Today I taught a nice young man, called Ollie, to knit. He works at our local radio station, BBC Guernsey, and is doing a weekly feature where he learns to do something new. He contacted me to ask if I’d teach him to knit. As I’m all in favour of spreading the knitting love, I agreed! The audio we recorded will be played next Saturday morning, however, Ollie has agreed that I can share some of it on the iMake podcast, so after next weekend has passed, I will be getting an episode live so everyone can listen.
We had quite a giggle, as you can imagine, and it turns out that Ollie is a bit of a natural. Teaching Ollie got me thinking about a few suggestions for anyone who wants to teach someone to knit. Here are my top tips:
- Encourage your learner to pick the nicest yarn and needles they can afford. There really is something to be said for knitting with good quality tools and materials (see my wooden needles and Malabrigo yarn above….)
- Use a “mantra” your learner can repeat to keep the steps for knitting a stitch in the right order. I rather like “under the fence, catch the sheep, back you go, off you leap” for English knitting). Pretty soon, 4 steps will become just one.
- Teach casting on AFTER you have taught the basic knit stitch. It’s nice to do things sequentially, however, casting on is much easier when you know the knit stitch. Also, people can lose interest quickly when casting on. It’s better just to get knitting.
- Remind your learner to count their stitches every row in case they gain/lose one.
- As soon as is practical, show your learner how to fix mistakes and un-knit. I did not learn this for years – I wish I had…
- Help your learner to read their knitting and understand how stitches are made. Remembering that a purl looks like it’s wearing a polo neck (“p” for polo) and a knit stitch wears a scarf helped me.
- Good beginner projects include a scarf, fingerless mitts (knitted flat and seamed) or a blanket made of squares. After that, I’d encourage the knitter to try a hat in the round.
- Finally, manage your learners expectations carefully. Whilst they do need to understand that their second project (after the ubiquitous garter stitch scarf) is unlikely to be a cabled cardigan, you don’t want to dampen enthusiasm. Anything is possible.
Those are my suggestions. I’d love to hear others’ top tips.
Here’s Ollie (I should have suggested that he held the knitting needles the right way round really!):