A detailed list of all the materials and tools you need as a knitting beginner and how to use them.
So, you want to start knitting? Maybe you found my free knitting school already and you are all stoked to get started. But now you don’t know what you need to buy? What are the best tools and materials for knitting beginners? In this post, I’ll talk you through the most basic knitting supplies. Things you absolutely need to knit those first stitches but also everything you don’t need.
I’ve been there and I’ve seen it too many times. People start with a new craft, buy all those fancy tools and gadgets, only to realize 2 weeks later this hobby is not for them. That’s why I personally always recommend to keep it to the bare minimum at first. Always buy quality, but never overbuy.
If you got to a yarn shop, then you will find a looot of choices. And you will need most of them at one point or the other (just check out my list of the best knitting tools every advanced knitter needs). You will also be tempted to buy all that beautiful yarn. Pinks, speckles, super soft merino…you name it. Don’t.
So, without further ado, let’s dive right into it!
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1. Knitting Needles
Quite obviously you will need knitting needles. I wrote a detailed guide on the best needles for beginners here. But here’s the gist:
You will want to start with needles that are neither too small a size (very fiddly) or too big a needle (very cumbersome). Needles size 6 to 8 (so 4.00 to 5.00 mm) are a perfect balance. Then, most experienced knitters agree that bamboo is probably the easiest material to get started as it is super light, warm to the touch, and has a nice grip so your stitches don’t fall off.
For your very first projects, single-pointed needles (the one with the little knob on one end) are probably the best. There is no need to buy a full set of interchangeable knitting needles yet. Why? Your preferences will probably change over the next months and years.
Most knitters develop a focus: Say socks, sweaters or shawls. And depending on those choices (and a lot of other choices), you will need different needles. It wouldn’t be very frugal to invest a fortune in knitting needles you may not use in the long run.
Here are two needles I can recommend:
Both are very reputable companies known for producing quality needles. These needles are somewhat short, though. For your first projects (like a beginner’s scarf or a dishcloth), these will be perfect. If you plan a bigger project (so wider than 9 inches), then you would obviously need to get larger needles.
If you are absolutely sure you are in for the long run, you could also get a pair of circular bamboo needles (these ChiaoGoo needles will serve you will). Knitting with the cable is a tiny bit more tricky, but they are certainly a bit more versatile for future projects.
2. Knitting Yarn
The second thing you will need is knitting yarn. I wrote an in-depth guide on the best knitting yarn for beginners here. But in a nutshell, this is what you need to know:
There are virtually a million different kinds of yarn out there, but for beginners, superwash wool blends are probably the best choice. Sheep wool is an amazing material with a lot of stellar properties. It’s warm, it’s easy to knit with, comparably cheap, super stretchy, comes in a million different colors, and so on.
Why a superwash blend?
The only downside of wool is that it felts very easy. Every washing machine has a wool program for a reason, and you might know what happens if you put a wool sweater into the dryer (don’t!). Superwash wool yarn is treated in a way to discourage felting and blending it with a synthetic fiber (nylon, polyamide) reduces the risk even further.
But remember you have to buy the yarn in weight matching your needles. All commercially sold yarns will have a little label that states the recommended needle size. If you got needles size 8, then you have to look for a matching yarn. Usually, the label states a certain range (like 8-10). As a beginner, I would recommend you to focus on the lower number, as knitting with “smaller” needles will result in more uniform stitches.
Acrylic yarn can also be a good alternative, especially as it usually is much cheaper.
Here are some yarns for your consideration:
3. A tapestry needle
Here’s the good news: Knitters use continuous rows of stitches to shape their projects without sewing or adhesives. But no matter how diligent a knitter you are, every knitted item will always be at least two ends. One from your cast on, and the other from your cast off. And once you finished knitting, you need to weave in these tails.
You can do so with a tapestry needle. That’s a kind of sewing needles with a blunt tip and a big eyelet which makes it easier to use with thick knitting yarn. You don’t really need anything fancy, but you might want to get a set of different sizes right away. It will cost a penny or two more, but then you are set for the future.
Note: I personally prefer sharp tapestry needles, but as a beginner, the blunt version just might be a bit easier.
Before you can weave in your ends, you will need to cut the yarn. And after you weaved in those ends, you will have to cut away the little tail still peaking out as well. And that’s more or less it. Later on, there are some advanced techniques like steeking (etc.) that also will require scissors, but for the beginning, anything that can cut yarn will suffice.
Most makers will have something around the house already, but if you don’t, you might want to get one of these super cute stork embroidery scissors.
5. A project bag
The last thing you really need is a bag where you can store your work in progress. You may want to bring your knitting on the train or car (if you are not driving yourself that is!) or your household may have kids, dogs, cats or an overzealous partner. In short, there are many things that could spoil your efforts before it’s even finished.
Now, you don’t need anything fancy. A simple zipper plastic bag or a cotton bag (or whatever else you already have at home), will totally suffice.
That being said, there are some extremely helpful and not all that expensive knitting project bags available. This one is also very popular among knitters.
Other knitting supplies for beginners
Now, as I said in the introduction, there are tons of other handy little tools and gadgets you might want to get. But, for your first projects, you will not need them.
Take stitch markers for example (here’s a link to Etsy with a great variety). First of all, I don’t think you will need them for those super easy beginner projects. But even if you would, a simple loop in a contrasting yarn will do the job for the time being.
The same could be said about blocking mats. Yes, it helps to wash your finished project and then block it to even out the stitches and to get it into shape. But, you can also use the carpet (with a towel on top), your ironing board, or any leftover styrofoam you have lying around.
To start out, I would really think creatively. There are a lot of knitting hacks out there, and there is absolutely no need to spend all that much money on your first project.
I am a professional project manager, and I have a lot of experience in finding the right price for a given product. And let me tell you, inexperienced people are the perfect victims. If you don’t know a lot about a certain product range, a lot of people will lean towards the more expensive option, figuring that it will be better. This, however, may or may not be the case. It might just be overpriced.
So, again, keep your knitting equipment to the bare minimum as you start out. Later on, you can buy all the items you need if your pattern requires it. By then your experience will help you judge the quality better.
There is a very interesting acronym floating around the knitting community. SABLE. It means [yarn] stash acquired beyond life expectancy. It means that a knitter bought so much yarn that they won’t be able to use it all up before they die. And mark my words, this is a big problem in the knitting community. You want to own these beautiful colorways. Cashmere, merino, alpaca….everything is just so soft!
I want to be honest with you. I got way more yarn than I need and I don’t even feel sorry about it. That being said, you don’t have to morph into a crazy knitting lady/boy before you even finished your first project. Leave that for later *chuckle*