5 Knitting Tips to Make You a Better Knitter

Article by Emma Lane

It’s easy to become a better knitter, as long as you know a few basics. Hopefully, the knitting tips in this article will help you ensure the success of your projects – and your happiness as you knit.

We all want to become better knitters. Even knitters working at this craft since they were children get excited when they learn something new or master a technique.

Newbie knitters want to reach an expert knitting level quickly and easily. And with a few knitting tips, it’s easy for beginners and experts alike to increase their knowledge and become better knitters.

No matter where you are on your knitting journey…

Here are Knitting Tips and Techniques to Improve Your Knitting Today

1. Read About Knitting

It might sound counterintuitive to be told to read about knitting when it should be the act of knitting that makes you a better knitter. But it does work!

Let’s take socks as an example. Using cotton yarns, the earliest known knitted socks were most likely produced by ancient Egyptians or other people living in North Africa and the Middle East.

Fast forward to the 18th century in the British Isles and whole families knitted socks to sale at local markets or to wholesale distributors. In fact, there was so much sock knitting happening that governments passed laws that required knitting to stop and harvests to be gathered during certain months of the year.

So what does this tell us?

When you knit a sock, you follow a long history of garment construction. You learn the purpose of the Argyl pattern, how to knit a replaceable heel, which sheep produce better wool for socks, and that even Queen Elizabeth I liked socks knitted from silk. Luxurious indeed!

My Experience: How Reading About Knitting Made Me a Better Knitter

When I first tried knitting socks, I spent several frustrated hours trying to turn a heel according to the instructions in the pattern. I had always heard that knitters disliked knitting socks and turning heels – and I assumed it was because they found it as frustrating as me. I thought I would fail at knitting socks.

But I also knew that children in Britain in the 1700’s could knit socks. If they could do it, I could too.

I started reading books on knitting socks. They taught me not only the history of socks, but that there’s more than one way to turn a heel. I learned that I didn’t have to follow the pattern I was using – I could change how the heel was knit. It was a success and I’ve now made quite a few pairs of socks.

Knitting Tip Takeaway: Just because something works great for one knitter, doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Open a book. Read it. Become a better knitter.

2. Use Different Yarns

If using opossum or cat fur yarn makes you shake your head “no” as you move to your favorite acrylic, why pass by all the other gorgeous yarn offerings, like wool and cotton?

If roving or bulky yarns get you excited about your next project, why not find out if a DK or fingering weight could give you the same spark?

If superwash wool makes up all your yarn stash, why not try an alpaca, camel, and silk blend?

Larger yarn weights limit your pattern design options as they can affect stitch definition and hide all of your hard work. Smaller yarn weights create a thinner fabric with more drape.

Wool is more elastic and warmer than acrylic.

Cotton and linen are great for summer weather. Alpaca and camel nestle you in a soft cloud of warmth.

Each yarn and yarn weight gives a different experience when you knit, and affects your final product.

As you experiment with different fibers and weights, you learn their different properties, and better understand how to choose the right yarn for your project.

My Experience Working with Different Yarns

When I first started using lace weight yarn, it felt awkward. I went from knitting an afghan with a bulky weight yarn directly to a shawl using lace weight yarn. It felt like I was knitting with sewing thread.

I couldn’t get the stitch tension right. Stitches fell off the needles. The whole thing looked like something a cat threw up – all jumbled and messy.

I almost gave up, but I didn’t. I started over again and again. Each time I ripped out (aka frogged) and cast-on, I became more familiar with the yarn.

After the third or fourth time frogging my work, my experience with the yarn changed. The yarn felt different. It no longer felt like sewing thread. It felt normal and comfortable.

Now when I switch between yarn weights or yarn types, I first run a strand of the yarn through my fingers to get a sense of the yarn. Does it feel stretchy or tight? How much loft does it have? Do I need to change my normal stitch tension? And so on.

I learn the yarn before I cast-on or take that first stitch, which means less ripping out and better knitting.

Key Knitting Tip: Using a different yarn takes you out of your comfort zone. It makes you watch how your hands work, how the yarn moves, and how the stitches form.

It makes you appreciate the craft and art of knitting in a different way. Additionally, knitting with a different type of yarn, especially a soft yarn like mohair, affects your mood in a positive way. A double whammy of goodness – knitting and soft touchable yarns.

3. Knit Something Different

Do your go-to projects take a few hours or a few months to complete? Do you shun those knitters who always go for the easy super bulky project or wonder why a knitter would even think about knitting lace?

Learning a new stitch, a new pattern, or different garment construction seems difficult until you actually try it.

Taking weeks or months to finish a complicated project seems stupid until you see the result of your labor.

At the same time, finishing a project quickly gives you a mental break from longer projects.

My Experience: How Different Projects Made Me a Better Knitter

I knit a lot of shawls because I like wearing them.

A while ago, I found a pattern for a cowl using a lovely baby yak yarn. Drawn more to the yarn than the cowl pattern, I decided to knit it even though it wasn’t my go-to project.

I learned a lot. It was a tube-shaped cowl knit in the round. The pattern was interesting because it reminded me of Swiss cheese. The challenge of grafting lacework in the round gave me an appreciation for the designer and taught me a new skill.

Key Knitting Tip: Although working on the same style of project is never a bad thing, why put a ceiling on your capabilities? When you always knit hats, you limit your skill as a knitter. When you only knit shawls with lace weight yarn, you forget the world of stranded work with DK weight yarn.

A whole wardrobe of wearable items waits for you to pick up your needles and knit.

4. Use Different Needles

Each knitter uses needles that feel good and work well. But did you know that changing your needle gives you a different knitting experience?

Needle choices appear endless with different styles and materials. Yet, many knitters use one style for all projects.

Needles all work in the same way – pointed ends pass through stitches to pick up yarn while still being long enough to act as a holder for stitches.

But needle material plays a huge part in your knitting experience. For example, stitches slide quickly on metal needles, but may stick a bit on wood – all of which affects your knitting speed and tension.

My Experience: How Working with Different Needles Improved My Knitting

For years, you would always find me working with my favorite knitting needles – circular, stainless steel, sharp tip.

I thought nothing else would work as well as these needles – until one day when I began a project with a Shetland gossamer weight yarn.

No matter how I twisted the size 2 metal needle to get it under the stitches for a k2tog, I couldn’t make it happen. Frustrated and longing to get started on the project, I made a trip to my LYS and bought a pair of bamboo needles.

I couldn’t believe the difference in these needles. The tips actually bent just a little bit, which allowed me to slide the needle under the stitch.

My metal needles remain the ones I consistently reach for, but I’m willing to try a different needle now instead of stopping a project out of frustration.

Key Knitting Tip: Knitting with a different needle material or style changes how you knit. You may knit faster or slower. You may get through a difficult stitch easier or not at all.

Master craftspeople, such as woodworkers, select tools that make their work easier, which in turn, makes them better at their work. Be willing to change your tools to make your knitting easier and to make you a better knitter.

5. Make Mistakes

It sounds crazy, but making mistakes provides a great learning experience for knitters.

Dropped a stitch? Try fixing the stitch without frogging.

Make a cable stitch with the cable needle on the right side instead of on the wrong side of your knitting? Congrats! You just learned how cables lean left or right based upon the cable needle placement.

Work the wrong stitch several rows back? Learn to save time by changing it without ripping out rows of stitches. (Get instructions in our how to knit guide.)

Cast-on with a different method than called for in a pattern? What a great opportunity to learn how different cast-ons work! For example, if your first rows knit too tight, you’ll understand why the designer wanted an elastic style cast-on.

Want to try a different yarn type or yarn weight than called for in the pattern? Hold a ball of alpaca in one hand and a ball of cotton in the other hand. The only noticeable difference may be that the alpaca feels softer, but once you start to knit, you’ll find a whole world of difference. Let me explain…

My Experience Learning From Mistakes

I found a simple pattern for a cape like shawl, with stockinette stitch at the shoulders and arms and a simple lace pattern for several inches as the bottom border.

Although the pattern called for worsted weight wool, I chose worsted weight alpaca. I thought since I chose the same weight of yarn, everything would be the same. Not true and a big mistake in so many ways.

The alpaca had too much halo for the pattern, causing the stitches to be a bit obscured.

As I blocked the shawl, it stretched and stretched and stretched. The knitted gauge met the pattern’s gauge. The number of rows and stitches met the pattern. But the drape of the alpaca and the simple stockinette stitch completely changed the size of the shawl.

Although I wear the shawl, it doesn’t function the same. But it was a good learning experience.

And yes, it was also a mistake not to do a test swatch first to see how the alpaca would block out. Two wrongs did not make a right.

Knitting Tip Takeway: When you can fix a mistake without ripping out hours of work or throwing down your project in frustration, you cross a line from a beginning knitter to one that follows centuries of tradition.

Do you have any knitting tips that made you a better knitter?

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8 thoughts on “5 Knitting Tips to Make You a Better Knitter”

  1. Enjoyed reading your five tips for knitters. I am learning that you should finish a project (especially one you did your own adjustments to) and not wait five years to try and pick it up again. I was knitting a really cute sweater vest that needed a few adjustments in the armhole and shoulders. I walked away from it (don’t remember why) and when I tried to come back to finish it I realized I was a bit lost on where I was in the pattern. With some time I’m sure I’ll figure it out, but would have spared me that time if I would have made better notes or just finished it .

    • That’s great advice! Thanks for sharing it. Best of luck retracing your steps in the pattern. With patience, I’m sure you’ll figure it out.

  2. I would love to knit a shawl, Lacey and delicate but once I tried a Lacey baby blanket and it was full of mistakes. Do you recommend a pattern. I have conquered sweaters, cowl neck scarves, and cables.

    • Hi Rosemary, You should look for a pattern that says it is a beginner level. This type of a pattern will usually have one repeating lace stitch throughout, so you should make fewer mistakes. Light fingering weight yarn would probably be the easiest to learn with, while still giving you the lacy and delicate look you want. If you use a lifeline, you’ll be able to safely rip out mistakes and save any dropped stitches.

  3. This is encouraging I think of my retirement and its boredom this might be my next step. Thank you so much ladies

  4. Thank you for all your help. I love to knit,but sometime I am afraid to try new things. I love lace knitting,but like you if felt so light on the needles and my tension was horrible. Now that I have read your blog about it I mat try again. I will also look into different yarns that I thought to difficult for me to use. Thank you

    • You’re welcome, LaWanda! I hope your lace knitting goes better on your next project. Be patient. You’ll get there.

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