Back in 2009, I had started browsing craft blogs and crochet kept calling me and by December I had bought myself a few hooks and some horrid acrylic yarn and just started teaching myself the hard way how to crochet. It took me some time to learn the things I needed to learn to make the things I wanted to make. I mainly wanted to make little amigurumi animals for my then one year old daughter and cute totes and purses for myself. Then a couple of months later I picked up a set of needles and started knitting too. I am sure if I knew these things before I started it would have made my journey a little less frustrating.
The Internet is your best friend Yes it is, you can find every kind of tutorial and learning aid you need. Youtube is great for people who need to see how it is done, forums are fantastic if you want someone to hold your hand while they explain how it is done. KnittingHelp.com is one of those awesome sites with lots of instructions and videos, so be sure to check it out. If you don't get the technique the first time round, look for another source.
Try out different tools Hooks and needles come in different materials and models. Try them all out before you decide. Someone might swear by bamboo needles but you might hate them. Give yourself time to test them out before you go out and buy a whole set of something you might end up hating.
Take Notes If you make any modifications, take notes. If you ever want to make that same thing again in the future you are definitely not going to remember what you did the first time round and you will end up having to do the work all over again
There is more than one way to purl And that goes for other things as well. I started out knitting the English way, then forced my hands to learn Continental, but the purling was still difficult. I would knit English and purl Continental, then tried a little Norwegian purling, then finally mastered Continental purling. The moral of this long story is, if one technique isn't working for you, try a new one. Another example is knitting in the round, you can use DPNs, circular needles, two circular needles or the magic loop technique. Some people can do all, but most of us usually have one method that we prefer the most, when you are still learning, don't rule out any techniques try them all out for enough time until you can do them comfortably then decide which one you like best. But whatever you do, don't force yourself to learn something, so that you end up totally frustrated and chucking your yarn in the bin.
Understand the stitch I spent a couple of weeks crocheting in the back loop only because I didn't understand the anatomy of my stitch, and was so confused that my stitches didn't look like the ones in the photograph, then I did a little bit of googling and looked at some videos and realized I was doing it wrong. Take the time to look at stitches and understand them.
Learn to read your knitting Probably the best thing that helped my knitting and crocheting was learning to read it. Reading your work means being able to look at it, and understand which stitches were used, how much they are and things like that. It is important because you can spot mistakes early on or know where you stopped if you had to put it down for a while (or a month). Knit a couple of rows in a stitch pattern, then look at it, count your stitches and slowly start pulling it out. Count more rows and more stitches. Soon, you will be able to read your knitting very easily.
Learn Charts At first I would just get really confused whenever I saw charts. I avoided them for a while, then realized they are really helpful when trying to read my knitting because it is a visual reference right there. I spent a while reading patterns from the written instructions and then comparing to the chart, but now I can just look at a chart and understand it. It is a really useful tool that can help you a lot. How to read knitting charts and crochet charts.
Read yarn labels Yarn labels tell you what the yarn's fiber content is, what gauge it knits to, recommended needle or hook size, yardage, dye lot and how to care for it. It would be a total shame to wash your lovely wool shawl in hot water and have it felt. Read that label.
Learn how to block Whenever a pattern said block at then end, I just ignored it until I made a wool sweater for my little girl, it was stiff and slightly too tight. So I blocked it and WOW! suddenly it had wonderful drape and the fit became perfect. Different materials block differently and are also blocked slightly differently, so make sure you block the right way. That said, not everything needs to be blocked, but blocking really does make your finished object look so much more professionally made
Pull the yarn from inside the skein I had a total Duh moment when I learned this one. I used to just use the end on the outside of the skein and spend half my crocheting time chasing the skeins. If you pull the end that is inside the skein, it lays flat and is so much easier to manage!
Learn to wrap a center pull skein Sometimes the yarn might not come in a center pull skein, but you can still wrap it so it does. You can do it by hand, DIY nostepinne or by using a nostepinne or buy a skein winder. I have a nostepinne and enjoy feeling the yarn while wrapping it, it is relaxing and meditative too. I also always rewind the remainder of a skein into a smaller mini skein when I am done.
Add a lifeline How annoying is it, realizing you have made a mistake but you can't find a row which you are absolutely sure is correct and having to rip back way too much and then wrestle with it to get it back on the needles without dropping too many stitches. Think of it as bookmarking your knitting
Take notes Take notes of modifications, how the yarn blocks, how it feels, what the drape is like. Ravelry is great for that, or you could just use an old fashioned notebook. These notes will be great if you want to use the yarn again or knit from the same pattern another time. If you think you will remember, probably you won't, so why take that risk?
Finally crocheting and knitting are fun and relaxing crafts that create the most wonderful items that can be loved and cherished for so many years to come. So remember to enjoy it and have fun, if it becomes frustrating or difficult, stop, take a breath and ask a friend or try again later. Happy yarning.
Thanks so much to JessyZ of Chocolate Mints In A Jar for guest posting today, while I'm off enjoying little Owen!