have come into some extra money and decided to spend it on yarn.  

Maybe they’re on vacation and found a local yarn shop with fibers and/or colors specific to the area that they can’t get back home.

Or maybe they were surfing the internet and found a great deal on some yarn, too good to pass up, and decided to indulge. 

In all of these cases, the person didn’t “need” yarn. (Although if you ask a knitter or crocheter, they’ll tell you that they always need more yarn!) They had some other reason for buying it, and they’ll just “stash” it until the right project comes along. 

There’s nothing wrong with either method of yarn buying; it all comes down to your own personal preference and budget. And storage space, but that’s a topic for another day (tomorrow, actually). When you go shopping for yarn, do it the way you prefer. Whichever way that is, it’s the right one!


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Buying Yarn for a Specific Project


There are two schools of thought when it comes to buying yarn, and over the next two days I want to write about each of them. Today is my usual method of yarn buying: only when you have a specific project in mind.

So… you’ve chosen a pattern. Maybe you found a free one (there are thousands), or maybe you paid for it (even more options here). It doesn’t matter which route you go; all that matters is that you’ve found a pattern you want to knit. You have needles. Now all you need is yarn.  You go to the store and buy the yarn specified in the pattern for the size you want to knit. Nothing more, nothing less. Well, maybe less, depending on your budget. You can always come back for the rest of the yarn when you run out (although you do risk getting a different dye lot). That’s really all it means to “buy yarn for a specific project.” 

There is one more situation in which you may find yourself if you are a project-yarn-buyer. You go into the yarn store (or craft store or yarn section of a regular store), but you didn’t look at patterns first. You stand there for eons, looking at the different yarn trying to imagine what each could turn into. You fail to come up with anything and end up leaving with no yarn at all. If this happens to you, you know you’re a project purchaser and you should find a pattern before going shopping again.

I have been in both situations, which is why I (usually) only buy yarn when I already know what I want to knit.

Tomorrow I will write about the other kind of yarn addict: the stash buyer.


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What is an “Interchangeable Needle Set”?

Yesterday, I talked about the basic types of knitting needles: straight, circular, and double pointed. Today I have a “secret ninja” fourth type to mention – although to be fair, it’s really just a variation on circular needles. 

If you recall, circular needles are shorter needles connected to each other by a thin, flexible cord. Interchangeable needles are basically the same, but with one twist… they come apart. When you buy an interchangeable needle set, you get a wide variety of needle sizes (diameters), but instead of having a stopper on the end, they have a screw. The set also comes with a selection of cords, and each cord has the inverse screw to the needles on its ends. In this way, you can combine whichever needle size you need (in an interchangeable set, they’re called “tips”) with the length of cord you need. This system allows you to have a huge variety of circular needles without having an unlimited supply that you have to store and keep track of. It’s a very efficient way of having the needles you need for practically any project. 


Types of Knitting Needles


Yesterday I wrote about my favorite knitting needles and pictured some of my Knitter’s Pride Dreamz straight needles. Today I’m going to explain the difference between straights, circulars, and double pointed.

Straight Needles


These were my very first knitting needles, and they’re great for learning. Straight needles are defined by their long size, point at one end, and a stopper of some kind at the other end. This stopper prevents your stitches from sliding off the back of the needle while you’re knitting; this is why they’re good for beginners.

Straight needles aren’t just for beginners, though. They’re also good for anyone making a flat project. I’ve even knit sweaters on them before (by knitting the pieces individually and sewing them together at the end).

Circular Needles

Fixed circulars

Most knitters I’ve come in contact with over the past couple of years prefer circular knitting needles. They’re great for any kind of project, either flat or round (tubular). With circular needles, you can join your stitches to knit around and around in a tube, or you can turn the work over at the end of the row and knit back and forth to create a flat piece. You can also use the “magic loop” method to knit small diameter things, but I don’t particularly like that, so I won’t focus much on it.

Double Pointed Needles


Double pointed needles (DPNs) are use for knitting small diameter projects in the round. They’re mostly used for the tops of hats and sweater sleeves. DPNs come in a set of 5, and each one has points at both ends (rather than one point and a stopper). They’re also quite a bit shorter than straight needles. When you use DPNs, you put 1/3 of the stitches on each of three needles and then use a fourth to knit with, one needle at a time (just like straight needles). When you get to the end of one needle, you rotate your work, move the now-empty needle from your left hand to your right, and keep going. 

The main downside with DPNs is that they don’t have that stopper on the end, so it’s very possible for your stitches to fall off. It’s not a huge risk so long as you don’t fill them up too full; typically there’s plenty of room on a given needle to keep the stitches in the middle and avoid them being dropped.


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My Favorite Knitting Needles


There about as many different types of knitting needles as there are knitters who use them. Plastic, metal, hardwood, bamboo, even bone. And that’s just the materials the needles themselves are actually made from. You also have straight needles, circular needles, and double pointed needles (more on those differences tomorrow). And the size of the needles is another thing to consider. 

Big box stores are going to have a much smaller selection to choose from. If you go there, you’re likely to only find plastic or aluminum needles. At a “local yarn store” (LYS) you’ll have many more options. 


My focus is on my favorite needles, though. Not all the different varieties on the market. My taste in knitting needles is quite small; in fact, I’ve really only used two kinds. I have a couple of sets of bamboo double pointed needles that I bought cheap from Amazon, and they do a fine job. But my very favorite are my Knitter’s Pride Dreamz needles. These are the basic needle available at my LYS, and therefore the kind I bought for my knitting class. They are made from a strong, polished wood, and each size (diameter) is a different color so you can tell the apart quickly and easily. The points are sharp enough to allow you to go through stitches easily, but not so pointy that you split stitches. Because they’re wood, they give your yarn a little grip, making the dreaded dropped stitch less of an issue (not a nonissue, though). I can not recommend these needles enough, especially for a beginner.


This post is not sponsored in any way. Every pair of needles I own, I’ve purchased. Knitter’s Pride has no idea who I am, and I was not compensated for this post. I just really love their product and wanted to write about it today.


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Yarn Fibers


We’re still talking about yarn today. Yesterday was all about the different thicknesses available; today is about the different fibers you’re likely to come across as you shop for yarn.

If you purchase your yarn from a craft store or supercenter type store, you will likely be limited to acrylic yarns. Acrylic is a byproduct of oil, so acrylic yarn is basically plastic. Don’t let that deter you though; not all acrylics are created equal. Some are really terrible and some are softer and cozier than wool. Acrylic is very easy to care for (almost  all are machine washable and dryable) and easy on the budget, so it’s a great choice for knitting or crocheting items for babies and children.

The next most popular fiber for yarn is probably wool. There are as many different types and feels of wool yarn as there are species of sheep (and llamas and alpacas, and…). That is, quite a lot. Most of the pure wool yarns I’ve worked with tend to be pretty scratchy, but with some TLC and wool wash, they soften up.

Cotton is a popular yarn for making things like washcloths and summer garments. It’s cool and breezy, but also tough. It can tend to be pretty heavy, so it’s not ideal for heavier clothing like winter sweaters.

These are the main types of yarn I’ve seen as “pure.” There are also a nearly infinite number of blends on the market. Some of the lower-cost companies have wool-acrylic blends available, for example. I’ve used a cotton-bamboo yarn for a shawl I made, and that yarn has a nice drapy quality that was perfect for the shawl. I’ve tried that same yarn for other projects (a sweater and a pair of mittens), and it was no good for either of those. If you’re making socks, the best yarn to find is a wool-nylon blend. They nylon gives you the strength you need for the heels and toes, while the wool keeps it from being a nylon sock.

This list barely scratches the surface on yarn fibers, but it covers the kinds I use most, so I’m going to leave it here. Come back tomorrow for the next most important thing you need to knit: needles.


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Yarn Weights


Welcome back! Today I want to talk about yarn weights, by which I mean thicknesses (as opposed to pounds). You might remember from yesterday’s post that your label will tell you what weight your yarn is. But what do those terms and numbers mean? I’m going to enlighten you right now.

Size 0 is also called lace, fingering, or thread weight. As you might guess from its first name, it is often used for creating airy, lacy knits. I have never personally used yarn this small; I tend to mostly knit sweaters, which require thicker yarn for warmth.

Size 1 also has a few different names. You might hear it called “sock,” “fingering,” or “baby.” This is the yarn you use for knitting socks if you want them to fit inside your shoes. It’s also a really nice feeling yarn for shawls and baby blankets.

Size 2 is called Sport or Baby yarn. It’s a little thicker than sock yarn, but used for a lot of the same types of projects.

Size 3 is called DK, which is short for “double knitting.” I’m not entirely sure why it’s called that, because double knitting is a technique also; perhaps double knitting works best with this weight of yarn. I’m not sure, though. DK weight yarn is suitable for just about any project. I’ve used it for numerous sweaters and shawls.


These are the yarn sizes I work with the most. This picture shows the differences between sizes 2, 3, and 4.

Size 4 is called worsted in the United States and Aran in much of the rest of the world. This is the yarn you’ll get if you buy it anywhere that’s not a yarn-specific store (JoAnn, Michael’s, the craft section at Walmart, etc). It’s the “standard” yarn and is great for warm sweaters, Afghans, and more.

Size 5 is the beginning of the really thick yarns. Commonly called chunky or bulky, it’s good for a quick blanket (thicker yarn means bigger stitches, which means your project goes faster). 

6 and 7 are very similar to 5, just a bit bigger.

For a nice printable on yarn thicknesses, visit this post at Moogly.

Now that we’ve discussed thicknesses and ideas for projects in different yarn weights, I want to briefly mention how yarns get to be different thicknesses. This is done by twisting strands of spun yarn together. The fewer the strands, the thinner the yarn. Size 0 yarn uses 1-3 strands, while size 7 can use in excess of 16 strands. Understanding those numbers, it’s easy to see how and why the thicknesses are so different!

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