It’s holiday gifting season! We’re here to tell you how to make a unique and fun gift for one of the crafty people on your list without breaking the bank.
There are lots of places out there that will sell you a learn-to-knit kit if you want to spend $60-80. We’re not going to do that. Instead, we’re going to tell you how to assemble your own for much less. You’ll need a few main components: yarn, needles, instructions, tools, and a case, all of which can be had pretty cheap and put together in a few minutes. As an added bonus, you can customize for the person’s individual tastes and needs.
There are a lot of places where you can get relatively inexpensive yarn. A newbie is probably going to be making a scarf to start out, so you can get by with just two or three skeins (though you may want to check with whatever pattern you include) of a worsted, aran, or bulky weight. You can also bypass the high-end cashmeres and choose a wool or blend since this first project will likely not be something that gets worn a lot. Here are a few options:
Wool of the Andes is a worsted weight, 100% wool yarn from KnitPicks that runs from $1.34 to $2.49 for a 50 gram ball, depending on color and what’s on sale. Each ball is only 110 yards, so you may want to grab three or four of them, especially since they’re so cheap.
Vanna’s Choice from Lion Brand is an acrylic/rayon blend heavy worsted yarn. At full price, it will run you $4.39 for a skein, which contains 140 yards. This would be a good choice for anyone who is vegan or has a wool allergy, plus there are close to 70 different colors to choose from. Two or three would be enough for a beginner’s scarf.
Another choice from KnitPicks is Brava, which is an acrylic, bulky-weight yarn. This runs $2.99 per skein, which contains 136 yards. If you opt for this or another bulky yarn, you’ll need to buy slightly bigger needles. For a scarf, you could probably get away with two of these, but three would be safer.
If you want to go for a more luxe choice, Valley Yarns Berkshire Bulky is a 50/50 wool/alpaca blend bulky yarn. The luxury feel of alpaca costs a bit more, so this is $5.99 per skein. At 108 yards apiece, you’d probably want to get three to be sure there’s enough.
Don’t buy: Red Heart Super Saver, unless you don’t really like the person you’re giving this to.
Yarn notes: Acrylic is machine washable, which is great if you want to knit for pets, babies, or messy people. Wool will felt if thrown in the washer and dryer, so make sure to hand wash anything made from it. When you’re starting out, acrylics are a fine choice, though with more experience, your favorite knitter may become a bit of a yarn snob.
There are three main types of needles: wood, metal, and plastic. None of these are inherently better than the others; it’s really a personal preference. Personally, I’m a fan of KnitPicks wood needles. They’re lightweight, have a nice sharp tip, and are coated smooth so yarns don’t get caught up in the wood. Other knitters I know live and die by Addi Turbo circular needles. Like I said, it’s personal. The needle size will depend on the yarn you buy. Each ball or skein should say on the label what the ideal size is, but in general, for a worsted weight, you’ll probably want to go with US size 8 (5 mm), and for bulky you’ll probably want to get a US size 10 (6 mm).
KnitPicks just introduced these Caspian wood needles. They appear to be the same as my favorite Harmony wood needles, simply in another color scheme. These are available in two lengths, 10-inch and 14-inch. I’d recommend getting the 10-inch for a scarf. The longer ones can feel a bit awkward if you aren’t used to them. These cost $6.99 for size 8 and $7.99 for size 10.
Needle notes: more advanced knitters sometimes use circular needles, even for back-and-forth projects. Don’t worry about this now. Just get a pair of straights for now, and if the person decides to keep up with the hobby, they’ll get to that skill later.
Instructions and Patterns
The National Needlearts Association’s “How to Knit” guide is a great and inexpensive learning tool. Depending on the retailer, it will cost you from $3.50 to $7, and it has clear, easy-to-understand instructions with images.
As for a pattern, your best bet would be to head over to Ravelry and grab some PDFs (you may have to join to download anything, but it’s free). I recommend the One-Row Handspun Scarf, the Wainscott Ribbed Scarf, the Denver Scarf, or the Check? Check! Scarf. Print it out and put it in a plastic sleeve to include in the kit. Once you decide on a pattern, you can use it to figure out how much yarn to get, too.
To start out, your knitter won’t need too many gadgets (those come later). But a few things can help them on their way.
A tapestry or yarn needle is a necessity for weaving in ends when they finish their first project. This will only set you back about a dollar, though. A pair of foldable scissors are helpful, and will run you about $4-5, and a $3 tape measure is a nice thing to have. You can feasibly pass on those last two if you’re strapped for cash, but they’re really handy if it’s possible to get them.
The last thing you’ll need is something to store the kit in. You can be as fancy or cheap as you want here. Repurpose a box you already have, if you want to. Paper Mache craft boxes can also work great, and you can spend anywhere from $1-10 on them. I’m particularly fond of the satchel style:
Once you gather the materials, it’s time to assemble the kit. If you’re planning on decorating the outside of the box, do so before this step to make sure any glue or paint is completely dry — we don’t want to ruin the yarn. Arrange everything inside so it’s neatly displayed, and close it all up. Voila! A customized, personal, learn-to-knit kit that likely cost you far less than the pre-made versions out there.