Teaching Knitting, Part 2: Boundaries

It’s important, of course, to give brand new knitters a choice of yarn, but the instructor needs to provide boundaries.  It will help keep them from becoming frustrated, tossing their tangled knitting onto the ground and bursting into tears or screaming. 🙂

I have seen many new knitters come to their first class or come into shops for help clutching yarns like Trendsetter’s Dune (multi-stranded with variegated mohair and a synthetic), Berroco’s Glace (woven rayon), Plymouth Angora (100% angora), or Be Sweet Boucle (100% mohair), eagerly waiting to learn to knit them into something gorgeous.  But …

  • While Dune comes in amazing colorways, it easy to split the strand, difficult to catch mistakes, and problematic to unravel.  (Mohair tends to stick to itself.)
  • cafepress.com


    Glace may feel great to the touch but makes dropping stitches (and seeing them run!) oh so easy because the yarn is oh so slippery.  Also, this is a woven ribbon yarn, and new (and experienced!) knitters frequently pierce ribbon yarns as they knit.
  • Angora yarn is, as most knitters know, soft and begs to be touched.  But, it also felts VERY easily.  It is not unusual for new knitters to sweat a bit and be a little rough with their knitting … a recipe for disaster when knitting with angora!
  • Who doesn’t like a mohair boucle?!  But for new knitters, using something like the lovely Be Sweet Boucle can be another disaster waiting to happen.  New knitters often knit into the boucle loops; recognizing mistakes is difficult, ripping out rows is fraught with problems, and mohair is one of the easier fibers to felt.

So, what to have new knitters use?  Here are a few recommendations (and reasons).

Yarn weight:  A nice mid-weight (worsted).

  • lots of yarn choices
  • gives a nice gauge on a mid-size needle

Fiber:  Wool (preferred) or a wool-acrylic blend.

  • The yarn should be fairly smooth, no boucle, unevenly spun yarn or glittery decorative strands.
  • Wool gives a bit of a stretch, won’t slip too much on the needles, won’t stick too much when pulling out rows.

Color:   No dark colors – no black, dark green, dark blue, dark wine!  Be careful with variegated too.

  • It is too difficult for new knitters to see and repair errors when using a light yarn; it’s even more frustrating in dark yarn.
  • New knitters will find it difficult to find and repair errors depending on the “busy-ness” and colors of the variegated yarn.

Needles: Wooden needles in a medium size – 20” or 24” circular if teaching Continental style, 8″ single point if teaching UK style.

  • Wooden needles are less slippery than metal.
  • Continental style lends itself to circular needles.  Re length, 16” can be a little “tight” for new knitters (unless they have very small hands), and 48″ will be too long and awkward.
  • UK style works best with single point needles, at least for new knitters.  The length may vary depending on which regional UK style instructor will teach.

Another thought

Teachers might consider collaborating with a favorite yarn store.  For instance, you could work with the yarn store to offer a special for your new students:  a ready to go package.  The package would include a set of the needles you want them to use and a skein of the yarn that you think would add to their first knitting experience (be sure and include the list of colors they should choose from) – all at, say, 20% off the regular price.



This ensures your new knitters are off to a good start with supplies, introduces them to a good local yarn store, brings new business to the local yarn store, and gives new knitters a discount as they start their journey!

After all, you want them to keep knitting, right?!


About sweatyknitter

Fiber art devotee, author, and amateur artisan bread baker.
This entry was posted in Knitting. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Teaching Knitting, Part 2: Boundaries

  1. I have no doubt you will turn your daughter’s first knitting project into something she (or you) can use regularly. She will be so proud!


  2. Rebecca says:

    Great tips for teaching. The yarn can make or break a knitting experience. Your suggestions are excellent. My 5 year old daughter is doing well with pale blue bulky yarn on short plastic needles. It is easy for her to manipulate and is growing quickly. We cast on only 10 stitches so it is easy to keep track of the stitch number and again, quick to grow.


  3. Lately I have been knitting on needles smaller than #1 … I am now knitting a sweater band 3/3 rib stitch on #0 but will move up to the comparatively colossal size #3 for the body. 🙂



  4. Talya says:

    Bamboo is slow enough to catch the yarn for beginner students, but usually has,a slightly smoother finish. My students tend to like the bamboo needles more. Since you’re working with worsted yarn, your needles won’t be that small, and shouldn’t be splitty.


  5. Aoife says:

    Oh, man, I’ve hardly even been able to knit with 2 for more than a few stitches at a time!


  6. Why do you prefer bamboo over wooden? I have had problem with bamboo points (esp on smaller needles) splitting.


  7. Talya says:

    The only thing I would change, is bamboo over wooden needles. But everything else I agree on. I bought the yarn for the beginning knitter class I’ve been teaching. The only thing my students picked was the color.


  8. I am a picker who throws only when knitting with 3+ yarns in a single row: pick 2, throw 1. 🙂


  9. Thank you – and best wishes for your knitting mastery!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you … I have found it a very successful way to instill new knitters with confidence – not to mention finished garments! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I can’t tell you the amount of boucle I have yearned to knit when I first started. Five years later and I still have yet. These were awesome tips! I still have my first knitting that I did with plastic needles that came in a kids first knitting kit my mother in law got me. I used a ratty worsted acrylic and once the color was white lol I learn so much from you, wish I had discovered blogs sooner.


  12. Aoife says:

    That’s the same yarn advice I give when I’m teaching someone to knit! It just takes so much of the stress of dealing with fussy yarn out of the equation and lets you focus on learning the stitches. I never thought about the needles before, though. I’m a thrower and have never really gotten the hang of picking, so I didn’t know that different needle types might make one style easier to learn.


  13. Pingback: “C” is for Common…. « Crafty Lady

  14. I am happy to gives ideas re teaching knitting … I have taught many over the years and value the opportunity of sharing my love of this old hand art with others!


  15. knittynana says:

    Thanks for the tips. I am a new knitting instructor and can use all the help I can get!

    Liked by 1 person

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