When starting a new hobby, it’s always a good idea to look for professional advice… and knitting is no exception! Today, Nancy Queen, an online yarn shop owner and professional knitter, will share her knitting dos and don’ts with us. Enjoy the show!

 

 
 

Margaret Manning:

My guest today is Nancy Queen. Nancy is the owner of online yarn shop nobleknits.com, and she also maintains a knitting community. So many people in our community love to knit, and I wanted to talk to Nancy about some ways to get started. Hi, Nancy. Welcome.

Nancy Queen:

Hi! Thanks so much for having me, Margaret.

Margaret:

It is so cool to have you here, Nancy. I am a total beginner in this hobby, but I love knitting, and I think a lot of women fall into that category. So I’d like to ask you to share with us some tips for beginning knitters.

Nancy:

First of all, I want to say that most of the knitters that we see are beginners or advanced beginners. A large portion of the knitters that we have in our community are just looking for a way to relax and unwind and enjoy the process of knitting. They’re not looking to concur everything there is to learn. This is a hobby and you should remember that it’s supposed to be fun.

Margaret:

That’s a good first tip. I love your scarf, by the way. When it comes to knitting, I’m all about the colors and texture. If you take a look at my projects, you’ll see a repetitive theme.

Nancy:

They look beautiful.

Margaret:

Do you notice that everything is pink? Even my little gloves are pink. The color and texture are most important to me.

Nancy:

There is something to be said for tactile fiber arts. It really is a way to calm yourself. It’s the same with people who like cooking: they enjoy the smells and aromas, the flavors, the process of chopping. Knitting is the same kind of thing. It’s very homey, you can light a fireplace, put on a good audio book and just relax and find yourself unwinding.

If you are somebody who wants to keep learning, there are boundless opportunities in knitting. I think there are over a hundred ways just to cast the stiches on the needle. Most people only use one or two techniques.

Also, there are only two basic stiches, knitting and purling. Everything else is a combination of variations of those two stitches. Once you learn the basics, you can build on your knowledge, or you can just enjoy it as is and keep going along.

Margaret:

Nancy, can you show us an example of straight knitting?

Nancy:

I actually did a little swatch for a ‘how to’ video that’s on our website. It’s a little swatch of garter stich, which is where you knit every row.

Margaret:

Now show me a purl swatch if you have one handy.

Nancy:

Actually, if you purled every row, it would look exactly like the swatch I showed you. When we purl, we get the reverse side of the knit stitch.

Margaret:

I see. So if you want to only have knitting, you would knit one row and then purl the next?

Nancy:

Right. The knit stich is when you put the stich in the front, and purling is when you put the stich in the back. When you reverse those you end up seeing both the front and the back stitch, and that’s what creates that combination.

This cowl that I’m wearing is just a combination of knit and purl stitches.

Margaret:

Yes, I see that.

Nancy:

Everything is just a combination or variation of those two stiches.

Margaret:

I guess this sums up your next tip, to start simple. It would make sense to begin with plain stitching. For first timers, getting through a scarf may be a challenge. So, start little and simply enjoy the experience. Don’t expect to create something magically beautiful right away.

Nancy:

I’ve noticed that as adults we tend to think that we shouldn’t have a learning curve. In actuality, you really need to give yourself permission to have a learning curve and mess up a little bit. Just like with anything else, you learn from your mistakes. So, it’s okay to make a mistake here and there and just have fun with it.

We used to do classes where we had teens come in during summer vacation to learn to knit. We also had adult classes at the same time. We noticed that those 12 or 13-year-old girls would come in and enjoy the experience. You would see them get frustrated, but that would only make them focus more. They’d just keep at it until they got the hang of it.

When adults would come in, they would get really frustrated right away because they think, “Oh, I didn’t get it. I’m a failure. I should know this. This is so easy to do.” Like with anything else, learning to knit well takes time. You have to remember that you didn’t learn to tie your shoes the first time you tried. Learning to ride a bike wasn’t all that easy, either.

The same goes for any other technique. It’s something new that you’re opening yourself up to. You should give yourself time to master the new technique because once you do, the rewards are immeasurable. It’s so enjoyable.

Margaret:

I can see you’re passionate about knitting. I am, too and so are many other women. This is great because you are one of our fantastic bloggers, and your passion really inspires the women in our community. So I would say, another tip for beginners is to just enjoy the experience, rather than the product.

Nancy:

Exactly.

Margaret:

For example, I do a really bad job finishing my projects. The ends don’t ever look straight and there’s always a little piece there that makes me think, “Oh, I’ll just put a button here.”

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You mentioned something that’s really important. Older women are such perfectionists. We are so hard on ourselves. We think we have to be so perfect at everything that we do.

Nancy:

Yeah. I think that giving yourself permission to make a mistake is really important.

Margaret:

Is there something you would recommend a beginner to start with?

Nancy:

Most people start with a scarf or even a swatch that they can turn into a pot holder. I know it sounds silly, but you must be prepared that are not going to love your first project. As you knit, you’ll see your stitches improve and progress, which makes the rows uneven. That’s okay, though, because your next project is going to be more consistent.

I always tell people, “Even though your goal is to do a project, sometimes it’s best to just buy a little ball of yarn and get started. Having that yarn around is a good way to try new stitches or a new knitting technique to refer back to.” It’s a good idea to have a swatch to see yourself progress.

Margaret:

I think another important thing is to choose a color you like. That way it won’t matter how the end product looks. You would have enjoyed the color and would treasure the experience.

Nancy:

We really spend a lot of time trying to choose good quality fabrics for our clothes and the best of things to have in our home. The same principle should apply when shopping for yarn—buy a yarn that you really like.

One of the yarns I use a lot is a Yo-Yo Wooly Worsted. It’s a Marino super wash and it’s a really fine grade Marino wool, and it feels nice. It’s springy and bouncy, and it’s forgiving.

You could go to a big box store and buy a box of acrylic yarn, but it doesn’t feel as good. It doesn’t have the rewarding properties and the luxury that you find with high quality yarns. For a few more dollars, I think it’s worth it to buy a yarn that you’re going to actually enjoy.

As you progress and put more time into projects, why would you want to spend all these hours making something out of lousy ingredients?

Margaret:

I know, exactly.

Nancy:

Buy the best that you can for yourself. Knitting is something you’re doing really for yourself, so make it an enjoyable experience.

Margaret:

I’m glad you mentioned that because I believe there are two distinct types of wool, aren’t there? One is the natural wool and the other is the acrylic. What is acrylic? Is it made of plastic?

Nancy:

It’s a manmade fiber. Actually, there are a lot of great qualities about acrylic: They are great for baby items. They’re great for afghans, if kids are taking them to college, and you need wash and wear. There are some really great acrylic yarns, and we carry quite a few of them.

The industry, overall, has done so many wonders with fiber. There used to be nothing else but wool, and now there is so much luxury. There’s cashmere, angora, alpaca, hemp yarn, cotton yarn, Marino wools. You can even find out what kind of sheep your yarn came from.

There are also very interesting novelty fibers. The one I’d like to show you is actually hand spun in India. The yarns have been tied with little ribbons and bobbles and other beautiful bits. This is a luxury fiber for a reason. You’re only going to need one ball of it, and people are going to be wowed every time you wear it.

Think of those things when you are moving along. I wouldn’t advise you to use a luxury fiber for your first project, but definitely consider it as you progress. Most importantly, buy something that speaks to you.

Margaret:

Yes. Something that reflects your personality. It’s funny that I was on your website earlier, looking at the different wools, and that one immediately struck me. Does it have sari material or fabric from Jaipur?

Nancy:

Yes.

Margaret:

Jaipur is one of my favorite cities in India. When I saw that, I thought, “That’s what I’m going to use next.” It’s so unique, and it reminds me a little bit of another project I did. It’s bubbly and when I wear it, I just feel good.

Nancy:

That’s the whole point.

Margaret:

Yes, it is. I’m going to put my bubbly scarf on so that we match.

Nancy:

As women, there are so many things that we do for anyone else. Use knitting as something that you do for yourself. Once you get past the learning curve, you will find knitting very relaxing.

Margaret:

Speaking with you has been so helpful, honestly. I feel truly inspired and this is all a result of your passion for knitting. It’s obvious that you really love what you are doing.

Nancy:

I absolutely do, and I like sharing with people like you. It just inspires me to do more.

Margaret:

For those who are watching, if you want to get started with knitting, visit nobleknits.com and check out the wool there. I, personally, would encourage you to just get started as Nancy said. Just a swatch or a little scarf would do as long as you enjoy it. Thank you so much for being here, Nancy. I was such a thrill to speak with you.

Nancy:

Thank you. Have a great day.

Margaret:

You, too. Take care.

You can find out more about Nancy Queen and her work on her website.

Did you remember the most important tip that Nancy shared? When you go yarn shopping, which yarn qualities do you look for? Is there any advice you found helpful that you’d like to share with the community? Please join the conversation.

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