This lesson starts by providing a list of the two to four items you need to get started with your knitting. After that, I’ll share everything I keep in my knitting bag, and the other knitting tools I keep close at hand.
Getting Started with Knitting
All you really need to get started knitting is a skein of yarn and pair of knitting needles in the corresponding size. To work through these next several lessons, I recommend a pair of straight, size 8 knitting needles and a skein of worsted weight yarn in a light color. The following provides some additional detail to help you sort through the choices:
Straight Needles: To get started, you will want a pair of straight knitting needles. There are several kinds of knitting needles; more information on that is below. Straight needles have a point on one end and some kind of a stopper at the other.
Size. Each needle has a size, which corresponds to the diameter (e.g., US size 8 needles are 5mm); you need needles that are appropriate for your weight of yarn (it tells you the weight on the yarn label.) Most of the beginning patterns on the site will work with size 8 needles and worsted weight yarn, which is medium size 4 yarn.
Material. Knitting needles come in a variety of materials, such as aluminum, bamboo, wood, nickel, etc. Wood are my favorite; aluminum are the cheapest but a little slippery (some people like that and some don’t); bamboo is another option with a little more grip than metal. Any material is fine for getting started. Long term, whether you choose metal, wood, or bamboo is a matter of personal preference. For slippery yarn, I like wooden needles; for “grippy” yarn, I like nickel needles. Do what feels the most comfortable for each project.
Length. Knitting needles come in a variety of lengths. To get started with your knitting, they can be any length, although shorter needles (such as 8 or 9”) are often easier for a new knitter to maneuver.
Recommendation. For a simple solution, you wouldn’t go wrong with these needles from Amazon or these from Michael’s.
You will be able to make several of the beginner patterns on the site with one skein of worsted weight yarn in a light color. The light color makes it a lot easier to see the stitches when you’re learning.
Material. When starting out, there is a lot of nice, affordable yarn available at Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, or other similar craft stores. Note that acrylic yarn is the cheapest, and often easy to use, but usually can’t be ironed without melting. As you progress, it’s great to find a yarn store nearby and graduate up to more high end wool and alpaca yarns. My favorite shop in the Oklahoma City area is Yarnatopia.
Weight. Yarns come in a number of different weights. To tell the weight, it will either say it’s worsted weight or sometimes will have a number on the label; worsted weight is a size 4 medium yarn. The Resources page includes a chart of the standard yarn weights.
Recommendation. To get started, I suggest getting a light colored skein of Vanna’s Choice, Red Heart, or Caron Simply Soft yarn in worsted weight (size 4 medium.)
Other Supplies for Getting Started
Yarn Needle. To finish your project you will need a sewing needle the correct size for yarn. Here is one option but really any will work.
Scissors. You’ll also need a pair of scissors. Small scissors, or ones with a cap, are often handy to keep in your knitting bag, but any kind will work.
While there are lots of other knitting tools to acquire over time, you can really knit a good number of projects with just those four above.
In My Knitting Bag
The following are some of the other tools I keep in my knitting bag. I had a lot of questions about different tools when I was learning to knit so decided to share some of those answers here.
Needles, Needles, and more Needles
There are several types of knitting needles, which you will need in the correct size and shape for each project. The following are several types of needles that get used for different kinds of projects:
Straight needles. As mentioned above, straight needles have a point on one end for knitting and a cap on the other; you need a matched pair. They come in different lengths.
Circular needles. Circular needles can be used for working in the round or as a substitute for straight needles. They come in different sizes of needles with different lengths of cables.
Double pointed needles (DPNS). DPNS are used for smaller projects that are worked in the round and they have points on both ends; you typically need five to do a project, which is how many come in a set.
Cable needle. A cable needle is a tool used to help make cables in knitting, such as on these ear warmers. One size cable needle will work for all projects. I prefer the u-shaped one.
Interchangeable needle sets. If you ultimately knit a lot, you will end up buying lots of different pairs of needles. At some point, an avid knitter will often find it’s more affordable to buy a set of interchangeable needles. These are circular needles that allow you to attach different sized needles to different lengths of cables. Circular needles can be used instead of straight needles in most projects, so while an interchangeable set is more expensive up front than a single pair of needles, over time they can be more versatile, affordable, and easier-to-organize. The ones I use most often are by Lykke, although I also own and recommend Chiagoo and Knit Picks sets.
In addition to knitting needles (lot of needles), plus scissors and yarn needles as I mentioned above, I also keep the following in my knitting bag:
Fingernail clippers. These are handy when I’m traveling and not allowed to bring scissors.
Large safety pins. I often reach for a safety pin in the middle of a project.
Small crochet hook. A small crochet hook helps pick up dropped stitches or repair mistakes. You can save a lot of time and frustration with a crochet hook in your bag.
Pencil. Having a pencil close at hand is often helpful.
Stitch markers. These are small circles to help mark rows or changes in patterns. Each marker sits between stitches and easily can be slipped from the left needle to the right.
Rulers. I regularly use both a firm (wooden or plastic) 12 inch ruler and a 10 foot flexible ruler (retractable is ideal.)
Needle caps. These go on the ends of your needles and keep the stitches from slipping off when you put your work down in the middle of a project.
DPNS holder. Another kind of protector to keep your work carefully on the needles when you put it down is a holder for double pointed needles (DPNS.) The needles fit in the case and your work (such as a sock you’re knitting) can remain on the needles extending from the space between the case snaps, which keep the loops from being able to slip off the ends of the needles.
Row counter. As the name implies, this helps you count each row to keep your place in the pattern. There are several different kinds and shapes available available, such as ones that hang on the needle, wrap around your finger or wrist, or hang around your neck. The Knit Companion app described below also includes a digital row counter.
Knitting needle size measurement tool. This is usually a piece of plastic that has holes that match the different sizes of knitting needles, in case your needles don’t have (or you can’t read) the number printed on the side.
Knitting lamp. This hangs around your neck and the bendable arms allow you to shine light directly on your project, which is helpful if you’re knitting in a dark room, such as while watching a movie (although I don’t recommend these at the theatre.) It’s also often helpful to have more light directly on the project when working with darker colored yarn.
Other Knitting Tools
Finally, there a few other tools I could not live without in connection with my knitting:
Ravelry. This is an online library of knitting patterns and other information. Some of the patterns are free while others cost a few dollars. You can like and save downloaded patterns into your Ravelry library. This is a resource used by almost all knitters.
Small project bags. I have a variety of bags in different sizes that I use to hold works-in-progress. I like to have each project I’m working on in its own bag. These bags are my favorite.
Small mesh bag. I like to keep a small mesh bag with little tools that can easily be moved between project bags and keeps things from getting lost.
Knit Companion app. This app is amazing and where I store all my patterns. It has a highlighter line that allows you to keep your place as you go, and also includes a digital row counter. While it works on a smart phone, I find it’s easier to use on my iPad. It integrates with both Ravelry and Dropbox.
Winder and Swift. Nice yarn, such as good quality wool, comes in a hank instead of a ball. You need to wind it before using it to knit. A good yarn store will offer to wind it for you. If you aren’t able to get it wound (perhaps because you’ve ordered online), you can purchase a winder and swift to wind it yourself. The other option is a handheld winder, which is harder to use but certainly smaller and more affordable if you don’t need to wind yarn often; I bring it with me when traveling for last minute winding needs.
Finally, there are a few reference materials I keep close at hand, which can be found on the Resources page.
I hope that’s helpful. Feel free to post a question in the comment section or drop me an email. Happy knitting!
Ready for more?
Head over to Lesson 2 and learn to knit a Garter Stitch Coaster! Or check out all the available beginner knitting lessons.