When you are learning to knit, it can seem like it will take ages for you to get to good at it. Comparing your knitting to where you want to be can encourage impatience. You see all these gorgeous patterns out there but how can you tackle them if your knitting is still looking, well, a bit lumpy and bumpy and wonky and wrong. Maybe you haven’t even begun to learn yet as it seems like a skill that will take a long time to learn. It is pretty common to question how long it takes to learn to knit as it seems like such a mystery before you start out.
It should only take a few hours to learn the mechanics of knitting in order to cast on, make basic stitches, and bind off. In order to knit to a good standard, you have to put in some time to practice. By the time you have completed 2 simple projects, you should be knitting evenly and showing real progress. On average, it should take you 20-30 hours to learn to knit well. This equates to around 2 weeks if you can knit for just a couple of hours a day.
Honestly how quickly you learn depends on so many factors so your mileage may vary. We are definitely talking in terms of hours, not days or weeks or months before you start to see proficiency. Certainly not hundreds of hours either.
You may have heard that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. This comes from a 1993 paper written by Anders Ericsson, a Professor at the University of Colorado. Do not be disheartened or put off by this! You in no way need to be an expert at knitting to make beautiful things, you just have to train your hands. This takes far less time than you would think, even though you will probably feel very awkward when you first start out.
Knitting can be a lifelong practice in which you continue to learn, which is part of what makes it joyful. You never stop learning and improving when you knit. On the journey, you make nicer and nicer items and get better and better.
It is important to understand that people vary greatly in how long it takes to knit to a standard they are happy with. Not to mention that standards and goals vary differently as well.
Ultimately the only thing you need to know is that every hour you put into knitting moves you forward, so let’s get knitting!
How to Improve as quickly as possible?
I know it is a cliche but practice does make progress. The best way to improve is to practice consistently. Do a little every day, or at least don’t leave it long periods between practices.
If you pick up some needles today and do even a little every day for the next month, I think you’d surprise yourself with the progress you’ve made. I for one would love to see your progress photos if you would care to show me. I adore seeing knitting progress.
This is a good one as you are bound to do this, but nothing helps you learn as quickly as having to fix a mistake. It’s horrid to have to unravel your knitting but sometimes doing so and realising where you were going wrong can improve your skills no end. So be kind to yourself when you make mistakes and embrace them as learning experiences.
Embrace the boring
There are so many pretty patterns out there to chose from but when you are just starting out, please don’t. Allow yourself to get good by knitting a couple of straight squares or rectangles. Things like stockinette of garter stitch dishcloths and scarfs with no increase, decreases or exciting designs. I know this sucks but it will allow you to really get good at basic stitches which helps you get even tension which is really important. Once you feel confident that you know what you are doing with the basics, then you can branch out.
Then stretch yourself a little
Be aware of the possibility of overwhelming yourself when you begin to try new patterns. Chose patterns that will teach you one or two new skills at a time. If you chose a pattern where everything is new with 10 new techniques and complicated stitches, you risk feeling like it is beyond your abilities, getting frustrated and giving up.
Don’t worry about speed
I’ll tell you later how to work out your knitting speed but this is purely for information, progress tracking and fun. Honestly, speed isn’t an important factor especially when starting out. The phrase “don’t run before you can walk” springs to mind. You will naturally speed up as you become proficient. Once you get to a point where you are confidently knitting without obvious mistakes, then you can focus on speeding up if you so desire.
Swatching is where you knit a mini square of the wool so you can see what your gauge is. Gauge is essentially how big or small your knitting is compared to the standard number of stitches per inch.
Swatching has a bad rep and people hate doing it but it is so important. Most people say that it is only really important when the fit of the finished item is paramount but I would disagree. A swatch is a mini learning opportunity. How does the wool look when knitted up? What is the drape like? How does it change once it has been blocked? A swatch can tell you so much. It can also be the perfect place to practice new techniques rather than risking it on your actual project.
When you start a project, you should keep notes of all the important things or changes you make to the pattern to refer back to later. If you don’t, you may regret it when you are trying to replicate something or find a pattern. What’s important?
- The name of the pattern and designer
- The name and brand of wool
- Colour (and dye lot)
- Washing Instructions
- Needle Size
- Your gauge
- Dates you started, finished or paused a project.
- Any deviation or amendment to the pattern.
- Row counts or pattern tally
You can do this either in a notebook or I would recommend Ravelry. I use a mixture of both, with maybe a row counter app thrown in for good measure. I note anything I feel it would be useful to come back to on Ravelry. Also as I notice what is helpful on other folks notes when I’m researching a project then, I try to keep track of that as well. Feel free to add me on Ravelry, my username is Jabberwoolly.
How Long will it take to knit _______?
Your abilities and knitting speed will affect how long any project takes. Those aren’t the only factors though. There are a bunch of other things that can affect how long a project might take to complete.
You must consider the size or length of the project, how thick the wool is, how big your needles are and how much time you have to knit, for starters.
Saying that most knitters can complete a hat in around 8 hours and a scarf in about 24 hours, which gives you a rough idea of how long projects take. Also, I found this cute little Love Crafts Calculator which gives average times it takes to complete some of their patterns. Again this is based on those patterns and is only an idea. Still, if you are thinking of setting yourself a deadline and want to know if you are being realistic, it may come in handy.
Does speed really not matter?
In short, yes and no. Obviously, if you knit quickly then you can knit more items in any given time. However if your knitting suffers because you are trying for speed then it’s a false gain.
Speed comes with time and continued practice. Once you are a cool, calm and competent knitter, if you desire it, you can work on increasing your knitting speed. As a beginner, I truly wouldn’t worry about it. Even as someone who has been knitting for over 10 years, I don’t worry about it. I make plenty of knitted items in a year and rarely have a deadline so who cares?
I mentioned this already but I do think sometimes new knitters do get hung up on worrying about their speed so I figured it was worth mentioning again, especially if you consider doing the below exercise. Only do it if it won’t bum you out. If it will mess with your head, avoid it like the plague.
How to measure your speed?
I personally have never measured my knitting speed but if you are data-driven and want to have a clear indication of how you are improving, then you can measure your knitting speed. Here’s how.
Cast on 50-100 stitches on to your most comfortable needles, using a smooth ply worsted weight yarn that isn’t going to snag, split or generally slow you down. Work a couple of rows in both garter and stockinette stitch.
Now set a timer for 60 seconds and knit like crazy. Once the 60 seconds are finished, count the stitches you managed to knit. How did you do?
Don’t be disheartened as it doesn’t end there. You should knit a few more rows and then time yourself again. Then a few more rows, and time again. Overall you should time yourself 3 times and take an average and that is your average knitting speed.
Wonderful, so now you know your knitting speed, but how do you compare?
The average person knits between 20 – 30 stitches per minute with anything in the 40-60 range beginning to get speedy. If you are feeling really competitive, Miriam Tegels holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest knitter. She knit 118 stitches in a minute.
In the interests of giving things I mention to you guys a go, I tested my own knitting speed after writing this article. I thought I was in the “beginning to get speedy” group I mentioned above… and was clearly massively delusional. I even cast on the full 100 stitches just in case I was really really fast. Ha, I wasn’t! After my 3 timed periods, my average was 33 stitches per minute. I had a brief period of imagining myself working on getting faster, then I shrugged and probably won’t think about it again.
What’s the Easiest Thing for a Beginner to Knit?
The main thing to consider when looking at beginner knitting patterns is whether there are increases, decreases or stitches you haven’t seen before.
Everyone learns differently. You are the only person who can decide what if best for you. You know whether you are better to jump into the deep end or wade in slowly from the shallows in terms of difficulty levels.
I have found that wanting to make something pretty really motivates me to up my game, so I have always enjoyed taking on something ambitious. If you know you will find this frustrating and offputting then don’t do it. Instead, start slow and practice getting your tension with scarfs, then start branching out and work on increasing your personal stitch encyclopedia.
It’s your knitting practice, you decide the speed and difficulty level.
To help you keep growing, here are my thoughts on a good progression in terms of patterns for beginners so that you can keep jumping up levels as you go:
- A Garter Stitch Scarf (Garter Stitch – Knit all stitches back and forth – Both sides look the same)
- A Stockinette Scarf (Stockinette Stitch – Knit a row, purl a row – One side is all knits, one side is all purls)
- A hat
- A shawl or Poncho
- A vest or tank
- A sweater or cardigan.
Optional: A Blanket – whilst a blanket can be relatively easy in terms of stitches (I’ve seen plenty of gorgeous garter stitch blankets) it is a big project to start. It will take many hours before you see a finished product and if you make a mistake and don’t notice for several rows, this can be soul-destroying having to rip out hours and hours of your work to fix it. Therefore I am ambivalent about telling beginners to knit blankets. If you want to just do rows and rows of knit stitches, have at it. Don’t feel like it is a requirement though. It’s not something that ever appealed to me and I have never knit a blanket so it isn’t necessary.
This is just advice and you are under no obligation to take it but some people like a rough guide to what they should knit. Once you have the basics down though there aren’t really any rules and I’m sure if you took my advice and signed up to Ravelry, you will have no problem finding patterns that you want to cast on.
How to find beginner patterns?
Ravelry is a wonderful place to start. It has an excellent search function with the ability to filter the results to find exactly what you are looking for. Including free patterns and if patterns come with “photo tutorials”.
I just did a test and put in “Beginner Sweater” and there were 180 results with varying interpretations of what a beginner might handle.
I have always found Ravelry an excellent place to find patterns and the community is wonderful too.
If you don’t fancy signing up though, you can still easily find beginner patterns just via a search engine. Use search terms such as beginner and simple such as “simple shawl knitting pattern” and have a look through the results. It won’t take you long to find something you love that is a good match to your abilities whilst hopefully stretching you a tiny bit.
How to track progress?
The proof is in the pudding with this one. As you knit, the projects you create and the obvious visible improvement in your tension, gauge and stitch construction will tell their own tale. Therefore you don’t need to do anything to track your progress other than watching it happen.
I would advise you to keep pictures on your phone or Ravelry account. This helps see the progression, especially if, like me, you are a gift knitter and tend to give away a lot of your finished items to friends and family.
Hopefully, my article has helped to lay some worries to rest or gives you the confidence to pick up some needles and get stitching.
If you have any other questions, feel free to reach out to me. I’m always happy to help new knitters improve.