the complete beginner’s guide
How to Knit
Welcome to our beginner knitting guide.
It’s our mission to teach you how to knit because we believe yarn can do more for you than just make a pretty thing. Your new journey begins here!
In this guide you’ll find the essentials for you to dive into knitting for the first time. We’ll mention yarn and needles as well as a few other supplies you’ll need, and from there you can start learning the first two techniques you need to know to start any project. Then we’ll show you the two basic stitches (which are the foundation for many other stitches) and ease into the finishing techniques. Finally, we’ll give you some inspiration and suggest a few patterns for you to complete your first knitting project.
What You Need to Get Started
The greatest thing about knitting is you need very few supplies to make something incredible. With some yarn, a pair of needles, a yarn needle and a trusty pair of scissors, you can make just about anything you want.
The Right Yarn
When it comes to knitting for the first time, not all yarn is created equal. The texture and smoothness of a yarn will determine how easy it is to work with. As a beginner, you have enough to worry about – use a smooth, medium weight yarn and make it much easier on yourself!
We recommend looking at…
- Lion Brand Heartland
- Red Heart Soft
- Caron Simply Soft
- Loops & Threads Impeccable
- I Love This Yarn
All of these yarns have a few things in common. They’re all a plied (which means there have a few strands twisted around one another), they’re all smooth, and they’re all medium weight. So while you don’t have to get these yarns specifically, at least look at them and choose a yarn that’s a similar thickness and smoothness.
If you find yourself drawn to yarns that look fuzzy, don’t let them suck you in…not just yet. Fuzzy yarns make it somewhat impossible to see the stitches as you work (this is called “low stitch definition”). When you can’t see your stitches, you have to guess and that’s a disaster for a beginner. Get comfortable with the steps in this guide before you dive into one of those delightfully squishy and fuzzy yarns.
So how much do you need? We recommend you start with one skein. That’ll be plenty to experiment with and make the swatches we’ll teach you in this guide.
A Pair of Needles
Knitting needles come in two main varieties – straight needles and circular (corded needles). Straight needles are typically made in 12 or 14″ length and circular needles typically come in 16″, 24″, 32″ and 40″. Circular needles are most known for knitting projects in the round (like hats) but you can knit any project on a pair of circular needles. With straight needles, however, you can only “flat knit” or work a project back and forth in rows (like a scarf). That’s why a pair of circular needles is our “perfect pair”.
With knitting, the size of your project will determine the length of the needle you need. If you want to knit a scarf that’s 8″ wide a 12″ or longer straight pair of needles will work as well as a pair of 24″ or longer circulars. Why won’t 16″ circulars work? When you flat knit on circulars, you have to have enough length for the entire project as well as a little slack to work with.
Different materials to consider…
- Metal (smooth & allows the yarn to glide easily over it)
- Plastic (smooth but the yarn glides more slowly over it)
- Wood (also smooth and the yarn glides more slowly over it)
The best way to know which material and which needle is right for you is to try as many as you can. Most needles can be bought individually for a pretty low price and it’s definitely a worthwhile investment. For the swatches you’ll make in this guide you can use any straight needle or a 24″ circular needle. Longer circulars will work but this size will be easier for you use for small swatches.
Here’s what we recommend: Pick out one metal, one plastic and one wooden needle and try each of them with the tutorials below. You may know right away if a needle feels like the wrong fit but only after you’ve tried a few and have the experience to compare them to. Choosing a knitting needle is simpler than say, choosing a crochet hook, because there are fewer differences between them but still…try as many as you can. That’s the best way to find out which needle is your perfect needle.
Which size do you need? The best way to figure out what needle size to go with is to look at the yarn label. Towards the back of the label you’ll see something like this…
For this particular yarn, a size 8 or 5 mm size needle is a great place to start. So when you’re at the store getting your supplies, look at the yarn label and buy the needle size recommended there. It’s not the only size that can be used with the yarn (and in future projects you should always follow the needle size in the pattern) but since you’ll be getting a smooth, medium weight yarn that appeals to you, this is the best way to figure out what needle size to buy so you can follow along with this guide and learn how to knit.
A Yarn Needle & Scissors
Every time you finish a knitting project, you’ll have some ends to hide or weave in. One from where you started, one where you ended and more if you added new yarn or changed colors within the project. The yarn needle will be the tool you use to weave in those ends and the scissors, well, you get the idea.
These are some things to consider when choosing a yarn needle
- Choose one with a large enough eye that you can feed the yarn through easily.
- Avoid plastic (it often snags the yarn)
- Get a set that includes a few sizes.
These four things are all you need to follow along with our How to Knit Guide
When you’re shopping for these supplies, you’ll see all sorts of fun gadgets and supplies. Feel free to experiment with anything you see that looks interesting but just know these four things are all you need to learn how to knit: a skein of yarn, a pair of knitting needles, a yarn needle and a pair of scissors.
Now, one more important thing we need to touch on before we get started.
Don’t try to make a project first.
Maybe you found a project on Pinterest and that’s what inspired you to learn how to knit – so you could make it too! As exciting as it is to dive into that project, it’s never a good idea to learn how to knit while making the project you have your eye on. First, it’ll be a completely new experience for you to hold the yarn, hold the needles and coordinate the movements that make stitches. It’ll be super awkward at first and you should expect your first few attempts to look pretty bad. This is completely normal!
We definitely don’t want to deflate your excitement about making that project. You’ll get there! We just want to set a realistic expectation so you’re not disappointed when your first few attempts look wonky. The last thing we want is you to give up because you expect it to look perfect as long as you’re doing it right. Even if you are doing it right, it won’t look perfect until you practice quite a bit first. You’ll get better as you go. So if you start a project before getting comfortable with it all, your stitches will reflect that. As you keep going, things will improve and start to feel easier and your stitches will look better as a result. If you go through this transformation in a single project, it’ll never look quite right.
So as you learn how to knit with this guide, stick with making small swatches at first to practice the stitches until it feels comfortable and the stitches look good to you. Then dive into a project – a small one, so you get a quick win. We have some recommendations for you at the end of this guide.
it all starts here
Every project starts with these two techniques
Before anything else, let’s dive into the first two things you need to master to start knitting – making a slip knot and knowing how to hold the yarn and needles while you work.
The slip knot is what you’ll create to get the yarn attached to the knitting needles. There are a few different ways to make this knot but the result is the same – a knot with a sliding loop to place on the needle to get your project started.
Some people feel more comfortable holding the yarn in their dominant hand while others feel more comfortable with it in their non-dominant hand. These two preferences form the basis of two main knitting styles – Continental and American.
The cast on is the foundation for all projects.
After you make a slip knot and learn how to hold the yarn, the next thing to master is the cast on. The cast on is the foundation for every single knitting project and there are many different varieties. In this example, we’ll show you the most basic and most widely used cast on – the long tail cast on.
With the slip knot on your needles and the yarn in your hands, work the long tail cast on until it all feels comfortable (or until you run out of room on your needles). Don’t worry about how many stitches there gets to be- just keep going until it starts to feel natural (you can rip it out later and reuse the yarn).
Nearly all knitting stitches are made from a combination of these two basic stitches
By itself, a knit stitch worked every stitch of every row in the project will create the garter stitch pattern – a textured and stretchy fabric that’s great for all sorts of projects.
A purl stitch worked every stitch of every row in the project will create the same garter stitch look because of one main point…
Knits and purls are the opposite of each other.
When you alternate a knit row with a purl row you’ll create the classic stockinette stitch pattern.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through knitting three different swatches.
Each swatch has two tutorials, one for each style of knitting (continental and American). We encourage you to try them both so you can see what feels most comfortable to you. It’s not uncommon to start out with one style of knitting and change to the other as you get more comfortable with the craft.
When you’re ready to start a swatch, cast on 15 stitches using the long tail cast on technique you learned earlier. Keep practicing the stitch until it feels comfortable before moving on to the bind off section to remove the swatch from your needles. Then pick up with the next swatch tutorial.
BASIC KNITTING STITCHES
The Knit Stitch
The most basic knitting stitch that when worked alone, creates the garter stitch pattern.
The Purl Stitch
The opposite of the knit stitch, also when worked alone creates the garter stitch.
Read Your Knitting
You may not experience this as you’re working through these swatches but as you progress and learn more stitches that use knits and purls in combination, you’ll need to recognize what a knit and purl look like on your needles. That way if you have to put your project down in the middle of a stitch pattern, you can “read your knitting” (identify the knits and purls) and know where to pick up.
adding new yarn to a project
What if you need to add a new skein of yarn?
You probably won’t run out of yarn when working through this guide and making your swatches but knowing how to add a new ball of yarn is another must-know skill. Since you’re just starting out, let’s keep this as simple as possible and add the new yarn at the end of a row.
You can cut your yarn at the end of the row in your swatch to give this a try or simply watch the tutorial and take a mental note for when you need to add more yarn to your project in the future. This tutorial will show you how to add new yarn for both basic stitches.
Every project ends with these two techniques
When you finish a project there are two things you’ll need to do to wrap it up – bind off to get the project off the needles and weave in the ends so it looks complete.
Binding off is a really simple technique. It’s done pretty much the same no matter what swatch you’re working but we broke this tutorial down so you can see how to bind off no matter which of the basic stitches you’re working with.
Weaving in the ends is an important step you won’t want to skip. It’s how you hide the tails from the beginning and end of the project as well as any additional ends from adding new yarn to the project.
At this point you should have watched all of the tutorials in this guide, worked up a swatch or two for each of the basic stitches and practiced the four techniques you use in just about every project (the slip knot, the long tail cast on, bind off and weaving in your ends). If you haven’t, do that now! This will give you the practice you need to get into the real fun stuff – making an actual project!
Now if you haven’t done so already, find a project you’re excited to make that’s within your current skill level.
Knitting patterns are pretty easy to find these days.
Ravelry | This is the biggest pattern database you’ll find the web. You’ll be able to filter through patterns of all shapes, sizes and skill level.
Yarn Manufacturers | Yarn companies like Red Heart, Yarnspirations and Lion Brand have hundreds of free patterns to download on their websites. You can usually find a pattern printed on the inside of the yarn label too.
B.Hooked Knitting Patterns | You’ll find dozens of free patterns here on this website. Just click on that link to be directed to our knitting patterns page.
Magazines | Whether you’re a digital or page-turner type, you’ll find a handful of knitting magazines that offer patterns as well as tips within their pages. You may even find them under Prime Reading if you have an Amazon Prime membership.
Books | You’ll find themed knitting pattern books all over Amazon and probably a few in your local book store too.
Pinterest | You’ll find thousands of pins for knitting patterns on Pinterest that are both free and available to buy.
The most important thing to remember when choosing your first knitting project is to select one in the beginner category.
and it’ll be even more helpful if there’s a video tutorial for it to. That’s why the best place to find your first project is online rather than in a magazine or book. You won’t likely find a step-by-step tutorial to help you through the process of reading the pattern.
The other important thing to consider when choosing your first project is how long it will take to make. A blanket sounds like a really practical project but they can take dozens of hours to complete. If your first project is something that takes hours and hours to make, it’ll feel like you’re getting no where and you probably won’t have the motivation to finish it.
That’s why we recommend a “quick win” project – something you can knit in a few hours or finish in a weekend. Something like a headband, mug cozy, boot cuffs, a small cowl or scarf with bulky yarn is the best place to start for your first project. Here are a few from our pattern database that’ll be great for your first crochet project.
free patterns with tutorials
B.Hooked Patterns for Beginners With Step-by-Step Tutorials
We’re here to help
and we want nothing more than to help you make something that makes you happy. After working through this guide if you find yourself needing more help, don’t give up! You’ll get better with every project you complete. Be kind to yourself when those first few projects look awful and know you’re not alone!
If you find yourself wanting a knitting buddy or needing an experience that’s catered more toward you, our knitting course may be exactly what you need. Enter your email address below and we’ll let you know as soon as “Learn to Knit the Easy Way” opens up again.