Knitting doesn’t require a lot of supplies, really. Mostly just a pair of needles and a ball of yarn. There are some tools that make it a lot easier, though.
The single most confusing part of learning to knit (before actually knitting, that is) was trying to figure out what supplies to get. There are so many different options!
I personally started out with Boye’s I Taught Myself Knitting Beginners Kit. It came with some pretty useful stuff and, for someone who was clueless on what to buy, it did come in handy…for three reasons:
- All the stuff, obviously.
- It has a list of abbreviations in it (which you’ll find useful when you start reading patterns–sometimes it’s hard to remember what everything means, especially if you’re a newbie and you don’t use certain techniques all that often).
- It explains what each tool is and does (even the ones that didn’t come with the kit).
Otherwise, it’s useless. The book is terrible and as unhelpful as it could possibly be. In order to learn the basics of knitting from this book, you have to already understand the basics of knitting. I also found the needles to be far too short (I really like longer needles). I also never used the included needle sizes when I was learning (it comes with US 6/4 mm and US 8/5 mm). I’ll explain why in a moment.
It also didn’t come with everything I needed. Which means I wasted a lot of money buying the kit and then buying all the other tools. So if you want to put your money towards something more useful, here is a list of supplies that I couldn’t have done without while learning.
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For the first three months of learning, these were the only needles I used (the pink ones on top). As I said in my last knitting post, start big. Bigger needles and bigger yarns are much easier to work with, which will save you a ton of frustration (but not all of it).
Size 13 was pretty much perfect and didn’t hurt my hands the way the smaller sizes did. (Though I find practicing on circular needles works best for me. You can knit regular things on them, you don’t have to knit in the round, and the shorter size makes them easier to control.)
The two other sizes I use/see used most often are US 8/5 mm (the blue ones pictured above) and US 10/6 mm, FYI. I recommend first buying those three and then collecting other sizes as you need them.
We’ll talk about the differences between types of needles another time. I use aluminum because they’re the cheapest, but they do have their drawbacks.
The first scarf I successfully made was a very basic pattern. It had a knitted border and it was Knit 2, Purl 2 throughout the whole scarf. To remember to knit the border, though, I used stitch markers.
The way they work is simple: knit the stitches, place the marker over the stitch you want to remember, and then continue knitting. The marker just gets slipped back and forth between needles while you knit.
These are incredibly cheap and extremely handy. I keep mine from getting lost by putting them on stitch holders (which look like those clips you use to hold cloth diapers in place. Also, this is the only use I’ve had for my stitch holder).
I really like these because they’re so easy to slip on and off.
I don’t know where I would be without these. I have two–one in red and one in blue. One is used to count stitches (but I only do that when I’m increasing/decreasing) and the other is used to count rows. (It doesn’t matter which color you use for which purpose…just be consistent so you remember what it’s for.)
There are some patterns where keeping track of your rows is so important. They also just slip right on to your needles, so you never have to hunt or dig to change the number. My only complaint is that these ones won’t fit on my larger needles. However, they make these, which apparently fit any needle up to US 15/10 mm. There are also ones you can wear around your neck.
Apparently these are supposed to be used to protect the points of your needles from becoming damaged when they’re not in use (meaning you should be covering all of your needles with point protectors). I have never used them for that purpose (we’ll see if I regret it).
What they are useful for is keeping your stitches from falling off the needles when you’re not working them. If I get up and leave my knitting alone, I put a point protector on the end of the needle that holds the stitches. This is really important if you’re working on projects that take more than a couple hours. You just mark where you left off (with the knit tallies) and come back to it when you’re ready. You never have to worry about your cat knocking over the needle and stealing the yarn (this was a major concern for me when I started knitting. The cats and I fight over ownership of the yarn quite frequently).
I can’t find the ones that I use, but the closest is this. Just don’t get the round ball-shaped ones–they’re far too easy to lose. (I know from experience.)
Crotchet hooks can be used for so many things. Not only will you have all the tools necessary to learn how to crotchet, but they will save your knitting on so many occasions. The two biggest reasons to get them, though, are 1) to fix dropped stitches, and 2) to weave in ends. You can do both of these things in other ways, but using a crotchet hook is the easiest. At least for me.
I recommend getting a whole set, if you can, because different yarns will require different hook sizes. If that’s too expensive, I’ve found that a 3-4 mm works great for most things.
6. Yarn needles
Yarn needles are large, usually plastic (though sometimes metal) needles with an eye large enough to thread yarn through. You can get a set of them really cheaply.
They can be used to weave in ends or to stitch seams together, which is nice for certain projects. They’re incredibly easy to lose, though, so I recommend getting a small container to keep them in when not in use.
You’ll probably find these cheapest in a store, honestly.
Tape is especially important for scarves, to determine when it has become long enough to bind off. You can also use it to check your gauge, though there are special tools for that (called gauges). A gauge will be handy if the numbers on my needles ever rub off (because I can check my needle size using a gauge), but that won’t be for a long time. I’m mentioning this here because gauges are not on this list. 😛
This isn’t so obvious because you kind of figure everyone has a pair of scissors lying around, which is often the case. However, keeping a pair specifically with your knitting supplies is really handy. I didn’t for a while and it was such a pain (especially around Christmas) to have to go hunting for my scissors because I couldn’t remember what I had been doing with them last. Keeping a pair that is only for knitting has been more helpful than I expected.
They don’t have to be anything fancy, though child-proof probably won’t work because they’re too blunt. I just got a small pair for $1 at Kroger. No big deal.
Also: A couple good books
This is more of a bonus, since you can certainly learn without books (thanks to the wonder of the Internet). However, I find having a book around extremely handy.
I believe I mentioned Stitch ‘n Bitch in my last knitting post. For Christmas, though, Zach got me Knitty Gritty and The Knitting Answer Book. All of these books combined have been enormously helpful to me. Stitch ‘n Bitch describes the basics extremely well (and whatever I don’t understand in the book, I can just look up on YouTube).
The Knitting Answer Book has fixed so many problems for me. It explains why stitches can be too tight and how to fix it, why there were holes in some of my stitches, all the different methods of casting on, etc.
Knitty Gritty is all about basics. It’s a very thin book and doesn’t have much content, but what it contains is invaluable. If you’re JUST getting started, buy this book. The pictures are of the highest quality and ACTUALLY help (mostly because they’re not drawings and they didn’t take pictures of someone holding the needles, so there are no hands getting in the way). It also explains and shows all the different yarn types, so you’ll never be confused about yarn sizes again.
There are so many other useful knitting tools to have (like cable needles, double-pointed needles, circular needles) and I’m sure you all have different opinions about these. But the items in this list are the ones that I find myself using all the time. If you’re learning how to do basic stuff (or you WANT to), these are the things you will need.
Hopefully this list will prevent you from feeling too overwhelmed when you go shopping!
What knitting supplies do you find essential?