So you want to learn to knit, eh? Story time!
Once upon a time, I went to Young Women's Mutual night, and the Young Women's presidency brought needles and yarn for everybody. Sister Dupras taugt us to cast-on, knit and gave us each a pattern. I learned this, but lost the pattern by the time I got to the decreasing, so I made something up (which worked well). I then bought a book and taught myself to knit. I was making garter stitch scarves and such until I taught myself purl and other techniques. I've continued teaching myself through trial and error and by the use of this site.
Well, I understand that not everyone can teach themselves out of books. That's my preferred learning method, but not everybody's.
My suggestions on learning to knit (the first suggestions are learning from other knitters, the last are learning from books):
- Get your Relief Society to do a knitting group. You'll get knitters of many levels and can learn from all of them.
- Take a class (our local yarn shop does classes, I forget the cost, though).
- Find someone who knits and ask them to teach you. There are only two stitches in knitting + and casting on and off; it's not too much to teach. Of course there are variations on stiches (slip stitches, etc), but those are pretty self-explanatory once you learn the others.
- Buy a kit. Many crafting stores have "teach yourself to knit" kits which come with the needles and yarn and instructions for a project (usually a garter stitch scarf).
- Library books. Do simple patterns first. I know you want to do cool stuff, but believe me, you don't want to ruin the cool stuff because you don't know the techniques yet.
- Websites. knittinghelp.com is really good and fairly comprehensive (plus it has videos, which are important!).
As for needle sizes. My first needles were US size 7 for the washcloth, which was from Peaches n Creme yarn (which is 100% cotton). Acrylic or wool yarn is pretty good to start of on. Most craft stores (Michaels, JoAnn's, Hobby Lobby, &c) have plenty to acrylic to choose from, and yarn stores will have more selection in the wool and other animal fibers arena. If you were to do a scarf as a first project (which is excellent because it's fast and fairly simple), I'd choose a needle that is fairly "big"- around 10 or larger. Note: if your needles are VERY large, 16 or so, you're going to have to use a bulky-weight yarn. The bulkier the yarn and larger the needles, the faster the knitting goes, so you'll receive more "instant-gratification."
Yarn comes in various sizes. I'll start at the "biggest"
Super-bulky weight. Like it's name says, it's thick and bulky (super-ly)
Bulky weight. Bulky.
Worsted. This is the size that you think of when you think of yarn. It's the size you'd buy for your kid's school project on spiderwebs.
DK worsted: If you knit with 2 strands of yarn, it's be "about" worsted weight.
Baby/Sport: smaller, sometimes used for baby items: blankets, clothing, etc.
Sock: about the size for knitting socks. Although, this is preference. I'm knitting socks for McKay using DK.
And also, these sizes are ROUGH estimates. Yarn comes in these sizes and all in between. If I were to do a simple garter-stitch scarf as a learning pattern, I'd use of the bulkier varieties of yarn (they are also easier to work with because they are bigger). I'd also pick a color-changing yarn so you can see the stitches more clearly. If you were to do a dish cloth (like I did), use worsted. I would not suggest starting off with something smaller than that as a first project.
Also, for scarves, gauge is not that important, which is a perk. You'll have to learn to test your gauge to determine sizes of needles later.
So for a garter stitch scarf pattern:
Using size 10ish needles, bulky or worsted weight yarn.
Cast on 30 stitches. Knit all stitches until desired length. Bind off.
If you buy skeins of about 300 yards, you'll get one or (maybe) two scarves from one skein. Also, if you are buying smaller skeins, buy 2 and make sure the dye lot number is the same, otherwise the colors will not exactly match.
I have two really long scarves. They are knit with both purl and knit stitches and are about 12 feet long (originally 8 feet)
Using size 14-16 needles, bulky/super bulky weight yarn.
Cast on 11 stitches. Knit 1, purl 1 to end. Do this every row until about 8 feet long I love these scarves.
I know a few knitters who, once they are experienced, can't stand doing scarves anymore, but I like them because they give you a break between long projects. It's nice to get something done really quickly.