Actually I would suggest size 10s and worsted yarn for learning. It's easier to see the stitches and it doesn't create all that loose a stitch.
Wait on the velvet yarn a bit until you have some experience. Especially if it's Lion Chenille. The thick chenille isn't as bad as the thinner stuff, but it can still be difficult to work on especially on size 8s. I did purposely make a bag with the thick chenille and 8s though; I wanted a velvet like bag for my SIL and couldn't find one, so I knit one very dense so nothing would slip through.
sue- knitting heretic