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When I was a broke college student wandering aimlessly around Walmart trying to figure out what I could afford to give my friends and family for presents that Christmas, I took a long lazy stroll through the crafting section. I had always been creative. I thought maybe I could make them something.
That’s when I found the yarn aisle. The colors were so pretty and the material so soft. If only I knew how to do anything meaningful with it…and that’s when I saw it – a Learn to Knit kit. I scooped it up, read the details on the back and quickly decided to take it and a skein (at the time, I called it a “thing”) of the prettiest aqua, purple and black yarn home with me and, that night, I taught myself how to knit. Or at least I tried!
It wasn’t easy. I made a lot of mistakes, including choosing textured yarn as a beginner. Don’t do that until you’re more experienced. The texture makes it harder to see your stitches and spot mistakes. I ripped a lot of sections apart and started over many times. At one point, I felt so defeated by those two needles and what the illustrations in the book were trying to get me to do (this was pre-youtube tutorials!) that I very clearly wasn’t understanding, that I threw it all bag in the bag and decided to sort it out later.
When I picked those needles up the next night and took on the challenge again, I had a clear head, a little more perspective and a renewed sense of determination. I finished my first scarf that weekend and the pride I felt in not only teaching myself how to do something (thanks to help from that book and it’s plethora of illustrations once they finally made sense), but also creating something beautiful and functional was worth all the aggravation I dealt with in the learning process. It’s quite possibly the warmest scarf I own, mostly because I made another beginner boo boo and knit it waaaayyyyy too tight (not suggested, but if you want something super thick and warm, go for it!), but I was prouder than a peacock when I finished that first scarf and still have (and use!) it all these years later.
That Christmas, everyone got a scarf. When I shared that I made them and they recognized how I had personalized each of them with the colors I chose and the patterns I used to reflect their personalities, I knew I made the right choice, not only for my wallet and the purpose of gift-giving – to properly convey how much I care about them through my gift – but also for the satisfaction of successfully tackling a new challenge.
My first scarf (pictured here from that one time I went to a hockey tournament in Montreal in the dead of winter and nearly froze my face off, but didn’t thanks to this awesome scarf!) was made using the garter stitch, which is knitting every row. Since the back of a knit stitch (smooth and flat, creating a v) is a purl (nubby and straight across), both sides look the same with alternating rows of knits and purls and provides a lot of texture. The design is nothing fancy, but it gets the job done and helps you get comfortable with the process of knitting before moving on to something more advanced.
Depending on the weight of the yarn (how thick it is) and the size of your needles, cast on enough stitches to make it six inches wide. Then, knit every row until the desired length – I aim for at least five feet – and cast off. Most scarves will require just one skein of yarn, but buy two, just in case.
Once you learn to knit, you can learn to purl and then a whole new world of possibilities opens up like seed stitch, seersucker, chevrons, lace, herringbone, mitering, ribbing, basketweaving, cables, braids and slip stitching the perfect edge, which means you will always have the perfect gift for any occasion.
Julie is a self-improvement junkie who loves to travel, wear pretty dresses, eat big breakfast and watch all the sunsets. She’s been there and done that and sharing all her life lessons with you. Read more
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