Meet Aneeta Patel, the professional knitting teacher...
Specialising in newbie knitters, professional knitter Aneeta Patel shares her top tips for those starting out... By Olivia Gordon
The best absolute beginners' knitting book around, Knitty Gritty, made its author Aneeta Patel a craft legend. And now her new book Knitty Gritty - The Next Steps (Bloomsbury, £16.99) is out, explaining how to move on to try out some more knitting techniques once you've mastered the basics. We took the opportunity to ask 37-year-old Aneeta, who lives with her boyfriend in East London, for her top tips for newbie knitters.
Tell us about your career path - what led you to want to help people new to knitting?
I started teaching knitting as a volunteer for a local mental health charity in 2003. That was when knitting was really taking off and I was quickly approached to teach in other locations. It was mostly luck! I now teach lots of knitting classes - which are very popular at this time of year - and I'm currently also busy trying to catch up with my knitting blog www.knittingsos.co.uk [you can find out what classes Aneeta is teaching on her blog]. My students inspire me more than anything. I knit for work and pleasure so it’s easy to get jaded, but when I help a complete beginner on their first steps in knitting and they really get the bug, it’s as if I’m discovering the joy of knitting all over again.
What is your number one tip for a beginner knitter?
Rule Number One! Count your stitches at the end of every row. My students will laugh to read this as I must say it a dozen times in every class, but it really is very important for a beginner.
What are the main mistakes made by beginner knitters?
Not counting their stitches and taking on more than they can chew. No learning experience is fun if you try and run before you walk, but you can achieve anything if you learn in bite-sized portions and approach every project at the right time. I know too many knitters who have been put off by starting projects that are too difficult for their skill level. Start slow and you’ll progress faster.
What are the ideal projects for a new knitter?
'Anything you will finish! It doesn’t have to be perfect, but never underestimate the confidence you’ll get from finishing something. I suggest a big chunky scarf to get you started, baby booties, then on to a hat...small projects you can really take pride in and learn lots at the same time. Much more satisfying than learning by simply knitting practice squares.'
What other top tips would you give a new knitter?
'As well as my books, of course, get some help from a knitting group or class. It’s always fun and inspiring to craft with others.'
What's the next step after learning to knit a simple scarf?
'Once you have a basic grounding and a few projects under your belt, try working on some more advanced stitch patterns such as cables - which are easier than they look - and slightly bigger projects such as a child’s garment – see the free download on my website for a kids’ jumper knitting pattern. But do keep getting help as each project will have questions you need answering and that’s the best way to continue learning new skills. Knitty Gritty – The Next Steps is full of workshops and projects that are perfect for an advanced beginner or intermediate knitter and all the projects have been tried and tested by my knitters and students to make sure of this.'
What sort of yarn do you like best?
'Please don’t laugh, but I’m allergic to wool! This came about through over-exposure as I was writing my second book (and I have an annoying tendency towards allergies anyway). I do still work with wool, but very natural spun yarns will make me sneeze and my eyes stream. So I tend to stick to more processed fibres that don’t shed, and cotton mixes. These days you can get acrylic/natural fibre-mixed yarns that are really soft and good quality that wear better than some pure wools, so I’m lucky to have lots of choice.'
What are your favourite knitting shops, and/or sources of yarn, trimmings, buttons and so on?
'There are too many great knitting shops and websites to choose from. I’ve just come back from the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace - it had every yarn possible on offer. As I’m doing more and more dressmaking and quilting these days I love searching for fabrics and am a big fan of online fabric shops Frumble and Spoonflower. There’s really so much to buy and make, and so little time!'
What was your own experience of learning to knit and falling in love with the craft?
'I learnt to knit when I was about five and knitted on and off throughout my life, but without progressing very far with my skills. It was in 2002 with Rachael Matthews’ Cast Off knitting group that I really picked up my needles again, and knitting with others was a big help in getting me back into the craft. Rediscovering knitting as an adult came at a difficult time in my life and the creativity and joy of knitting and teaching put me back on track when I was feeling a bit lost. Any craft can be a powerful force and therapy in a way. I know this first-hand and hope I can help others that might benefit from adding productive creativity to their lives.'
What sort of knitting do you personally enjoy doing best?
'As I knit for my work, in my spare time I love knitting I don’t really have to think about. I’d be perfectly happy knitting nothing but scarves in simple stitch combinations. My current favourite stitch is a cable twist that doesn’t need a cable needle. So simple yet so pretty. You’ll find the how-to instructions for this in the Stitch Library of my new book.'
What craft projects are you making at the moment?
'I’m taking a beginner's dressmaking class as I want to improve my sewing skills. It’s very strange being on the other side of a classroom - a learning experience in more ways than one. As for knitting projects, I always have a pair of baby booties on the go. The simple booties pattern from my first book (available as a free download from my website) is one I can knit from memory and a great project for when I want to knit for relaxation. On a more experimental note I have a couple of balls of vintage Patons Bitz of Glitz yarn that I’m trying to find more of. It’s not available for love nor money and I’m really keen to knit an evening cardigan if I can find some more of it anywhere!'
What do you like to do with your time apart from knitting?
'I’m a big reader and get through a couple of books each week. And while I’m crafting I love to watch the telly. An old film and some knitting or sewing is my perfect way to spend a quiet afternoon.'
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