Last year I was in breakneck debt, so broke, I was sick, and to fear the impending end of the Christmas season. So I found some simple guides on the internet, brushed up on my knitting skills, and made my way through the holidays where I spent about $ 20 total to everyone’s gifts. I have great news for you:
You too can get out of the holiday season cheaply!
What started as a simple vacation solution has grown into a small business and craft that feeds my soul (and a couple of evergreen pillars too). I’m so excited about it that I always try to have a project on hand because I use it as a meditation tool when my anxiety and stress are particularly high – and it’s nice to do something productive with that energy and get on with it to focus on something else.
Getting started with the yarn craft (the broader term for knitting and crocheting) can seem daunting, but I hope what I’m about to tell you will help you get started. It really isn’t as challenging as it seems! Plus, once you get started, you can make some really thoughtful gifts and decorations for yourself.
The materials you need are not cheap! But after years of buying yarn and tools, I have some great tips for you to save some money. You can find knitwear and crochet items at Walmart, Michaels, JOANN, Moscow’s Yarn Underground, and even Goodwill.
For needles, Yarn Underground is any size you want and in bamboo (my preferred needle material, see more in the ‘Knitting’ section below). Yarn Underground also has a used section where you can get a pair for around $ 2. Michaels and JOANN also have many options in plastic, metal and bamboo, but not necessarily in every size. Goodwill occasionally has needles, but they are often metal. Walmart has some metal needle options, but very few (Walmart has a lot more options for crocheting than for knitting).
Yarn is not a competitive market so the price is usually the same in one store in another (but don’t forget the sale Michaels and JOANN often have). Walmart branded yarn and Premier Yarn are very inexpensive and of good quality. If you want a certain color and material, Michaels and JOANN are your best bet – they have threads full of yarn.
Michaels, JOANN, Yarn Underground and Walmart all have accessories, with Walmart’s options being the cheapest and Yarn Underground being the most unique and interesting options. The difference in quality is obvious, but so is the price, so keep that in mind.
Knitting is great for larger projects (like sweaters and scarves) and anything that is tubular (like socks). I enjoy knitting because it takes both hands and it feels kind of rustic and cool to knit. I like the texture of an average knit stitch more than the texture of your usual crochet stitch because the material moves better. Cable knitting (those textures on cable knit sweaters) is something I haven’t ventured into, but it’s something really cool that I don’t think crocheting will work.
Needles: I would recommend size 8 bamboo needles as this is the most common size and can be substituted for size 7 or size 9 if necessary (your pattern will determine the size). The size of your needle will determine the mesh size, or stitches per inch, of your project. Bamboo needles are a little more expensive than metal or plastic needles, but the thread doesn’t slide around as much and I feel like I have more control over bamboo. (I did learn to knit with bamboo needles, however, so I may be biased.) Ignore the dual point needles and the needles connected by plastic wire that you may see.
Yarn: For size 8 needles, you will need medium weight yarn (size four). It’s called weight because yarn is often measured by its weight for thickness in patterns. There are weights from size one to size seven to accommodate projects like socks or blankets. Your pattern also tells you what weight of thread to use, but medium size 4 is most commonly paired with size 8 needles and is the most common thread weight.
Accessories: Don’t be stressed by the whole selection – it’s fun!
- Stitch and round markers: Both are small and usually made of plastic. Stitch markers can be a good buy to start with if you’re doing something fancy, and you can mark five or ten rows as you follow your pattern. Round markers are round circles and are best for knitting in the round (you’ll need double pointed needles for this, which probably won’t happen on your first project).
- Row / stitch counter: These usually come in the form of a clicker or a ring with rotating dials. I have a squirrel’s attention span and I find this so helpful in keeping me up to date! There are cheaper options (simple plastic counter) or the ring style that I got and got at Yarn Underground.
- Crochet hook: This is completely optional, but if you drop a stitch it’s a good thing because it makes it so much easier to pick up! I would recommend size G.
- Tapestry / darning needle: These are the large sewing needles and come in different sizes and in hard plastic, soft plastic and metal.
- warehouse: Everything works, you just need to store thread, needles and accessories.
- Small tape measure: They do cheap retractables at Walmart and I love that they stay in one role and not dissolve.
- Needlepoints: These are tiny rubber tips that protect the tips of your bamboo needles, keep your project on your needle, and keep your metal needles from sticking out your eye when not in use.
Tip: To start your knitting journey, find a beginner’s book at your local Michaels, JOANN, or download one online. These will give you basic beginner projects, all of the stitches, how to do them, and use amateur terms instead of complicated ones.
People are too so creative and there are so many YouTube channels that have videos on how to complete stitches, steps, or even complete patterns if you get stuck. Also, check out YouTube videos that show you how to hold your needles in different ways. I started knitting as a kid and stopped until last year in junior high, and I’ve still found a new needle position.
Likewise always check your meter. The pattern usually tells you what your number of stitches should be (for example: 20 stitches by 20 rows should be 4 inch square).
I like crocheting more than knitting, mostly because it offers a lot more flexibility than knitting. I made succulents, flowers, leaves and you can even make small figures. I also like the single hook because it’s less complex. The fabric you are crocheting (with the same hook / needle / thread size) is stiffer and thicker than its knitted counterpart, which is kind of a shame, but as you increase your hook size you feel more relaxed when it’s off-putting.
Hook: I only used metal hooks, but plastic and wooden hooks are also available. I’m not sure what advantages one has over the other – but I would highly recommend buying crochet hooks with ergonomic handles! Ergonomic handles are larger rubber grips on the needle to make it easier to hold the hook.
Crochet hooks usually come in sets (this is less common with knitting needles) so you can purchase a set. I would recommend a size G or F hook as this is the most common size. Each letter has millimeter measurements assigned to it, and you can find conversion tables online to help. They make glowing hooks if you have trouble seeing, but they’re not cheap so start with a regular hook.
Yarn: I would recommend medium weight size 4 yarn as well, but try to find yarn that won’t separate easily – yarn is made up of four smaller strands wound together. If you have strands of yarn that separate while crocheting, it can drive you crazy!
- Stitch markers: As far as I can tell you don’t need round markers when crocheting, but stitch markers are useful for marking the ends of rounds and rows!
- Row / stitch counter (see above)
- Tapestry / darning needle (see above)
- Storage (see above)
- Small tape measure (see above)
Tip: For some reason, crocheting was off-putting to me, and it wasn’t until a knitting project required some basic crocheting that I decided to try it out. I find crocheting much more flexible and it allows more creativity with the patterns than with knitting! Don’t give up or be discouraged, again there are great beginner books and videos on YouTube to help you out. Michaels has a really cute Star Wars crochet kit right now that will help you from start to finish!
When crocheting I have a few very specific additional information if you decide to take up things that are not always explained in instructions:
- You will chain one, two, three or four chains after every single row, and the number will depend on the stitch you are making on that row: one is for single crochets, two for half double crochets, three for single crochets, and four for single crochets Crochet double crochets.
- You will also chain the appropriate amount after each round.
- “Join in the round” means to connect the end of the round to the beginning of the round with a slip stitch.
- The things I just listed make more sense once you start crocheting.
Arm knitting / finger crocheting
This is a super fun alternative to using hooks and needles and you’ll cover the ground faster. This is the fastest option for blankets, and I can arm-knit a scarf in about an hour. There are a few important things to consider before you begin either.
- Once you’ve started you can’t stop as the yarn is literally in your arms. You can maybe stick two cans of Pringles together to hold when you really need to stop (I was seriously considering that), otherwise just put them on one arm and carry the yarn with you!
- It’s the fastest form of thread crafting, but not as clear as its needle counterpart in my experience.
- You want to either double up bulky size 5 (by all means use two strands at the same time), super bulky size 6 (consider using two strands at the same time), or jumbo size 7.
- You cannot arm knit every pattern.
- Your joints are getting very tired, don’t give up! They make gloves for related joint ailments.
- she can put this project down.
- Keep your fingers apart so your stitches are not as tight (your yarn will go further, too).
- You should use bulky size five to jumbo size seven yarn. If you’re using size five or six, you don’t have to use two strands at the same time, but you should consider it.
- You can crochet any crochet pattern with your fingers (but keep in mind that you will need larger yarn and the project will get a lot bigger)!