HOW TO KNIT FOR BEGINNERS
This guide will show you everything you need to get started with knitting.
First, you’ll learn how to get yarn onto the needles. Then, you’ll learn how to make the all-important knit stitch. Lastly, we’ll go over how to get your knitting off the needles.
Sound good? Let’s dive in!
Knitting is as Simple as 1, 2, 3
Knitting boils down to three essential skills. These are the cast on, knit stitch, and the cast off. These three techniques make up the backbone of knitting. Master them and you’re officially a knitter. It’s that simple!
The adventure begins! Transform loose yarn into neat stitches.
This simple stitch makes up the backbone of knitting.
Get your knitting off the needles so you can wear it out and proud!
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
GATHER YOUR SUPPLIES
To knit, you’ll need needles and yarn. That’s it! But where to buy them? And what kind of needles and yarn? Thick or thin? Wood or plastic? The options are endless!
YARN: I always recommend a chunky yarn and correspondingly thick needles for beginners because they’re much easier to grip.
You don’t need to use the same yarn as me, but try to get yarn that’s at least a medium weight (aka. worsted weight) or thicker. Thinner yarns are harder to control. Not sure what “yarn weight” is? Check out this brief guide to yarn weights.
TIP: If you’re buying yarn and needles, choose cheap acrylic yarn so that mistakes won’t feel like such a big deal. As a beginner, you’ll make mistakes – and that’s totally normal!
Mistakes are part of the journey, and they’ll hurt less if you’re using inexpensive yarn as opposed to pricey artisan yarn.
NEEDLES: I recommend wood or bamboo needles for beginners. Wood and bamboo have a natural surface drag that “grips” the yarn and make it less slippery than steel or aluminium needles. Plastic needles are okay too.
If you have the choice, go for bamboo or wood. Otherwise, use whatever’s available!
SIZE MATTERS: What needle size do you need? It depends on the yarn you use! When you buy a ball of yarn, the yarn label will usually include a “recommended needle size” listed in millimetres.
Follow the yarn label when you’re first starting out. Going up or down a millimetre won’t be a big deal, but any more and your knitting might be too tight or too loose.
You’ve got needles and a ball of yarn. Now you want to knit something. But how do you get the yarn onto your needles? Enter the cast on!
Casting on is a way to turn loose yarn into neat little stitches that sit perfectly on your needle. It’s the first step in knitting. Watch the video for a full step-by-step tutorial or follow along in 12 steps below. Ready to start? Let’s do this!
You’ve learned how to turn yarn into stitches – good job! But they can’t just sit there like bumps on a log. They’re waiting to be knit!
The knit stitch is the most basic and fundamental stitch. After all, it’s the namesake of the craft we’re learning. Master the knit stitch and you, my friend, are a bonafide knitter.
PEP TALK: Like most skills, knitting takes time to perfect. You probably won’t get the hang of it on your first try. You probably won’t even get it on your second try. The important thing is to keep trying.
You’ve heard the concept of “muscle memory,” right? It’s the idea that the more you repeat a movement, the more it becomes second nature.
Because the movement is controlled by your subconscious mind instead of your conscious mind, you don’t need to think through each step of a movement. Without thinking, you can just do it. That’s muscle memory!
When you first start knitting, your hands will feel big and clumsy holding those knitting needles. But after practicing, your hands will learn the movement of knitting. It’s almost like your hands have their own brain!
Think of it like learning how to drive. As a new driver, you probably concentrated really hard on how to turn the wheel. Are you turning too hard? Will you hit the curb? Oh my gosh, the light turned yellow. Hit the brake!
You’re a nervous, sweaty mess. But with practice, you learned how much to turn the wheel and how to ease into a stop so you don’t get whiplash. After awhile, driving becomes second nature. Your hands and feet figure out how to coordinate with your eyes and brain to move your car around – no easy feat! That’s the miracle of muscle memory.
So, don’t fret if you don’t get the knit stitch right away. Most people don’t. The more you practice, the faster muscle memory will kick in. Before you know it, you’ll be knitting with your eyes closed. You have muscle memory to thank for that!
SPIN ME RIGHT ROUND
Here’s some knitting vocabulary for you: those cast on stitches on your needle? That’s called a ROW. Or more specifically, a row of stitches.
When you’ve knit all the stitches on your needle, that means you’ve knit the whole row. Woohoo! That’s a big deal!
So, now what?
Okay, notice that after you’ve completed your row, the yarn is at the left side of your row (aka. the end of your row). In order to keep knitting, you need the yarn at the right side of the row (aka. the beginning of the row).
How to do this?
It couldn’t be easier! Just spin the needle around. Ta-da! The working yarn (aka. the yarn attached to the ball) is now at the right side of the row, and you’ve got a new row of stitches, ready to be knit!
Each time you get to the end of the row, just spin your work around so that the working yarn is on the right. Keep going until your knitting is as long as you want it to be.
At this point, you’ve got some rows of knitting under your belt. You should be very proud of yourself! You’ve used two sticks to transform a loose bundle of string into a neat little rectangle. Amazing! Now it’s time to get your knitting off the needles.
The cast off will get the job done. This technique is awesome because it means that your project is complete! It’s all grown up, ready to fly off the needles and enter the real world!
HOT TIP: When casting off, remember that you always need TWO STITCHES on the right needle to cast off. No more and no less. Casting off is a game for two (stitches).
YOU’RE A KNITTER!
“Ce-le-brate good times, come on!” Your knitting is off the needles! This is big!
You conquered the cast on, nailed the knit stitch, spun your needle ’round, and catapulted stitches over each other to cast off.
You, my friend, are a capital-K, grade-A Knitter! *wipes tear* I’m so proud of you!
STRUGGLING AND MAKING MISTAKES?
Okay, let’s get real. Not everyone will have a smooth, carefree journey from total beginner to master knitter. You might encounter bumps along the way.
These include: new stitches mysteriously appearing on your needle, knitting that’s too tight or loose and little holes appearing in your work.
These issues are 100% normal for a beginner, so don’t fret! To help you bounce over these hurdles, check out our collection of beginner troubleshooting tutorials:
1. KNIT YOUR FIRST SCARF
Once you’re comfortable with the knit stitch, you’re ready to knit your first scarf. How exciting!
Cast on a number of stitches that is roughly the width you want your scarf to be. Start knitting until your scarf is the length that you like. Then, cast off. That’s it!
My preference is for long, luxurious scarves that wrap around my neck once with a generous length hanging down either side – but that’s just me!
Some like ’em short while others seek a middle ground. As the kids say, you do you. If you’re not sick of me, we can knit a scarf together in this scarf tutorial!
Skills used: cast on, knit stitch, cast off
Difficulty Level: 1/5
2. KNIT AN INFINITY SCARF
If you’ve already knit a scarf and you’re looking for a slightly more challenging project, then this infinity scarf is just the ticket!
You’ll build on your existing skills while learning two new techniques: knitting in the round and the purl stitch. These two techniques alone will open up a world of knitting possibilities!
Follow along with the tutorial to knit the ever-popular Cushy Cowl infinity scarf. This is a circular tube of garter stitch that you can loop around your neck for instant warmth and comfort! Check out the infinity scarf tutorial here.
Skills used: cast on, knitting in the round, knit stitch, purl stitch, cast off
Difficulty Level: 1/5
3. KNIT YOUR FIRST HAT
If you’ve knit the infinity scarf or you’re just ready for a challenge, then get ready to knit your first hat! Build on your knitting skills by learning how to knit in the round and *drumroll, please* how to knit with double pointed needles!
In addition, you’ll learn how to decrease stitches to create a tapered shape and how to knit a simple rib stitch using knit and purls. Oh yeah, you’ll also learn how to make and attach a big, fluffy pom pom!
Follow along with the tutorial and knit the Big Hat, one of our most popular patterns.
Skills used: cast on, knitting in the round, knitting with DPNs (double pointed needles), decreasing, knit stitch, cast off, making a pom pom
Difficulty Level: 2/5
4. CHECK OUT THE PATTERN LIBRARY FOR PROJECTS
Do you have the knitting bug? Are you itching to cast on a new project? If so, check out pattern library for inspiration.
Go ahead and pin your favourite projects, save them for later, or cast on right away! The pattern library includes a mix of free and premium patterns, along with video tutorials that walk you through each step.