Learn How to Knit
Are you ready to learn how to knit?! I am very excited to help you begin your knitting journey. In this tutorial, we are going to walk through the basics of knitting to help you make your first project.
There are a few key things new knitters will need to know in order to begin making many different types of knitting projects. First, let’s describe what exactly knitting is.
What is Knitting?
Knitting is a type of yarn craft done using two large needles to transform an average ball of yarn into a beautiful, knitted project. In knitting, you maneuver the needles to create a series of loops that will ultimately turn into your knitted craft.
What can you make with Knitting?
There are many different projects you can use knitting to create. Some of the most common projects are dishcloths, blankets, hats, sweaters, and socks. Although these are some of the more common types of projects you can make, there are many more items that can be created through knitting.
To make any project, you will need to learn the basic stitches that are used in knitting. These basic techniques are what we are going to look at together. As we walk through these step-by-step instructions, you can learn the basics needed to make any knitting project. Let’s get started helping you get started on your knitting journey.
The Basic Steps of Knitting
The basic steps of knitting are as follows:
- Gathering your supplies
- The set up
- Casting on
- Making your knit stitches
- Casting off
- Finishing out the project
Let’s look at each of these basic steps to knitting in detail. Then you can practice your knitting until you perfect it.
Knitting Supplies You Will Need
Before you can begin knitting, there are a few basic supplies you will want to have on hand. These will allow you to make knitted projects.
A Skein of Yarn. To start practicing your knitting you will want to have a nice ball of yarn on hand that is made of a nice soft yarn. Preferably a smooth acrylic or cotton yarn will work best. As a beginner knitter, I would recommend that you avoid bulky yarn for now so that you can see your stitches better.
Knitting Needles. You will also want a basic pair of needles to get you started knitting. They can be any type you want, but I would suggest using a short pair rather than circled or long needles. A good size is to look for a 6mm knitting needle set.
Scissors. When you are working with your knitting, it’s a good idea to keep a nice pair of scissors handy.
Yarn Needle. Having a yarn needle on hand is another great option. This will help you to finish your knitted project off nicely.
How to Hold Knitting Needles and Yarn
Knitting is usually done with two large knitting needles. One is held in your right hand, and the other in your left hand. Use the needle in your dominant hand to maneuver the needles, but work them both at the same time.
For example, I am right-handed, so I will be working on my knitting projects from left to right, with the right needle as my dominant one. Left-handed knitters will work the process as a mirror image.
There are two main ways to hold your knitting needles. The first method is called “overhand”. This is when you hold the knitting needles with your hands over them, with your palms facing downward. In this method, you hold the needles primarily with your thumb and middle finger, while the other fingers support them. Using your pointer fingers primarily as guidance.
Using this method is how my grandma taught me to knit, and what still feels the most comfortable to me, to this day.
When you hold the knitting needles according to the underhand method, the knitting needles are resting on top of your hands, and you are holding both knitting needles like pencils. With the needles resting on your middle finger, use your pointer finger and thumb to guide the needles.
How the Yarn is Held
There are two main ways to hold the yarn for your knitting. These two ways are referred to as the continental style and the English method. Let’s look at each one of these, then you can experiment to see which one feels better to you.
When you knit using the continental method, you are going to hold the yarn in your left hand. It is arguable that this method allows you to knit faster and easier because there is less motion that goes into making each stitch.
To hold the yarn, wrap it once or twice around your pinky in your left hand, over the top of your left hand, and guide the yarn with your pointer finger on your left hand. Work the yarn with your knitting needles as you go.
When you knit with the English method you will hold the working yarn in your right hand. Wrap the working yarn around your pinky once or twice depending on your preference, then go under your ring finger and middle finger, then over your pointer finger. At the same time, you will use your right index finger to help guide the yarn as you knit.
As you knit, your existing project sets on the left needle, as you work your new stitches with both needles and transfer the completed stitches from that row to your right needle.
Now that you know the basics of how to hold your knitting needles and your yarn, you can experiment with what feels the most comfortable to you. Keep in mind, it will take a little bit for any of them to feel normal. Let’s now look at how to get started knitting.
Making A Slip Knot
The method that I am going to show you how to cast on your stitches is by using the long tail method. To do this you will want to start with a slip knot.
Before you tie a slip knot, first choose a location on your yarn part way up the string of yarn. If you are just practicing, maybe leave a foot or two of yarn before tying your slip knot.
To tie the slip knot, take a small loop of yarn, and turn it so that the ends cross over each other. Then reach through the small loop with your middle finger and thumb, to pull one of the legs of yarn up through the loop.
Pull the loop tight. You can adjust the tightness of the loop by pulling on one or the other leg of the slip knot.
Place the loop of yarn over your knitting needle so that it rests loosely on the needle.
How to Cast On
As I mentioned there are a few different ways that you can cast on stitches to get you started knitting. The method that I am going to show you is using the long tail cast-on, which is why you will want to leave a long yarn tail.
What is “Cast On”?
By casting on you are creating the foundation stitches that will later be knitted into your project. Essentially, your cast-on stitches are the start of your project, which you will later build upon.
How to Long Tail Cast On
The first step to casting on is to make your slip knot described above and place it loosely onto your knitting needle. Hold the knitting needle in your dominant hand.
Your non-dominant hand will hold the yarn. Spread the two legs of yarn, that go out from your slip knot over your thumb and index finger.
Your thumb should have the long tail of yarn, and then drape the working yarn over your index finger, and let it drop between your index and middle fingers.
Hold the tension of both strands of yarn under your pinky and ring fingers, to help keep it at the same tension.
Now take your needle and pull it down slightly, so that the yarn is taught over both your index finger and thumb.
Wrap the tip of your needle under the yarn held by your thumb, then reach over and catch the yarn by your index finger.
Bring this yarn, back through the yarn held by your thumb.
Release the loop of yarn held by your thumb and let it pull onto the knitting needle. Place your thumb back under that same strand of yarn, under your knitting needle, and repeat the process to cast on another stitch.
Each loop you cast onto the knitting needle counts as a stitch, so make sure to add as many as you will need.
The Basic Knit Stitch
Once the cast-on row is complete, you are ready to start with the knit stitch. There are two main ways that I know of in which you can make the knit stitch. Both of these ways produce the same result, it’s simply a matter of preference. I’m going to show you the more common way first.
Before we jump in, you will first want to transfer your knitting needle with the cast-on stitches to your non-dominant hand. For me, this is my left hand. Then in your right hand hold the empty needle. You’re working yarn must be behind your knitting needle to make a knit stitch. Make sure to choose from the above methods on how to hold your needles and how to hold your yarn.
Now, you will notice that your cast-on loops have a front side as you look at them, and a back side. We are going to call the front side of the loop that is closest to you, the front leg, and the side of the loop facing away from you, the back leg.
Making the Knit Stitch: Under the Front Leg
The most common way to make a knit stitch is to take your empty knitting needle and insert it under the front leg of the first stitch, to catch the loop, then push the needle up so that it forms an X shape with the needle in your left hand.
Wrap the yarn from the back, around the front of the needle in your dominant hand (right hand).
Pull this new loop through the old loop on your left-handed needle, and rest the new loop on your right-handed needle.
Drop the old loop from your left-handed needle to complete the knit stitch.
Making the Knit Stitch: Catching the Back Leg
The other method to make the knit stitch is set up the same. Hold the needle with your cast on stitches in your non-dominant hand, or left hand. Holding the empty needle in your right hand. Hold the needles and yarn wrapped as desired from the instructions above. Make sure that your working yarn is behind your needles and your project.
Now, insert your right-handed needle, between the two loops, so that you catch the back loop.
Wrap the working yarn, from the back, around the needle in your right hand, and down.
Bring your right-handed needle under the left-handed needle, to create the new loop on your needle. Pull the new loop tight, removing the old loop from your left-handed needle.
Repeat these steps across the first row of stitches, using either of the knit stitch methods that you prefer. Remember when you first start knitting you will want to experiment and see which methods work the best for you. There are several different ways to achieve the same outcome for knitting. It mostly depends on what feels the most natural to you.
Turning your Project
Now when your first row of stitches is complete, you will simply switch hands with your knitting needles then continue to the next row. For example, after you finish your first row, your dominant hand’s needle will have all of the stitches, and your non-dominant hand will have an empty needle. To start the next row, simply change the needles in your hand then keep working.
What is the Garter Stitch?
Now that you know how to make the knit stitch, you can also make a garter stitch! This is simply when you make the knit stitches for every row.
How to Cast Off
Casting off or making a bind off for your knit project is another important step that you will need to know when your knitted project is finished. You will only want to complete these steps when your project is done, and you are ready to remove it from your knitting needles.
To cast off, you will complete the first two knit stitches as normal. Then when you have two stitches on your right needle, insert your left-handed knitting needle into the first stitch you make, pull it towards the tip of the needle, and drop it over your most recent stitch made. You now only have one loop on your right-handed needle.
Next, make your knit stitch in your next loop. Then when there are two loops on your right-handed needle again, use the left-handed needle to pull the back loop over the stitch you just completed to cast off another stitch.
Repeat these steps until you have only one loop remaining.
Cut the yarn and pull the end through the last loop to secure it. Weave in the ends of both yarn tails on your project to finish.
More Knitting Stitches
Once you have gotten the hang of the basic knitting steps outlined above, you might want to begin exploring additional knitting techniques.
The Purl Stitch
Making the purl stitch is very similar to your basic knit stitch. When you decide to start learning more, starting with how to purl stitch is a great step! I have a great tutorial that will walk you through the step-by-step instructions on how to make a purl stitch.
When you know how to knit and purl, you can then make several different knitting stitches, including the stockinette stitch, and the rib stitch.
Stockinette Stitch. To make this, you will simply alternate knit row stitches with a row of purl stitches. This allows you to have one side that appears to be all knit stitches, and the other side of your knitted fabric to have all purl stitches.
Rib Stitch. The rib stitch is when you alternate knit(k) and purl(p) stitches. For example, you might have a single row made of the following stitches: k1, p1, meaning knit one, purl one. Or a row of k2, p2. Then when you turn to make the next row, you will want to knit in the knit stitches, and purl in the purl stitches, so that the knitted project has a nice, ribbed appearance.
Helpful Knitting Techniques
Common Knitting Mistakes
Dropped Stitch. When you drop a stitch, this is one of the worst things that happens to your knitting. And believe me, it will happen. One of the best ways to avoid this is to take your time and make sure to count your stitches often. However, if it does happen to you, it is beneficial to have a crochet hook on hand, so that you can fish the dropped stitch back to where it is supposed to be.
The Number of Stitches. It is also very important that you maintain the same number of stitches. You don’t want to add or subtract any stitches because that could lead to problems. When you start out make sure to count the number of stitches you have, then check them often to make sure they are the same.
Maintain Tension. Being able to maintain the tension of your yarn is another important aspect of success in knitting. You will want to keep it nice and even for your stitches to have a nice and even appearance.
Remember making mistakes is part of the learning process, so try not to be too hard on yourself. Make sure to practice often and allow yourself to build up muscle memory. Doing this will enable to you learn and thrive at your knitting.
Reading a Knitting Pattern
Being able to read a knitting pattern is another thing that you can learn over time. A lot of it will come down to memorizing the abbreviations, and then being able to interpret them as you read the pattern. The more you become adept at understanding each abbreviation’s meaning, the easier it will be for you to understand the pattern.
Increase and Decrease Stitches in Knitting
Increasing and decreasing your knitting stitches allows you to create different shapes in your knitted project. Increasing in knitting is when you add an additional stitch and decreasing condenses two stitches into one.
Knit in a Round
The basic instructions above will help you to knit a flat project. But what happens when you want to knit a round project? To do this you can use circular needles or double-pointed needles to help you make round shapes. These are ideal for round projects like socks, and hats.
What yarn weight should I start with?
The specific type of yarn you want to start with depends on what you are making. Especially if you are brand new to knitting, I would recommend choosing a nice smooth ball of yarn. A medium weight one is another great starting place. Don’t try using bulky yarn, or soft yarn, as those might be difficult to get started with.
Recommended Needle Size
You can use any needle size that you prefer. Knitting needles come in many different sizes. If you are just starting out, I would suggest using a shorter needle, that is lightweight.
As for the size of knitting needles, I like to use a US size 9, or 5.5 mm needles. This is entirely a matter of preference. Another good starting place is to see what the packaging on your yarn suggests. Your yarn package will have a good, recommended size of knitting needle for that specific yarn, which is a great place to start.
Is knitting or crocheting easier?
Whether knitting or crocheting is easier depends entirely on the person. To learn more about knitting vs crochet, you can learn more about the details here.
The good news is, I think it depends entirely on the person. Some people will take to knitting right away, while others will catch onto crocheting much easier. What you prefer to make will also play into which one you believe to be easier.
What is the easiest project to knit?
When you are just starting out, some of the best projects to stick with are knitting a coaster, pot holder, scarf, or even a blanket. Think of nice square or rectangle-type projects.
What do I need to start knitting?
In order to start knitting you will want to have a set of knitting needles and a skein of yarn. It might also be nice to have some scissors around, just in case you need them. These are the main items you will need in order to start knitting.
Is it easy to learn how to knit?
I believe it is quite easy to learn how to knit. When you are starting out, make sure to practice often, and give yourself grace. It’s not going to look perfect right from the start. However, once you get the hang of it, you will take off and be creating all kinds of things before you know it!
Now that you know the basics, it’s time to start your knitting journey, by practicing until knitting becomes second nature. Then you can increase your knowledge and skills by building upon your foundational knowledge.
It is my hope that you will enjoy learning how to knit, and hopefully, it will become one of your new, favorite hobbies!
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