NEW YORK — When you’re stuck inside during a long, cold winter, working on a knitting project can be fun and rewarding. And although sweaters and lacy shawls can seem daunting, knitting is a fairly easy hobby to get started on.
Brand-new knitters have plenty of resources. Yarn stores and crafts retailers such as Michaels and Jo-Ann have classes; prices can range widely from $10 to $100 per hour. Some YMCAs and community centers have knitting circles that beginners can join for little or no cost. You can take online classes at sites like www.craftsy.com. And a search of the Internet and YouTube will return multiple websites and videos to help rookies.
The beauty of videos is you can play them over and over until you get the hang of basics like casting on, knitting and purling. There’s no time pressure as there is in a one-hour class. Still, if you find it more reassuring to have an experienced knitter teach you in person, a class is best.
Books and websites can be great sources of information about yarns and needles and they also teach stitches and techniques.
Some suggestions to make your first steps at knitting easier:
Choose a yarn you can handle easily and that allows you to see your stitches. Look for a smooth yarn like one described as “worsted” — not too thin or bulky or made of ribbon or other fancy fibers. Chains have simple yarns for $5 a ball or less. Independent stores, sometimes called yarn boutiques, tend to have more expensive and exotic yarn.
Buy yarn in a ball or skein, not what’s called a hank, which has to be wound into a ball.
Choose needles that feel comfortable in your hands. Be sure they’re right for the yarn you select. The yarn label will tell you what size needles you need, such as 6, 7 or 8. You might want to start with wooden needles, which help you work more slowly than metal ones.
Practice by making swatches. If you make mistakes, books and websites can show you how to fix them.
If you can’t wait to start a project, books and websites have easy ones like hats. Or, make a scarf you design yourself. You don’t need a complex pattern to make beautiful scarves.
One way is to choose a variegated yarn that has different colors. These yarns are also called self-striping. Even if you use only a plain knit stitch (also known as a garter stitch) throughout, the different colors will make the scarf look more complicated than it really is.
Another option: Find simple patterns (usually called stitches, although they’re made up of individual knit and purl stitches) in books or online. For example, the moss stitch, made up of alternating knit and purl stitches.
When you’ve chosen a pattern, decide how long and wide you want the scarf to be. The width will be determined by how many stitches you cast on. As for the length, just keep knitting until your scarf is as long as you want.
When that’s done, you can move on to more complex work. The same resources — classes, videos, books and websites — will take you on your way.