Crafting · Knitting · Project Planning · Tutorial · Yarn

So you want to be a knitter – Lesson 2

This is a follow up post to “So you want to be a knitter”.  In lesson 1, we finished with downloading our pattern from Ravelry.  Lesson 2 begins with setting up your project and the making sure you have the requirements.

Lesson 2:  Project Set-up (Ravelry and Requirements)

Part one:  Ravelry

Setting up your project in Ravelry is an optional step, but its one that I recommend and encourage as it is a fantastic way to keep track of your project and show it off to the world when you finish!

From the pattern page, there is a link in the top left to “cast on”, clicking this will automatically set up a basic project page that links to the pattern.  Either create your own project name, or go with the default (the pattern name).

This is what your blank project page will look like:

blank project page

This is sufficient for you to forge ahead and start knitting your project, however if you want to play with some of the options, you can click “edit project” and add the yarn you plan on using or the size needle you plan on using.

edit projectedit project 2

There is a quick edit option if you want to just add a note as well, it automatically adds the date stamp to your notes!

Part 2:  Lets take a look at the pattern requirements.


This may look like a load of gibberish, but when you understand the terms, this becomes an easy guide to what you would like to use for the pattern.

The needle size, US #8 (5mm) is a fairly common size, but what is this length next to it?  It is the length tip to tip of your circular needle.  The way it is written: 16, (16, 32) follows the sizing: child (adult short, adult long).  Essentially, when you chose your size, you will know which length to use.  I am planning on knitting an adult short, so I will need a 16″ circular in US #8 (5mm).

Gauge.  This is a tricky one to pin down.  You will see this comment frequently “as required to make gauge”.  If you hand two knitters identical needles and yarn, chances are they will end up with different gauges as one knitter could be knitting tighter or looser than the other.

Gauge is usually measured in stitches/rows per inch or per 4 inches.  Measuring it in 4 inches means a larger swatch (there is that word again from lesson 1) but it also helps average the stitches out and get a more consistent idea of gauge.

I really dislike swatching and tend to live on the wild side for certain types of patterns.  For a cowl that is likely going to have some give and take and be less sensitive to size, I generally skip this step.  For something that is fitted, swatching is essential to ending up with the right size.

Since this is a beginner project, I decided to pick something where gauge isn’t super essential.  If you want to swatch, just google a how-to.  I am planning on writing a sidebar for swatching at a later date.

And finally, the yarn!  This is the best part of knitting!  Picking a yarn that you love and would like to turn strings into things!  The pattern calls for 75 (200, 400) yards of worsted/aran weight yarn.  Most patterns will have a recommended yarn, this is usually what they used to knit the sample.  It is not a requirement to get exactly what they suggest, although sometimes you need to use care in substituting.

Substituting yarn:  They have given two standard weight classes of yarn.  If you look at the ball band, most commercial and many independent dyers will include the weight class of yarn.  You could buy yarn for this project for anywhere from $3-50 dollars (or more!) depending on what type of yarn that you select.  Worsted weight and aran weight are usually quite similar, with the aran weight being a little bulkier.  The heavier weight your yarn is, the less stitches per inch you will get with the same needle size.

Your basic acrylic yarn will be the most inexpensive and usually machine washable that you can find.  Think Red Heart, Bernat, Lion’s Brand to name a few of the biggies that you will see at your big box craft store like Michaels or Joanns.

When you start looking into the natural fibers, that is where things start getting pricey.  I am a firm believer on using yarn that you love and will love next to your skin.  I have a weakness for merino wool and an even larger weakness for Madelinetosh yarn.  Here are three selections that offer a low, medium and high price point:

  1. Red Heart Soft:  100% acrylic, worsted weight (medium), standard knitting gauge is 17 sts, 23 rows = 4″ using US #8 (5mm).  This means that the standardized knitting gauge for this yarn is almost exactly what the pattern calls for.  The ‘Soft’ line is a little softer (as the name implies) than the standard ‘Super Saver’ line.  This will usually be about $5/ball (CDN) depending on where you go and if you have coupons!  (Michael’s is famous for its coupons, you can typically find one a week for 40-60% off one item)  You would need 1 ( 1, 2) balls depending on size chosen.  This yarn is machine washable, will have a little stretch, but lacks the breathability that wool has.  It will be ideal for someone with a wool sensitivity.
  2. Cascade Yarns – 220 Superwash:  100% peruvian wool yarn that is machine washable and dryable (that’s usually want superwash indicates).  This is considered a workhorse wool yarn for many knitters.  This is usually found in a Local Yarn Store (LYS) and is available in a large range of colours.  Usually about $12/ball (CDN).  Wool yarn have better breathability for a next to the skin item.  It is lighter on the worsted weight scale and has a published gauge of 5-5.5 sts/inch on a US #6-7 needle.  To put that in the same scale as our published gauge, simply multiply by 4.  That would make it 20-22 sts/4 inches.  Then when you take into account we will be going up a needle size to a US #8, it should be right on track for our patterns gauge.  The thicker the needle, the fewer stitches per inch.  At 220 yards per ball, you would need 1 (1, 2) balls for this project.
  3. Madelinetosh – Vintage:  This is by far my favourite yarn to knit with.  Vintage is 100% merino wool with 200 yards per skein.  This yarn is super soft and hand dyed into beautiful colourways.  You would find this at some Local Yarn Stores (LYS).  You will need 1 (1, 2) balls for this project.  Published gauge is 4.5-5 sts/inch on US #6-7.  Going up one needle size should again be near enough to our gauge that we should be ok.  If you estimate that you will lose 0.5 sts/inch going to US #8, that would be about 16 sts/4 inches.  At about $26/ball, this is the most expensive of the three options I have looked into.  If you add silk or cashmere into the fiber mix, the price goes up.

Another option you can look into if you are searching for yarn ideas, is looking at the completed projects for this pattern.  The more detailed knitters will tell you how much yarn they actually used and quite a few (like me) include photos of the work in progress (WIP) along the way.  This can be a fantastic tool to see if you are on the right track.  If you find the notes helpful, you can tag the project like that to indicate to other knitters that you found this project helpful!  One such example is madanaro’s Oats project where she used 1 skein of Malabrigo Rios (similar to the Tosh Vintage above) at 210 yards.

The size I have selected calls for 200 yards, so I plan on using Fleece Artist – Blue Face Leicester Aran which I happen to have in my Stash.  This is an aran weight yarn and should knit up a tiny bit chunkier than the pattern calls for, but that’s ok!  I like a little extra room in a cowl.

The Yarn Math:  If I cast on 96 stitches at 18 stitches per 4 inches (4.5 sts/inch), my cowl should be about 96/4.5 = 21.3 inches in length.  If I guesstimate that on a US #8 that I will be about 4 sts/inch, I should be about 96/4= 24 inches in length.  This is all a rough guess, but 3 inches isn’t going to make a difference for this cowl.

Thus ends lesson 2.  I know this is a lot of information and theory.

The TLDR version is:  pick a worsted or aran weight yarn and the recommended needle size.

Coming up:  Lesson 3:  You mean you actually will teach me something about knitting?

Yes, for realsies.  🙂


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