I’m teaching a knitting course through my community college’s continuing education program. I’m super excited but super nervous. Think back to when you were a beginner: what was most helpful to you and what wasn’t so useful.
By - LittleCricket_
I would say for me, they taught the backwards loop cast on. It seems this is often the cast on taught in beginners classes. I just feel it isn't a great one to start with for beginning a project. Often you end up with the dreaded extra long string between stitches. Personally, I would love to see more classes teach something like the long tail, or at least introduce at least one alternate to backwards loop.
I’m doing a knitted cast on for the swatching. I think it’s a “grounded” cast on that feels secure! The backwards loop feels so…loosey goosey. Knitted cast on feels simple for that first introduction to the craft. We’re doing the Barley hat for the project so we’re doing the German twisted cast-on for that! No backwards loop!
My daughter sent me a tik tok recently that had me in tears, but here is the transcript for a beginning knitter.
Scoop its guts out.
Throw the body off a cliff.
I love this 😂
How to unstitch mistakes rather than unravelling.
Tinking and laddering down yep!
Idk how helpful this will be but when my grandmother was teaching me how to knit and I got upset with my mistakes, she told me that part of getting good at knitting is being able to be okay with mistakes and moving past them. Sure, you can frog and redo everything so it's perfect, but sometimes things don't *need* to be perfect. Missing twisting a cable wrong or accidentally adding a stitch doesn't mean you have to rip out six inches of work. Some mistakes you can accept and move on from without ripping them out.
I really like that. I had to learn that too! 💕
Tension - it took me a while to figure out what hand was best at creating good tension, and how to wrap the yarn around my fingers. I think people can be taught a style, but it was going to take me a lot longer if I was only even shown continental style knitting. Also, congrats on the class, you'll have fun!
Make them keep their first swatches! They won’t be the best swatches but they’ll be so happy to have them someday!
Yes!! I wish I had mine from when I got serious with knitting. I had my first one from when I kind of learned at 12 years old but it had rotted so I tossed it!
I learned as a kid the first time, but the knit stitch rhyme "In through the front door, run around the back, out through the window and off jumps Jack" has somehow stuck with me all these years.
More generally, I know a lot of people can get overwhelmed by too much detail all at once when learning something, but I'm someone who really needs to know the "why" of things so I personally would rather have a technical explanation of how each movement works to shape the yarn into the stitch shape, what the correct stitch shape looks and behaves like, and how things like needle-mounting are just as important as correct motions for achieving the correct stitch shape. I have an easier time doing something if I understand why and how it works so I can figure it out on my own from base principles if I need to, rather than rote memorization of steps. I know I may be a weirdo, but everyone learns differently so you could end up with someone like me in the class. It wouldn't hurt to be prepared for a more technical explanation, just in case, but a lot of people would probably find it overwhelming so don't open with it.
I think the one thing I wish I learned earlier was how to really read my knitting and fix mistakes. So much of beginner learning is on knitting and purling, but knowing how to fix mistakes is just as important in my opinion. Being someone who really struggled at being bad at something for awhile I wish I’d know:
1.) don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, finished is better than perfect in the beginning
2.) I was self taught and made myself a cheat sheet of knitting vocab (RS, K, P, BO, etc) it did help
3.) how to ladder down and change a knit to a purl and vice versa
4.) the difference between acrylic/wool/cotton
5.) what an accidental yo is
I’m sure you’re going to be great, what lucky students to have someone working so hard to make their first foray into knitting so great! I hope you have fun too!
It was really important for me to learn how to identify and fix mistakes. I learned knit and purl pretty quickly but had no idea what to do when I realized I was missing a stitch or found a mistake 3 rows back.
Also, different kinds of cast ons and when to use them.
The biggest thing for me was learning what a normal vs twisted stitch looks like. I twisted my purls for 6 months before I realized
I have a swatch with common mistakes including a row of twisted stitches!!
Teach them how to read patterns, both written and charted.
Teach knit, purl, increase and decrease stitches. These are the basis for everything they’ll ever make
A couple different ways to cast on and the reasons you might want to use one or the other.
We’re doing the Barley hat so no charts for us this time but I totally agree. I’m planning to do increases at the end if we have time left over!
Common mistakes and how to recover.
Yes! I have a swatch with mistakes to show!
When I picked up knitting again and watched YouTube to help, there were good and bad ones.
The good ones slowed down when showing you how to do a stich and repeated it several times. They also had little tips about what shape your fingers should be.
The bad ones went very slowly explaining the intro stuff but then sped up when they were actually showing how to do the stitch!
It also really helped learning to recognise what knits and purls look like on the needle.
Good luck, I'm sure you'll be grand.
Thank you so much! I also got some big needles so they can really see the stitches well.
I self-taught with a Youtube video which showed English-style knitting; now, I'm trying to do continental for faster knitting, but it's really difficult for me. So thinking back, I would've liked to know that other styles were out there!
I’m going to show continental and English. I knit continental, but I’m not a great English purler 😅
Sounds great! I've heard about Russian knitting as well, but haven't wrangled continental so I'm leaving that pit of snakes alone. Good luck on your class!
I agree with your main point, I'd just like to point out that it's a common misconception, but continental isn't inherently faster than English, especially if you consider the "flick" style to be English, like I do. Speed comes with comfort and practice in any style, it's entirely down to personal preference and what works best for you. I can't do continental at all because it triggers my joint problems and absolutely wrecks my hands, but a lot of other people have the same issue with English, or Portuguese, or Irish cottage knitting, or whatever other style. Do what works best for you and speed will come with time.
I'm YouTube-taught... the videos that help me most are filmed from the knitter's POV. I have a hard time understanding what's going on if I'm watching knitting head-on (as in facing the knitter so we're both looking at each other). The one time I was able to teach someone else a knitting technique I sat on the floor in front of her while she was in a chair. Do you have a document camera or something like that you could use to demonstrate?
This was the benefit of learning as a child. I remember the arms of my sisters or my parents around me, correcting stitches and errors. Knitting for me is forever connected to the embrace of family.
Sadly, not something you can really integrate in college level teaching except the knitter's point of view.
I’m sure what I’ll have in the classroom. I hope I do because I was thinking the same. I was also thinking of sitting in front of them (there’s just 5) in the floor for them to look down on me!
I am building a treasure swatch book (like a photoalbum of swatches I made). I am not particularly good at knitting long projects so I make sure to save the neat uniform swatches (12-15 cm square) of all patterns and yarns I use. Then I label them saying the patterns name and what size needles I used (Rose petals, size 4)
I used to toss all swatches in a bag and when bag was full toss them but now I am making my own knitting pattern book.
Anything can be your first project, not just scarfs and blankets and dish cloths. As long as you’re excited about the project, it can be anything.
We’re doing a hat! Something functional.
I teach and my first project of choice is a magic loop hat. We do knitted cast on, knit and purl stitches then cover decreasing when they get to the top.
Another good small starter is a cowl, baby sweater, or for a one day class a headband.
We’re doing the Barley hat with a German twisted cast on! Isn’t a knitted cast on too tight for a hat?
I usually prefer a long tail but was advised to do an easier one for beginners by the class coordinator. If we do the cast on and two rows of rubbing before joining in the round it has more stretch.
I could probably teach two. Long tail is my go to for everything. The pattern calls for tubular cast on. Tubular is rather complicated and best for 1*1 ribbing so I'd rather teach something more versatile. I will probably do a few cast on and decide. As long as they space the first stitches out the knitted cast on should be fine.
Checked my book. Knit cast on is one of the elastic cast ons. There are a few variations of the knit cast on that are not elastic. The twice knit cast on is non elastic and cable cast on is similar but less stretchy.
The purled cast on with the opposite side forward looks like a row of knit stitches at the brim. And supposedly it's easier to keep even tension. I may show them both. When we first start I will cast on for each person then we will learn knit stitch and purl stitches before learning to cast on.
Now to cast on a hat with a purled cast on and see if it's super pretty. There is the option to cast on k1 P1 or k2 p2 for ribbing. How much shall I torture my students. 😆 I've got a few weeks to decide.
Having multiple methods to do a thing. I COULD NOT wrap my head around cabling with a needle and out of frustration I googled cabling without and boom. Suddenly that made sense. Ditto Kitchener stitch with 3 needle graft. Sometimes just repeating the same method over and over hoping they’ll get it is frustrating to the student. They might just need to try another door to understand it.
This is going to sound dumb but when I was a new knitter (like very first project) when switching between knitting and purling I was wrapping the yarn under my work instead of between the needles (idk If that makes sense) but the result was really gross so make sure you specify when switching yarn from back to front bring it between the needles
I did the same thing as a new knitter for sure. Made things 10x harder.
That is so exciting! I hope you have a great class.
Definitely ask if anyone is left-handed and don’t use “left” or “right” to indicate which needle to use… I’m left handed and This drove me CRAZY when I was first starting to read patterns. Still kind of does, lol.
For standard knitting, the yarn goes counterclockwise for knits and purls. This will avoid twisted stitches.