Q for You: How do you weave in your ends?

Muckle Mitts knitted by karentempler

OK, so fair-isle knitting is an extreme example to use as the art for this Q for You, but I also really want to show you how my first colorwork project turned out! (Am I awesome or what? They’re Muckle Mitts, and the yarn is that Kenzie that Skacel sent me, and here they are on Ravelry. I love these from top to bottom.) But for real, the Q is: How do you weave in your ends?

(This is obviously another good one for the Beginning to Knit page, and I have a closely related one coming up next time.)

Like most things with knitting, everyone has a different favorite method, or a new one every month, or the answer is “It depends.” For me, the perfect project, in this context, is anything that starts and ends with ribbing and has no other loose tails in between! That’s because any time I’ve got a tail at the edge of some ribbing, I just run it down one side of a stack of knit stitches on the wrong side, then back up the other side of those same stitches. (Pictured below.) Give a tug to even out the tension, and snip! Done. I have no idea if this is an officially sanctioned method — I’ve just always done it, and it is so so simple. But if there’s no ribbing or seam to hide the ends in, I either use the duplicate stitch method or, if it’s a reasonably sticky yarn, I just weave them in a couple of zigzagging lines through the purl bumps on the wrong side. What about you?

How to weave in ends in ribbing

PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: Do you prefer your patterns written or charted?


How to learn to knit

How to learn to knit

I’m asked this question, in one form/context or another, on an increasingly frequent basis, and it probably should have been first in the Beginning to Knit pool of posts. But it’s kind of a hard question to answer! You’ve seen an Instagrammer knitting some amazing mitts, or you’ve ventured into a store with a friend and witnessed the aesthetic splendor of modern yarn selections, or you remember your great-grandmother knitting when you were tiny and you’ve always wanted to learn. Maybe you’ve gone so far as to buy a ball of yarn and a pair of knitting needles. And the question is: Now what? How do I learn how to knit?

As with most things, getting started is the hardest part — especially if you’re an adult human trying to learn from scratch. In order to knit at the most basic level, you need to know two things: 1) how to cast on stitches (i.e., get the first row of stitches onto your needle) and 2) how to knit into those stitches to begin forming a fabric. From there, you can build your knitting skills at a feverish pace, but those are the first two building blocks. Like any new thing, it will feel awkward and maybe a little frustrating until you get the hang of it, and the better teacher you have, the better.

There are lots of options, and in reality you’ll use some combination of them all:

If there is a yarn store where you live and you can afford their introductory class, there’s really no better bet than learning from a professional. A good teacher not only knows how to teach knitting, but she knows more than one way of doing each and every thing and can help you find the techniques that will work best for you. A class will get you off on the right foot. In addition to yarn stores, there are loads of fiber festivals and knitting conferences that offer whole rafts of classes — at all levels and taught by traveling pros — which are generally well worth the investment. The big ones are Stitches, Knitting Lab and Vogue Knitting Live. At those events, there are often free Knitting 101-type lessons to get you over that first hump. If you’re averse to classes and have means, there are also private tutors in the world — ask your yarn store for recommendations.

Knitters love to convert people to knitting, so don’t be shy about asking for help. Anyone — an aunt, a neighbor, a coworker — who is a reasonably skilled knitter can show you the basics. They may not be as good at teaching as they are at knitting (I was incredibly lucky in this regard) and they may only be able to show you how they do it, as opposed to a pro who can walk you through all the options, but having a human being show you and sit with you while you try your hand at it is priceless.

If neither of the above is an option, see if you can find a knitting group in your area. Most towns have at least one that meets casually at some bar or coffee shop or library, and if you show up at one of those and ask very very nicely if anyone will show you the basics, there’s a chance someone will say yes. Have these two things with you: A ball (not a loose skein) of worsted-weight yarn, and size US7 knitting needle (either a circular, pictured above, or a pair of straight needles).

Once you know how to cast on and knit stitches, I absolutely recommend that you watch videos at Knitting Help or The Purl Bee or YouTube, etc., to expand your skill set. (More on that here.) If you’re a quick study, good with your hands, and patient with yourself, it might even work to learn from scratch that way. If you’re going to attempt it, you’ll want to know first that there are two basic “styles” of knitting. Continental knitting is also referred to as “picking” and it involves holding the yarn in your left hand. English knitting is also called “throwing” and involves holding the yarn in your right hand. Knitting Help in particular has videos for each basic skill done in both styles, so you can watch and try both ways, and see what feels most comfortable to you. A hybrid approach would be to take an online class, at a site like Craftsy or Creative Bug — not exactly as interactive as a real live teacher, but a step up from a video, in that regard.

I know hoards of people have learned to knit from the “Stitch ’n Bitch” book, as just one example, and I find that amazing. Even being a visual learner, I find knitting diagrams and descriptions mostly inscrutable. So while I have a stack of books I use for reference — like when I want to compare a few different people’s advice on how to accomplish a certain thing — I wouldn’t have been able to learn to knit from them. But clearly it works for others!

No matter how you learn those starter skills, I really recommend signing up for classes to expand them. And/or finding a knitting group to hang out with. And/or attending “knit night” at your local yarn store. I’m always saying this, but things come up in conversations among knitters that don’t come up in books or videos, where the focus is simply on walking you straight through a specific skill. So take any opportunity to place yourself amongst knitters knitting. And if you take only one class, make it a class in fixing mistakes. You will make mistakes (not just at the beginning) and knowing how to fix them will keep your frustration level down and your bravery high.

To everyone reading this who already knows how to knit, as always you’re encouraged to share your thoughts on the subject below! And for anyone who’s about to ask: The yarn in the picture is some Fino that Manos del Uruguay sent me.


See also: Advice for new knitters, Getting beyond garter stitch and the rest of the Beginning to Knit series.


The knitter’s basic tool kit

The knitter's basic tool kit

The list of ideas for my “month” of beginners’ posts keeps getting longer instead of shorter, so the series will outlive October. But today I thought we could talk about one of my favorite subjects: tools! My love of tools has not gone unmentioned, and it’s the whole reason for Fringe Supply Co. and Our Tools, Ourselves (which is coming back soon, I promise). But the notions wall in the yarn store can be one of the most daunting parts to a new knitter. There are a bajillion doodads for sale, but the truth is you don’t need very much. Here’s a list of what I consider to be the basic tools every knitter should have in their kit:

LEFT SIDE, clockwise from top left:

A notebook and writing implement. Making good notes for yourself is everything. What are you making — what pattern, yarn, needle, size? Did you diverge from the pattern in any way? Where did you leave off last time you worked on it? The more you modify patterns or improvise your own knits, the more important good note-keeping skills become. Because you’ll hate yourself six months from now, after you were distracted by ten other projects, when you’ve come back to that one where you were absolutely sure you knew exactly what you’d done.

Removable stitch markers. See below.

Tapestry needles. You’ll use them to weave in ends, run lifelines through your work, transfer something onto waste yarn for later, etc. I like the ones with the bent tip best.

Small scissors. Obviously indispensable. Note that TSA rules (within the US) currently allow you to take anything with a blade shorter than (I believe) four inches onto a plane, but it’s always good to check, lest your best pair be taken away from you while traveling.

Waste yarn. Buy a ball of smooth, thin cotton yarn, to be used any time a pattern calls for transferring stitches onto waste yarn, for provisional cast-ons, or when you want to put in a lifeline. I have a dozen little bundles like this floating around, pulled out of previous projects and waiting for their next assignment.

RIGHT SIDE, clockwise from top left:

Cable needles. For knitting cables. They’re typically metal, with a curve on one end or a dip in the middle, and they’re not actually necessary — I’ve always just used a double-pointed needle the same gauge as my working needle. This set of notched rosewood needles got added to my kit simply because they’re so beautiful and pleasant to use. (Coming soon to FSCo. because that’s how much I love them.)

Measuring tape. Handy for measuring garments whose dimensions you like and want to match, as well as your own body parts. Do you know how big your skull is? Your bust, or upper arm, or neck to waist measurements? Critical stuff if you want things to fit. (And you do!)

Small ruler/gauge ruler. Making and measuring gauge swatches is the other key aspect of getting your knits to fit, and the standard is to have at least four inches of stitches and rows to measure. It’s easier to do with a small flat ruler than a measuring tape. Many knitting rulers, like this wooden one, also incorporate holes for measuring the size of your needles once the markings have worn off.  You just stick the needle into the holes until you find the one that matches.

• Crochet hook. Some people use a hook for seaming knits together, but the most basic and important use a knitter has for a crochet hook is for doing repair work, most notably fixing dropped or wrongly knitted stitches on previous rows. If you don’t know how, learn now.

Stitch markers. For marking your place in your work. You’ll want a variety of sizes and colors, because you often need contrasting ones to indicate different things. And sometimes you need “locking” or removable ones, which can be relocated at any time. They’re also great for making “notes” to yourself as you knit. A common trick is to pin a removable marker in every tenth or twentieth row, or at every increase (or decrease) when doing multiples, so you can glance at your work and quickly tabulate your progress. I keep my markers in a little clear zipper pouch.

Row counter. When a pattern says, “repeat row ten 12 more times” or “decrease every 8th row 7 times” and you’re watching TV or having a conversation, a row counter can be a life saver. Of course, you could also make tick marks in your notebook or use the stitch marker trick above, etc., but I find a counter often comes in handy. They also make stitch markers with tiny counters hanging from them, which some people swear by.

And of course, a box or pouch to keep it all in! That’s the funnest part. Whether it’s a box near your favorite knitting spot or a pouch in your bag or basket for portability, you’ll want to have your tools neatly corralled so you can get what you need when you need it.

Obviously I’ve left off the most important knitting tool — needles! — but that’s a whole ’nother post. What do the rest of you have in your tool kit that you wouldn’t want to be without?


Getting Beyond Garter Stitch: Or, How to stop being a beginning knitter

Getting Beyond Garter Stitch: Or, How to stop being a knitting beginner

One of my favorite things about knitting is how remarkably little you need to know in order to broaden your horizons. For example, if all you know how to do is work the knit stitch back and forth in rows, then what you can make is garter-stitch squares or rectangles.* But if you simply cast your stitches onto a circular needle and knit in rounds instead of rows, and if you can stick your working needle into two stitches instead of one (i.e., k2tog), then suddenly you can shape those same knit stitches into a three-dimensional object — a hat. Another one: Move your yarn to the front of your work, insert your needle into a stitch from behind instead of from the front, and violà, you can purl. Each new microscopic skill like that opens up whole new realms of possibility in a completely amazing and magical way. And yet the thing I love most about knitting is that there is a bottomless well of skills and techniques that can be learned, refined and applied in endless new ways. So there’s a very short path to competency and then a potentially gloriously long path to being an actual expert.

I’m a lifetime away from being an expert but I’m also a long way from being a beginner, after having knitted for just two years. People always ask me how I got past beginnerhood so quickly — particularly how it is that I cast on my first sweater after just a few months. For one thing, I knitted a lot, like every night before bed. But as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, it was about very deliberately choosing my projects in such a way that each one expanded my skill set just a bit.

Project 1 for me was a pointy stockinette hat that I was coached through by my friend Meg, god bless her. Rounds and rounds of the knit stitch, until my fingers knew the motion by heart, then I learned to k2tog at increments, and eventually had to move onto double-pointed needles (DPNs), which was scary and thrilling and confidence building. Project 2 was a cowl worked flat, and the new skills I learned were to purl and kfb and graft, as well as to pay attention to right-side/wrong-side rows and my stitch count. The pattern was given to me by Meg and it was this: Every right-side row, kfb at the beginning of the row and k2tog at the end of it, which creates a bias in the fabric (that was fascinating!), and purl every stitch on the wrong-side rows. Also: count stitches constantly to make sure I hadn’t missed a kfb or k2tog and thus changed my stitch count. Meg had done a provisional cast-on for me, and when the strip of biased fabric was my desired length, I got to use Kitchener Stitch to graft it together. Sorcery! Project 3 was Joelle Hoverson’s Big Lace Scarf, which could be considered overambitious. I did not successfully maintain my stitch count, but it was a great lesson in yarnovers and passing stitches over each other,** as well as following a pattern that uses repeats — all very valuable skills. Failure is learning, you know. Project 4 (and a few thereafter) was probably mitts. I was eager to get back to DPNs, love fingerless gloves, and was curious about how thumbs were created. I’d noticed, reading through various free patterns on the web, that there were different ways of making thumbholes, some fancier than others, so I worked my way through them — peasant thumbs in Toasty and Fetching; thumb gussets in the likes of the 70-Yard Mitts. And in the process I learned to work mirrored m1L and m1r increases, to cast on new stitches in the middle of a project, to pick up stitches, and to work cables. And so on — a few slipped stitches here, a little lace there.

All I did was pick out patterns that appealed to me, read through them to see how much didn’t quite make sense but could probably be figured out, and checked the abbreviations list at the end of the patterns to see what skills were used and how many of them were new to me. I wanted there to be at least one or two new tricks but probably not more than three, lest it be more frustrating than fun. And then for each of those new skills (whether it was a new kind of cast-on or an ssk), I watched a video to see how it was done. As far as that first sweater, I had taken a one-day top-down sweater class, but wouldn’t have needed it in order to knit from the pattern I used, which was Jane Richmond’s Ladies’ Classic Raglan Pullover. At that point, I knew how to kfb, cast on stitches mid-project and pick up stitches. So there weren’t even any new skills involved, just new ways of putting them to use. (Although the class had taught me to modify the shaping where I wanted, among other things.) And from there I just kept going, always looking for new things to try.

At one time, I thought I’d turn this experience/approach into a book — even had a coffee date set with an editor who I planned to pitch it to — and then the talented ladies at Tin Can Knits beat me to it by launching their Simple Collection. It’s a set of patterns with beginner-level instructional detail, meant to be worked in a specific order and to gradually develop your skills. They appear to have executed the idea really well. And it’s all free!

So the very short version of this post is: If you want to get past garter-stitch scarves, go knit your way through The Simple Collection.


See also: Advice for new knitters


*I have nothing against garter-stitch, but it’s no wonder so many people find a garter-stitch scarf to be the dullest thing they’ve ever done and give up on knitting before they’ve even begun. I believe there would be more knitters in the world if everyone’s first project was a hat instead.

**Which I did with my fingers! Because there was nobody around to tell me otherwise, and because, as it happened, I still hadn’t done a bind-off, so hadn’t learned to use my left-hand needle to pass one stitch over another.

Knit the Look: Emily Weiss’s beanie for beginners

How to knit Emily Weiss's grey roll brim beanie

So many monochromatic looks lately in Knit the Look, I know, but I love how chic Emily Weiss of Into the Gloss looks in this all-black outfit with the simple grey beanie. And I mean beginner simple. Consider this the Knit the Look installment of my beginners series, because even if all you know is the knit stitch, you can make this hat. Beginner or not, you can use Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s free Roll Brim Hat Recipe and any yarn/weight you like. To get the mini-roll look of Emily’s hat, you could knit it in any sport weight or lighter yarn, but I’d go with something special so it doesn’t wind up looking too plain, like maybe Blue Sky Alpaca’s beautiful Metalico in Silver.

Every knitter should know how to turn a body part measurement and a stitch count (taken from a gauge swatch) into a cast-on count, and this is a perfect place to start. For the true beginners: If you haven’t already, you’ll need to learn to knit in the round on a circular needle (which you can do from this little video, and which will change your life). You’ll just knit every stitch, around and around and around. And by the time you start getting bored with that, it will be time for you to learn the most basic of decreases, which is simply to knit two stitches together (aka “k2tog”). And, once you’ve got too few stitches to stretch around your circular, you get to try your hand at double-pointed needles. All incredibly valuable, foundational skills, acquired one at a time, and at the end, an awesome hat!

Meanwhile, check out Vanessa’s recommendations for recreating the rest of Emily’s look.


Street style photo © Vanessa Jackman; used with permission

Cable patterns for first-timers

Great cable knitting patterns for new beginners

This might sound kinda funny on the heels of yesterday’s post about my little cable flub,* but continuing with the posts for beginning knitters, I want to talk about good cable patterns for beginners. I said about brioche stitch recently that I thought it was a lot of “extra knitting fuss” for not a lot of payoff. The exact opposite is true of cables! They are astonishingly simple to do and everyone around you will think you’re a complete genius.

At their most basic, cables are just ribbing — alternating columns of knits and purls, right? — wherein every once in awhile the knit stitches are knitted out of order, causing them to cross over each other, and creating the illusion of a twist. So they’re a natural next step once you’ve learned to knit ribbing. Imagine you’re working 4×2 ribbing — i.e., “knit 4, purl 2; repeat” — and you’ve done that for however many rows. Now think about those 4 knit stitches. Mentally (or literally if you’ve got yarn handy!) slip the first two onto a “cable needle” or a double-pointed needle, setting them aside for just a second. Knit the next two stitches, then knit the two stitches from the cable needle. Voilà, you made a cable! After your cable row, go back to ribbing for a few more rows, then work another cable row, and so on. That’s all it is! (Here’s a video demo.)

If you let the cable needle hang behind the work, your cable will twist to the right. If you hang it in front, your cable will twist to the left. A pattern will always tell you which one to do. Cables can be worked on any number of stitches, but it’s typically eight or less (so you’re setting aside, at most, four stitches at a time) because otherwise it gets too tight to work. When you see fancy horseshoe cables or braids, that’s just strategically positioned left- and right-leaning cables bumping up against each other. You can worry about all that once you’ve got the hang of basic cabling, which you can do with simple patterns like these:

Cable Scarf from Lion Brand Yarns (free pattern)
If you can knit and purl but haven’t worked ribbing or tried knitting in the round yet, this simple scarf will make you feel extremely fancy: a garter-stitch border around a field of reverse stockinette with a single pronounced cable running up the center. You don’t really even need to know what any of that means — just knit when the pattern says knit, purl when it says purl, and cable when it says cable.

Fetching fingerless mitts by Cheryl Niamath (free pattern)
This was my first foray into cables and I loved it so much I made several pairs. I followed Jared Flood’s advice and knit an extra cable repeat at the knuckles, for a total of 5 cable rounds per mitt — ample training but not overwhelming. The cables all twist the same direction, then the second mitt twists the opposite direction, so you get to do both, but only one kind at a time. If you haven’t done a peasant thumb before, this is also a good pattern to learn on, and it comes during a stretch of plain ribbing, so you don’t have to think about the thumb and the cables at the same time. However, I wouldn’t advise learning cabling and double-pointed needles at the same time, so if you aren’t already fairly comfortable with DPN’s, learn that first.

Chunky Cable Hat from The Purl Bee (free pattern)
This hat has its cables nested right up against each other, with no purl stitches in between. And the chunky yarn means it’s a relatively quick knit. If you haven’t worked crown decreases before, this is also a dandy introduction to that.

See also: Best advice for new knitters


*To be clear, my missing cable has nothing to do with difficulty and everything to do with attention deficit disorder!

Q for You: What’s your best advice for new knitters?

Advice for new knitters

This month marks two years since I learned to knit. The experience of being a new knitter is still really fresh in my mind, and I hope it always will be, because I want this blog always to be approachable and inspirational to people at all levels of knitting. Not to mention there’s still a world of stuff for me to learn. That said, I thought this month I’d do a handful of posts specifically for beginners — both guidance for getting going, and also for how to get beyond that beginner stage as quickly as possible. But I want to kick it off with a Q for You, which is: What are your best tips for beginning knitters?

I’m spelling out mine below — 10 tips! — but the things it occurs to me to say are likely different from what it will occur to you to say. And you may even take issue with some of mine, which is all sort of the point. When you’re taught to knit by a relative as a kid, you have the benefit of watching and knitting alongside that person (or persons) for potentially years, and you pick up all sorts of advice people don’t even know they’re giving — the sorts of invaluable tidbits that come up conversationally. When you’re a grown person learning to knit, like me, largely based on online videos and interactions, it’s much much harder to get those priceless asides. (Which is why I love Q for You in general.)

So these tips are what sprang to mind for me, things I had to mostly figure out for myself, but I’d like this to be a group effort. Anything and everything you think a beginner needs to know, or that you wish you’d been told when you were starting out, please post it in the comments!

OK, here goes—

1. Yarn matters. When you’re first knitting, it’s sort of like driving a car for the first time: Everything feels perilous, and like there are too many (awkward) things to remember to do all at once. The wrong yarn will compound that. Start off with a “sticky,” yarn — something tweedy and tactile — where the stitches are likely to stay in place even if you accidentally drop them off the needles, which you will. Also, nothing dark colored or fuzzy — you need to be able to see your stitches.

2. Needles matter. Lots of people have tried and given up on knitting, thinking they hated it, when really they just had the wrong needles. Like sticky yarn, you’re best off starting out with needles that offer some friction, meaning bamboo instead of metal. (Harder, pointier needles will make you faster and trickier once you’ve got the hang of it.) If you’re splitting your yarn a lot, your needles are too sharp for the yarn. If you can’t work a certain increase or decrease without a lot of effort, your needles may be too blunt. It’ll all make sense to you over time. But there’s also the matter of straight needles vs circular needles vs double-pointed needles. Everyone has their preferences, and most things can be accomplished a variety of ways. So if you aren’t digging straights (or they seem to hurt your wrists), give circulars a try, and vice versa. (You can knit flat and in-the-round things on “circular” needles.) Don’t give up before finding what works best for you.

3. Yarn stores can be overwhelming. Shopping for yarn takes practice. It comes in lots of different fibers and weights, among other variables. Don’t be shy about telling the nice people at your yarn store that you’re a beginner. They can steer you toward non-slippery yarns and needles, but they’ll also help you understand how the store is organized and even help you decipher the labels on the yarn. If you buy yarn that’s sold in a loosely twisted skein instead of a wound ball, most stores will wind it for you upon request. But once it’s wound, it can’t be returned. You can always wind it yourself when you’re ready to use it.

4. Labels are your friends. Patterns are generally written for a specific yarn, but you might not be able to find that exact yarn (or even want to). Understanding yarn labels is the key to substituting yarns. The label will tell you the yarn’s weight and fiber content, which are the two most important factors to match up when substituting. It also tells you how much yardage there is (given in both weight and approximate yards) and how to care for it. If you’re knitting socks, baby things, or a gift for a low-maintenance friend, for example, pay extra close attention to whether the yarn is machine washable.

5. Swatching is for winners. If you start out knitting scarves, washcloths or blankets, and you’re using the same yarn weight and needle size(s) called for in the pattern, you have my permission to not knit a “gauge swatch.” Anything else — a hat, gloves, socks, a sweater — needs to actually fit you. And that means you need to make sure your knitted fabric measures the same as the pattern writer’s. If your stitches are bigger than theirs, your garment will be bigger than theirs. And vice versa. So take the time to knit and measure a gauge swatch.

6. The internet is amazing, and so are real classes. I’ll expand on this in an upcoming post, but I did most of my learning in the first year by carefully choosing projects that each required me to learn one or two new skills (increase, decrease, pick up stitches, etc). And to learn how to perform each of those new skills, I watched videos at Knittinghelp.com or YouTube. But as I alluded to above, the real learning — the difference between knowing rote skills and really understanding what you’re doing — comes from conversations with real people. I’ve taken lots of classes for things I could easily have learned from watching a video, but all the best things I know I learned in the breaks and asides and conversation that happened during those classes. Check the class schedule at your local yarn store and/or watch for the big conventions like Stitches, Vogue Knitting Live and Knitting Lab (among countless others), which I refer to as Knitting College and where you can cram in a whole lot of learning in one weekend.

7. Free patterns are a blessing and a curse. The web is full of free patterns and some of them are extremely well and professionally crafted. See The Purl Bee, for instance. (And hopefully mine are in that camp!) But there’s also a ton of junk that will go badly if you try to knit it, because it’s error-filled or incomplete or poorly written, and you’ll get horribly frustrated and think you’re a terrible knitter — or worse, that knitting sucks! — when really it’s just that you’re knitting from a crappy pattern. A good pattern is a lesson unto itself, and they only cost a few dollars! So until you know enough to spot the errors or fill in the mistakes, stick with professional pattern sources, and check the ratings and comments on the pattern’s Ravelry page. (Side tip: If you haven’t already, join Ravelry — the database is invaluable.)

8. Starting out can be expensive but doesn’t have to break the bank. Like most hobbies, knitting requires gear. It would be difficult to spend as much on needles and notions as you would on a set of golf clubs or a full complement of backpacking gear. But in the beginning you’ll find that you have to go buy a new needle for nearly every new project. If you’re on a strict budget, here’s my suggestion: Buy a set of US7 (4.5mm) needles — a 16″ circular, a 36″ or 40″ circular, and a set of 8″ double-points — and stick to projects that call for worsted weight yarn. You could stay busy for years, knitting everything from hats to slippers to gloves to sweaters, and never need a different needle.

9. A kitchen scale is an excellent investment. When you finish a project and have a lump of yarn remaining, how do you know how much you used, or how much is left for another project? What if you need to wind off a skein into two equal sized balls? How could you tell how much yarn you need if you’re copying a friend’s hat or a 4-year-old vest in your closet? In these and countless other circumstances, the answer is: You weigh it. As noted above, the label will give you yards per ounce (or per gram, in some cases). And from that you can calculate anything. (If your 1-oz. skein started out at 140 yards, and the leftovers weigh .5 oz., 70 yards went into your project and another 70 remain.)

10. Bravery is rewarded. The most important thing is to try stuff. Every time you pull off something new, you’ll feel like a genius! I mean, don’t try to knit a cables-and-lace sweater right after you finish your first garter-stitch scarf, but push yourself to gradually expand your skills. As I always say, it’s just yarn — no harm will come to you if you try something outside your skill set and it doesn’t go right the first time. If you only take one knitting class your whole life, take it right away and make it a class on fixing mistakes. Nothing will make you a bolder or more confident knitter than feeling like you can try new stuff because you’ll know what to do when you mess up.

OK, your turn — whether you’ve been knitting a month or four decades. Share your best advice in the comments below. And if you’re a new knitter with questions, bring ’em on!


PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: What’s your ideal travel knitting?