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Teaching an adult beginner... Pattern and yarn advice please!

My partner has asked me to teach him to knit, and I’m working on choosing some beginning patterns for him. He would like to make the Wine Country pattern seen here for his sister:

However, I think that may be best as a second or third project. He’d also like to learn socks, which I think would make a great third or fourth project!

At the moment, we’re undecided on his first project. I’d like it to be fairly simple so that he can focus on foundational skills, perhaps using only knit stitches and avoiding lace for now, but at the same time I want it to be exciting and engaging for him. Should he just make a simple dishcloth with a nice selvedge perhaps? Any thoughts?

One hurdle I’ve been facing as well is that he is vegan and would thus prefer to avoid animal fibers: no wool, no alpaca, no silk, etc. As someone who prefers all natural fibers I find this a bit limiting, so I’m trying to broaden my horizons. For him I think it would be nice to find a good selection of various plant based and synthetic fibers in a range of weights that would be suitable for a variety of projects.

So my main questions are:

  1. What are your recommended beginner patterns that showcase foundational skills as well as introducing one or two more advanced techniques?
  2. What are your favorite yarns made with plant based and synthetic fibers?

Honestly, why not teach him to knit on a swatch (and teach why swatches are great!) for a pattern he wants to knit?

Personally, I got super bored by the basic projects suggested to me to learn, and never finished them. The first project I actually finished was the Forest Park cowl, because the cables interested me enough to complete it. Second finished project was DK-weight socks. Third was, finally, a scarf (but the yarn was a Freia laceweight so at least the colors entertained me!)

For yarn, if you want drapey fabric, there are a lot of rayon from bamboo yarns. I like Theodora’s Pearls Auxanometer— feels like silk and comes in lovely colors. For Christmas I used Knit Picks Snuggle Puff (a cotton/nylon) and was astonished at how soft and lovely it was to knit with. It’s aimed toward babies so the color palette is almost entirely pastel, alas.


My go-to suggestion for new knitters is The Simple Collection by Tin Can Knits. It is free and includes a sock pattern.

I’ve also seen beginners be successful with complex first projects if it is something that they really want to make.


Another idea is anything you felt after knitting - I hides a multitude of errors. And I think working with wool yarn is much more pleasant than acrylic and easier than cotton.

I recommend this pattern: - you knit a T, and then fold them up into a slipper shape.

And larger squares can be felted into coasters. Just make sure he uses 100% wool yarn.


Any potential need for a blanket? Barbara Walker’s learn to knit Afghan book teaches a ton of stitches and concepts. I was a much more confident knitter when I finished it. Even if a stitch pattern is something you don’t love, it is a small square and you learn as you go. Otherwise maybe a simple vest? Pick whatever yarn he likes and use Ann Budd’s handy guide books?


I second the recommendation that jrs has made. I also find that when a new knitter is too reliant on me (any instructor) they are less successful - they get too focused on replicating the teacher’s way of doing something to get comfortable finding their own methods and style. It’s important to connect them to MDK, Ravelry, Tin Can Knits, for video, blog, tutorials, patterns, etc. so they learn that there are many ways to approach their new passion (addiction!), many resources, many people to support and teach. My experience has been that the ones who become independent early are happiest and most successful.

Yarn for a beginner? Not too dark or too fuzzy so he can see the stitches as he learns.

Great compliment to you that your partner wants to learn, too!


I am an adult beginner myself (I taught myself to knit last summer with YouTube videos). My first 2 projects after some practice swatches were both from free Purl Soho patterns: the 2-Color Homestretch Hat and the Double Seed Stitch Scarf (modified with a slipped selvedge) – which I have been wearing regularly since November! I then moved on to fingerless mitts, mittens, some different hats, and a shawl (“Swedish Lines”). I consider these projects, individually simple, have given me a sufficient foundational range of techniques and fibers to start attempting some more challenging items. Next up may be a Fair Isle hat or a simple pullover… socks will follow!


When I was a beginner, I made a lot of scarves. I used all kinds of yarns and gave them away with wild abandon. Then I got bored with scarves and bought the book Knitting for Dummies. Made all kinds of patterns from it and branched out to learn new skills. Each project was chosen to learn a particular skill. I think I was motivated more by the thrill of mastering a skill, so I second the idea of picking something you really yearn to make then break it down to learn each skill. You Tube has a video of anything!


I think these are great suggestions!

Congratulations on passing along the knitting tradition! I’ve taught many adult beginners and we must never underestimate them. I also taught myself, learned to cast on, knit, Purl, cast off and made a sleeveless top as my first project. The second project was a pair of argyle socks and then a Kaffe Fassett cardigan. After teaching the basics to another newbie, a week later she asked to learn cables. Another week passed and she asked about increases and decreases. By month-end she knitted a hooded onesie - complete with buttonholes and cute bunny ears - for a new baby. Was she a beginner? In terms of knitting time, yes. But she was already working on things some people after a few years wouldn’t do.

Back to your questions.

Looking at the pattern, it’s nothing more than basic stitches and yarnovers creating a simple lace. There is no shaping and it’s much more interesting than a scarf. Once complete, a nice set of skills will be under his belt and he’ll know whether or not he wants to advance to other projects. My concern is choice of fiber. Non-wool means something plant-based. As the pattern is designed for an alpaca blend, to get the same look and behavior may be a challenge. Juniper Moon makes a cotton-linen blend that’s also washable with nice range of colors called “Zooey”. Also remember non-wool yarns are more easily controlled with non-metal needles. I can recommend Tulip, Crystal Palace and Clover.

As others have suggested, working a nice large swatch is essential. Resist the urge to create a 4x4 inch one. Make it large, at least 6-8 inches. Recommended online videos include Staci Perry at Very Pink. She’s also a knitting teacher and her videos are really good. I would avoid general YouTube as too many people who post use their own terminology or pass along incorrect information (or bad knitting habits!) which will only add frustration and confusion. I also highly recommend Brooklyn Tweed’s resources section

Good luck!


Stephanie Pearl-McPhee aka The Yarn Harlot likes hats as first projects. Cascade’s Encore is a good acrylic-wool (75% acrylic, 25% wool) blend. Explain the sheep are thrilled to give us their fleece because otherwise they’re too hot as the fleece keeps growing which makes wool a renewable resource. Cotton is a terrible yarn to give a beginner. No flexibility or give. Project Linus Squares are good beginner projects as long as the yarn is machine washable. Check the Project Linus website for your area’s coordinator. They can give you more info.

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I love the ideas and advice in this thread about patterns and teaching a new knitter— it gives me ideas for how to approach teaching interested friends and family.

However, it bums me out a bit that of the replies offering yarn recommendations, half are for wool yarns when OracleofSelphi said her friend is vegan and wants only plant-based or synthetic fibers.

I get that the majority of knitters are fans of natural fibers like wool and silk. But I think we should respect that OracleofSelphi isn’t asking for advice on how to convince her vegan friend to use wool yarn, and instead focus on answering what she did ask— more of the excellent pattern recommendations, and yarn recs if they are plant and/or synthetic.


@MeganC: I am SO GRATEFUL for your contribution and respect for my original request.

  1. The suggestion of a gauge swatch is such a good one!! He definitely would be encouraged by the knowledge that he’s working directly on something he’d actually want to make and use, rather than just a random rectangle scarf (etc) he might never wear.

  2. I’m so impressed that you started with cables, it took me years to work up the courage to try them, and then I dove in head-first, filling a sampler baby blanket with all kinds of little cable patterns.

  3. I’ll definitely look for bamboo rayon! I’ve enjoyed using it for socks before and I think he’d find the springy drape really fun!


@jrs: I don’t think I’d ever seen this collection before, but I love it! There’s a cowl on there that’s caught my eye, he’s expressed interest in making one and it looks like a quick and cozy project!

Just make sure he uses 100% wool yarn.

@VieRadek: thank you for the suggestion, however, it doesn’t quite fit the bill in this situation, as mentioned in the OP. I will be keeping the pattern around for myself or another friend, though, as I enjoy working with wool.

@sabograd: a blanket is a great idea! One of my favorite projects I ever made was a sampler blanket as a baby gift; it was so well received, and like you, I was far more confident after completing it. But oooooh a vest! I should definitely tempt him with a sweater vest pattern. Maybe a fun kaffe exploration is in order :grinning:

@JennR: Such a good point! Maybe we’ll have an afternoon of exploring some of the patterns I have, get him set up on ravelry to look around, and recommend some of the blogs and youtube channels I know of.
I was so honored when he asked me to teach him!!

@Benbenberi: I hope you share your future knitting adventures! Socks are one of my favorite projects, and I’m planning a project to teach myself Fair Isle soon!

@LisaSimpson: I love the idea of learning based on (1) what you want to wear/use AND (2) what you want to learn. Such a good foundation for knowing you can learn anything you need to in order to make future projects that might feel out of reach.

@ZoeOB: You’re absolutely right! I should be encouraging him to see any pattern within his reach with just a little determination. Thank you for the Juniper Moon Zooey recommendation! I’ll be looking it up, shortly! I’m wondering if maybe a bamboo rayon would give a nice swingy drape to the pattern. Perhaps I’ll be exploring synthetics to get some of the fuzzy halo worked into the original, as well. I love a nice big swatch, I’ll pass along that advice, and the reference links! You’ve got a wealth of good suggestions!!

@riker.lynn: For some background that I didn’t think was necessary initially, I’d like to add that I personally do use animal-based fibers in my craft, and my partner respects my choice to do so. I see no reason to disrespect his own opinion and consumption choices, either. We have made space in our relationship with each other, and with others as well, to disagree without arguing, and to respect each other without inherently agreeing. My request for you is to respect that space we cultivate. Like I said, you don’t have to agree with us, but you don’t have to try to change his mind, either. You can consider joining this creative brainstorming session to make our craft more welcoming to those avoiding animal products - but please don’t ask us to think inside the box.


A General Update!
After exploring some possibilities together, he signed off on my purchasing this kit for him for Christmas:

Learn to Knit Club: The Dishcloth Kit - Blues

Some of the considerations that went into this choice:

  • 100% Cotton yarn, in a few different lighter colors (good stitch definition, making it easier to count and learn the anatomy of stitches)
  • Cost! This kit is fairly affordable and is a small step towards building a knitting stash/toolkit for him. (N.B. it is cheaper to buy the components separately, but I didn’t quite realize that until after I had submitted my order, oops!)
  • A dishcloth is a magical thing… It’s basically just a big, useful, gauge swatch! He’s currently making his first dishcloth as written in the pattern to learn the basics of reading a pattern, the knit stitch, garter stitch, casting on, and binding off. When he’s finished with that first one, I’ll show him how to measure gauge, and demonstrate the importance of gauge swatches. After that, we’ll start making changes to demonstrate that it’s possible to alter a pattern to suit your own use. We’ll likely try stockinette and seed stitch for two (and then measure to see how different stitch patterns alter gauge and other characteristics about the fabric), and then we’re leaving the last three for the possibility of new ideas to sample!

He isn’t the most confident knitter yet and frequently looks over my shoulder to check that he’s doing things “right,” so my next goal is to empower him to trust himself. I’m hoping he’ll find the courage to make some “mistakes” so I can show him how I’ve made “mistakes” in the past, and that many can be fixed, most won’t be noticed, and the rest just add character (and a learning experience).

Keep sending in your suggestions, I truly appreciate each and every one! I’ll keep y’all updated on his progress, and maybe hook him into making an account to join the fun we have here in the forum :grin:


What a great update. Thank you.

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Agreed on a wonderful update— I hope you both have fun with knitting dishcloths and building his confidence up! And we’ll look forward to welcoming him if you can convince him to join MDK.

And then I’ll convince him to try cables :wink:


Please stop being preachy. I made a suggestion because the plant based yarns I’ve had experience with weren’t suitable for brand new beginner knitters and that’s the only reason!

I had been feeling discouraged about helping someone I love share something that I love. Craft is one of the purest positive forces in my life, and it means a great deal to me that he wants to participate in that. I want him to feel welcomed and at home in that space the way that I do. But when I looked at my beloved space through the lens of his needs, it didn’t feel warm and plentiful anymore, it felt barren and unaccommodating. Searching for something that felt “perfect” for him felt like I was looking for something that didn’t exist while racing against the clock of my anxieties.

When I first decided to join the forum, I was in the midst of that search, and I immediately submitted this topic request before I had gained the ability to post a topic on my own because I was excited to request wisdom from a space that I had interpreted as welcoming, knowledgeable, and respectful of differences - an impression I had gained from reading MDK for several years.

By the time this topic was posted, weeks had passed and he and I had already started on the kit I mentioned above. He was making progress and was happy with the choice we made together. Still, I was looking forward to getting responses that might help me expand the parameters of my thinking with suggestions I hadn’t considered.

Tl;dr: I read the replies to my topic in the context of hopefulness shining through the dark clouds of negativity I’d been wading through for weeks. The overwhelming consensus I’d found is that my partner is wrong, animal fibers are the best way to go, and I should tell him so in no uncertain tone. I felt that your original reply was one small straw on that pile of discouragement I had accumulated. I assumed that the majority of knitters here would hold your sentiment, but I was naive to think no one would express that despite my request.

I am truly sorry my response was preachy. My intention was merely to ask for respect on my partner’s behalf. Thankfully, he isn’t facing any problems with the cotton at the moment; I’d have to go back to the drawing board if he was.

I hope your 2020 is filled with blessings and light.


Keeping in mind the adage that if you cannot say something nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all…

This is, once again, a very thoughtful and mature response to something that would irritate me a lot more visibly. OracleofSelphi, I admire your grace.