10 Tips to Becoming a Better Knitter | Patty Lyons | Knitting Teacher
10 Tips Better Knitter

10 Tips to Becoming a Better Knitter

As a knitting teacher, I’m asked all the time for tips on how to become a better knitter. We all want to Improve our Knitting. Knitters often hear so many different things, and it’s fairly hard to boil them down–but here they are, my

Top 10 Tips to Becoming a Better Knitter

1) Take a Class Online

The great thing about taking a class online or as a DVD is you can go at your own pace. No need to feel rushed. You can stop, start, rewind and review. This is a wonderful way to dig into a large topic because you can revisit it again and again. Often we’ll take a class that covers a broad topic, and then months later we are working a pattern and realize, I can review that technique on my video class!

2) Take a Class in Person

Nothing replaces being in a classroom. People often ask me the main difference between live classes and online classes. The biggest thing is that when you take a class only online, you can see me knitting, but I can’t see you. If I had a dollar for every time a knitter was in my live class who had learned only from books or online, and they had misunderstood one vital element (often something simple like the direction you wrap your yarn in purl)! It was ONLY being in a live class that straightened them out. The other great thing about a live class is QUESTIONS. No two classes I’ve taught have been the same because of the students.

3) Read the Pattern All the Way Through

When I used to work in a yarn store, knitters would always ask me, “Is this a hard pattern?” Ignore ratings such as easy, intermediate, etc. Read the pattern all the way through to see if you get it. Mastering a pattern has two elements: understanding the instructions and being able to do the instructions. For the first one, look at the pattern and see if it seems like something you get. For the second part . . .

4) Stop Reading the Pattern All the Way Through

There are times you simply can’t visualize or fully understand an instruction until you get to that point in the pattern. When you have the stitches on your needle and are looking right at it, often you’ll have your Aha! moment about what “dec 1 sts at each neck edge” means. If you understand the CO and the first couple of steps, don’t let reading ahead stop you from starting.

As for a stitch pattern you might not get, try it. The best thing to do when working a pattern is to have a pair of needles with some junk yarn cast on. When you hit a stitch in the pattern you are not sure about, put down your project and pick up your practice needles and give the stitch a try. Look at your needles, look at the pattern picture, and when you know you got it, return to your project.

5) Ask Questions

When I first learned to knit there was no Ravelry. (Heck, there was no internet.) Now, there are so many knitters out there in live groups, at LYS, meet ups, Ravelry and other groups. You will always find another more experienced knitter to ask. You may find some invaluable advice out there, but know, just like asking a New Yorker the best way to get someplace on the subway, ask 10 knitters a question, get 11 answers.

6) Stop Asking Questions

I often get emails asking about something in a pattern that doesn’t work, like someone swearing that they’ve read through the stitch pattern and they won’t have the right number of stitches to work row 3. Or that something in the pattern doesn’t make sense, like why would you increase 1 stitch and dec 1 stitch on the same row. When I ask if they’ve tried it, the answer is always no. This circles back to #3 & #4.

Because designers are so accessible nowadays, many knitters feel like it’s easier to just ask a question on Ravelry than pick up their needles and try to figure it out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a teacher, so I love answering questions. (I have a Ravelry group with a thread just for pattern questions or class questions.) But I’m a teacher, so I like my students to learn. There are two big problems with just being told what to do instead of trying it and figuring it out: knitters do not gain confidence or gain a greater understanding of pattern reading. I had no one to ask when I was learning to knit and that’s why I spent so much time examining my stitches and figuring things out myself.

7) Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes

Many years ago I had a student named Austin. He took beginning knitting and learned how to knit, purl, cast on and bind off. Then he picked out his first project . . . a fair isle vest with steeked armholes. Yup, he didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to be able to make it, so he made it. He showed me the pattern and declared that it seemed to be all knits and purls and a few other things he didn’t understand, but he’d learn those when he got there. Forget about asking “what should I be doing next,” and replace that with “What do I want to do next.”

8) Make Mistakes on PURPOSE!

One of my specialties is fixing mistakes. I have two classes–for a good foundation I have Knitting ER, and when you’re ready to start fixing cables, lace, color work, on and off the needle, I have Advanced Knitting Fixes. When people ask me how I learned to fix all these mistakes, I tell them BECAUSE I MADE THEM ALL!! But seriously, I used to take a swatch and make mistakes on purpose so I could teach myself how to fix them. It’s the best way to become a fearless knitter.

9) Take Your Knitting Seriously

If you love it, learn it. Spend some time really understanding your stitches. Learn the stitch anatomy. Experiment with what happens when you wrap your yarn a different way. Learn how to read your knitting by working swatches, making different stitches, and really LOOKING at your knitting. The most important thing you can do is learn to Read Your Stitches.

10) Stop Taking Your Knitting So Seriously

I see so many knitters stopped in their tracks because they are frightened of their stitches. It’s just knitting. It’s two sticks and a string. What’s the worst thing that can happen? If you make a mistake, puppies and kittens will still roam the earth, and life will be okay. Take control of your stitches so you can relax and make your stitches be your… (rhymes with stitches, if you know what I’m saying). Knit and be happy.

If you’d like to see where I’m teaching next, check my schedule.

Or take me home with you on a DVD or online class.

Want to take a private lesson with me live in NYC or streaming on the web? We can learn to be fearless together.

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