My First Blanket

My first knitting project was a blanket.  When a friend told me I wouldn't be able to make a whole blanket on a pair of straight needles (because it would be too much fabric to fit on the needles), I decided to make squares and then sew them together.  

I didn't really have a design plan when I started.  All I knew was garter stitch, so that was how I did the first four squares.  I then learned how to do stockinette stitch, so I did a few squares of that.  I got a book for Christmas that taught me seed stitch, moss stitch, and basketweave stitch.  By this time I had expanded my color palette and had squares in eight different colors.
I had started my first square in April 2007.  I worked on squares for several months, but then wanted to try some other things.  I worked on my blanket off and on for the next year and a half.  In June of 2008 I got engaged and decided to finish the blanket as a wedding surprise for my fiance, who had seen me working on it the whole time we had been dating.  (He probably thought I would never finish it.)  The wedding was planned for June 2009, and I wanted to finish making squares by mid-May so I would have time to sew them together. 
I found a book at the library that had stitch patterns from several different countries.  I used designs that were Scottish, Irish, Swedish, French, and Arabic.  I also added a few more colors, for a total of 11 different yarns.  I decided I needed to complete a square every two weeks in order to finish on time.  However, as my knitting improved and I got faster, I was knitting a square every week.  I learned how to use a cable needle and did cable designs for the last two squares.  My last square I knit in two days.  It used cableing and two different yarn colors.
 I finished my squares on schedule and spent a week sewing them together.  It had 36 squares and fit a queen size bed perfectly.  I also wanted to knit a trim around the edge, but I decided that would have to wait until after the wedding because I also wanted to knit my wedding garter.  My fiance was surprised to see the finished blanket, and my first fall of marriage was spent knitting the trim.
I love my blanket because it reminds me of my journey as a new knitter.  I learned so much in those first two years of knitting, and it is all reflected in my blanket.

Encouragement for New Knitters

I learned how to knit in college, when a friend taught me the basics: loop cast-on, knit stitch, purl stitch, and binding off.  For the next several weeks I worked on a practice square.  I tried to do a row or two every day.  My square was only fifteen stitches across, but during those first weeks one row took me about ten minutes.  I realized that I was improving when I saw that my rows were gradually getting tighter, especially on the ends.  When my knitting looked smooth enough, I unraveled my practice square and began my first project.  I continued to learn more skills by reading books, trying patterns, and watching technique videos online.

I feel for new knitters that I meet.  It seems that most of them are beginning their knitting career by making a scarf in garter stitch.  They have been working on it for what seems like forever.  They are discouraged, they don't see how they will ever improve, and they want to give up.  If this is you, I have several ideas that I hope will encourage you:

1) Learning how to knit takes time.  When you're just beginning to learn, don't expect to be presenting hand-knit gifts to your admiring friends and family a week later.  Have realistic expectations for yourself so you won't get discouraged by what might feel like a lack of progress.  Just enjoy the process of learning as knitted fabric slowly develops between your hands.

2) Persistence is the key to mastering knitting techniques.  There have been so many times that I would spend days agonizing over a new skill I was trying to learn.  I just kept trying, and eventually I got it figured out.  If the directions you are using are confusing you, try looking up that technique somewhere else.  The internet is full of pattern and video resources.

3) For your first project, pick something small.  I do not recommend starting with a scarf in garter stitch.  Garter stitch makes a bulkier fabric that is very warm, but it also takes longer to reach your desired length.  I think a dishcloth would make an excellent first project.  You can finish it sooner and put it to use.  Succeeding at projects will give you the boost you need to keep learning and growing as a knitter.

4) Enjoy the process.  There have been a few projects where I have had to undo large portions and start over.  If your only focus is the finished product, you will be discouraged when a project takes longer than you thought.  Instead, see mistakes as opportunities to learn and improve.  Enjoy the beauty of what your hands are creating.