Cast on, and on, and on…
Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed
You're now a member of the coziest, kindest cult in existence.
First order of business: if you haven't already, sign up for an account on Ravelry. It's a social network, pattern database, and all-around home for people who dig yarn, and you'll only be able to access some of these patterns if you're registered. It's free! And even if you don't like any of these, Ravelry will give you access to quite literally hundreds of thousands more patterns, all searchable and cross-reference-able, often with designers and fellow knitters on hand to help you out if you get stuck. Told you it was a cult.
Another thing: a few of these patterns might seem hard. In some ways, they are; handling four needles at once or remembering when to increase is challenging for anyone, not just beginners. But I promise, once you're in the thick of them it'll feel much more doable, and you'll be extra proud of yourself when you finally reach the last row. And just because something might not turn out to look like the perfect, well-lit picture doesn't mean it's not worthwhile.
I personally think everyone's first (okay, maybe second) knitting project should be a hat, not a scarf — scarves take forever, they're repetitive, and odds are you don't even really want or need one. But hats, on the other hand, are small. They always come in handy, and by the time you've successfully completed one, you've learned most of the basic skills you'll need as a knitter — decreasing, purling, seaming, and knitting in the round and on double-pointed needles. I know! But you'll be great!
This pattern, from the inimitable Purl Bee blog, is an ideal hat recipe. It's a good exercise in reading pattern speak without getting terribly complicated, and you get to make a pom-pom at the end. (This is a solid DIY pom-pom tutorial if you don't want to shell out for a pom-pom maker. Also, if you have a young knitter-in-training running around, this is a bonus way to get them to fall in love with yarn.)
Super-chunky yarn is soft, toasty instant gratification made tangible. This cowl knits up in a matter of hours and then you have a lifetime of snuggles before you. Best of all, the pattern is free, although designer Jane Richmond has a bunch of other easy and cute ones for sale on her site. I especially love this slouchy hat, which has the look of cables without actually asking you to make any.