Best Knitting Projects (and Tips) for Beginners


I’m relatively new to knitting (about three or four obsessive years). And I’m one of those crazy types that is convinced I will make something fabulous with no real skill set to back it up. I always gravitate toward the most aesthetically pleasing pattern and the most expensive yarn. This is where things can fall apart, as things do. With my limited knowledge and enthusiasm I have tried many patterns in just a few years and can recommend a few projects interesting enough to keep you motivated and smartly written so that you should learn something.

First, supplies. To start, you will need a pattern, some knitting needles, yarn and a yarn needle. Ask the sales people at your local yarn shop to recommend a fiber suitable for your pattern. You will almost never find the exact yarn shown in a pattern. It’s okay, find something that looks similar and feels nice. But if it feels scratchy at the store just imagine how it will feel rubbing against your fingers as you work on your project. Do yourself a favor and don’t start with a lace or fingering weight (the finest of gauges), choose a project that features DK, Worsted or Bulky fibers.

Keep in mind that your first projects will probably be sad little things that you’ll want to frog later (the term “frog” means to “rip it” or ribbit, if you will). For this reason, it is not a bad idea to insert a lifeline strand of yarn in a contrasting color after a series of stitches you are very satisfied with. This way – any future errors will not damn the rest of it to frogging.

About needles – you may be asked if you prefer stainless steel or bamboo for circular needles. Bamboo offers more friction and I like it for double pointed and straight needles but I do not like working with bamboo on circular needles. I’ve learned that stainless needles are very fast and do not have friction. This can mean the knitted yarn is apt to slide off the needles causing frustration if you can’t decide which way to reset your fallen stitches. For that reason you should pick up some point protectors, too! they’re great for keeping work on the needles when you set things down to rest – a sliced wine cork works in a pinch.

Oh, and any of these projects would make great Holiday presents if you’re feeling generous with your time and fibers.

Border and Seed Stitch Washcloths

Learn the difference between knits and purls and the importance of counting stitches.

There’s a fantastic washcloth pattern available through Purl Soho called wedding washcloths. I made two for my Grandmother she said they were great on her sensitive skin. For yarn selection, I recommend linen, cotton or a blend of the two. The project will be knit on straight needles (#5′s), and you may also need a crochet hook. The two patterns help you learn the basics of knitting and purling – keeping track of a seed stitch pattern and creating a border on straight needles. These are fundamentals of any knitting career. When you are a beginner these washcloths may take you eight hours to get – but for me it was a breakthrough. I finally learned how to tell the difference between stitches. And I frogged even that tiny project at least four times.

Mallory Cowl by Shannon Cook

Master the ribbing technique with a bulky yarn and practice joining in the round. Pattern available at luvinthemommyhood.

Cowl With a Twist

Next up,  a cowl on circular needles, free pattern available on the Purl Bee. Learn to join in the round and alternate knitted and purled rows. Loosely cast off.


If you find yourself ready for a hat I like one in Joelle Hoverson’s book, More Last Minute Knitted Gifts. It’s a simple ribbed knitted hat that’s simple to complete and helps you master decreasing stitches, practicing ribbing is a great way to learn the difference between a knit and purl stitch.

This Fun Kid’s Hat pattern is very quick. The yarn is a little heavy for a baby but any self-reliant toddler or older girly-girl will be delighted with the yarn and will carry on!

We all know the saying that you learn more from your failures than you do your successes. So do frog from time to time. Everyone does it.

Once you’re ready for a bigger project that’s more of a challenge consider these advanced beginner projects:

Fingerless Gloves for ladies  (Brushed Suri Mitts)

Unisex Fingerless Gloves/Hand Warmers

Leg Warmers, our own pattern using ribbing, some colorwork striping and lots of knit stitches. Made in the round on double pointed needles.

The in-threes baby cardigan is a lovely first sweater. Beware, I ripped out the top three or four times before I understood what I was doing. It’s helpful to have a knitting friend to set you straight on occasion.

Helpful techniques available by video (search for similar videos and find a teacher you like, I’ve gotta warn you – wear headphones if you’re not alone… the videos will sound very knitting nerdy):


This entry was posted on Monday, November 26th, 2012 at 4:06 pm and is filed under Resources. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.