Knitting for absolute beginners
You may be tired of buying clothes that are made badly and rip or tear. You may be considering cheap and meaningful presents for Christmas. The chances are that if you don't knit, you'd like to, or will know someone that does. Knitting is no longer a symbol of the stereotype of the housebound woman - it's a wonderful and emancipating hobby. Learn to knit a simple rectangle, and we'll show you a few creative things you can do with it.
Debbie Stoller, a US knitting icon and third-wave feminist, encouraged women everywhere to take up their knitting needles with her book Stitch 'n Bitch Handbook: Instructions, Patterns, and Advice for a New Generation of Knitters, published in 2000. She's one of the icons of a knitting and crafting revolution that's happened on the quiet, but from the number of indie crafting communities on the net (and in pubs and kitchens) you can see the funky joys of knitting have enveloped us all like a cosy woolly sweater made of rainbows.
Why has knitting come back into our lives?
Knitting is emancipating. In a very physical way, knitting is taking power into your own hands. Everyone gets tired of buying clothes in cheap materials that tear and shrink well before their sell-by date. Doing things for yourself is always empowering.
It's great for your creative right brain. Knitting is a creative act, an act of art as well as of function. And knitting is catching: Everyone that sees your creations will feel as inspired to have a go as you were.
It's good for your methodical left brain. The monotony of click-clacking needles knitting rows, hopefully without dropping a stitch, is satisfying and steadying. The act of producing a finished product is remarkably beneficial to the soul.
It's good for your self-esteem. Even if you do miss a stitch, you'll love what you create because of the satisfaction of making it yourself. You'll feel thrilled and loving towards each row you knit, because it's yours and no-one else's.
It's good for your empathy. If you make something, you appreciate it. If you knit, you'll appreciate the effort that goes into every knitted product you see. You'll appreciate factories and people working knitting machines at all hours. But you'll appreciate the love and time that went into your rainbow knitted scarf so much more.
The basics are simple to master. Knitting isn't elitist - it's something anyone can do. Boys knit, girls knit, everyone knits. It's easier to learn from someone you know, but nowadays it isn't essential. There are loads of websites out there to get you started on the basics - see our list of knitting links below.
Knitting is a hobby as cheap as the wool you choose to use. Again, that makes it open to everyone. And you can have cheap plastic knitting needles, or cheap sustainable birch hardwood needles - your hobby isn't killing the planet or your pocket, however you play it.
Knitting is so very social. You can do it in company, anywhere, anytime. So many hobbies require quiet-time and introspective reflection, but knitting is a craft that loves company and laughter (okay, gossip). You can have knitting parties down the pub, or knit on long bus journeys, or while someone is watching a TV programme they love but you don't.
Knitting is, quite frankly, useful. It's a good way to enliven old possessions, create gifts, and make your own clothes.
Knitting can be a form of activism. The Stitchettes, a London-based knitting group, raised thousands of pounds for Cancer Research by going on a knitting crawl where one of their projects including adorning the lions of London's Trafalgar Square with knitted scarfs.
What are the absolute basics of knitting?
We won't explain it here, as other sites explain it far better (see our list of links that will help you learn to knit below). But to knit an ultra-useful rectangle ( and there's a LOT you can make with a simple rectangle), you ideally need to know:
What can be done with a simple knitted rectangle?
Knit yourself a scarf. If you've made a really long thin rectangle, you've made a scarf, of course! Either stripy, using different wools, or soft and black and spangly with black alpaca glitter wool, or... scarves may be simple but they're still wonderfully creative. And a lot of the superlong scarves currently available in shops are going for £70. That's a joke. Knit one yourself. Make it as long as Tom Baker's in the early Doctor Who. Just keep going and don't stop.
Customise cushions. Sew your knitted rectangle to a cushion cover, customising the cushion and covering any stains.
Knit an iPod/mobile phone cover. Small rectangles can be folded over and hand-stitched at the sides to make iPod and mobile phone covers. Easy. And everyone gets to see your handiwork on a daily basis.
Knit yourself armwarmers. Armwarmers go with most styles and outfits. Long thin rectangles stitched together along the side make gorgeous armwarmers. Just measure round your arm at any point up to the elbow, knit a rectangle that's as wide as that, and as long as your wrist to your elbow... stitch the sides together to make a long tube and voila - armwarmers.
Knit yourself a shawl. Choose exciting wool and a big old rectangle becomes a snuggly, funky shawl.
Knit yourself a weird skater/snowboarding hat. Get your woolly rectangle, sew it to make a pocket, and you've got a snowboarding hat. Sort of.
Knit a bag. A big folded rectangle can be sewn to make a pocket, with a really long thin rectangle for the strap. Amazing - a knitted bag! You will need to line the inside with strongish material to support the structure though, or your lovely fluffy delicate wool bag won't stay a bag for very long.