Learning to Knit

This is my journalling page, recording each knitting project I have done in order. Helpful information about each project includes: where I found the pattern/directions, what size needle & yarn I used, how long it took me to complete each project, what I found challenging/new skills learned and any special notes. I hope that you find this page useful as you teach yourself or your children to knit. If you have suggestions, please email me.

Find beautiful hand-made birch knitting needles in size 7, perfect for beginners, at
the Waldorf Curriculum Store.

First Knitting Project:
A Scarf

Directions for this project can be found online.

I did this as a Christmas present for my preschool daughter Natalie (nearly 4 years old, so I think she's old enough to have a scarf without it being a choking hazard). I wanted the finished scarf to be very narrow so that it would fit her properly. I cast on 11 stitches using a size 5 US needle, of Peaches & Creme 4 ply worsted weight 100% cotton yarn in a color called Fiesta Ombre (which I purchased at Wal-Mart). The 11 stitches worked really well, since I always seemed to hit where the dye morphed into the next color at the end of each row, so the stripes are very distinct. I used almost the entire skein (2 oz) and took the small leftover ball and made a pompom to go on a plain white (purchased) knit hat, thereby making a matched set.

How to Make a Pom-Pom

New skills: learning how to cast on and bind off; learning the knit stitch


  • I began this project on November 8 2005 and finished December 2 2005.
  • It is REALLY hard to teach yourself to knit from a set of printed directions -- find someone who knows how to show you. Knitting classes can be found at every craft store, or check with family members and friends. Grandmothers are great -- but even young people know how to knit nowadays, as it is becoming very popular again.

Knit Cat

This project is found in The Children's Year: Crafts and clothes for children and parents to make by Stephanie Cooper, Christine Fynes-Clinton and Marye Rowling, pp.95-95.

I again used the Peaches & Creme 4 ply worsted weight 100% cotton yarn (from Wal-Mart), this time in white. I used my size 5 US needles. The project took about half a 2 oz. skein of yarn; I was surprised at how much I had left! I stuffed it with plain unspun wool and embroidered the face using three strands of DMC embroidery floss (414 and 353). The cat was a Christmas present for Rebecca (she's 11 months old so I skipped putting a ribbon and small bell around the cat's neck). For her one year birthday in January I plan to make her a blanket out of matching yarn, to make a set.

New skill: adding and dropping stitches


  • I began this project on December 3 2005 and finished December 11 2005.
  • The directions for the tail were the most confusing part! First you cast on and knit one row of 16 stitches. Then you knit 10 stitches down the next row and DO NOT do the remaining 6 (put them on a stitch holder -- or a large safety pin like a diaper pin -- it's easier). Turn and knit the row -- it's shorter now since it is only 10 stitches long. Then when you turn again you'll want to pick up the six stitches you dropped -- add them to left hand needle one at a time and work them back into the design. This is so the cat's tail will begin to have a tapered shape. You want it to be a triangle when you are complete. Repeat the 16/10/16 pattern three times. Then cast off.
  • Since this project was more complicated than a scarf, where I just go until I feel it is done, I had to learn how to count rows. I found the easiest way to do this was to make tally marks on an index card, one mark when I had finished each row. Then, no matter how many times I had to put my project down, I always knew where I was. My tally card for this project looked like this:
    52 rows (this is the body, I made it all in one color)
    14 rows
    4 rows
    4 rows
    14 rows (this series is the head, the first set of 4 rows you knit together the first two stitches when you begin each row, the second set of 4 rows you add in a stitch at the start)
    16 16/10/16 16/10/16 16/10/16 cast off (this is the tail, I just wrote how many stitches I would have to do and crossed off each row as it was complete)
  • This project would definitely be cuter in a fuzzy yarn like they suggest, such as mohair. It makes a good gender-neutral gift.

scarf and hat all in one

This project is found in The Children's Year: Crafts and clothes for children and parents to make by Stephanie Cooper, Christine Fynes-Clinton and Marye Rowling, pp.79-80.

I wasn't able to use the first OR second wool I chose for this project (I have a whole box of wool yarn from my Aunty's estate) because they didn't turn out to be enough. So I have undone everything twice and it looks like I have to wait until I can purchase some yarn, instead of being able to use up leftovers. Make sure that you have plenty of whatever wool you choose to do this project with, as the directions say 110 grams is enough and I had about 80 before and was not even a third of the way through before I ran out! And make sure that you choose very long needles since you cast on 80 stitches to start. I did learn how to purl with this project, though, so it wasn't a total loss.

New skill: learning the purl stitch


  • I began this project December 12 2005. Tore it out and began again December 14 2005. Tore it out and put it on hold December 15 2005.
  • Using wool yarn is a big switch from the cotton -- it is much fuzzier and I feel like it is harder to work with. Cotton yarn is so smooth I always got the tip of my needle under correctly but I seem to be having a hard time catching the complete stitch now. The wool sticks to itself. Since this pattern calls for very bulky yarn, I am also having trouble with dropping stitches and not noticing my mistake until I'm on the next row, because the needles are crammed so full of yarn.
  • I am also using a piece of paper to keep organized with this project, although instead of tally marks I am simply writing K when I finish a knit row and P when I finish a purl row. I'll continue KKPP until the project reaches 16 inches in length.
  • July 28 2006 and I am ready to try this again. I know better how to do a knit/purl rib (this only took so long because I taught myself -- I really recommend that you find an in-person teacher. this is not a complicated pattern!) and I plan to use two skeins of Lamb's Pride Superwash Bulky in Plum Crazy. The pattern calls for size 10 needles but I don't have any -- my size 8 are tied up in another project so my choice is 6 or 13. I think I'll try 13. I have plenty of yarn -- two skeins of the Lamb's Pride bulky and a skein of novelty yarn which is leftover from another project that I want to use for the borders of the pull-up. Let's see if 13 will do the trick.
  • Project completed July 30 2006. I've learned a few things about knitting with large needles. First, projects go very quickly! It's also much easier to make sure you've picked up the entire stitch, so I can see why they recommend them for beginners (I started with a size 5). The 14 inch long size 13 needles were fine for casting on 80 stitches (I didn't feel like the yarn was bunched up and tricky like my previous attempts) but the downside was that it made a HUGE end result -- a knitted piece 12 inches high (where I stopped knitting) and 32 inches long (the length of my first row, 80 stitches). So now I have a capelet instead of a pull-up. It's very pretty, actually. I would do this again but with smaller needles. Also, if you want a decorative yarn border, you have to change where you put the yarn because the row that you knit here is the up and down (ribs run vertically). If you want a horizontal stripe to frame your face, you'll have to use that yarn at the beginning of each row you knit. All in all, this was super easy and quick. I think the 13 needles are fine for a capelet but it goes give quite a bulky result, more like an afghan or a bedskirt. For something like a hat or scarf, you need a smaller scale. These needles would be a very fast way to knit up a baby blanket, though. Just use the size 13, some soft yarn, cast on your 80 stitches and keep going until you like the size. It is a nice project for practicing the knit and purl stitches and for seeing the difference between them.

Little Knitted Gnomes

This project is found in The Gnome Craft Book by Thomas and Petra Berger, pp.32-33.

Having had such a frustrating experience with the pull-up, I am ready for a short and simple project. I'll try to make a group of three of these. They will be a Christmas gift for Leah, to go with a set of wooden tree blocks she is getting. I again purchased some of the Peaches & Creme 4 ply worsted weight 100% cotton yarn (from Wal-Mart), this time in ecru, for the gnomes' skin tone. I plan to use some of the remnants of wool yarn in the clothing. Aunty left me several 1 oz. skeins of Red Heart Knitting Worsted, in coral and light blue. I will stuff the finished gnomes with unspun wool. For this project I used size 2 US double pointed needles.

New skill: adding in a second color


  • I began this project December 15 2005. Completed December 29.
  • Size 1 needles are hard (I later switched to size 2)! They're so tiny and pointy I always feel like I'm going to stab myself. On the other hand, once I got used to them I began to feel a sense of pride, like I was working with something very delicate and precise. I can't imagine how hard they'd be to deal with if I had started knitting with 10 or 11, like people call for. I started with a 5.
  • Well, all I can say is it's a good thing I chose this project! This book is the first one with color pictures with examples of the finished product, and I was able to figure out that I hadn't, in fact, learned to purl! My work looked nothing like the picture. So I went to find another set of directions and hopefully these will be more helpful. I'm incredibly spatially challenged; it's a miracle I can even knit at all. But I like it because I can feel my brain getting stronger as I go.
  • Purling is the opposite of knitting. This is because, according to The Yarn Company,
    a) when you knit, the right needle is beneath the left needle -- when you purl, the right needle is on top of the left needle
    b) when you knit, the loose yarn is behind your work -- when you purl the loose yarn is in front of your work
    c) when you knit, you wrap the yarn counterclockwise under and around the right needle -- when you purl, you wrap the yarn counterclockwise around and in front of the right needle
    d) when you finish your stitch in knitting, the right needle is on top of the left needle -- when you finish your stitch in purling, the right needle is beneath the left needle

    Which is fabulous for someone who understands it, but that's not me! I have been working all day trying different ways of interpreting the directions, and I have acquired a stitch which is not knitting and gets me a different result, but it still doesn't look like the picture! Since Christmas is looming, I may have to go ask my Grammy. I really wanted all three of my children to have hand-knitted (by me) gifts this year...

P.S. Anyway, the complete saga of this project is that my friend Jenn came down after Christmas and, in spite of her best efforts, could not teach me to purl so we adapted the pattern to be all knit stitch and knit up a little gnome together. I still have to learn how to purl, though... maybe it's time for a knitting class!

Zen and the Art of Knitting

Here's a book that has changed my life: Zen and the Art of Knitting. And I won't go any farther until I have taken the time to read it all the way through. Astonishingly enough, she actually gives a recommended project and pattern at the beginning of each chapter. I am very impressed with the quality of this book -- it's a must have for any Waldorf parent. The subtitle is "Exploring the Links Between Kniting, Spirituality, and Creativity" and she does an excellent job.

okay, here we go. the projects are as follows:

  • Chapter One - learn to knit, from a person, not a book. then teach someone else to knit.
  • Chapter Two - make a scarf in a knit two, purl two rib (I'll go back and do my Pull-Up for this one).
  • Chapter Three - knit an afghan using the Trinity Stitch (link includes video).
  • Chapter Four - this chapter is about a Waldorf school, and the pattern given is for a Waldorf-style stuffed animal.
  • Chapter Five - this is a very spiritual chapter and the project is to make something for someone you're concerned about and imbue what you're making with love.
  • Chapter Six - this chapter is about knitting sushi and creating your own weird shapes and artwork using no pattern
  • Chapter Seven - make yourself a sweater (so you can see I'm many steps away from my dreams of making a project from Vintage Knits).
  • Chapter Eight - knit as an act of healing for others, knitwear for premature babies, chemo caps, etc.
  • Chapter Nine - knit an inexpensive cotton washcloth
  • Chapter Ten - design and knit your own creation using your own pattern

They are arranged mostly in order of difficulty (or at least in order of learning more about yourself as you learn to knit), which is exactly my goal! And I am on step one which is learning to knit and then teaching someone else to knit. so I'm off...

She also mentions knitted flute cases in the Waldorf school, done in first grade, which is something I'd like to remember to do when we get that far.

also, I don't want to lose this free pattern so I'm putting it here -- Kathy scarf

Flower Fairy

February 4th 2006 -- I have an appointment with a neighbor to teach me how to knit & purl (see, I'm learning from a person now) and the project I am taking with me is the Knitted Flower Fairy kit from Weir Dolls. When I'm done with this I'll put it on our Nature table for early Spring. she calls for knitting this project with size 4 needles. you'll also need a yarn needle , a regular sewing needle, and tracing paper for the clothing patterns; all other materials are included in the kit.

New skill: carrying multiple pieces of knitting on your needle


  • I began this project on February 4 2006 and finished February 8 2006.
  • I'm finding that I don't really like working from a kit; the directions aren't difficult, it's just that I keep worrying that I am going to run out of yarn. they only give you as much as you'll need, so it's a little ball. I feel much better with a big hunk of yarn when starting a project, even if it means there will be a ton left over.
  • There is plenty of yarn included with this kit, by the way, so my fears were unfounded.
  • The assembly on this project is actually more difficult than the knitting part. It takes a long time to put together; basically, turns from a knitting project to a feltcraft project. Assembling the hat is tricky, although it's really cute when it's all done. It would help to have prior experience making felt balls. By the way, when she says to leave a long tail, make it 12-16 inches. There's plenty of yarn in the kit to do that, and you won't have to keep tying new pieces of yarn in to your tail to do the assembly stitching with.
  • The felt included with this kit is a wool blend so I substituted some pure wool felt from Magic Cabin. I wanted this to specifically be a daffodil flower fairy so I used Maize, Celery, and Peach from the Pretty Pastels assortment, and Shell from the Earth Tones assortment. For her hair, which I wanted to be yellow (white was included in the kit), I used the yellow color included with the Nature Colors roving assortment (or, available separately, this is color #21 -- marigold) from Weir Dolls. See how she turned out!

Boatneck Sweater

I am making Rebecca the boatneck sweater from Baby Knits for Beginners, page 68. I am substituting a merino/alpaca/silk blend yarn from Peru (I got it at A.C. Moore). It's called Peru Chunky Luxury; the color is 105 which is Teal. Note: This yarn has been discontinued and is lo longer available from A.C. Moore.

I am following the directions for the 6-12 month size. Using size 6 (I don't have a 7) and size 8 needles.

I began this project on February 8 2006. Postponed it February 11 to work on Heart Sachet (below) for Valentine's Day. Began again February 14 2006 and completed it February 28 2006.

New skill: making a test swatch


  • This is the first time I have made a test swatch, because I really want to make sure the sweater will fit her! it's a little different from making a knit cat -- size matters here. I bought four 50g balls but it looks like I will need another so I'd better go get it now, to make sure the dye lots match. The yarn I got is, I think, a little chunkier than what she called for and the sweater is looking awfully big. of course, she can always grow into it! or her older sister can wear it first. but my test swatch came out accurate, so I should be OK following the directions as given. we'll see...
  • I am so thrilled again to get my hands on this yarn. It is so soft and smooth and just the right weight; I've been looking online for a link to the manufacturer so I can post it but all I have found is this blog which describes the yarn as "a SINFUL alpaca/silk blend that is lofty and elastic and soft and smooth and heavenly." Which I completely agree with. She also has a picture and it happens to be the exact color I'm using, if you want to see it. but as far as a supplier, the only place I know of to get it is A.C. Moore. maybe it's their house brand? this yarn is magnificent for baby clothes, though, since it is super-smooth and soft. If you're making a baby sweater, hat, or blanket, I would recommend trying to find this yarn.
  • some notes, here. 20/20 hindsight. I'm almost done with this project, making the last sleeve now. I bought extra yarn to make sure I had enough in the right dye lot and then returned it yesterday. I'm almost done with the last piece and I'm running out. so let that be a lesson unto you. never return your extra yarn until your project is actually completely over! another thing, the yarn is turning out to be a good substitute and the sweater is the proper size (so my test swatch was fine, I just got panicky when I saw the first piece) but my advice is look at the weight of the recommended yarn to pick your substitute but look at the length ie. yardage of the balls to determine how much to buy. hope this helps!
  • It ended up taking 4 1/2 balls of yarn for the 6-9 month size.
  • By the way, this project took a LOOONG time to make and my husband put it in the wash by mistake. She only wore it once and now it is a little piece of thick felt! So I am choosing to not make any more clothes for my children since it is a huge investment of time and energy and you'll just be upset if they get ruined pretty quickly. I have to say that this yarn makes a nice felt, though, in case you're into that sort of thing.

Heart Sachet

Directions for this project can be found online.

I am using a red and pink variegated alpaca yarn (color 501). This yarn calls for a size 8 US needle which I can't do since my boatneck sweater project is on my size 8 needles right now so I'll use my usual preferred size: 5. The sachet will be a gift for my mother in law and I might make more for other people if I find it is quick & easy.

I began this project on February 11 2006. Completed it February 13 2006..

New skills: using a stitch holder, slipping and wrapping stitches


  • I have a stash of stitch holders from Aunty; this is the first time I have used one. I'm using the help in Baby Knits for Beginners, a good book for beginners. the shawl-collared jacket (page 122) explains how to work short rows, slipping and wrapping stitches to prevent small holes in the finished piece. I'm glad I have it to turn to for help here.
  • Here's a website with videos of the basic knitting stitches and a list of their abbreviations. here it says,
      slip a stitch

      "If they don't specify, slip the stitch purl-wise....Unless you are decreasing: then, slip it knit-wise on the knit rows, and purl-wise on the purl rows. (according to Vogue Knitting)"

    They have a video for how to slip a stitch knit-wise and slip a stitch purl-wise (plus each video is offered in both English and Continental which is handy).

  • As always, I had to turn to several sets of directions; I found more help here, at the Wool Works Resources question and answer area.
  • Well, I kept all these links in here in case they help someone else... but in the end I just adapted the pattern. I couldn't figure out how to wrap the stitches, and it just didn't make sense to me that she gave directions for 12 stitches all the way to the top of the heart, when you were supposed to be decreasing. I know how to k2tog and to increase, since I did that kind of shaping for the knit cat, so I just winged it. but I had a tough time, kept tearing out and starting over to get the shape I wanted. alpaca is tricky, too, it's like wool in that you can easily catch part of the next stitch by mistake, the yarn is fuzzy. so sometimes I ended up with an area that was all tight because it was bound into each other. still, I enjoyed this project because it's always nice to see a gift for someone come together in your hands.
  • I'm done! It did work up quickly (two days) although it would have been faster (maybe even one day) if I didn't keep tearing parts out to rework them. I think this would be a good project for a child with some knitting experience, to create a simple pattern for a shape. I stuffed the two top curves of the heart with wool first, then made a packet out of dried lavendar buds wrapped in cheesecloth (so they wouldn't work their way out through the knitting) and used it to fill the remaining diamand-shaped space. to sew it up, start with the bottom point then work your way around the shape. it's easiest. all in all, not too bad. the only problem, really, was that the yarn got more and more difficult to work with when I reworked parts over and over. but now that I have a pattern I'm set.

    here's what I did. the numbers in parentheses will tell you how many stitches you should have on your needle after completing the row.

      28 - purl 12
      29 - knit together last two (11)
      30 - purl all rows (11)
      31 - knit together first and last two (9)
      32 - purl all rows (9)
      33 - as 29 (8)
      34 - purl all rows (8)
      35 - as 29 (7)
      36 - purl all rows (7)
      this is the TOP of your heart. check the shaping to make sure you like it; if not, feel free to revise the pattern

      37 - increase by one at end (8)
      38 - purl all rows (8)
      39 - as 37 (9)
      40 - purl all rows (9)
      41 - increase by one at beginning and end (11)
      42 - purl all rows (11)
      43 - as 37 (12)
      44 - purl all rows (12) then continue on to all 24 stitches, including the ones on your stitch holder, place stitches just worked on stitch holder and shape the other side of the heart

      45 - knit together first two (11)
      46 - purl all rows (11)
      47 - knit together first and last two (9)
      48 - purl all rows (9)
      49 - as 45 (8)
      50 - purl all rows (8)
      51 - as 45 (7)
      52 - purl all rows (7)

      53 - increase by one at beginning (8)
      54 - purl all rows (8)
      55 - as 53 (9)
      56 - purl all rows (9)
      57 - increase by one at beginning and end (11)
      58 - purl all rows (11)
      59 - as 53 (12)
      60 - work three rows even (P, K, P)
      then follow directions as given for decreasing and completing the project

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