Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Beginner Guide to Knitting Part I: Yarn

When you decided you want to learn to knit where do you start. You need needles, yarn and some one or some thing to tell you how to cast on, how many stitches to cast on, how to knit, and then once your project is completed bind off. The interenet has a plethera of infomation on knitting there are video tutorials, articlas, blogs and everything in between. Where does one start?

Before you even cast on there are some tool and supplies you will need to purchase.
You will need:
Knitting needles.

Today we are going to discus yarn.
With so many different yarns out there where do you start? What will work the best for a beginner? Well, if you are just starting out you want to look for a smooth single ply worsted weight yarn. This probably makes little sense to some one just starting to delve into the world of knitting. Essentially you want you yarn to look like this:

What is single ply?
Single ply means that there is only one strand of yarn. Some yarns are multiple strands of yarn twisted together to make the yarn thicker. These sometimes can split, which means as you are knitting your needle can separate the plies or strands. As a beginner you will want a single strand of yarn this way you won't have to worry about your yarn splitting and this means less head aches.

What does worsted weight mean?
Worsted weight pertains to the thickness of the yarn. When knit a worsted weight yarn knits to about 4 to 5 stitches per every inch. This is classed as a medium weight yarn. When you are looking at a yarn the label that the company uses to brand their yarn will have this information on it. It will tell you suggested needles and give you a suggested gauge. You are looking for a label that has a suggested needle size of about a US 8 to a US 10 (we will get to needles in Part II) give or take a needle size. There will also be a suggested gauge, a worsted weight yarn will knit to about 16 to 20 stitches for 4 inches. Again this is just a suggestion if you fall in love with a yarn that is a little thicker or thinner that's fine just try to find a good medium weight yarn.

How much yarn is enough?
An easy simple beginner scarf would require about 250 to 350 yards of worsted weight yarn depending on the size of the scarf. Keep in mind that an adult scarf is about 50 to 60 inches long depending on the wearer's height. Another tip, buy all your yarn at once. Having worked in a yarn shop for three years I can't tell you how many times customers haven't bought what they needed, ran out and either we couldn't get the color they needed or the same dye lot. (Dye lot is how a company keeps track of a batch of yarn in a certain color, sometimes different dye lots look a little lighter or darker.)

What fiber is the best?
There are so many answers to that question depending on your skill level, project, and price range. Lets just start by say you should get a yarn that you like, that feels nice to you. What a yarn feels like is called the "hand". A 100% merino wool will have a softer hand than a peruvian wool's hand. Those who find wool itchy are probably dealing with a low quality wool with a poor hand. There isn't one best fiber although a wool or wool blend is warm and will hold up well to time and use if cared for properly, but if you are against wool there are a lot of alternatives out there for you. As a beginner though you should find a yarn that you will like working with, you are going to have this yarn in your hands while you work with it so try to find something you enjoy the hand of. Two suggestions, stay away from mohair for your fist project it's fuzziness tends to obscure stitches and it can be a pain even to an experienced knitter. And stay away from acrylic yarn from big box stores, yes it is cheep and you get enough on one hank of a project, but those yarns are poor quality, cheap, and are usually not a single ply.

If you are concerned about price and do not want to spend a fortune on your first project I hear you. There are plenty of yarns out there that are a great quality for the quantity and the price. Knitting should be enjoyable and you should purchase the highest quality yarn in your price range. Most yarn shops also have a sale section where you can get great deals on great yarn. Be prepared to spend at least $20 to $30 on a good yarn.

*Go to your local yarn shop and don't be afraid to ask questions. Let them know you are a beginner, and tell them your price range and what your looking for.

Great Yarns for Beginners
Sulka by Mirasol
Grace by Louisa Harding
Kureyon by Noro
Latte by Ella Rae
Peruvia by Berroco (good buy!)
Mauch Chunky by Kramer Yarns

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