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Learn to Knit: Teach Yourself How to Knit

Katy has been knitting and crocheting for 10 years and selling her items at local craft shows in Colorado for three years.

This guide teaches you to learn to knit with online resources

This guide teaches you to learn to knit with online resources

Learning to Knit

This guide will take you from a complete beginner to a savvy knitter who understands advanced techniques. My goal is to cover the basics of knitting thoroughly and then point you to resources to learn more. As you progress through teaching yourself to knit, you can return to this guide to continue learning.

It's a Time Commitment

Before starting this endeavor, you want to know what you're getting into. How long does it take to learn how to knit? You can learn the basics and be able to make a basic scarf in one or two afternoons. How long it takes you to make the first basic project will vary, but I'd plan on a couple of weeks.

How Long Does It Take to Knit Projects?

Most knitters can make a hat in eight hours and a scarf in 24 hours. That gives you a rough idea of how long projects should take once you have the basics down.

How to Start Knitting

To start knitting, you need three things:

  1. Yarn
  2. Needles
  3. Knitting Pattern

Tips on Choosing Yarn

For yarn, make sure you have enough for your project. Choose a weight and color you like. I recommend avoiding really chunky yarn or thin "lace weight" yarn. Thick yarn is easy to split with needles, and really thin yarn takes a long time to complete projects.

Tips on Choosing Needles

For needles, make sure they're sized correctly for the yarn you have. Usually, there's a handy square on the yarn label that lists needle size, and that's a good rule of thumb.

Tips on Choosing a Pattern

For a knitting pattern, find a beginner-friendly pattern and learn the techniques it uses. Or learn the basic stockinette stitch and make your own scarf.

The next sections will take you through the details of these three elements.

All About Yarn

Beginners' Hint: Look for a mid-weight acrylic or wool blend for your first project, like Wonderful Worsted Wool Blend Yarn. It's soft and comes in beautiful colors.

Yarn Weight

Yarn comes in different weights or thicknesses. Yarn weight ranges from thin sock yarn to super chunky yarn.

I recommend a mid-weight yarn like worsted or aran for your first few projects. Fingering yarn is so thin your first project will take forever. And super chunky yarn can be difficult to deal with.

Yarn Material

Beginners shouldn't worry too much about yarn material. Acrylic is an affordable place to start. When you're ready to invest more, learn about these yarn fibers:

  • Acrylic: Soft, washable, affordable
  • Wool: Warm and durable but can be scratchy
  • Silk: Use for lightweight projects
  • Cotton: Breathable but stiff
  • Merino Wool, Alpaca, Cashmere: Expensive but completely worth it
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Read More From Feltmagnet

It's easy to find acrylic yarns at large craft stores like Michaels and Joann's. They also tend to carry wool and wool blends. For natural fibers, check out your local yarn store or an online retailer like

All About Knitting Needles

Beginner's Hint: Use the US 8 or US 9 from this Straight Knitting Needle Set if you selected the worsted weight yarn above.

Next, we need to find some knitting needles. You'll need to consider diameter, length, and type.

Needle Sizes

Needles come in a range of sizes. Both the diameter of the needle and the length are important.

Diameter: US 0–15 or 2–10mm

The needle's thickness, or diameter, will determine how big the stitches are. Thus, it needs to match the weight of the yarn.

  • US 0 (2mm) is a very thin needle for lightweight yarn like lace.
  • US 6–8 (4–5mm) is a good size to use with a worsted weight yarn.

Needles come as large as US 15 and bigger. Use those with very chunky yarn.


Needle length is simply the length in cm or in. You need to pick the right length for your project. Socks need short needles, while big blankets need longer ones.

There's no hard and fast rule for needle length. You need needles that are realistically sized for your project.

Needle Types

There are two main types of needles: straight and circular.

  • Straight needles are typical straight knitting needles. Use straight needles to make flat items like blankets and scarves.
  • Circular needles are a set of two needles joined together by a plastic tube. These allow you to knit in a circle, called knitting in the round. Tubular garments like hats, gloves, and socks are made with circular needles.

Double Pointed Needles (DPNs) can be used instead of circular needles. These are straight needles that have points at both ends. DPNs are needed for the heels of socks and the tops of hats.

Circular knitting needles in three different sizes and three different lengths

Circular knitting needles in three different sizes and three different lengths

Find a Beginner's Pattern

Beginner’s Hint: This free Garter Stitch Scarf Pattern by Rowhouse Yarns is a great introduction. It uses the yarn and needle sizes I recommended earlier.

You can use the pattern recommended above or find your own.

Techniques Required

A true beginner pattern will only expect you to know:

  • How to cast on.
  • How to do a knit stitch.
  • How to purl (maybe).
  • How to cast off.

You can learn all four of those techniques easily with this guide or YouTube.

Yarn and Needles

You want to find a pattern that matches the yarn and needles you’d like to use. It can be easier first to select that pattern and then buy the supplies.

Project Type

A scarf or washcloth is a perfect project. Both are knit flat (i.e., with straight needles), and sizing isn’t too important. That way, if your gauge is slightly off, it won’t make the end project unusable.

The Total Beginner: Cast On

Once you learn to cast on and do the knit stitch, the world of knitting starts to seem attainable.

How to Cast On Knitting

Before you can do anything else, you need to cast on. “Casting on” means adding the first row of stitches to your needles.

There are many ways to cast on. For a beginner, I recommend starting with the "knit cast on." It’s called that because the method is very similar to the knit stitch. So once you learn this method, it will help with the actual knitting.

Watch the video below to learn how to use that method.

Beginner Technique: Knit Stitch

Beginner's Hint: if you cast on with the knit method above, this is the same, except you keep the new stitch on the right-hand needle.

Okay, here's where you actually learn to knit!

You'll add a loop to the first stitch on the left needle and then transfer it to the right needle. Then you repeat with the next stitch on the left needle until you've knitted all the stitches on the left needle.

Watch the video below to see how to do the knit stitch. Replay the video until you can follow along and knit your own stitches.

How to Knit a Tube: Knitting in the Round

Use circular needles or DPNs to knit in the round. This creates a tube instead of a flat rectangle.

How to Join in the Round

Joining is the hardest part of learning about circular knitting. You cast on your stitches with whatever method you choose, and then the two ends to begin your first row.
There are many methods out there, but two important things to watch out for:

  • Don't twist your stitches!
  • Don't leave a gap!

What does it mean not to twist your stitches? All your stitches need to be pointing the same way at the start of your tube. Otherwise, you'll get a twisted tube! Also, be aware that a gap will probably form at the join if you start knitting the first stitch. You can look up methods to join in the round to avoid this. The method I use might be the simplest:

  1. Skip the first stitch you would knit
  2. Knit all the way around to the last stitch
  3. Knit the first and last stitch together

Stitches are Different in the Round

As you work flat patterns and in the round patterns, you'll notice they create stitch patterns differently. For example, stockinette stitch knit flat is one row knit and the next purled. But to create that in the round, you knit all the rows.

Why is this?

Remember, when you knit straight, you turn the work every row. That means you're flipping your knitting and working from the backside.

Contrast that with circular knitting. When knitting in the round, you keep going when you hit the end of the row. You're always working on the "right side."

About Tension

Tension will become more important with more advanced stitches like colorwork and cabling. But it’s important to be aware of your tension as a beginner.

Tension is how loose or tight you hold the yarn as you make stitches.

Most beginners make their stitches too tight. This makes it difficult to slip the right-hand needle in and slows down your knitting. If you’re knitting too tight, watch experienced knitters on Youtube. Their knitting is very relaxed. Nothing is tense or forced.

The goal with tension is to be natural and consistent.

© 2018 Katy Medium