How To Knit

Learning to knit is easy and fun to do! The key is to practice each stitch over and over until it seems easy, then proceed to the next stitch. The best thing about learning to knit is that there are only two stitches - everything else is just a variation.

  1. Choose your materials. You will need only three items to start knitting - yarn, knitting needles and a yarn needle. A three-ounce skein of worsted weight yarn is plenty for learning to knit. Try to avoid dark colors when you're starting out, because it's harder to see your mistakes. When you are more adept at knitting, you can branch out into other types of yarn.

    The selection of yarns has dramatically expanded in the last few years! You can now choose from yarns in nearly any color or combination of colors imaginable. You can also choose from specialty yarns, such as eyelash yarn, which will give your project a fuzzy look perfect for mittens and scarves; chunky-weight yarn, ideal for sweaters; chenille yarn, which makes a very warm, snuggly afghan; and novelty yarns, which are perfect for children's wear.

    Knitting needles are sold in pairs, in either aluminum, steel or wood. Most people prefer to use aluminum because they are durable and reasonably priced. There are short knitting needles, which are ten inches long, and long knitting needles, which are fourteen inches long. There are also circular knitting needles, which are two needles connected by a plastic cable. These are used for knitting round projects without seams or larger projects, such as afghans. The last way to classify knitting needles is by diameter, ranging from size 0 (very small) to size 13 (very large). The size of your knitting needles determines the size of your stitches. To start learning knitting, you'll want a size 7 or 8 in the ten-inch length.

    The last item you'll need is a yarn needle. This is simply a big plastic or metal needle with a large eye. You'll use it to sew the end of your knitting back into the body of the piece when you're finished.

  2. Cast on. The first step in knitting is casting on your stitches. This creates the row of stitches into which all other stitches will be worked. To cast on stitches, you'll first need to make a slip knot. Put your skein of yarn in your left hand and pull out a six-inch tail with your right hand. Make a loop by wrapping the tail back to the left, then dropping it behind to the right. This will give you a loop that looks somewhat like a pretzel.

    Insert one knitting needle into the loop on the right side of the pretzel. If you've done it correctly, you'll be able to pull the yarn firmly, making a loop on the needle. Be certain that the loop is on the shaft, or the long part of the needle, not the point. Otherwise, your stitches will be too tight to work into.

    Now, place this needle in your left hand, holding it in the palm of your hand, with your thumb on the underside, and your index finger on top. Your right hand will also need to control the yarn tension. Wrap the yarn under the palm of your hand, then up and over your index finger. Insert the right needle through the loop and under the needle in your left hand. Use your left hand to hold both needles near the points, and use your right hand to pick up yarn and wrap it under, then over the right needle. Return the right needle to your right hand and pull the yarn through with this needle, then insert your left needle into this new stitch and slide the right needle out. This sounds like a very complex way to describe a very easy stitch, but after you've done it a couple of times, it will start to make sense.

    Continue casting on until your needle is full or until you feel comfortable with this step. You can start over if you like by removing all stitches from the left needle and tugging on the end of the yarn. They should all unravel easily. If they don't, you may be pulling the yarn too tightly, which creates too much tension in your work. For a visual demonstration of casting on, see the Needlepointers website.

  3. Knit stitch. Good news - now that you've mastered casting on, you already know the knit stitch! Cast on thirty or forty stitches, then place this needle in your left hand. Insert the right needle in the first stitch, from front to back. Wrap the yarn under, then over the right needle. When you are reading a knitting pattern, this step is known as yarn over, sometimes abbreviated as yo. Pull the yarn through with the right needle. Next - and this is different than casting on - slide the first loop that is on the needle off. You should now have one less stitch in your casting-on row, and one new stitch on your right needle. Repeat this step for several rows. Remember to switch the needles from one hand to the other at the end of each row. Continue until you feel comfortable with the knit stitch.
  4. Purl stitch. The purl stitch is similar to the knit stitch. However, instead of sliding your right needle.
    under the left needle from front to back, you'll need to slide it from right to left, in front of the left needle. Do this for the first stitch on the left needle. Wrap the yarn up and over the needle in front of your work (yarn over). Using your right needle, pull the yarn through the loop. Slide the loop off of the left needle. You should now have one less stitch on your left needle and one new stitch on your right needle. Repeat these steps across the length of the row. Continue until this step seems easy.

You can knit! By alternating knit rows and purl rows, you can make the simplest kind of scarf. Just make a casting-on row that is the width you would like for your finished scarf. Then alternately knit and purl rows until the scarf is the desired length. Anything else that you will knit is simply a variation of these stitches, such as decreasing, increasing and color changes. Happy knitting!


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