Knitting Is a Good Idea. Here’s How to Get Started.
An introduction to the history of knitting, the mental health benefits of knitting, and your best bet for low-stress beginner projects.
When people think about knitting, their minds might snap to an image of a grandmother in her rocking chair, dutifully whipping up a scarf or a pair of socks. There’s nothing wrong with that—plenty of grandmas knit, and plenty of knitters learned the craft from their grandmas. But the truth is, knitting is an incredibly low-risk, high-reward way to harness creative impulses at any age. Knitters have the power to construct their own clothes, turn wild ideas into tangible objects, and engage in a practice that dates back to at least the dawn of the Middle Ages (more on that in a second).
One of Sunny Day Fiber’s defining goals is to demystify knitting, making the practice approachable, fulfilling, and low-stress for curious makers of all ages. So consider this a sign: if you’ve been flirting with the idea of picking up a pair of needles, now’s your moment.
What is knitting, anyway?
Put simply, knitting is the process of creating textile fabrics by interlacing loops of a single yarn. There’s some debate about the origins of the practice, but most sources credit the Egyptians as the first knitters, with the earliest garments cropping up sometime between the 5th and 12th centuries. (Ancient Egyptian fabrics from 500ish BCE once thought to be knit were actually produced by a similar process called nålbinding…but that’s another blog post.)
Knitting gained traction as a mainstream practice of clothing production in 16th century Europe, largely because it achieved similar effects to weaving without the need for expensive, heavy equipment. Most patterns used in the United States today are newer, dating back to the 1950s, and rooted in the explosion of stateside hand knitting during WWII.
Ask not what you can do for knitting…
The mental health benefits of knitting are difficult to deny. Think of the quick thrill you get from completing a menial task at work or around the house—now imagine there’s no deadline, you set the terms, and you get to wear what you made. Even better? Knitting pulls our focus away from screens, engages our critical thinking skills, and lowers the cortisol in our bodies, putting us at peace for far longer than the minutes or hours we spend engaged in the act of creation.
When you sit down to knit, you’re practicing mindfulness, reminding yourself of your creative power, and honoring the basic human need for self-expression. You provide the passion—we’ll provide the materials.
Knitting for beginners
When choosing your first project, it’s important to make sure your eyes aren’t bigger than your hands. Comfort is the name of the game: if knitting makes you want to cry, you’re doing it wrong. Luckily, some of the easiest garments to knit are also some of the most rewarding. Scarves, sweaters, and hats—all great gifts, it must be said—are perfect places to start, provided you’re picking proper patterns. Which brings us to…
How to choose your first patterns
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but ideally, your first knitting project will be. By picking a garment that only takes a couple of hours to complete, you’re increasing the chances you’ll see it through from beginning to end, improving your confidence and your skills in one swoop. Plus, it’s easier (and more fun) to give a pattern a second attempt if the first one didn’t eat up a week of your life.
As we said above, scarves and sweaters are great early projects. But for your first rodeo, we’d recommend going with a baby hat. Sunny Day’s pattern was designed to help you make a simple, sturdy, adorable beanie that’s a great fit for the infants in your life, if you have any. If not, no worries—it’s still the perfect place to start.
Pro tip while you’re tracking down materials: fat yarn is your friend. The wider the yarn, the easier it is to grab hold of as you learn to make loops, so use worsted weight (that’s knitter-speak for “medium thickness”) yarn to complete the pattern. Once you’re done, do it again, maybe in a new color. If you get really confident, consider graduating to a full-size beanie.
Spread your yarn and fly
You’ve picked your patterns, you’re armed with your materials, and you’re ready to get to work. Don’t let us stop you. Go join the Egyptians, grandmas, and medieval Europeans before you. We’ll be here if you need support, encouragement, inspiration—or just more yarn.