In a world full of fast fashion garments made to last only a season or two, buying brand new ethical and sustainable clothing can be challenging, not to mention costly. Aside from buying second-hand pieces (you’ll be amazed at how many gorgeous and unique pieces you can find in charity shops and vintage stores) and participating in clothing swaps, you can also choose to start making your own clothes as a way to avoid fast fashion and help save the planet. But how do you start doing that? Well, learning to knit can help get there.
In case you haven’t heard/read about it before, knitting is the activity of making clothes, blankets, etc. by using two long needles to connect yarn into joined rows. This pastime is not only fun but it is also beneficial to the health of the knitter. Believe it or not, needlework can induce a relaxed state of mind, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and generally reduce stress. Additionally, research has shown that leisure activities such as knitting and crocheting (a handicraft in which one uses yarn and a special needle with a hook to make garments and other things) may lower the chance of developing age-related memory loss.
According to many knitting authors, instructors, knitwear designers, and yarn store owners, every newbie knitter should begin this journey with basic knitting supplies: a ball or a skein of high-quality medium-weight yarn, a pair of 25-cm long knitting needles, scissors to cut the yarn when the project is finished, a crochet hook or a blunt-end yarn needle for weaving in the ends, and last but not least, a yarn book or two to get inspired.
When it comes to yarns , a lot of experts agree that beginners should start with a skein of thicker-knit yarn. Using worsted weight yarn (medium-weight yarn that’s heavier than double knitting yarn, sports weight yarn, baby weight yarn, fingering weight yarn, and crochet thread) or heavy, chunky yarn allows you to see what you’re doing, catch mistakes with ease, and knit faster. This can make falling in love with this activity a lot easier.
Aside from the yarn’s size and weight, you need to pay attention to the fibres as well. If you truly want to create eco-friendly garments, steering clear of synthetic ones is a must. As you may already know, acrylic, polyester, nylon, and other plastic fibres require fossil fuel extraction in order to be created. In addition to this, every time you wash clothes made from plastic fibres, millions of invisible plastic particles are released into the water. Plus, they don’t biodegrade. Natural fibres, on the other hand, do.
Speaking of natural fibres, cotton, bamboo, linen, and hemp are some of the best vegan options. If you decide on cotton, consider purchasing organic as cotton is one of the most highly sprayed crops. You can also opt for unique sustainable fabrics such as pineapple, banana silk, and recycled/remnant fabrics. Since dyes impact the environment too, consider shopping for undyed and/or naturally dyed knit fabrics. Maybe you’re not ready for this option yet, but if you eventually get there, consider dyeing yarn yourself using quality eco-friendly dyes.
Reading a yarn book or two written in simple, easy-to-understand language can help you learn the basics of knitting (how to cast on, knit, bind off, and weave in ends), ignite your passion for yarn crafting, as well as boost your imagination and creativity. Luckily, there are plenty of yarn books that provide readers with easy-to-follow instructions. For an even more enjoyable reading experience, look for a yarn book that includes knitting patterns for garments and accessories as well as illustrated techniques. Photographs are helpful too.
Diving into the intricately beautiful world of knitting with a novice-friendly yarn crafting book in hand is smart because it’ll give you the opportunity to learn and create at your own pace. You can re-read certain parts or the entire book as many times as you want. For every brand-new knitter, it’s immensely important to get comfortable with needlework and realize that practice makes perfect, which can be easily achieved with the help of books. Knitting classes, on the other hand, can put pressure on you and even discourage you from mastering this art.
If you truly want to commit to this handicraft, investing in a printed guide suitable for both beginners and advanced knitters is a great decision. Slowly but surely, such a resource can help you learn almost everything there is to know about knitting. There are books that’ll introduce you to the various ways of holding the knitting needles and yarn, and then teach you how to cast on and cast off, work basic stitches, increase and decrease, make buttonholes, finish off, fix mistakes, and properly care for your creations.
In case you enjoy challenging yourself, you might want to purchase a comprehensive sweater book and begin learning the basics of a few simple sweater types. Yoke, raglan, drop shoulder, and set-in sleeve are some of the most popular ones. When you feel you have acquired all the essential knitting skills, you can try to make your very first sweater. Please remember that it may not look perfect or exactly like the book’s examples and that’s totally fine. After all, it’ll be your first yarn-crafting adventure.
Since the slickness of metal needles can often be a stumbling point for newbie knitters, experts advise them to use wooden or bamboo needles. These needles favour technique over speed, which is why they’re ideal for your first knitting project. Plus, they’re really comfortable to work with.
When it comes to size, it’s smart to start knitting with a medium-sized needle (also known as medium yarn). Sizes US 7, US 8, and US 9 (4.5 mm, 5 mm, and 5.5 mm respectively) are often used for medium weight yarn. If you decide on straight knitting needles, bring the knitting needle length into the equation as well. Needles longer than 20 cm ought to do the trick. Keep in mind that the knitting needle size and the yarn size should complement each other. If you want to, you can invest in a knitting needle set for the ultimate flexibility.
A piece of friendly advice: don’t fret over the way your needles look – both straight and circular needles can achieve the desired results.
Beginner-Friendly Scissors and Tapestry Needles
Every beginner should add a nice pair of little, sharp scissors to their knitting kit. With the help of such scissors, you’ll be able to cut your yarn more closely to the project and change colours. Keep in mind that most kitchen shears aren’t sharp enough for these tasks. For the finishing touches, consider enriching your yarn-crafting kit with a handful of tapestry needles.
Let me end this article by applauding your interest (or is it a decision already?) in creating conscious clothing. Knitting allows you to give a personal touch to the garments you make for yourself and/or your closest ones as well as choose ethical and sustainable fabrics. It’s a win-win situation for you and the planet.