This post is part of a series about the basics of the not-exactly-knitting parts of knitting.
So you’ve decided to start knitting! Maybe you have a handy friend to teach you the basics, or maybe you’re teaching yourself from videos and instructions online. Now you’re wondering exactly which of the various choices of yarn and needles to start with. Or maybe you’ve already tried, but it’s just not working! What to do?
Apart from how you’re learning, there are some things to do that can help you – namely, yarn and needle choice. For both, there are two things to think about: the thickness, and the type of material.
Yarn weight – you want something thick enough to see what you’re doing. Yarn comes in varying weights (or thicknesses), from cobweb (crazy thin) to super bulky (really thick). I’d advise something in the DK/Aran area – thin enough so that the yarn itself doesn’t get in the way, but thick enough so you can easily see what you’re doing.
Yarn composition – the material your yarn is made of (or fiber) will make a big difference. To start out, a grippy yarn will serve you best. Wool is my choice, but acrylic* would work too, and is more easily available in a local hobby shop. Avoid slippery yarns. They’re harder to manage on the needles, and may slip off. If the stitches do fall off, slippery yarn has a bigger tendency to run away from you and unravel. A grippy yarn will probably stay where it is if you drop a stitch, unless you pull at it. So avoid silk, or anything that feels slick. Also avoid plant fibers for your first try. They naturally have less stretch to them, and so are a little less forgiving to work with.
More yarn composition – you want something with good stitch definition, meaning that you want to be able to see what’s going on with your stitches. Again, wool and acrylic are good choices. Avoid mohair or alpaca, or anything really fuzzy. These yarns have a ‘halo’, or a tendency to fuzz out, which makes seeing your stitches themselves very difficult.
The other part of knitting equation is your needles. You want needles that are the appropriate size for your yarn. Like yarn, standard needles also come in a range of sizes, from 0 (very thin) to ~15 (as big around as my pinky)**. (There are needles both thinner and thicker than this, but they’re more for novelty things.) You want something that goes with your yarn. Something in the 6-9 range will probably be just fine. Your yarn may have a recommended needle size on the band, and that will work too. If you have too big a needle, you’ll have loops everywhere and it’ll be hard to see what’s going on. Too small, and your fabric will be very tight, and again hard to see.
The material of the needles also matters. Again, you want something grippy, so the stitches don’t slide around when you don’t want them to. Bamboo or wood needles are a good choice. Avoid metal, it’s much slipperier.
With helpful choices of yarn and needle, hopefully that first knitted square will happen a little more easily!
*I never use acrylic if I can avoid it. I really don’t like how it feels to knit with. But it is easily available, cheap, machine washable, and pretty easy to work with.
**These are US sizes. UK sizes are specified in mm. 2.00mm needles are the same as US 0, and 10.00mm are US 15.
For other posts in this series:
- Reading your knitting
- Keeping tension, or how to hold your yarn
- Picking or Throwing?
- How do I knit from this?
- Which way was I going?
- Starting out – advice for your first attempt
- Knitting or Crochet?