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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Guest Post: How To Teach Someone To Knit!

Knitting has become very trendy recently, and if you are a dedicated knitter than you’ve probably been asked to teach a friend or family member to knit too. If like me you’ve been knitting since childhood, it can be hard to remember how you were taught to knit, purl, cast on and cast off, and therefore it can be even harder to work out how to pass these skills on to someone else. My daughter, who is almost eight, is desperate to learn the basics and we’ve been spending some wet afternoons in the school holidays trying to knit a scarf. There have been tears and tantrums along the way but we have picked up some hints and tips which will help anyone else tasked with teaching a beginner knitter.

Sit Behind Them!

It’s hard to explain what you do when you are knitting. If like me you get muddled between left and right sometimes, sitting facing someone and trying to explain what to do with yarn and needles is almost impossible. If you’re teaching a child, sit them on your lap and then you can put your hands over theirs on the needles and control exactly what is going on. For an adult, stand behind them and look over their shoulder and this will help you explain what they should be doing next.

Avoid the Kits

There are a huge range of kits on the market designed to help kids learn to knit and in my experience these are worse than useless. Most of the kits have needles which are like fence posts, and little fingers find it impossible to manipulate such thick needles. Many of the very cheap kits contain poor quality yarn which is not fun to work with and once the kit is made you are left with something you would never be seen dead wearing.

Needles

When teaching someone to knit, opt for slightly thicker needles such as 5.5mm or 6mm needles. I have found that using plastic or wooden needles is better than metal as they don’t seem to be so “slippy” and there are fewer dropped stitches. Standard straight needles are better for learners than circular needles; learners don’t need the added complication of trying to keep circular needles untangled. Don’t use needles which are too short or too long, stick to the average as these are most easily controlled.

Yarn

If you are using thicker needles then it makes sense to use a slightly thicker yarn, something like a Robin, Wendy or King Cole chunky, an American “sportweight” yarn or even an aran weight yarn. Thin yarn can be used with thicker needles but this makes a very lacy type knitting and it also means the learner struggles to notice when they have dropped a stitch or made a mistake. Cast on around 25 stitches in your King Cole chunky or aran and get the learner knitting plain garter stitch backwards and forwards to make a scarf or something similar. Don’t be tempted to move on to more fancy things like stocking stitch or knitting two stitches together until they have completely mastered the basics.

Morag Peers is a keen knitter and the mother of three young children

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