10 Knitting Lessons We Learned the Hard Way

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We hate to admit it, but what our parents said when we were kids is right: mistakes do help you learn. (The first time you add a cup of salt instead of sugar into a recipe is usually the last time, right?!)

And so it goes with knitting. You'll definitely make incredibly frustrating errors along the way — some that will make you laugh, and others that will make you want to tear your hair out.

You may find the following lessons heartening (especially if you've made the same mistakes), or consider them good cautionary tales. Either way, live and learn.

1. Not all yarn is washable.

Imagine this: You knit up a gorgeous pattern in a gorgeous, expensive wool. You throw it in the washing machine, then remove it, to find that your pretty stitches are now felted together, and your project would now only fit a Barbie. Lesson learned: always, always check the label for care instructions.

2. When substituting yarn, it's about more than just matching the weight.

The first time I substituted yarn, I really messed up. I swapped a worsted-weight for another worsted-weight, but there were a lot of problems. I used a cotton instead of a wool, so the drape and look of the project wasn't what I wanted. I also didn't check the gauge, so the finished object ended up being way smaller than it should've been.

To be fair, substituting yarn does take some practice. You might even mess up several projects, but with each mess up you'll learn something new. To learn more important lessons — without messing up your projects — check out Kellie Nuss's Yarn Substitution Made Easy class.

3. Magic loop will save you lots of money and space.

I resisted learning Magic Loop for a long time, but it's so worth it. I love that you only need one long needle for each size. That means you'll save money purchasing all those different sizes, plus you'll need a much smaller space to store your needles. Win-win!

4. Yes, cats will eat yarn.

It only takes a small bit of yarn to make your kitty sick — and cat puke isn't fun to clean up. (Nor is it cute when it comes out the other end...) Be sure to store your yarn in a container with a secure lid and keep an eye on your kitty when you have yarn around.

5. Sometimes you just have to wing it.

The first time I ever knit a sock, I looked at the pattern and broke out in a nervous sweat. WTH is a heel turn? And how do I get the sock to change directions? I took a deep breath and just followed the pattern as best as I could. To my surprise (and delight) I couldn't believe that it resulted in a sock that looked exactly right! If you see a pattern that looks particularly confusing or odd, sometimes you just have to sit down and follow it to see where it goes. 

6. Don't skimp on swatching garments .

I don't wince when knitters skip swatching on things like scarves. However, skipping a swatch on a garment? No bueno. You won't like the result: a sweater that is too big, yarn that drapes in a weird way — no matter what, it results in a garment that you will never wear.

7. You can fix mistakes.

Do you panic when you catch a mistake in your knitting? Don't sweat it. They can often be fixed without a lot of pain. Check out our Save Our Stitches to see a few examples.

8. Give yourself a break.

You are often your own worst critic. No one else saw that yarn over that you missed. If you're ashamed of that sweater because you missed a purl or two, it's YOU holding yourself back, not your purl pattern. Check out our Perfectionist's Guide to Knitting for more encouragement.

9. Not everyone will go nuts for a knitted gift.

Before you spend an entire weekend toiling over a project, take a second to think about how well the gift matches with the recipient. There's no perfect way to predict, but if you think you'll feel disappointed or hurt if your friend doesn't seem to appreciate the time and skill that went into your gift — and let's be honest, not everyone knows, cares or shows it — reconsider. Sometimes you just have to protect your own feelings, and your resources.

10. The knitting community is a tight one.

If you're struggling with a project or need inspiration, reach out for help, locally or online. Knitters are natural problem-solvers and love to help, whether it's talking materials, troubleshooting, or, well...spinning a "yarn" or two about their own lessons learned!

Everything you need to start knitting with confidence.
Susan B. Anderson
with Susan B. Anderson
Marie Kondo would probably approve of knitting. After all, you only need three simple things to do it: needles, a ball of yarn, and a pair of scissors. So minimalist!
by Ashley Little
As a super busy mother of three, I often feel like I have to justify the time I spend knitting. There are so many demands on my time, it sometimes feels a little selfish to prioritize what at first glance may look like a hobby. But, my friends, it is so much more than a hobby. Knitting keeps me sane, keeps me focused, and, without a doubt, makes me a better person.
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10 Knitting Lessons We Learned the Hard Way