I am constantly trolling the internet looking for good class projects, both for children and adults, beginners and intermediate knitters. I have a little trouble with the beginners' projects because I basically taught myself to knit with a good book and a lot of guesswork, which is how I do things. But learning something like knitting feels foreign and entering a yarn shop with no clue in how to start is daunting.
Where to begin?
My first project was not a scarf because I really wanted a sweater. And because I wanted a sweater, I didn't much care for the idea that it might be more practical to actually learn to knit a rectangle before I took on shaping. I did choose a yarn that was super bulky and used size 19 needles, which any knitter can tell you is huge! The sweater took a week, much to my delight. I still have it and even wear it occasionally, though it is not at all a favorite and shows a lot of first sweater flaws:
But for other people, what to choose as beginner projects? I have a couple of guiding notions. The pattern should be free, or close to, the yarn relatively inexpensive yet feel good in the hands, and the gage should be large enough that the end product happens sooner rather than hours later.
There are some terrific sites for free patterns: Knitty and Berroco are two off the top of my head. Ravelry requires joining, but is worth it for the vast database at your fingertips about everything knitting and beyond.
This felted bag from Knitty appears to be a good starting project. Felted knits are great because errors get lost after the felting process, so a beginner can knit away and not feel like every mistake requires ripping out and starting over. And who doesn't like a darling shoulder bag? It can be given a leather strap to make it a little more upmarket, as my English mother-in-law says, and the possibilities for embroidery and other bling fun are endless.
I just set loose a fairly new knitter on this cowl, which is a lace pattern and might require some handholding until the pattern is established. She wasn't deterred by casting on 198 stitches, so with the worst out of the way, she will be my test case as to just who can handle basic lacework. Knitty ranked the pattern "Tangy," which is their way of saying the pattern has some bite. The bag mentioned above is "mellow."
I also like this cowl on Knitty - "Bound" is also labeled "tangy" and offers a basic cable which would be a great introduction to the skill.
I found a pattern for a felted belt that I got a new knitter started with. I figured he could just knit both sides, but he wanted the "flat side" of knitting, so I taught him to purl as well. He had just shy of 1 1/2 inches knit when he left. Go Oliver!