You have some tools and good knitting practices under your belt, so let's talk about yarn. There are so many different yarns to pick from, but one mantra is true: quality in = quality out. I encourage everyone to look for the best yarn that suits their project and budget.
When you start, you want to work with enjoyable yarn to knit. You want a yarn that feels good in your hands, bouncy and forgiving. It should be light in color so you can learn to read your knitting and see your mistakes. Knitting with something that is a medium to bulky weight will help the project move along. Hold off on the fingering weight project until you have a handle on basic knitting techniques. Having a yarn that is easy to rip out is a good idea too. You don’t want to rip out on hairy or "splitty" yarn. (Splitty being a highly technical term.)
One should know a few other things about yarn to help increase their confidence. The Yarn Craft Council has created a basic chart that briefly describes each weight (thickness): lace, fingering, sport, DK, worsted, bulky, super bulky, and jumbo.
Image from the Craft Yarn Council
As you continue to knit, you will find your favorite weight to knit. Fingering to DK is my wheelhouse, but I also love a nice worsted. I find the slightly lighter-weight yarns more wearable to me.
Confident knitters know how to read a ball band. The amount of information on ball bands can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. It tells you the fiber content of the yarn, where it is produced, color name or number, the dye lot, the weight in grams, yardage/meter age, suggested needle size, and number of stitches in four inches. You can take that number and refer to the above chart to determine the “weight” of the yarn. Remember, the manufacturer determines this number, and you may get a slightly different stitch count, but a least you have a place to start.
Thank you, Madelinetosh, your ball bands are just what we need!
I recommend keeping your ball bands. If you need more yarn, you can bring it to the shop so we can match the color and dye lot easily. When knitting a large project like a sweater or blanket, I recommend purchasing an extra skein of yarn in the same dye lot. If your tension is a bit off, you don’t want to be playing yarn chicken at the end of the project. If the skein is not wound into a ball and unused, we will happily give you a store credit within 90 days for the extra skein.
Generally, yarns with animal fibers: wool, cashmere, merino, and mohair, are more elastic and, therefore, be a bit easier to knit. They hold heat well and are great for garments in the fall and winter (and our coastal summers). Plant-based fibers like cotton, hemp, and linen are a bit stiffer to knit. They drape well and are excellent for summer garments.
If you are knitting a fabric with many pattern elements, like cables, lace, or knit/purl patterns, you want to select a yarn with a good “stitch definition.” A smooth yarn will allow those stitches to stand proud and pop. Yarns with multiple plys also improve definition. Leave the fuzzy or novelty yarns for a simple stitch pattern, as it will not show off the hard work you are putting in on a complicated pattern.
If you are unsure if a yarn is suitable for your project, I highly recommend purchasing a skein and knitting a little swatch before you embark on a large project. Elizabeth of Blue Bee Studios calls this "dating your yarn." See if you enjoy knitting it and how your stitches look. You can always knit a hat if you don’t use it for the intended project.
Knit with yarn you enjoy. What feels good in your hands? What makes your stitches look their best? What kind of fiber do you like to wear? Try different fibers, weights, and spins to see what you enjoy wearing and working with. Don't write anything off until you give it a try; you may find a new yarn you love.
Here is my repeated last paragraph!
The key to becoming a confident knitter is... to knit! Knit a little bit each day - You do not have to have marathon knitting sessions. When you are just starting, try to sit and knit for just a few minutes each day. It is centering and calming, and it builds muscle memory.
Knit...and be happy!