I was asked a while ago to share more about how to knit and crochet. So although this is sadly long overdue, and I in no means consider myself an expert or pro knitter, I thought I'd share my resources.
My grandmother was darn good with a needle. She taught me how to cross stitch and knit when I was younger, but it was the basics. When I got older (and knitting started to become hip again!) I took it upon myself to learn more. I already knew the basic knit and purl stitches of knitting, and the basic single crochet stitch for crochet, but when it came to more complex stitches and patterns, I was lost.
I'm a fast learner and am good at teaching myself, so pretty much all I know about knitting and crochet, I've learned by reading, researching and practice! When I want to learn how to increase/decrease stitches, finish off a piece, or try a different stitch, the first place I go to is the trusty internet. There are tons of knitting sites that have instructions on how to knit/crochet. My favorite is KnittingHelp.com. They have step by step instructions as well as videos of all the basics and more. Watching the videos is really helpful if you don't understand what the instructions mean. It also has patterns, a forum, and helpful tips. It's an excellent resource for all things knitting.
I've also bought several knitting magazines and checked out knitting pattern books from the library. The first time I ever tried to follow a knitting pattern, I got frustrated because I didn't understand. Knitting/Crochet patterns seem to be written in their own language. For example:
1st row: *P1,K9, P1, repeat from * to end
2nd row: same as for 1
3rd row: *P1, hold three stitches forward, K3, knit 3 from cable, K3, P1, repeat from, * to end
At first look, it may seem confusing, but once you become familiar with "knitting pattern lingo" it's actually pretty easy to follow. Everything is abbreviated and stitches are represented by a universal "symbol." So the Purl stitch is represented by "P" and "K" means Knit. Most knitting sites or knitting magazines have a glossary of knitting terms and abbreviations that you can reference when reading a pattern. Same with crochet. It's easy to be discouraged when following a new pattern, but just break it down step by step (abbreviation by abbreviation), and it won't be as overwhelming.
I started out just making basic scarves, but after learning more techniques and being comfortable reading patterns, I branched out to hats, mittens and patterned blankets. If I came to a part of the pattern I didn't know, I would look up the technique online or in a book, and then try again and again until I got it right. It takes lots of practice and patience, but eventually you get the hang of things and feel comfortable tackling more difficult projects. And you have the satisfaction and pride of having a useful finished product that you made yourself!
pic 1 by me; pics 2 and 3 from here