(Knit Tips Tuesday is a series designed to offer tips and tricks to both new and seasoned knitters. Please feel free to contact Amy with any knit tips of your own, to be featured in future articles.)
Most knitters’ first projects teach three lessons: Cast on, knit knit knit, bind off. That first project is usually either a scarf or a washcloth, since there is no shaping involved and any mistakes that are made will only be noticed by the new knitter. However, there is no rule stating that a second- or third project needs to be any more complicated than the first one.
Some knitters are not ready for purling, increasing, or decreasing after their first project, but also have not knitted long enough to see the endless possibilities of knitting garter-stitch squares and rectangles. By sewing a side or two, the number of projects on which you can practice your knitting open up tremendously. What’s even better is that you can ask a non-knitting friend to sew a seam for you, since no knowledge of knitting is needed to sew seams.
Here are some ideas for second projects to graduate from scarves and washcloths while keeping it simple. These projects are also portable and easier to knit in front of the television, making them ideal for more experienced knitters looking for ways to bust through their yarn stash. Using a variegated, self-striping, or multi-colored yarn will also hide a multitude of mistakes and make your new item that much prettier.
Pillows – A pillow can be made just by casting on as many stitches as you want, knit knit knitting, casting off, and folding your rectangle in half. Sew the sides formed by folding, stuff with poly-fill, and sew the remaining side.
Placemats – A set of placemats is a great project for practicing your knitting tension or gauge, and the finished projects do not have to be perfectly identical in size. Just remember to use a washable yarn, such as this one from the Lion Brand Yarn website.
Cowls – You can knit a rectangle long enough to wrap around your neck, and either use a pin to secure it in place, or sew the ends together to make a tube that slips over your head. This pattern on the Red Heart Yarns website is a great example of a garter-stitch cowl.
Legwarmers – Garter stitch is very stretchy, so you can measure your rectangle as you go by stretching it around your leg. When your rectangle is long (or wide) enough, just sew the seam to make a tube. Be sure to write down how many rows you knit, so you can make the other one the same size.
Hats – There are many hat patterns that do not involve shaping, such as this pattern, from the Lion Brand Yarn website. You can also knit a ten-to eleven-inch-wide rectangle, fold it in half, and only sew up the two side seams. The remaining opening becomes the opening for your head.
These ideas are just a few examples of what you can do in the Knitting 101 phase. Mistakes will be made, stitches will be dropped and added by accident, and items may not be 100% perfect, but half the fun of knitting is the creative part. Be creative, and be proud of your knitted rectangle, no matter what the finished project turns out to be.