The tools

In the 1600s, men's waistcoats were knit (by men) in fine silk thread on steel needles no thicker than wire. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the women of the Shetland Isles turned out several sweaters a year, knit on fine needles while they walked and between chores. Today, you can use the same width of needles the knitting forebears used, or you can knit with yarn as thick as rope on needles that measure an inch or more around.

So the two knitting supplies that you absolutely can't do without are knitting needles and yarn. That's it. The trick is to get the right yarn and the right needles for the project you want to create. Here are the two main things to know:

I Yarns come in different weights, textures, and colors. Although the color may be the first thing to catch your eye, the things you really have to pay attention to is the yarn weight (essentially its thickness) and its texture. These are the two key factors affecting how the knitted fabric feels.

I Needles come in different sizes, are made from different materials, and fall into two main categories: straight and circular. Although you may think the most important thing about needles is whether they're straight needle or circular, the other characteristics are more important. Needle size has a huge impact on the look and feel of the knitted piece. The material the needle is made from has a big impact on how the needle "feels" in your hand. Most knitters have a favorite needle material, and some are better than others for beginners or for different types of knit work.

In addition to yarn and knitting needles, a variety of other knitting tools are indispensable to knitters. Head to Chapter 2 for a rundown of all the knitting supplies you'll need or want.

  • In order to practice knitting, you need a ball of medium-weight yarn and a pair of size US 8 (5 mm) or 9 (5K mm) needles. You don't have to buy the best-quality yarn, but if possible, choose wool, the knitter's best friend. Wool is elastic, making it easy to get your needles in and out of the stitches.
  • Cotton doesn't "give" enough to make it a good choice for your first forays into knitting, and 100-percent acrylics can give you sweaty palms. Whatever yarn you choose, pick a light or bright color yarn, which makes it easier to see the stitches.
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