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Norah’s Knits: Knitting Patterns for Beginners

A friend of mine recently asked me to teach her how to knit. This got me thinking about when I was a beginner knitter. What seemed difficult? Which techniques were confusing?  The thing I remember the most clearly is that I could overcome almost any obstacle if I was knitting a piece I really wanted to wear. That’s why I don’t really recommend knitting gifts until you’ve gotten a few projects under your belt. Maybe I am particularly selfish (I hope not), but my best motivator was always looking forward to wearing my new sweater. I trolled through the Berroco pattern library, filtered for “knitting” and “easy,” to come up with a few suggestions for my friend’s first project.


The super fashionable shape of Espenson is also super easy to knit.  Knit  in one piece and mostly stockinette stitch, the minimal finishing and fun self striping yarn make it great as a first project.


Oriona is the perfect sweater for someone who wants something a little bit different. Stockinette stitch keeps it easy and the shaping is pretty simple. I like that there is no ribbing or added finishing.


Garter stitch is the ultimate in easy since you knit every row and don’t have to purl at all!  On top of that I happen to be crazy about the way it looks. Avocet -B is made entirely in garter stitch. There are some seams to sew in the end, but no added finishing. Knitting a garment in pieeces has the advantage of less to rip out when you find that your gauge wasn’t quite on or you goofed 5 rows down.

What did you knit as your first project?  Do you think I am crazy to recommend full sweaters to beginners?

26 thoughts on “Norah’s Knits: Knitting Patterns for Beginners

  1. Having never made a sweater I am glad you did this post. However, half the problem for beginners is the way patterns are written! It is scary to read the abbreviations and figure it out.

  2. My first project was socks…..your not crazy….I wish I had been brave enough to have thought I could have made a sweater.

  3. My very first project I knitted when I was a child was a pullover.
    The first one when I re-started to knit was a beret. In 4 months, I have knitted, 5 other heats, 3 scarfs, 2 snoods, 1 poncho, 1 shawl, 2 pairs of mittens and… that’s all I think.

  4. I’m not a new knitter but I have yet to do an actual garment but have been really wanting to try it. You’ve given me the inspiration to give it a go!

  5. My first project was a sweater!! I started it when I was taking a learn to knit class and you could choose a project to work on. I enjoyed it and had a lot of help when needed. I say jump right in if you want to!

  6. Norah, when I got out of college, I worked for 1 year then got fed up with that. So, I convinced my mother to move her yarn store from little Paxton to the big city, Worcester. She said “but you don’t know how to knit!” I said “I don’t need to know”. Which was fine until she wanted to go on vacation. I found a pattern in a pingouin book that was that yo then drop the yarn over on the next row stitch, asked customers to cast on for me when they came in and made a sweater. I also sold it. It remains to this day the only sweater I ever sold.

  7. My first project was a garter stitch cushion that I made for my father who was in a wheelchair due to MS….I used a square foam for the inside because I didn’t know about cushion forms….he love it and used it all the time til he died in 1991….thanks to my grandmother for teaching me how to knit…..have a great knitting day…

  8. I learned how to knit at a young age (12), so my first project was a poncho! (I’m a ’70’s babe) Boy did I wear that thing to death!

  9. I knit my beginner scarf and then threw myself into not only my first sweater but mittens,socks,hats,etc! I think it is fine to teach your new knitter to knit A sweater! Sometimes I miss my younger,fearless knitter!

  10. I actually started out making afgans. Then started making baby sweaters, Barbie clothes and after made myself a sweater from a pattern I found in McCalls Needlecrafts. Here I am 40 yrs later and still at it. Now everyone gets a new hat for Christmas, slouchy ones this year. Not anything I wont’ tackle. Because if it doesn’t look right I just take it apart and start over. LOL

  11. My first project was a garter stitch scarf, then a simple stocking stitch hat. I have been knitting for a few years and have progressed to lace shawls, but still haven’t made an actual garment to wear. I’ve got a simple vest knitted up in pieces but haven’t blocked and sewed it together. I keep telling myself there’s no point until I can wear it next winter, but I think really I’m scared it won’t fit!

  12. I began learning to knit using instructions in a Columbia-Minerva book, a pair of US8 needles and some light wool worsted weight yarn I purchased at Sears when I was a college student. Having absolutely no knitters in my family or friends, I had to be a “read and do” person. My first project was a simple scarf from that book which used all of my yarn (no gauge swatch). It turned out to be about 15″ wide and about 30″ long — not much of a scarf. For several years after I was married, I made several hats, mittens, and house slippers, but nothing else. Then, I made a pullover vest for my sister which turned out well. For me the main puzzlement to making that vest was figuring out what to do with the upper part of the body once the shoulders were split during the neckline/shoulder shaping. I did manage to finish the garment. Next, I tackled top-down raglan sweaters and found them fun and easy to knit. I have gradually added to my repertoire over the last 40 years or more. With every garment I make, I learn something I didn’t know before. So, go for it!

  13. Wow! I Rembert reading this post when it was originally posted. This was my introduction to Berroco yarns & the lovely patterns of Norah Gaughan. On days when my brain won’t behave, I can get one of Norah’s patterns & knit away the stress. I truly love the ease of reading and understanding her beautiful creations. She is my Knitting Angel!

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