Five Tips on How to Know Which One to Learn First – Knitting or Sewing
I'll start this post by saying that I don’t have an exhaustive answer to the question of which one you should learn first when you're starting to create a me-made or personalized wardrobe – knitting or sewing. In fact, even if you are completely new to knitting and sewing, I believe that only you can answer that question reliably based on your own background and current situation. However, to help you answer that question, I have compiled a few tips for you to consider when you are trying to determine whether to start creating your me-made/personalized wardrobe with knitting or sewing (or both).
Tip #1 Let the contents of your closet tell you
If you want a wardrobe with garments that go well together, instead of opening your closet thinking “I have nothing to wear”, this is one the most important tips I can give you. While I understand that you might have a strong urge to get rid of all your ready-to-wear (RTW) clothes, and can’t wait to have your closet full of me-made garments instead, I would actually encourage you to start making your own clothes on the basis of the RTW garments that you already have. This is a sustainable way for you and the environment – to begin with me-made garments that will work with your already existing wardrobe, so that you’re not exhausting yourself with the task of having to rebuild the entire content of your closet at once, and also so that you’re not being overly wasteful by throwing away perfectly good clothes for the sake of wanting to make your clothes instead of buying them. You may need to go through your already existing wardrobe and see which garments fit and work for your lifestyle, and which ones don’t, and recycle the latter ones.
Then just simply determine what are the types of clothes that you absolutely need and that would work with the items you already have. Are you like me, constantly cold during the winter and feeling like there are never enough woolen accessories and jumpers to keep you warm? If yes, why not learn to knit first and perhaps have your me-made scarf, cowl, or even a basic jumper for next winter. Or do you desperately need summer tops because you have just moved to a place with a warmer climate than where you lived before? Let your closet tell you what you need to be making, sewn or hand-knit items.
Tip #2 Think about the investment in time and money
Let’s talk about time first. If you have read my previous post, you will have learned that, usually, it takes more time to knit a garment than to sew a garment. In other words, knitting requires more of an investment of your time than sewing does. But on the other hand, the preparation time for a sewing project may be longer. You need to buy the pattern and the fabric, pre-wash the fabric, let it dry, iron it, trace the pattern, and cut the the fabric before you get to sewing. Often the actual sewing part is the easiest and quickest of the whole process. Think about it. How much time can you be spending daily, weekly, or monthly to make that me-made wardrobe happen, and do you need the preparation time to be short, or are you ok with a longer prep time?
In terms of money, yes, you may need several pairs of knitting needles, each in a different size, to make a single hand-knit garment, but still, the amount of money you need to spend on those needles is relatively little compared to the money you are likely to spend on a brand new sewing machine. But, knitting needles do come in various price ranges, and you can most definitely buy a second-hand sewing machine, which costs only a fraction of the price of a new one. In fact, I strongly encourage you to buy a second-hand machine if you are completely new to sewing. You can upgrade later! My first sewing machine was a used Pfaff, but nowadays I use a Husqvarna Viking that I bought new several years ago. In terms of knitting needles, I have found that Addi needles are good-quality needles with a reasonable price. I use Addi needles almost exclusively these days.
As for yarn and fabric, the same applies as with knitting needles and sewing machines - there is great variety in prices and quality. It's hard to say which one is more affordable, to buy yarn or fabric, for a specific shape and style of garment, because the fiber content of both yarns and fabrics also affect the price of the material. Plus, there are constantly good deals on both types of material which complicates matters even more. But if we compare the materials for a cotton jersey top and a hand-knit cardigan in merino wool, it's likely that the cost of the cardigan is higher.
Tip #3 Start with the skill you have easier access to
What I mean by easier access is that, for instance, you may have inherited an old sewing machine at some point but have never got around using it before, or you have a bunch of knitting needles lying around from the time your mom decided to start knitting a sweater for you when you were a kid, but never finished it. (That's me!) So, you may already have some tools to get started, and I would suggest you to see if they are of any use for you. Take the sewing machine to a repair shop for maintenance, and see if any of those knitting needles are straight, and get rid of the ones that are bent or that possibly have a snag right at the tip which will just damage or even break your yarn when knitting. So, start with the tools that you may already have, while remembering that investing in good-quality tools pays off. Good tools can provide a lot more comfort and ease in your knitting and sewing, and that shouldn’t be overlooked. But, at the beginning, I think it’s better to have a taste of what you already have.
Also, if you learned to knit or sew at a young age, but have since forgotten even the basics, I think it’s a good idea to revive the skill that you once learned. (Remember my first blog post? I had to do that with knitting.) It’s likely that you will start to remember bits and pieces, and no matter how small a detail, it’s likely to help.
Tip #4 Alternate between knitting and sewing
If you’re still not decided on which one to learn first, no worries. It is entirely possible to learn both, sort of at the same time. This might mean you planning an outfit with both sewn and hand-knit garments, and starting to make that outfit perhaps alternating between sewing and knitting projects after each completed garment. Or it could mean working on a sewing project and a knitting project alongside each other, perhaps doing knitting in the evenings when you’re watching TV on the couch, and concentrating on sewing e.g. over the weekend when you can dedicate a longer period of time to sew a garment from start to finish.
Tip #5 Consider batching your projects
If you find that you desperately need several t-shirts because all the ones you currently have are so worn-out that you don’t want to be seen wearing them in public anymore, then you could very well sew a bunch of t-shirts in an assembly line kind of way. Trace the pattern pieces for all of those shirts, cut the fabrics, and start sewing, finishing the same seam on all of those shirts before moving to the next seam. However, this is a method that I would recommend only after you have made sure that you are making those t-shirts in the right size and that they are a good fit for you style-wise. Otherwise, you could end up with a stack of shirts that are all the wrong size or don’t flatter your body type.
Batching could also mean you completing all the hand-knit items you want to make for a particular season in a sequence, before moving on to the sewn garments for that same season. This allows you to really concentrate on developing one skill at a time. And depending on your pace and how many garments you need to make, this method doesn’t necessarily mean that you will forget the first skill while you're dedicating your time to the other. This could be a way to go up in your skill level faster than if you were alternating between sewing and knitting projects.
Bonus tip: Whatever you do, just do it, and get those projects finished
I don’t think there is a right answer to the question of which of the skills, knitting or sewing, you should learn first. It all comes down to what works for you, and I hope I have given you some food for thought to support you in finding the answer. But whatever you decide, when you are working towards a personalized wardrobe, I would really suggest that you put some thought into the process, and putting what you actually need ahead of what you want.
I believe practicality is the key to the solution here. I, personally, struggle with this because I have made a promise to myself to radically cut down on buying ready-to-wear clothing, and because my sewing and knitting time is occasionally fairly limited due to other obligations. The result is that I’m in constant need of new me-made clothes. So what to do if this sounds familiar? Take it slowly, one project at a time. Set a reasonable, attainable goal, such as “make one garment each month”. If you get overwhelmed by the idea that you are trying to create a personalized wardrobe, chances are you will get stuck and do nothing at all. Even if one garment per month sounds too slow of a pace, it is better than not doing anything at all, because what’s even more important than which skill you learn first, is that you actually finish your projects. That’s the only way to really improve your skills and to have a personalized wardrobe!
Now that you have read my tips on how to know which one to learn first, tell me, how are you planning to go about learning to knit and sew? Go ahead and comment below. I'd love to hear from you guys!