Knitting Kits and Patterns for 5 Different Skill Levels
A Sumptuous Sliding Scale
Stitches are similar to painters' brushstrokes: Everyone's are unique. That's why the first step of any project is swatching — essentially knitting a square — to check your gauge (how many stitches fit in a certain number of inches or rows) against the pattern maker's. Your chunky scarf may share DNA with a delicate baby sweater, since the same stitch can create both.
Yarn of All Kinds
The difference lies in the size of your needles and the weight of your yarn: The thicker and heavier they are, the heftier the result. (Worsted-weight yarn, like the middle one above, is easiest for beginners to manage.) The previous swatches use stockinette, a technique in which you alternate rows of V-shaped knitted stitches with bumpy purled ones.
THE DETAILS: Lykke Crafts Driftwood straight knitting needles, in 10" and 14", from $6 a pair, knittingfever.com/brand/lykke
. Lacis bone knitting needles, from $14 a pair,
. Various yarns, from Purl Soho,
, The Fibre Co.,
, and Woolfolk,
Knitting is a lot like cooking. First, you master the basics — knit, purl, ribbing. Then come more dexterous techniques, like cable, lace, and brioche. Get up to speed on those, and your body of work will be vast and varied, as these nine swatches attest.
Skill Level 1: Color-Blocked Blanket
This merino-and-alpaca throw is as straightforward as it is snuggly. It enlists the first stitch pattern you learn: the all-knitted garter. Making a piece this big requires circular needles, which accommodate longer rows (instead of straight ones), but you'll get the hang of them after a few inches. For practiced crafters, there's a clever twist: The multihued design calls for a technique known as intarsia, in which you move from color to color seamlessly rather than connecting finished squares. That's what gives this plush couch companion its elegant drape.
THE DETAILS: Purl Soho Shadow Study throw pattern, available for free,
. We used the Shadow Study bundle (in Sea Heather, $300 for 14 skeins,
), but you can choose your own combination.
Skill Level 2/3: Luxe Layers
These oversize pullover sweaters have all the hallmarks of a winter wardrobe standout: They’re comfy, casual, and deliciously soft. (Martha has one similar to the Loopy Mango style shown, left.) Distinctive handmade touches, like dolman sleeves and dropped shoulders, make them well worth the effort you’ll put in. Plus, the main stitch for both is a straightforward stockinette.
THE DETAILS: Loopy Mango Her Sweater DIY kit, in Dorian Gray, from $180, loopymango.com
. Julie Hoover Cline sweater pattern, $8,
. Zealana Rimu DK-weight yarn, in Kiwi Crush, $19 for 140 yd.,
Skill Level 4: Thrummed Slippers
Keep loved ones' toes toasty with soft, snug booties. Roving, aka unspun, wool gives these pairs their dotted (or "hearted") motif and fleecy interior. You work it in with a technique called thrumming, which originated in the chilly climes of Newfoundland; it involves adding in a piece of the fluffier wool every few stitches. You don’t need any special tools; just whip out some circular needles to create the curved shapes.
THE DETAILS: Echoview Fiber Mill Cloud Slipper kit, in Midnight Merino and Café au Lait, from $70, echoviewnc.com
Skill Level 5: Cuffed Beanie
If you've done a scarf, you can tackle a hat. It's small and super-manageable, and helps you practice decreasing (the act of tapering any piece, like a sleeve or sock). Folks who've already topped off their entire family can graduate to this design, which combines Irish Aran-style cable knitting and nubby panels of seed stitches, and finishes fast from a single skein, or bundle, of yarn.
THE DETAILS: Woolfolk Alger hat pattern, $10; and Tov yarn, in T1, $30 for 173 yd., woolfolkyarn.com
Care & Keeping
To wash a hand-knit piece, eyeball its dimensions while it's dry. Then handwash it in mild detergent and tepid water and rinse, taking care to keep the fabric compressed. Roll it in a towel to remove excess moisture, and lay flat to dry, reshaping it to its original size.