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Dear Everybody,

Please join us in extending a hearty MDK welcome to Lou Horsfall from England, who made her way to these pages via our friends at Arnall-Culliford Knitwear. Lou’s recent journey from lapsed childhood knitter to an impressive array of FOs is inspiring. By jove, we think she’s got it! 

—Ann and Kay

When I started work at Arnall-Culliford Knitwear in April, I knew I would soon be knitting. My eldest daughter was learning to knit at school, so working on projects together would naturally follow. And I have a little experience, having learned to knit and purl with my granny when I was young.

Luckily for me, Skill Set: Beginning Knitting was published a couple of months after I commenced my new job. This handy little volume of lessons, complete with clear diagrams and concise instructions, was just what I needed to rekindle my knitting skills.

Other than knowing how to knit and purl, I knew nothing about the long-tail cast-on, types of tools, joining colors, combining stitches, knitting in the round, and other essentials of this great craft. All I had to start my Skill Set journey with were a pair of Granny’s straight knitting needles and some bits and bobs of acrylic yarn from the 1980s. I added in some lovely Something to Knit With Aran from Arnall-Culliford Knitwear, which is a perfect weight for beginners.

After the ceremonial yarn winding, the swatches that came off my granny’s old needles were my first ventures into knitting rib and lace, increases and decreases—I marveled at how I had created them without going too badly wrong. The quality of the instructions and clarity of the diagrams in Skill Set enables stress-free learning. It had already taught me new skills and I could not wait to go further.

But I needed more equipment. Armed with some circular needles, crochet hooks (courtesy of Jen) and dpns, I took up the Lesson 4 challenge of making “a thing.” The little swatches had been the most technical knitting I had ever done; knitting a hat in the round was something else! The biggest thing I’d made in my life was a garter knit square which turned into a toy bunny for our youngest daughter. To knit something to wear was daunting, but I relished the challenge!

Making mistakes was part of the process, however. Each new skill took several tries to get it right. I got my fingers in a twist when first trying the long-tail cast-on, but now the stitches fly onto the needles and it’s a matter of keeping count. The lace swatch took a couple of tries, but I look forward to taking this technique further.

While knitting in the round for the first time, I misread the instructions and was merrily knitting and purling away to get stockinette stitch but ended up with garter stitch on each row—oh my! When the pattern moved to dpns I started knitting on the inside which caused a little confusion, but that’s all part of the learning process.

The second hat, for the stranded knitting lesson, was completed in one go—the only thing I wish I’d done was make the brim longer (note to self!).

I recently completed the intarsia heart lesson. This took three attempts to get going, because I was cutting the yarn as I went, but once I realized I didn’t need to cut Color B on each row, it turned out well. I also worked out how to minimize the number of strands of Color A, which was pleasing.

Now to weave in the ends—I’ll need to find some time for that as I have a lot of ends, as you can see!

Between lessons I have been testing my new skills in pattern reading and particularly in increasing and decreasing. Using hand-dyed yarn by Urban Purl, I knitted Martina Behm’s Hitchhiker (Ravelry link) which I really loved doing. I consulted Skill Set to pick up lost stitches and do some ripping back. I didn’t think I was such a perfectionist!

I have nearly finished the Diagonal Mitts by Karida Collins in MDK Field Guide No. 18: Beginnings in another hand-dyed yarn by Old Maiden Aunt which was a joy. I’m looking forward to wearing them …once the seams are joined. And since Skill Set has “raised me right” (see Lesson 7!), after seaming, I’m on to blocking. I too will block everything!

So, thank you Skill Set for guiding my way back into knitting. The book is easy to use. The book has a cool retro design and the text sets a light-hearted, jovial mood that makes learning knitting approachable and achievable. Despite getting into a few knots early on over some of the fiddlier techniques, it’s all worked out wonderfully and I’m really chuffed with myself. Onwards!

About The Author

Lou Horsfall is delighted to take up the needles again.


  • Love your Hitchhiker!
    Welcome back to the fascinating world of knitting!

  • Bravo! Isn’t it a bit like running into two childhood friends named Knit and Purl and catching up on all that has happened in their lives (colorwork, intarsia, increasing and decreasing their little stitch family, etc.?

    • ❤️❤️

    • Love this

  • Welcome aboard, Lou!

  • Welcome to the party, Lou! Your projects are all beautiful!

  • You have inspired me to knit another Hitchhiker !

  • Love your hitchhiker! I just knitted myself one from my handspun – it’s a great pattern for hand dyed yarn/fiber.

    • I’ve just knitted one too, from Hedgehog Fibres Sock. Great pattern for hand dyed, variegated yarns!

  • I love using my Field Guides….is there a index guide that you can just look at and know which one the skill you are looking for is in. That would be so great. You know you saw something you want to use but which one. I have all of them. What a handy guide that would be and people that only have one or 2 would know what the are missing.

    • Yes! I too have all the FGs, and I’ve been wishing for an index since around #5. Welcome Lou!

    • There isn’t an index that I’ve seen, and what a great idea to cross reference Field Guides with the Skill Set guide. The index and cross reference wouldn’t even need to be a printed version…a downloadable pdf would be perfect.

  • I too am back to knitting and so glad that a friend mentioned MDK. I especially like the ‘modern’ knits and new techs I’m learning. So much more than my mom’s knits but ever so grateful she taught me the basics. Skill Set and Beginnings got me back on track and now plowing thru Lopi. Loving it! Cheers!

  • This proves that you can teach a mature dog new tricks!

  • I wish our schools taught knitting and crocheting. It gives children both hand/eye/mind coordination, and mathematics.

    • Very good point. My understanding is that knitting is taught in the Waldorf schools to boys and girls.

  • Success! Does the guide have illustrations/instructions for left handed people?

  • Your scarf if beautiful and looks very well done. You are no longer a beginner!

  • Good for you! You’ve come a long way!

    I don’t understand why the long tail method of the slingshot is the go-to cast on when much easier ways are possible. A 3D challenged person such as myself would have stopped right there.

    Carry on!

    • If yours is not a rhetorical question, as a former knitting instructor I will offer the LT CO gives a sturdy edge, does not mess with the gauge of the first row, and is easy to work into. Other candidates include the knitted CO.

  • Welcome to MDK Lou, and welcome back to knitting! I was especially touched to learn that you used your grandmother’s knitting needles. Such a beautiful connection to your dear granny as her needles continue to be used in the creative process.

    There is so much information that I always want to give when I meet a new knitter, or someone who is interested in first learning to knit. However, I think that I have scared off a few people by overwhelming them with information they were not yet ready to hear. This is why I got the Skill Set app so that I would always have with me just the right amount of information for teaching knitting, and that I could meet a newbie knitter at their level in an encouraging and supportive way.

  • Delightful story! Looking forward to hearing more from Lou.

  • I, too, love your Hitchhiker! I know that I have an unfinished one hiding somewhere!

  • New knitters now are blessed with hundreds of online resources, mostly free.. Even the thing students whom I taught to knit in an age school class, would y get excited to finish their projects before the next class and look up how to do the next stich, cast off, it whatever and go online to find out. So you a practically infinite number of resources to help you expand your skills!

    And Martina Behms’ (Strickmich) patterns are great! Very easy, stylish and great for yarns that might tend to pool or be a bit loud with their color combinations.

  • For all it’s apparent complicated-ness, the Long Tail CO is amazingly intuitive and easy to learn for most people. “If I could do it, you could do it”. Really. There are some other knitting techniques – I have found – that look easier but are harder to either do or maintain accurately. Seed stitch for example. I think it’s about how your brain works. I always started out fine but then would lapse into ribbing (the opposite sequence). Much better at it now.

  • Your Hitchhiker is beautiful and you’ve inspired me to complete the one I started nearly 2 years ago still sitting in a project bag!

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