How to Knit – a review of the basics of knitting

Stockinette stitch (photo from Knit Fix by Lisa Kartus)

Stockinette stitch (photo from Knit Fix by Lisa Kartus)

Knitting is a centuries-old craft, practiced out of necessity to create clothing to protect people from the elements. Today, knitting is a more casual craft, with everyone from artisans to casual novices finding appeal in the variety of techniques.

When a new knitter looks at all the yarn and patterns available today, it can be overwhelming to figure out how to start knitting. But here at Knitting Daily, we don’t want this to get to you, remember; even the most accomplished knitters were once learning to knit.

It may surprise you to know there are really only two knitting stitches used to make any knitted object: the knit stitch and purl stitch.

Knit stitches are very versatile and are the building blocks for all knitted items. With every row you knit using the knit stitch, you’re actually creating a pattern called “garter stitch.” Then, when you add the purl stitch, your knitting options open up even more.

Combine the knit and purl stitches to create lace shawls, cabled hats, or moss-stitch sweaters. Sky’s the limit!

Before You Start

5670.notions.jpg-550x0As with any craft, there are some basic supplies you’ll want to have on hand. These include:

—Yarn, wound into a ball if it didn’t come that way

—Needles appropriate to your yarn size

—Measuring tape to measure your progress

—Crochet hook for fixing mistakes

—Pen and paper for making notes

—And a bag to keep everything in!

Casting On

1. Leaving a long tail (about 2 1⁄2″ to 3″ for each stitch to be cast on), make a slipknot and place on right needle.

2. Place thumb and index finger of left hand between yarn ends so that working yarn is around index finger and tail end is around thumb.

3. With your other fingers, secure the ends a few inches below the needles. Hold palm upwards, making a V of yarn (Figure A).

4. Bring needle up through loop on thumb (Figure B), grab first strand around index finger with needle, and go back down through loop on thumb (Figure C).

5. Drop loop off thumb and, placing thumb back in V configuration, gently tighten resulting stitch on needle (Figure D).


Source: Knit Fix by Lisa Kartus, Interweave, 2006

The Knit Stitch

There are several ways to accomplish the knit stitch; the two most popular are the English method (also called “throwing”) and the Continental method (also called “picking”). In the English method, the working yarn is held in the right hand. In the Continental method, the yarn is held in the left hand. The information below shows how knit in the Continental method. If it feels more natural to hold the yarn in your right hand, you might prefer the English method. It’s good to practice both techniques to see which feels best to you; there’s no right or wrong way to knit.

To use the Continental method of knitting, follow the steps below.

Step 1. With the working yarn under and in the back of the needle, place the tip of your right needle between the front and back legs of the first stitch on the left needle (Figure 1). The tip of the needle should point away from you.

Step 2. Wrap the yarn counterclockwise around the right needle (the one you just put through the stitch (Figure 2).

Step 3. Pull the right needle back just enough to slip underneath the left needle and pull the yarn along with it , through the stitch on the left needle (Figure 3).

Step 4. Slip the stitch off the left needle (Figure 4). You just created a new stitch!


For Practice
Make a practice swatch—just keep knitting rows! If you make a mistake, keep going. You aren’t making anything but practice knitting, so you can ignore mistakes.

Source: The Knitter’s Companion by Vicki Square, Interweave, 2010

The Purl Stitch

These instructions are for purling Continental style. If you prefer to hold your yarn in your right hand, here are instructions for purling English style.

Step 1. Holding your working yarn to the front, place your right needle between the front and back legs of the first stitch on the left needle from back to front (Figure 1). The right needle tip will be pointing toward you.

Step 2. Wrap the working yarn counter-clockwise around the right needle (Figure 2).

Step 3. Pull right needle back out of the old stitch and pull the new stitch through (Figure 3).

Step 4. Slip the old stitch off the left needle (Figure 4).


Figure 1


Figure 2


Figure 3


Figure 4


Source: Knit Fix by Lisa Kartus, Interweave, 2006

Suggested Product for You

Complete with an instructional 2-disc DVD set, The Knitter’s Companion is every knitter’s perfect reference guide to learn how to knit, complete with techniques, illustrations, and definitions. This resource is chock-full of tips, illustrations, and definitions, all made even easier to understand with the accompanying DVDs. You’ll find: an overview of stitches, gauges, joins, seams, borders, and buttonholes, as well as information on innovative methods, color knitting techniques, and embellishments. An indispensable resource for learning how to knit.

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