How to Knit
In principle, knitting is very simple. You take two sticks and you wind some string around them, repeat the process many times over, and you have a scarf or a jersey or a hat, or perhaps something as mundane as a pot holder.
In practice, it needs practice – a lot of practice. It is possible that your first hundred thousand stitches will be a struggle. Then one day, you will pick up the needles and continue knitting without actually having to think about what you are doing. In other words, you will have acquired the habit. (To put things in perspective, an adult cardigan or pullover can be as much as 50,000 stitches.)
Learning to knit is a bit like learning a new language: it is a big commitment and requires a lot of time. Also you never stop learning. There is no point at which you can say, OK now I know it all. It is a skill, and skills can always be improved.
If you want to learn to knit, the first thing you need to do is find a teacher. This is not something you can learn from a book or a video. You absolutely must have a hands-on teacher. And hands-on means someone standing behind you and literally holding your hands to guide you through the first steps. There are two knitting styles, the English and the German, although they may go by several different names. In the English style, the wool or other yarn, is held in, and manipulated by, the right hand. The German style is very similar to crochet in that the wool is held in the left hand and the right hand operates the active needle. There is minimal motion of needles or yarn and this style is very fast, but perhaps not quite as versatile as the English style. You will, of course, learn the style that your teacher uses.
Some people advocate beginning with large needles and thick wool. Others find that fine needles and fine wool are easier to manipulate. It is certainly easier to achieve an even tension with smaller needles as there is not as much play and elasticity as there is with the fat needles and coarse yarn. It is not a bad idea to start with cotton yarn, as this is not as stretchy as wool or acrylic thread. It is inexpensive and can be used for potholders or dishrags, which are small, and therefore quick. Another plus is that the quality of a dishrag is not a major concern, so they make really good practice items.
The analogy with learning a language is very appropriate, because you do in fact have to learn “knitting”. Not only do you need to learn to read a pattern, you also need to learn to read your work. The former is quite easy, just a matter of learning the vocabulary (max a hundred words) and the abbreviations. The latter requires that you recognize how the written patterns translate into three-dimensional stitches. You need to look at what you have knitted and be able to say whether or not it is what the written pattern expected it to be.
It may take a while to master, but knitting is an immensely satisfying activity, and well worth the effort required to learn it.