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Build skills confidently

What makes knitting “hard?”

As an experienced knitter, I rarely consider any single technique difficult unless it’s physically tough for my hands. Hello, knitting a provisional picot cast-on together with my live stitches on a small garment in the round with a tight gauge! Everything else is just one stitch at a time, row-by-row... right?

Lilac pink linen knit washcloth with lace border, knitting needles, crystals and wax flowers
Washcloths: a fun way to demo new skills (pattern: Jacqui Cieslak).

Complexity can make a project feel difficult

I recently followed a sock pattern that had me track cable pattern A over an odd number of repeating rows, cable pattern B over an even number of repeating rows, and work decreases for the gusset - all at the same time.

No one part of that pattern was technically demanding, but I can’t say I enjoyed the project (or ahem, even finished the first sock). The more complexity in your project, the more challenging it will seem… and the more likely it is to get shoved in a box for a year.

Strategy: tackle new skills that don’t overlap

Pattern writers will declare with confidence ‘intermediate!’ ‘beginner!’ (although I’ve noticed, I assume in an attempt not to intimidate knitters, rarely are patterns labeled ‘expert’). Skip this declaration and go right to the techniques and construction sections. What’s new for you, and when in the project will you be using new skills?

If you’ve never knit cables before, and you’ve never made a sweater before, you might be overwhelmed if you jump right into working a cabled sweater with complicated concurrent shaping worked in the round.

But if you start with a seamed, drop-sleeve, cabled sweater knit straight from the hem to the shoulder, you’ll have an uncomplicated expanse to practice your cables. When you move to the sleeves, shaping will be the only new technique. Then, sweater construction all happens at the end, so grappling with that can be your sole focus. Ta-da: your first sweater was your first cable project!