Knitting is the perfect hobby for the cold winter days. But, if you are not already a proficient knitter, where should you start? Where can you find the best yarns, accessories and knitting patterns for beginners? Fortunately, Nancy Queen, a yarn shop owner and knitting professional, is here today to give us a basic overview on the materials and tools we need to get us started. Enjoy the show!

 

Margaret Manning:

My guest today is Nancy Queen. Nancy is the owner of an online shop called nobleknits.com, and she leads a knitting community. She loves knitting, and I am here to learn from her. Welcome to the show, Nancy.

Nancy Queen:

Hi, Margaret. Thanks for having me at Sixty and Me. How are you today?

Margaret:

I am great. I’m so excited because I’m one of those people—and there are probably many of us—who just got started with knitting. The only thing I can do is the one-line pattern, like you can see from the scarf I’m wearing.

Nancy:

It’s beautiful.

Margaret:

Thank you. I love color, and I choose yarns with rich colors. A lot of people want to get started with knitting, and I would love you to go through the basics with us. What do we need to invest in, in terms of accessories and the yarns themselves; maybe patterns. Where would we start?

Nancy:

When you’re just getting started, you need to think of the tools that you need like a painter would think of their paint brushes and their palettes. You need a few basic items, and you’re always going to have those items. The needles that you buy are an investment of what you are going to use in the future.

I always recommend that new knitters start off with bamboo needles. That is because they have a lot more grip. While metal needles are very slippery, the bamboo ones give you a little bit more control. Also, they are warm in your hands and this a better way to start knitting.

Margaret:

There’s a range of sizes, but is there a basic one that everyone should buy to start with?

Nancy:

There are a million different yarns on the market. A basic yarn is called a worsted weight, which is a middle grade. A good example is the Yo-Yo Wooly Worsted, and it’s a medium thickness yarn: not too thick, not too thin. The skein always recommends what needle size you need to knit on.

Margaret:

Oh, okay. I didn’t know that.

Nancy:

There’s a little chart on every single ball of yarn that tells you what needles are most appropriate for it. Another chart gives you the gauge, which is how many stiches you would knit over four inches. That way you have a good reference point to begin with the yarn.

Usually, a size eight needle and a couple of balls of a worsted weight yarn are a good starting point for a beginner. You should definitely choose a color you like, so that you can enjoy the process. I would pick a smooth yarn to start, just so you can understand the process of forming the stitches and why they look the way they do.

It’s a lot easier to fix a mistake you might make, when you understand where you made the mistake and the function of the stitch itself.

Margaret:

That’s good advice. I’d like to know more about the different kinds of yarns. I know there are acrylic and wool yarns, but tell us more about the things we can find on the market.

Nancy:

There is a huge variety of yarn thicknesses—from really skinny yarn that is ultra-fine, to super thick yarn that you can knit almost one stitch per inch. You have to think what you want your project to look like when it’s done. The yarn will dictate the size needle that you should use.

From a fiber stand point, there are wools, cashmeres, natural fibers, manmade fibers, cottons and hemps. There are also combinations of those fibers. A good example is the alpaca cotton twist where you get the best of both properties of those yarns.

There are also hand dyed yarns that change colors as you knit, like we see in your scarf. There are thousands of options out there. It’s a very creative hobby to have, and the more you get into it the more you’ll say, “Wow! I have to try this yarn.”

Margaret:

A lot of women tend to wear black or solid color, and throwing a hand-knitted scarf on gives you a feeling of completeness. Like you’ve added something special to your outfit. It’s not just like a normal scarf that you buy at the store.

So far we covered the yarns. What about those knitting needles that are in a circle? I’ve seen those before.

Nancy:

Those are round needles or circular needles. The cowl that I’m wearing today was knitted on circular needles. I actually knitted this into a tube, so there is no front or back to it. I knitted it around and then I seemed the ends so that it is an endless circle.

Margaret:

Like an infinity scarf.

Nancy:

Yes. Circular needles are good for knitting in around or knitting larger projects like afghans. You’re not going to need those right away, though.

Margaret:

I find them useful when I’m on a train or airplane because I don’t want to spread my arms so much and bump into the people sitting beside me.

Nancy:

Yes. The tips are only four to five inches long, so you can use them in a much smaller space.

Margaret:

Do you have any examples of those by any chance?

Nancy:

I do. In fact, I’m almost finished knitting a little stuffed animal. The legs are ready but the arms I have to put on later.

Margaret:

It’s like a Christmas holiday present. How cute!

Nancy:

It is a baby gift. The needles I’m using for this project are the circular ones because I’m knitting it around in a circle. This way I can just keep going until I’m finished. These are great because they’re small and you need the needles to be smaller than what you’re knitting.

Margaret:

You don’t have a seem there; you’re just knitting in a circle. That’s really great for a stuffed animal, which might get knocked around a little bit or chewed on by someone.

Nancy:

The circular needles come in various lengths, but when you’re just getting started, go with the basic. Go with an 8- to 10-inch straight bamboo needle, basic yarn, a pair of scissors, a finishing needle to weave in your yarn and a measuring tape.

Margaret:

Very important.

Nancy:

Those are all the things you need to get started.

Margaret:

So it really is not an expensive hobby. You could start with what you can afford and create things.

Nancy:

Exactly. On our website we have links to the materials that you’ll need and how-to-knit articles that you may find useful.

Margaret:

We’ll put that in the article.

Nancy:

That would be great.

Margaret:

What about patterns? Do you have to use a pattern for a beginner or just be guesstimating?

Nancy:

For a beginner, I would say that you should start by watching videos, going to a knitting class or learning from a friend. What you need to do before moving on to patterns is take your yarn, cast on 10 to 15 stitches and knit every row while watching your stitches improve.

It’s really important to get the technique down. Once you accomplish that, we have links to lots of free beginner patterns on our website to get you started with.

Margaret:

One thing I’ve learned as a beginner is that 10 stitches don’t look like much when cast on the needle. You’d think that’s too little and keep adding more stitches until you get to 20. You think, “That’s about right,” but once you start knitting, it doubles in size.

Nancy:

Yes, it does grow.

Margaret:

Then you realize that all you needed were 10 stitches. So you end up having to take it back and start again. It’s all trial and error, isn’t it?

Nancy:

Exactly. You have to remember that you’re doing a hobby to enjoy. Give yourself permission to play and enjoy it and make some mistakes.

Margaret:

I love that advice. I hope you’ve all enjoyed this. If you’re thinking of starting to knit, check out Nancy’s site and most importantly—just enjoy your hobby. Nancy, thank you so much for being here. You’ve been fantastic.

Nancy:

Thanks for having me at Sixty and Me. Have a great day.

Margaret:

It’s my pleasure. Thank you, Nancy.

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

Have you ever thought about knitting as a possible hobby? Do you see yourself creating colorful things? What projects are of greatest interest to you? Please join the conversation.

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