To get good at knitting means feeling comfortable while you do the stitches. As with most skills and hobbies, getting good at knitting requires that uncomfortable and steep learning experience. That mental and physical discomfort is a natural part of learning.
Aside from being comfortable while knitting (i.e. you progress quickly and continually), a reasonable skill level also requires reasonably good results. This means the stitches are roughly of the same size and the scarf or beanie you made is something you can display or be proud of. It takes some time to produce decent results but with enough regular practice, your brain and hands will get better when it comes to knitting.
How long does it take to get good at knitting
Learning how to knit requires visual, mental and tactile skills and progress. It’s a coordination of several different muscles plus your eyes (i.e. hand-eye coordination). Keep in mind that it’s a skill you’re trying to develop, not just a mental concept you’re trying to grasp. And because of the required coordination, your movements are surely to be awkward at first.
Practice is the key here to overcome the awkwardness. For example, you might need 15 to 20 hours of plain practice to get most things right and be able to produce a decent-looking scarf. The practice might far exceed the 15 to 20 hours because your skill level and pace of actual learning will depend on the quality of instruction. Some may take 40 to 80 hours of practice to get reasonably good at knitting. But if you have a good instructor or colleague who will guide you and correct your “form” and mistakes in real-time, you will progress much faster (and get things right the first time instead of establishing bad habits).
Quality instruction and practice is crucial especially at the beginning because you quickly form habits. It’s difficult to unlearn things especially when it comes to knitting where you might become comfortable with a certain posture (how you sit or stand), form, how you touch the needles, how and where to buy supplies and accessories and how you position your hands, elbows and shoulders. It’s always great to adopt healthy habits from the beginning so that you get good at knitting much faster and perhaps help you endure the knitting actions for much longer (i.e. less strain on your hands).
How can you know if you’re having quality instruction and practice? The best way is to learn from an experienced knitter (perhaps a friend, a grandma or an instructor) who can correct your movements and answer your questions instantly. This is the best way because of the value of real-time feedback (someone looking over your shoulder). Whenever you make a mistake (especially about cast on, knit stitch and bind off), your instructor can instantly tell you what’s wrong and how to fix it or prevent the mistake from happening in the first place. In this setup you also learn excellent practices that you won’t read anywhere. Those excellent practices are the result of long years of experience. Long-time knitters have those “secrets” that allow them to produce excellent work within a reasonable time and without much strain.
Best learning practices
Aside from quality instruction and practice, the pace of learning and practice is also important here. That’s because our brains and hands quickly forget especially at the beginning when learning a skill. For instance, after three or four days without practice, we’ll go back to zero because our hands and brains already forgot the movements.
To prevent that from happening, it’s crucial to knit every day, especially in the first week or month. This way the important neural connections are being formed and cemented. If we skip practice, our brain has a good habit of pruning the non-essentials. But if we keep practicing, our brains will recognise that the skill we’re learning is something important to us. The neural connections then become strong and semi-permanent.
This constant practice is also important in avoiding that starting over again feeling and discomfort. This results in frustration and a higher chance of quitting before producing something meaningful. This is particularly the case with knitting where there’s nothing decent to show for your efforts (e.g. that small scarf never gets to be completed) even though you’re practicing for several hours (but there are lots of skips in practice).
Constant and everyday practice sounds overwhelming. You can still take a break during Saturdays to attend to other things. You can also make the practice Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The goal here is to practice at least three times a week at healthy intervals. This way our brains retain and reinforce those neural connections.
However, life gets busy and exhausting because of our other commitments and responsibilities. As a result, there will be skips in practice and because time flies fast, several days have already passed before you got back on knitting. To prevent this scenario or minimise the number of skips, it helps to incorporate the practice to your daily routine. For instance, right after washing the dishes or taking a shower you immediately pick up the needles, yarns and pattern. This is similar to brushing your teeth after a meal where it happens automatically because brushing is tied up to a daily activity. It’s like when you do A, it’s a trigger or reminder that you should do B next. It’s an excellent way of establishing and reinforcing a habit because the activity is anchored to something else you do every day.
The key here is to get a few things right especially in the beginning. Get a good instructor (someone to look over your shoulder) and establish a system and routine (incorporate the practice in your daily routine such as after eating your dinner, washing the dishes or taking a shower). Also, be patient with yourself because worthwhile things truly take time. And as you’ve probably noticed already, the things we’re most proud of are the ones that took us a lot of time and effort.