Yarn newbies will find a bewildering array of knit and crochet supplies to choose from. The best way to succeed with either knitting or crochet is by starting with the proper tools and materials. But which ones are really necessary? The goal here is to make stitches easy to see and to make the tools easy to handle. Brand new fiber artists will frequently have trouble coordinating the brain and the hands to do what is needed and improper tools makes this process more difficult. Very little equipment is needed to do basic work. Knitters & crocheters both need a ball of yarn, a yarn needle and scissors. Crocheters will need one hook, and knitters will need one pair of straight needles. I’ll describe these knitting supplies for beginners in detail next.
Where to Start?
Yarn plays a big role in the effort required to knit and crochet. There are so many fun and beautiful yarns out there, but to get started you will really need a very simple and plain yarn. The best yarn choices to add to your supplies for beginners will have these characteristics:
You will be able to see your stitches better with solid colored yarns
This makes a very big difference – again, you’ll be able to see your yarn better. Pastels work the best. White and black do not work well.
Worsted or Chunky Weight
This defines how big around the yarn strands are. Bigger is better, but not too big.
You need yarn that doesn’t have bits of fluff sticking out every which way. The surface of the yarn needs to be smooth.
You want to start with an acrylic yarn. Yarns made from animal fibers, like wool, have fibers that cling to each other, making it hard to undo mistakes.
Most students regret not taking this advice: don’t buy Red Heart yarn when you’re starting out. It’s stiff, it’s scratchy, and it makes learning harder. I know that it’s the cheapest alternative for practice and the temptation is incredible, but this is a case where you get what you pay for. It’ll be great later on when you’re more comfortable with the process. So, what yarn to get? A few good options are Caron “Simply Soft”, KnitPicks.com’s “Brava” Worsted, Hobby Lobby’s “I Love This Yarn”, and Lion Brand’s “Vanna’s Choice”. I highly recommend KnitPicks.com’s Brava – only available online that I’m aware of.
Finding the Yarn Weight
A ball band is the piece of paper wrapped around the ball of yarn with identifying information on it. I took this photo of a ball band from a skein I had lying around. I won’t talk about everything on this because it’s not all important at this point. What I do want to do is explain the figures you see here and why they are important. First of all, let’s look at the yarn skein icon. The number 4 is written on its ball band. Above the skein is the word “Medium.” This particular example is a medium weight yarn – also commonly called “worsted”. The range of numbers you’ll see on this yarn skein icon are defined by the Craft Yarn Council, an organization founded to standardize yarn weight identification across manufacturers. Beginners should use a Medium weight yarn categorized as #4.
Recommended Needle/Hook Size
To the left of the skein icon are two icons with numbers around them. For now we are interested in knowing what the numbers directly above the icons mean. These are the suggested needle/hook sizes using the format “US Size (Metric Size).” The suggested sizes are just that – suggestions of which size of needle or hook works well with this particular yarn. When you don’t have something else to guide you in pairing a yarn with a needle or hook size, use this information as a starting point. Then, if you find that your fabric is too tight or too loose, go up or down a size until you get the fabric density you want. Now, let’s move on to the yarn itself.
Scissors are easy to pick out. Find those closest to hand. If you want a dedicated pair of scissors for your yarn crafting, find a small pair of sharp scissors to tuck into you bag.
Yarn Needle (aka Tapestry Needle)
A yarn needle is simply a large needle like the type used in hand sewing. It has a pointy tip and a hole (eye) for threading yarn through. This is used for the final finishing touches to a knitted piece. The one shown in the picture above has a bent tip, which I find to be more useful than a straight tip. I also find a metal needle to be more effective than a plastic one as the plastic needles usually have rough edges that snag your yarn. Yarn needles are often referred to as tapestry needles. While a crochet hook can be used to weave in ends, I always recommend adding a tapestry needle when suggesting supplies for beginners as I find it is easier to use.
Knitters need a pair of straight needles. Straight needles are made in different lengths, different diameters, and different materials. You want to use needles that are around 9-10″ long – they are more manageable for smaller projects. You want to use a larger diameter needle than called for on the yarn label. I would recommend going up 2 sizes from the size called for on your yarn label for worsted weight yarn. Most needles that you find are metal or bamboo. Others are others made of plastic, acrylic, and other types of woods. When choosing needles, I stick with my rule of thumb: wood is easier on my hands than metal.
I’ll mention at this point that I am not affiliated with KnitPicks in anyway, but I am a fan. I’ve already mentioned their yarn (love most of their yarns), so now I’ll mention that I won’t buy anything other than their needles now. They have a longer, pointier tip than most needles I’ve run across, they are made of wood, and they have a nice finish on them that keeps the yarn moving, but isn’t too slippery. Their customer service has been exceptional so far. There may be other needles that are equal or better in quality by now, but I’ve stopped looking 🙂
That said, let’s move on to crochet hooks. Crochet hooks come in plastic, acrylic, wood, and metal. Ergonomic handles are available on some. The metal variety is usually easiest to find. Again, I always choose wood over metal when possible. Crochet hooks are also sized by diameter. Using a worsted weight yarn, I recommend choosing a hook two sizes larger than what is indicated on the label.
Stitch markers help you keep track of your position in a pattern and are optional supplies for beginners. They are sometimes used to mark the place where increases or decreases should be inserted. Sometimes they are used to mark the beginning or ending of a sequence of stitches (a repeat). They are also handy for marking certain rows in your work for various reasons – usually as a helper to track the number of rows past the marker that have been worked. Essentially, they are landmarks to help you keep track of what you are working on. Most beginning fiber artists won’t need stitch markers, unless they’re the type to jump in the deep end without getting their feet wet first.
Finally and most importantly, bring patience to your knitting/crocheting session along with your other supplies for beginners. Be patient with yourself. It takes time for your brain and fingers to start working in sync. You are developing new pathways in your brain and it takes a while for those paths to be forged. Everyone learns differently, and everyone learns at different paces. I’ve frequently found that those who are slower to get comfortable with the process are those who are really learning the process, not just mimicking my example. It will take practice and you will learn how to proceed with patience if you keep at it. Baby steps.
I hope this list of knitting and crochet supplies for beginners gives you some relief as you tackle your new fiber arts craft. Working with yarn can be very soothing and I hope I’ve managed to take some of the stress out of the learning curve for you and that you reach your happy spot with needles/hook in hand as swiftly as possible.