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Dear everyone,

As we leap into this leap year, we’re thrilled to welcome Jessica Caldwell as a new MDK contributor. After bumping into Jessica at East Coast fiber festivals over the years, we knew it was just a matter of time before she joined us knitters, and we couldn’t be happier for the knitting community. 

—Kay and Ann

I am surrounded by knitters but I was not one. While most of the year I’m based in Brooklyn, one of my annual trips to visit friends and family revolves around attending Maryland Sheep and Wool, a fiber fest where yarn addicts descend on a rural fairground to touch all things yarn-related. 

I love yarn; I crochet and I weave on a little loom, but I was not a knitter until May 2023. That’s when I went  looking for a creative outlet to destress and I picked up knitting. My bestie Dana had been gently encouraging me to pick it up over the years, so when I mentioned that I finally wanted to learn, she was extra supportive of my new pursuit. She provided me with yarn, interchangeable needles, and resources so that I could practice while I was visiting.

While I was frustratingly practicing my knit stitches, I put down the needles, picked up my phone, and perused the App Store for a knitting app. Surely there had to be something that could help make the process of learning a little easier.

YouTube was helpful, but  I got distracted and I found myself sifting through lots of online teachers and advertisements trying to get answers. I was lucky when one of the first apps I found was MDK’s Skill Set.

When you are learning something new, you just want a clear and concise reference tool. I didn’t want a 20-minute video lesson on stockinette; I wanted a short video I could watch over and over until my head, my hands, and the needles all clicked in concert with each other.

The Skill Set app was that and so much more. Suddenly, I had the perfect combination of an instruction book and short video lessons in my handbag or my pocket. I was off and knitting!

The app breaks knitting into multiple lessons, covering everything from  “Needle Basics” to “Fixing Mistakes.” I can start from the beginning or drill down on something I want to practice. I even have a few favorite lessons saved for quick reference. And don’t even get me started on the slow motion and loop video features in the program!

Recently, I took a one-day beginning knitting workshop at my local yarn shop. In order to finish that project at home, I opened Skill Set (I keep the app on my phone and my iPad) and played a video to keep me going. 

I’m still very much a beginning knitter but with a few helpful resources, like my friends and Skill Set, I am developing my skills and my confidence. Right now, I’m enjoying trying out accessory patterns. I see lots of fingerless gloves, scarves, and hats in my future. I also just started my first sweater. To the delight of all of my friends, I have definitely been bitten by the knitting bug.

I would love to hear about your favorite resources when you were a beginner — or any tips or tricks you still find helpful. What do you wish you’d known at the beginning of your knitting journey?

About The Author

When not knitting or perusing Ravelry for patterns, Jessica Caldwell runs her own branding and interior design studio, FOLKE CREATIVE. She is also an interior design professor at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, and at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan where she gets to teach the next  generation of designers the joys of having a design career.


  • My favorite beginner friendly resources for knitting are VeryPinkKnits and Westknits on YouTube. Both give clear instructions that are easy to follow. Stephen West’s MKALs are often beginner friendly; his Geogradient MKAL from October certainly was. You’ll learn new techniques that make you feel like a pro, while feeling like part of an amazing community. Most of my preferred resources are probably not really beginner friendly, I’ve been knitting for over 27 years.

    • These sites have GREAT camera angles, too!

    • I loved reading your story, and welcome to the rabbit hole. Knitters (and spinners and weavers) are wonderful and sharing people. Have fun!

    • LOVE Very Pink Knits!

  • I am a self taught knitter. as a stay at home mom with the inability or resources to be able to take a class I learned from library books. The advent of YouTube was brilliant for me! It was a way to see a visual of how someone knits. And as a visual learner, that was my everything! What I do wish that I’d known as a beginning knitter is there’s no wrong way to knit. You’re going to find those people who say oh you’re doing it wrong. But then you will find literally thousands of years worth of knitting data that say there is no wrong. Take time to find your knitting groove. I know a lot of people that love to knit bulky things. But honestly for me, it hurts my hands to hold a needle that is larger than a size 8. So experiment. And you’ll find your way. And let that guide you to what is right for you!
    I agree with the previous comment about very pink knits and Stephen West.
    Welcome to the club!

    • Second the “there’s no wrong way to knit.” When I was still a very new knitter — mid-1990s — a friend who has been knitting their whole life told me I was holding the needles wrong and I had to hold them as they did (these were single point straight needles; I was told to hold them up in the air in front of me). Years later, I learned that my “wrong” way, which I had abandoned after the chastisement of my very confident friend, was essentially like using a knitting belt or armpit to stabilize one needle — in other words, a deep-rooted technique practiced by some of the world’s best knitters.

  • I started knitting for real around 1980; I knew no other knitters, and there was no LYS for miles. But I had Elizabeth Zimmerman, and old dog-eared pattern books from the library. But before too long there was one of those surges in knitting popularity, and soon there were more books, and more knitters though I was still buying yarn at K-Mart. No circular needles, everything on double points. But finally the internet and later YouTube came along, and now it seems we’re swamped in yarn and knitting, hooray! In all these years my skills haven’t advanced past “barely intermediate” but I still love it, and I still have those 14″ aluminum double points (for sweaters in the round), just for old times’ sake.

  • One ov to he best articles. It was very well written. Happy Knitting to You. Opens up your world

    • I am interested in starting beginner my interested in making sweaters anblankets hats and scarfs also what’s the difference in crochet and knitting

      • I’ve done both and prefer knitting. The only reason was because the crochet fabric I made was too bulky for me. If I had known more at the time, who knows. But the advent of circular needles and knitting in the round has me permanently a knitter – so easy to do, no dropping one of the straight needles, easier on my hands, and so one. I also enjoy trying the variety of needles being introduced. I have squares, spirals, bamboo, wood, metal. Mixing and matching them to the different yarns is also fun.

  • Hi Jessica, Welcome! My first tip is to learn at your mother’s knee. Or shoulder if you are already twelve when my mother taught me. That youthful mind picks things up things quickly. Barring that what you are doing seems ideal – along with using a yarn you love (which you seem to be doing!) and lots of encouragement from family and friends – even strangers if you are knitting on the bus which I was doing when I picked knitting up again in middle age and was garter stitching on a public conveyance when a European family enthusiastically embraced my lively Red Heart scarf (back in the day) when knitting and purling were my only skills. All this to say that along with Practice and Patience with yourself, find inspiration from everyone and every thing around you. Friends, (Determined friends in my case), the Internet, knitting clubs, books, and (second – more useful – tip) a willingness (once you are comfortable with knit and purl) to take on the Feather and Fan lace pattern. No kidding! It was Forced on me early on in my knitting career by a Determined Knitter in a coffee shop and opened my knitting world. It is easy to memorize, was difficult in the beginning to manipulate my fingers, but my Determined Friend would not let up, and I learned to Increase and Decrease, which along with knitting and purling is all you need to know to knit just about Anything. You can crochet, so you can knit! I know you can!

  • Oh, just remembered. For a first garment: Any of the Anker sweaters from Petite Knits, Try a child’s version – less overwhelming. This pattern is easy to execute but makes you look and feel so proficient because of its clever and flattering design. Get a Determined Friend to walk you through the pattern. More to say, but you are probably sick of me by now:).

  • CONGRATULATIONS AND WELCOME!!! There are never too many knitters!
    I’m old and mostly self taught. My mom tried to teach me when I was 8, but it didn’t go well initially. After 20ish years, I tried again and it worked. She was my phone app for a long time. I’d call her (I’m rotary dial age) and she would talk me through my knitting troubles. Worked pretty well for decades!
    Now , I sometimes turn to YouTube for complex questions. (I live about an hour from the nearest yarn shop) but I have lots of knitting friends and neighbors who are my best resources.
    Enjoy your knitting journey!

  • I took several classes at my lys but that wasn’t the best approach for me. Never seemed to complete the assignments and didn’t remember the techniques down the road. Taking on a challenging project that I was inspired by and getting encouraging help from friends, lys drop-ins and the internet worked better.

    Brooklyn Tweed has good short tutorials as well.

    • Yes to the challenging project! My first project was a k2/p2 ribbed scarf in chunky yarn. My second was a baby’s cardigan (Penny Straker’s owls) in fingering weight. It had cables! Stitches to pick up! Sleeves to set in! Tiny stitches from tiny yarn! Nobody told me (thank goodness) that cables and fine yarn were “too hard” for a beginner; a dear friend was having her first baby and gosh darn it, I was going to make that sweater. And I did. I got help from my LYS owner when I couldn’t figure out what “k up and knit” meant — this was 1996, no email, no internet — at least not for me — but otherwise, I just did it on my own. The sweater turned out great and was a treasured gift. (And that baby is about I get married — and I am going to knit that same pattern for my own grandchild!)

      • … “p up and knit,” I meant

  • Slow motion is crucial in an instruction video about knitting. That’s a great feature.

  • I learned to knit when I was seven. I was left handed. My mother was right handed. You will learn it my way she said and I did. So did my next sister, also left handed. We are now in our seventies. She has been very ill but is better and has been moved from ICU to a regular room. As we wait in the room for a nurse we are knitting. In comes a bubbly nurse. Oh, you are knitting. I always wanted to knit but I can’t, I’m left handed. I hold up the sock I am knitting and reply, I’m left handed. My sister holds up the hat she is knitting and says I’m left handed. We still laugh about the look on the nurse’s face.

    • My Mom taught me when I was five and half the neighborhood. I too am left handed.My Mom went to great lengths to teach me how to knit left handed but I turned right around and knit right handed!

    • And best wishes to your sister for a full recovery, sorry that she is so ill. Good luck to the nurse!

    • Oh, I laughed at this! Same, same and same. Nearing that 70 mark, and I remember that cheesy Barbie knitting kit, looking like a fancy oatmeal box, in which was a Big Ball of red acrylic yarn, instructions for a scarf and yellow plastic size 10 needles (still have). My right-handed mom did her best for this left-hander, but her skills were basic, so I used the books I found to position my hands and needles – serious slo-mo. After picking up and putting down yarn and projects, I finally found my group. Just finished my third handspun AND hand-knitted sweater. Keep going, all these stories are great!

  • I haven’t made it to the MD Wool and Sheep festival yet but it’s on my list. I think another great resource is Patty Lyons recent book, Knitting Bag of Tricks. There are lots of things that of hacks that she learned from her mistakes so you don’t have to make them. I’m a knitter but I don’t crochet but I hope to learn this year and teach my sister. Can’t have too many craft, fight.

    • Meant to say right.

  • Knit Purl Hunter’s You Tube videos are my favorite beginner learning tool and she has a slim paperback book with learning steps and a dishrag project for each. Really helpful!

  • When I started knitting I wish I had known more about the different types of yarn as I spent so much money buying the wrong weight or Fiber for projects. After six years I’m just now going back to that stash and finding projects to suit.

    • Yes, I bought a lot of cheap yarn when I started. Now I know the difference and find the considerable amount of time I put into making something well worth investing in a quality fiber. MDK doesn’t steer us wrong with their various yarns, from basic to luxury.

  • Love VeryPink Knits! She has lots of slow motion videos as well. I have been knitting on and off for a while but have recently started knitting sweaters, fair isle, mittens and more complicated items. She is my go to whenever I am asked to do something I have never seen/done in a pattern. and Patty Lyons is amazing. Follow her on insta. She’s so inspiring.

  • Welcome to wonderful world of knitting! Tin Can Knits has a whole set of beginner friendly patterns, along with a library of great instructional videos. Happy knitting!

  • One more thought! YouTube did not exist when I was a beginning knitter. But, I had the good fortune of living relatively close to Cloverhill yarn shop in Catonsville, Maryland. At the time, one of their instructors, Kelly Nuss, taught beginner level project classes over a about 4 week period. (Think fair isle knitted hat w/cables and teddy bear cardigan with buttonholes.) I learned so much from these classes. By the end of these sessions, we all had completed projects that incorporated a myriad of techniques. The internet is great, but nothing beats in-person instruction!!

  • I loved this post and all the comments. I have knitted since 1963 and it’s been an off and on, love/frustration journey. I still follow a few knitting blogs and especially enjoy MDK because I lived in Nashville for over 40 years and now live in CT, outside NYC. I’ve never lost interest in knitting but life and new hobbies happened and sometimes I do wonder if I’m a little ADHD. I’m now 83 and am having an “on” period, trying to finish projects I’ve dragged all over the country and stowed under beds and in closets. The first project I pulled out was begun about 10 years ago and is a nearly finished seed stitch Cowl. Wish me luck. I hope I can still do.

  • I learned at age 8 from my mother, who could knit cables and aran patterns in her sleep.
    I know there is a plethora of videos out there – and I’ve gifted the Skill Set book to newbies. But for some techniques I want a written instruction with a diagram that I can consult, keep with my pattern, and not a constant look at 10 seconds of a YouTube video.
    Romi Hill has short mini videos that are concise and to the point without needless exposition.
    Everything is a video, it’s as though no one reads. I guess I’m ‘old.’

    Yay! For a new knitter.

  • Welcome to the knitting club!!!! My Mom taught me how to knit at 11–lots of years of knitting under my belt, over 60 years. Knitting has kept me sane through lots of ups and downs with more to come. I am from the book era of learning. “Principles of Knitting” by June Hiatt is very helpful for continental and English knitting (plus other types) assistance, plus the Treasury of Knitting Patterns volumes. You already have the current help you need, cruise through the old stuff for inspiration and entertainment. Lovely mitts by the way.

  • Testing to see if I get the same message every time I try to comment. This is a duplicate of what you already said???

  • I learned to knit by being taught by a friend to knit socks, yes really. That is all I feel comfortable knitting. I am literally afraid to knit a sweater in the round and when people say, well, you can knit socks. Yes, I can but I am still afraid to try for something big. You tube is great but I probably need to take a class and conquer my fear of wasting a bunch of money (yes, yarn is expensive to me) on nice yarn.

  • I learned to knit by being taught by a friend to knit socks, yes really. That is all I feel comfortable knitting. I am literally afraid to knit a sweater in the round and when people say, well, you can knit socks. Yes, I can but I am still afraid to try for something big. You tube is great but I probably need to take a class and conquer my fear of wasting a bunch of money (yes, yarn is expensive to me) on nice yarn.
    Yes, got another reply that I have already said this which I have not???

  • Good heavens! I learned to knit at around seven years of age. I’m now 71 and knit daily. IM LEFT HANDED and never knew there was a lefty way. As I just watched a tutorial of left handed, it seemed so backwards to me. Not sure I want to learn as my brain is so familiar to right handed. I suppose I’m a bit ambidextrous. Never to old to learn something new though. Stay happy knitting!

  • Knitting Without Tears by Elizabeth Zimmerman will change your knitting life. I had been knitting for years without understanding my knitting when I found this book. It is wonderful, as well as funny and wise.

    • This book started my knitting life back in 1970. EZ was beyond inspiring! (Check out her NYT obit — impressive!) Books are still good teachers — the right ones, anyway.


    • This book started my knitting life back in 1970. EZ was beyond inspiring! (Check out her NYT obit — impressive!) Books are still good teachers — the right ones, anyway.

  • In my early 20s (45 yrs ago) I signed up for a class at a LYS who sold me a book & sent me home to teach myself to knit in preparation for the first class. I didn’t know any better so did it, in hindsight that was odd :-))) Our first project was a raglan sleeve sweater, came out great (yes, some tearing out and some tears). I still have it & wear it! I was hooked, never stopped. When bored I’d take a class, learn something new. Now w/YouTube & online learning, beginner or experienced knitter, you can learn anything! LYSs want to teach new knitters (more customers), some libraries have groups. A knitting group or experienced knitter friend is great to help when you get stuck especially as a new knitter (I needed lots of support when learning). Yarn shops, biz’s like MDK & festivals are a labor of love, we are so LUCKY to have them!

  • Hi. This is the first time O wasn’t able to download an app because my phone is too new lol (Android). I do appreciate your tips and tutorials!

  • Congratulations on learning to knit Jessica! You’re lucky to have Dana as a bestie, her knitting knowledge combined with love of color are invaluable.
    I also learned to knit/crochet as a child from my mother and a very patient aunt, plus I was lucky to have a next door neighbor from Denmark who loved to share her innate knowledge of all things fiber related. I agree with others, Very Pink on Youtube, Patty Lyons and also Kate Atherly are excellent teachers.
    I highly recommend in person classes if you can do that, it accelerated my skills tremendously. I attended the Vogue Knitting Live annually in NYC for 10 yrs or so and the classes were really great. During the pandemic they pivoted to Virtual VKL and I believe they are still offering that which is more affordable and on Zoom, also highly recommended.
    Good luck and I look forward to reading future letters from you telling us how its going!

    • I am so lucky to have Dana as my bestie!! She’s inspiring on so many levels.

  • Tin Can Knits is also a very helpful app. And it has some very beginner friendly free patterns

  • So when I tried to get your Skills App for my Samsung phone it says it’s not available because it was made for older Androids. How about an updated version for 2024? Otherwise that was a mean tease!

  • I love the AC knitwear videos and books. The photography/filming is so clear and easy to see, the videos are short, and her voice is so calm and soothing. They are my go-to’s for a new technique, along with Tin Can Knits, Patty Lyons, and Very Pink Knits. Of course my saved articles in my MDK library is usually where I start 🙂

  • When I started knitting it was because of an intro to knitting booklet I found in a craft store marked down in price to $0.25. That was 50 years ago! I’m not a beginner but I have that booklet today and I’m teaching my granddaughter.

  • I am someone who has been a “recurring beginner,” having knitted on and off for many years. (There are few stitching crafts I haven’t tried.) Generally, I would suggest starting small and slow. Try one or two new techniques at a time on a small project. I like to have a simple project with instructions I can easily memorize I can turn to when I am also working on something new and more complicated. And buy the best yarn you can afford! Happy knitting.

  • Welcome, Jessica. I only knew how to crochet for decades. But one day on a plane, coming back to my home from a trip to Miami, I sat next to a wonderful women who was knitting. She had extra yarn and needles, and during that flight she taught me to knit. I don’t know her name, but I will never be able to thank her enough. 20 years later, knitting still challenges my mind.

  • Welcome Jessica!
    I hope you enjoy your knitting journey! Make room for more yarn!

  • I really enjoyed this post and I would also like to welcome Jessica!
    I find U tube and knitting apps to be very helpful when I don’t know a technique or need a refresher. Certainly skill set is excellent and I also have Tin Can Knits app.
    Books can be helpful and also articles in magazines. Even older magazines can have good articles.
    Other knitters can be a boost and inspiration.
    Many yarn stores can help you as well if you have purchased your yarn there.
    The knitting community is very generous and giving and willing to help.

  • Hi Jessica, welcome to MDK. While I don’t have any specific tips for new knitters, I admire you for learning as an adult after wanting to do it. What caught my attention in your MDK post was the photograph of the book Epic Bike Rides of the Americas. My hobbies are knitting first, then bicycling. I have same book. I wondered if you are a cyclist as well as a knitter too! If so, keep on knitting and pedaling!

    • I do have a bike that I absolutely love. It’s a step-through leisure bike so I wouldn’t call myself a cyclist. But I have been thinking about how nice it could be to bike to the park with my knits in my basket this spring. That feels like a perfect day!

  • My resources when I was 8 were my two grandmothers. There was nothing else. No one else my age knitted. Along with my grandmothers visits to our house were the knitting fairies. Somehow the mess I made every evening morphed into something more knitting-like the following morning, thanks to the fairies.

  • I’m pretty much a self-taught knitter; I learned to knit as a girl from the booklet “Learn to Knit the Easy Columbia-Minerva Way.” (No YouTube videos or Internet in those days.) However, I couldn’t figure out longtail cast-on without the help of a grandmotherly family friend who never went anywhere without her knitting bag. Wish I’d learned about sooner than I did: Knitting with circular needles, the difference to finished objects knit with animal yarns such as wool versus synthetic yarns such as acrylic, and interchangeable needle sets (I didn’t really hear about these until I was well on my way to a large collection of fixed-length needles of different sizes). These days I love Knit Companion and consider my iPad an essential knitting tool.

  • Welcome, Jessica!!! Your knitting looks beautifully done.
    When I picked knitting back up as an adult, I wish I knew a few guiding principles that now make all the difference to me.
    One is…knitting should bring me joy!!! I no longer force myself through a project that I don’t like.
    Another is knowing that knitting is about lifelong learning. Now I can laugh at my goofy mistakes, rather than wonder what is wrong with me…
    And I wish I had learned my new knitting mantra “I am perfectly imperfect!” sooner; skipping the shame of “failure.”
    I wish there had been a Skill Set app when I was first learning to knit. But, there were no computers then and phones were attached to the wall

  • Too bad it’s not compatible with my Pixel 6a.

  • These comments have been so lovely and supportive! So happy to be here!

    • One of my very favorite parts of knitting is the community it builds. I love knitting and the amazing yarns and designs (started about 4 years ago) but gathering with fellow knitters is always a highlight! You share ideas, FO’s skills, fixes, and laughs. Welcome to the community!
      And I am always amazed and impressed when a new knitter says “and I started my first sweater.” I am still very hesitant. Way to jump in!

  • Hi Jessica,
    Congratulations on becoming a knitter. I know you will enjoy this craft for years because there is so much to.learn. I had been knitting for 30 years before I learned to knit socks.

    You asked about resources so I would like to recommend Patty Lyons. She is a master knitter who provides clear explanations, wonderful videos, beautifully designed patterns. Her helpful videos devoted to fixing mistakes are very helpful. She has published several books. So take some time meeting Patty.

    Best wishes for a knit filled year creating wonderful projects.

    Nancy D

  • Hello Jessica, I love your enthusiasm in pursuit of a new challenge in the design field. I too used to crochet and while I still enjoy it, my fellow mother in law to my son, encouraged me to start knitting. I love, love the texture and colors of the beautiful yarns I see in the yarn shops we visit together. Even on trips overseas, we have left the group to search out yarn shops for a look and see! And language barriers melt away as we point and laugh and finally figure out what we wish to purchase. I look forward to hearing more from you as I still consider myself a knitter in training and I agree the MDK Skill Set is the best❤️

  • Thank you for educating me on this app! This may just get me started (I’ve simply been collecting beautiful yarn, as one does-smile) Now, I could use one for crochet (I have been stuck for over2 years on transitioning to a new row in a beautiful blanket).

  • Hey Jessica!! Welcome to the knitting world! I learned to knit in Girl Scouts. I’m 78 now, so I learned using plastic or aluminum needles (can’t remember) and inexpensive acrylic yarn. I was lucky to have a neighbor who was an experienced knitter. She helped me learn and introduced me to lovely yarns. Keep seeking out fellow knitters for camaraderie and help. And be warned…it’s an addiction!! I have a shed filled with bins of beautiful yarns that will very likely be inherited by my darling daughter-in-law. I agree with so many of the suggestions you’ve already been given. Lots and lots of helpful websites out there. Enjoy your newfound creative outlet and the “zen” of knitting. And don’t be surprised when you find yourself working on multiple projects at the same time. (I’m in the midst of four shawls right now.) Again…welcome to the community.

  • The thing I am MOST grateful I learned when first picking up knitting was to do it continental style (picking rather than throwing). I have a friend who is a knitting master and she has been my teacher and mentor; she encouraged me to learn this way, and I’m so glad I did…I’m sure I go faster with continental than I would if I were throwing the yarn, since I only knit a few hours a week (and that only in winter).

  • How amazingly great that you started knitting in MAY 2023 and are already writing about it! Inspirational!

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