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9 Secrets to Helping a Beginner Knitter or Crocheter

January 19th, 2012

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If you have friends or a family member who is just starting to knit or crochet, you have the chance to be the support they need! Beginners often have a hard time learning to feel good about their skills.

Here are 9 tips to becoming a beginner’s real-live life line:

Give them a way to contact you.  

This sounds like a no-brainer, but many times we forget that people may want to contact us for help. A phone number, email address or regular meeting time can provide the structure they need. Plus, they never have to feel alone if know they can call you.

Listen to them carefully. 

It can be tricky to explain a problem when you’re  just learning the language of crafting; listen to each problem in person, and keep yarn handy to demonstrate solutions.

Take them yarn shopping. 

Experienced crafters love to shop for yarn, but the yarn aisle or online store can be scary for a beginner. If you can remember a time before you could read a yarn label, then you know why! Help them out by being their personal yarn shopper and choosing yarn and tools together.

Translate the language for them. 

Read the pattern out loud to them. Explanations like “The pattern says ‘(dc, ch 2, dc) in same ch.’ That means make a double crochet stitch, then chain 2, and then make another double crochet into the same stitch as the one you just made,” can be the difference between a beautiful scarf and a tangled mess for a beginner.

Frog together. 

Undoing hard work can be a stumbling point for learners; it’s their first try and it’s easy to get attached. Try making a few rows each planning to rip them out together. This teaches that frogging is a normal part of crafting, and it’s surprising how fun and confidence boosting the process can be!

Wind balls together. 

Balling yarn is an easy, low-pressure way to get familiar with the feeling of yarn, and it’s a useful skill for beginners. Ball yarn together and your friend will get familiar with fiber and comfortable with you at the same time.

Host a yarn swap. 

This is a party where no one has to knit or crochet, but you certainly can talk about it, swap tips and clean out your stash all at once! It will also introduce your beginner friend to more yarncrafters and make them part of the community.

Help them choose projects. 

Beginners don’t always know that intarsia or entrelac patterns won’t make for the easiest first project. Help them find the patterns that they will be able to make at their current skill level.

Introduce them to online resources. 

Ravelry, Pinterest and our site at LionBrand.com are great ways to get inspired and find help crafting help online. Get your friend set up with accounts and be the first to become their friend them or follow their pin boards!

Have you ever helped someone learn to knit or crochet? What tips would you add to this list?
Leave a comment to share them!

  • http://twitter.com/ayaPL aya pl

    make time to sit with the new knitter. knit with her/him (your own piece), sitting side by side (!) so she/he can make the same (and won’t have a Mirror Image of the knitting)

    • Margaret

      Sitting side by side is a great way to watch the process – trying to reverse a mirror image in your head can be tough while you’re still learning!

  • Valiweep

    I would also say don’t make assumptions about which tasks will be easy or difficult for them- it really varies from person to person.  Something that is a cinch for one is a real barrier to another- really listen to the learner and try describing something in several different ways- our brains are all wired a tiny bit differently!  :)

  • allison

    I have a young girls knitting club at my house each week and have started with teaching them simple projects like a bracelet or head band.  I did have one girl who really struggled (she was my youngest at age 6, so i assumed her age was the main issue) .  She begged to move on to a more difficult project (just more stitches in a row) but she constantly messed up on the 8 stitch headband, so i doubted it would go well, but to my surprise she finally got the hang of it.  With more stitches (24) to each row, she could ‘see’ it, and her needles did not fall out as easily as they did on the smaller projects, so she moved along quite well.  So, i would say if the friend you are teaching is having a hard time just try a different project – with more or less stitches, or different yarn, or different size needles.

    • Margaret

      What a wonderful idea! Knitting and crochet is getting so popular with teens and young children. Good work encouraging her to go for it, and good tip on choosing a project to teach with.

  • Carolee

    The tip about reading out loud is spot on. Many times Iv gotten stuck on a pattern and its just not clicking and then I was so mad I just said it out loud and it snapped in to place. Something about hearing the words in your head as apposed to just haveing them rattling around in there.    

    • Margaret

      I had a similar experience with my first crochet project. A friend of mine patiently read out the hat pattern I was working on, and it was much easier to understand out loud.

  • Emy

    I definitely agree about not making assumptions on what projects or skills might be beyond a new knitter’s or crocheter’s skill! A new guy showed up at knitting group once with his very first project – a sock! That was what he wanted to make, so he jumped right in. Nobody told him it was hard, so he just did it. Or maybe someone did tell him that & he was just stubborn & did it anyway! In either case, his sock looked fantastic.

    • Engardpj

      I’ve been knitting for years and keep “saying” 4 needle socks is my biggest challange to overcome – sounds like I just have to DO IT!! 

  • Quaternityknits

    I think it’s important to let the new crocheter/knitter know that it is best to start off with simple projects because their skills will grow with time and practice. Sometimes students will begin with idea of making some elaborate project only to become frustrated and give up.

  • Maryann

    I’ve been helping a lady who knew how to knit, but couldn’t read a pattern–she has trouble reading English. I’ve been doing lots of demonstrating, by showing her a “purl”, what ribbing looks like, etc. So I agree the knitter should have a way of getting in contact with you, because you can never assume what the new knitter may find confusing.

    • Koutnik Susan

      Maryann. Learn and then teach her the “chart” pattern method. It translates to any language!!!

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  • Pattie55

    I am very new. I am legally blind with my left eye to see with. I also have a left arm issuse so i am trying to prop my left needle on my left leg..I cannot hold  onto the needle ( LEFT ) very long. ( medical issuse) I have learned to ..cast on…knit stitch..purl..and bind off..finally!!!!!   I  WANT TO CRY , BECAUSE I AM BUYING A LOOM SET TO LEARN THIS WAY. I wanted so bad to knit with needles. It creates ”pain” so- If  I WOULD NEEDLED KNIT…It would be a verrrryyy  slow knit process. But atleast now I can teach the method to my grand daughters and watch them take off !!! ….A Blessing !

    • Readandwrite35

      Patty,

      Your story so beautiful and inspiring. I can certainly learn from you. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Jettquilts

      Pattie, You are an inspiration to me. I also have medical issues, a Chiari Malformation in my brain. It causes me to have incredible pain, but I love to craft, knit, crochet, quilt, etc. you reminded me that I need to do it as often as I can. Because when I do, I am so happy with myself and I love to pass on what I make. God Bless you.

    • Ter-Bear77

      Pattie,
      Your story is inspiring! I actually knit with the “left” needle between my legs. I know it sounds funny, but when I was young and first learning, I couldn’t hold both needles and the yarn and read the pattern (I’m not very coordinated). I still use my left hand, but it doesn’t hold the needle, just the yarn.

    • Erica Dawn

      Maybe if you use bigger needles. That may help!! Enjoy your knitting!! :)

  • Dcskathleen

    As a Knitting/Crochet instructor, I’ve learned that a new crafter can often tell that something in their project doesn’t look right, but can’t figure out *why*.  So I’ve gotten in the habit of “diagnosing” their issue.  Anything from wrapping the yarn around the crochet hook in the wrong direction to dropping a stitch, I try to show them both what they did that caused the issue, and then a repeat demonstration of the proper technique.

  • R Doucette

    I am having teaching my granddaugter to knit.  She is left handed, and I am right handed.  Any suggestions?

    • Koutnik Susan

      Try googling left handed knitting and see if there is a video available for her to watch. Then try knitting ‘face to face’ rather than ‘side by side’ and ‘talk the technique’ (example- sit face to face and say ‘put the slip knot on your starting needle and hold the working yarn in your working hand. Slip the working needle from bottom to top toward the back of your starting needle, throw or wrap your yarn around your working needle and slide it down through the loop on your starting needle and finish the stitch by lifting off the original loop. If you use the terms ‘starting and working rather than ‘left and righ’t and she sees a face to face (mirror) image rather than sitting side by side, it should be less confusing.

      • Jettquilts

        YouTube has fantastic videos of both right and left handed techniques for both knitting and crochet. I am left handed and almost always find both versions for any technique I am learning. Good Luck!

    • Moriah

      I’m left handed and knit the “regular” way.  I learned english, but taught myself continental.  I don’t think being left handed should pose any issues. 

      • Jan Molesky

         I teach knitting to my left-handed students the same way as to my right-handed students telling them that knitting is a craft that uses BOTH hands.  Sometimes teaching the Continental method works well with a left-handed student or to a student who already knows how to crochet. 

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