Expectation management before you start: How hard is knitting to learn and what to expect of this amazing craft.
So, you decided to learn knitting? Maybe even join my free knitting school. That’s great! Knitting is one of the oldest and most versatile handcrafts on this planet. We know that even the Ancient Egyptians, some 4.000 years ago, were wearing knitted wool socks. But is knitting hard to learn? In this post, I want to take a closer look at this wonderful hobby and share my experiences with you.
I feel it’s important to gather some information before you start a new hobby. You will be dedicating quite some money and time to it after all (on that mark, here’s a list of the basic knitting supplies very beginner needs). Don’t be afraid to ask the right questions before you commit. Otherwise, you will start with the wrong expectations and be disappointed. The opposite could be true as well: What you thought was very difficult to learn is in fact quite easy.
So, let’s take a look together, shall we?
Reading tip: How to knit for beginners – the ultimate guide
What to expect from knitting
Knitting requires a lot of fine muscle control and coordination, quite a lot of mental focusing, patience, and perseverance. Without those, you won’t be able to finish any larger work.
Don’t be afraid, if you are lacking in one area or the other. You can learn them all. Millions of men and women before you have learned knitting, and you can be one of them.
Unless you are incredibly talented and already proficient in other needlecrafts, you probably won’t learn it overnight. Knitting those first stitches will be very easy and can be accomplished in a matter of hours (here is a list of great projects for beginners). But it may take months until you are ready to start with a shawl or nice socks. It’s not that knitting is all that hard, but it requires practice. Your muscles and your mind need time to adjust to the new motions as you will notice after the first time you picked up knitting needles.
See, for complicated patterns, you will sometimes hold 300 stitches (or more) on your needles and every stitch will be different. You’ll be working with both hands simultaneously and you have to keep track of the pattern and the yarn (sometimes more than one) at the same time. This kind of complex coordination requires practice.
It will also require a lot of practice to knit stitches evenly across the whole work. I always say it should look handcrafted, not self-made. But as long as you can’t hold an even tension on your yarn across thousands of stitches, that’s hard to achieve. Proficient knitters do it subconsciously. It requires no thinking or special attention, but as you start out, your brain has still a bit to work.
I am not saying this to dissuade you from learning to knit. Quite to the contrary.
Everything I mentioned, is actually what makes knitting such a fantastic hobby that will accompany you throughout your whole life. There’s always something new to learn, always new exciting projects to start, and it never gets dull.
It’s a great exercise for the body and mind – especially for the younger generation. A friend of mine started to knit after a terrible accident with his hand. He struggled mightily at the start, but through perseverance and practice, he regained a lot of fine control over his hands again.
For me, knitting is like meditation. Whenever I knit, I don’t have to think about anything except the next stitch and the nice warm feeling of the wool in my hands. I can forget the worries of the day and the problems of the world for a time. It strengthens me and gives me a feeling of accomplishment.
There is one thing I really need to address, though. Knitting is not cheap. Good wool is not cheap. It’s certainly not expensive either and you find decent quality wool for a couple of dollars. But in terms of price, you won’t be able to compete with that 10 USD wool sweater from Asia & beyond (and that isn’t even factoring in your time commitment). To me, knitting was never a hobby that allowed me to be more frugal. It was rather a tool to express my creativity and create things I can’t buy.
I can create things in the colors I like, using the material I love most and it will be custom-tailored to my body. And that’s awesome.
How hard is it to knit a sweater or mittens?
When you decide to start knitting, you probably already have a nice project in your head. Maybe a nice sweater, or warm mittens for the winter. How hard can it be?
Well, it’s actually quite hard. Sweaters are large and require quite a lot of rows and stitches. It takes hours upon hours to finish. There are some amazing patterns out there (like my Love Sweater) and you really should give it a try at some point. But these are no good starting projects. Knitting a size M sweater with standard needles (so 4mm) can take up to 40-50 hours until you are finished. It can be way more if it’s a complicated multi-colored pattern but also less if you are using big chunky wool and just knit in stockinette stitch.
Mittens or gloves are smaller and thus faster to knit. But you will usually have to knit them in the round using a needle set of 5 needles. It will require you to work with holding needles and sometimes complicated decreases and often very small-sized needles. Personally, I love knitting in the round the most, but for beginners, it will be incredibly hard to knit mittens. You don’t know how to knit the stitches to begin with and then you want to juggle 5 needles simultaneously on top of that?
Of course, there are some amazing patterns for easy sweaters or easy mittens. But for your first project a simple coaster, a potholder, a nice scarf in garter stitch, or a headband will be so much more satisfying. It’s faster, easier, and the chances you create something that looks neat enough so you actually want to use/wear it are so much higher.
BUT nothing speaks against trying to knit more complicated patterns after you finished your first scarf, etc. As your knitting skills grow, you will soon get addicted to trying out new things!
Knitting vs Crocheting: Which is easier?
Of course, there are many ways to produce fabric with needles – weaving, crocheting, and even nalebinding. Crochet patterns and yarns are as widely available as knit materials, and you can more or less produce the same kind of works with both of them. So, it’s okay to wonder, if crocheting was easier to learn.
The main difference between knitting and crocheting is the number of needles you work with. While both require more or less the same amount of hand-eye coordination, it’s probably a bit easier to start out with crochet. Pulling the yarn through with a simple hook is something anyone can do, and it takes quite a bit less dexterity than even the simplest knit stitch.
Thanks to the hooked needle (and no holding needle), you also are less likely to drop stitches. And crochet is (usually) worked only from one side, while knitting requires you to think in a wrong and a right side. That’s why I feel for young kids (6-8), crochet is probably the better option.
That being said, any experienced crocheter will be able to tell you that these are merely beginners’ differences. Once you start working on a big table cloth or blanket, crochet patterns will be just as difficult as similar knitting projects.
The fabric you create is also a bit different. Knitting is better suited for creating smooth & very elastic surfaces, while crochet excels at producing a lace-like fabric with eyelets and anything circular. But as you proceed in either craft, the options are virtually endless in both. Do know, however, that almost all commercially available woolen garments (socks, sweaters, scarfs, gloves) are knit. Even a simple cotton t-shirt is actually knit on extremely fine needles.
Summary: How hard is knitting really?
You can easily learn the knitting basics within a day. If you know how to cast on, cast off, knit, and purl stitch, then you can already create amazing works within a couple of hours. Scarfs or baby blankets are great beginner projects that are easy to knit and can look terrific if you choose nice wool. Larger patterns will require a lot more than just the 4 basic stitches, a lot of fine muscle control, and lots of practice. These patterns may take 50 hours plus to finish and are recommended to knitters with a couple of months of experience.
The good news: If you start with easy patterns and gradually increase the difficulty, you will both keep things fun & satisfying AND gradually learn new techniques on the fly. Then, knitting really isn’t hard.
This post was not meant as discouragement, but rather as a kind of expectation management. Start building your skills gradually and you can increase both size and difficulty of your projects as you proceed. The worst thing that can happen is that you get frustrated because you picked an intricate pattern too early and then decided “knitting is not for you”. That’s nonsense. I didn’t start with lace socks on size 0 needles at age 6 either. I started with potholders and now I am here teaching you how to knit 🙂
Next lesson: The best knitting needles for beginners