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In all my years of knitting (over 50 now, egad!), I have taught countless people how to knit.

The most delightful and memorable experience took place, once upon a time, sitting cross legged with a 5-year-old on my lap and my arms wrapped around her, guiding her dimpled hands and fingers to wrap the yarn around the little red and blue needles. This is not the practical way to teach most students.

AWWWW! Nell’s daughter (and MDK Field Guide Sample Knitter) Haley chalkley learning to finger knit at 5

Invitation to Knit

As I leafed through the clearly-written and cleverly-illustrated pages of my fresh copy of Skill Set: Beginning Knitting, I recalled a recent text exchange with my neighbor …  

Because K already knew how to crochet (hook in her right hand, yarn in her left), she was a natural for the continental method of knitting. We practiced a swatch of garter stitch on straight needles.

It was such a pleasure to be teaching—in person—again!  

When we were ready for Lesson 4, we took a trip to our local yarn shop, Baa Baa Sheep, where I work and teach. K chose a clear yellow wool to knit her hat. Knitting in the round is a great first step on the road to hand knit socks!

She did not want a rolled brim on her hat, so I had her begin on straight needles and knit an inch and a half of flat garter stitch for the band. This will leave a small seam to join (Lesson 7!), but since she’ll need to weave in the cast on tail, a seam is a good way to work it into the piece

After completing the band, she then knit the stitches onto her 16″ circular needle to join for working in the round.

K’s enthusiasm for her new skill is only curbed by her full-time job, and caring for her wonderful vegetable garden and two beloved pets.

The truth is that she will complete this hat long before the evening temps drop here in the steamy southeast.

And Skill Set and I (and Daisy girl pictured below) will be here to guide her through knitting her first (of many!) pairs of socks.

About The Author

A passionate perpetual knitter, published designer and enthusiastic teacher, Nell Ziroli continues to be inspired by luminaries and students alike. See all her designs here.


  • Memories!
    I am reminded of my lovely neighbor Jean, who I taught to knit sometime in the mid 80’s.
    A hat was her first project, too.

  • I gave Skills Set to a friend this past week. I hope she was encouraged to stick with her knitting.

  • You are A good friend and neighbor!

  • A few years ago our knitting group from church taught several young girls how to knit during our summer Bible school. None had knit before and it was encouraging to see how quickly they caught on. As with so many things in life, we don’t know if they continued with their newly learned skill or not. Perhaps they think back to those days and will one day pass a knit shop and renew their skills.

  • Last picture is cute. And shes doing well!

    I knew she had to be in the southeast when I looked at that tomato plant. This time of year, everyones tomato plants look like that.

  • You rock, Nell.

    • Thanks, I really love what I do!

  • Years ago when visiting my sister in another country, I brought knitting tools and supplies and taught her to knit. She persevered, sought tips from the internet, and returned to the U.S. a proficient knitter. Knitting is part of her daily activities and she turns out numerous projects. I now turn to her for help when I hit snags.

  • Not quite knitting, but…in the summer of 2017, at our family reunion (our family is scattered across the continent), I was awakened the first morning by my 8-year-old graddaughter and 9-year-old greatniece demanding to be taught to crochet — starting right then! They let me dress and brush my teeth, and then we were off — and soon joined by 5-year-old grandson, who wasn’t quite as cooordinated and soon abandoned us. The loveliest thing about this was that the girls had never spent time together before, living abot 1500 miles apart, but had clearly managed to collude in their demand. I, of course, loved it. (I had been taught to crochet by my grandmother when I was about 6, and had brought knit and crocheted gifts for all at the reunion.)

  • Starting today with two 10- year old granddaughters (cousins)! Using the app and a lot of patience as they will be my first students! Wish us the best day ever!

    • How did your lesson go? And lovely to spend time with the cousins, what a memory you are creating.

  • What a lovely story to start a new week with … with which to start a new week. Whatever. Love the yellow on that hat.

    • Thank you so much! It’s a great hat and she looks terrific in it.

  • I have not been keen on the idea of teaching people to knit since it requires a lot of patience (I remember vividly the Yarn Harlot saying that knitting is for impatient people). I usually direct people to YouTube which is infinitely patient. Then recently a friend asked me to teach her, and showed up with a fair amount of garter stitch knit on dpns with Malabrigo Rios! I figured this was surely an auspicious sign so I got her started knitting a hat. I think a hat is so much better as a first project than a garter stitch scarf, though Nell’s idea of doing both in a hat is great… filing away for next time.

    Anyway, I taught Kate how to do 2×2 ribbing, so she learned to purl. I had forgotten that it is not intuitive to keep moving the yarn from back to front and back again! She did really great, and continued on with stockinette. The last time we met up I showed her how to do the decreases, and switch from a circular to dpns. That too is a little scary, with so many things sticking out.

    The next time we meet I will show her how to pull the yarn through the last few stitches and attach the stuffie- it’s a Top This hat kit, and I’ve already given her a second kit so she can cement all her newly acquired skills.

    And oh, of course, I pointed her to Skill Set and she told me she absolutely loves the app!

    • Thank you, Deepa! And I love the way you teach something new each time. I just started someone off and took the same approach–she’ll learn to purl the next time we meet, or on her own from the app. But for the first lessons it’s one thing at a time.

      • Nell is simply the best. (And I covet K’s skirt. What a great pattern!)

  • Each One Teach One reminds me first of the Laubach way to teach Adults how to read. When I was finally persuaded by my local library to teach a Knitting Class, a class! horror of horrors, I knew I could only do it if I could find enough knitters to be assistants, no one wants to be Teacher. I had 8 volunteers, And 15 students showed Up! I put one volunteer between 2 students, with a prepared needle of 20 stitches, Each Volunteer taught 2 how to knit a garter swatch. We all learned a lot that day! mostly the pleasure of sharing our love of knitting, but also that Each One can teach One.

  • Nell taught me to knit in the round!!! And helped me replicate a hat my grandmother made so I could make one for everyone in my family !! She’s an amazing teacher

    • And what a gift to your family…

    • Yes she is!

  • And lucky me – I learned to knit with Nell too! first a little bag, then a hat, then a lace scarf, then a sweater and I am still learning from Nell all the time. The cleverest ways of thinking about pattern and fabric. Thanks, Nell!

    • Y’all are making me weepy. xo

  • Nice! IThanks, Nell. have taught quite few kids to knit, and many adults. Days when I feel like I am contributing nothing I remember that!!!

  • I wish I had had a knitting teacher!

    I taught myself to knit from an old Leisure Arts booklet. I had tried to learn before but this time it stuck. I am left handed and the booklet had a left handed section. I always I checked the both sections of the book to correct my mistakes.

  • I just taught my friend Colleen to make her first stitches using Skill Set. It’s so exciting to be there for the birth of a new knitter!

    • “The birth of a new knitter” I just love that phrase!

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