Katy has been knitting and crocheting for 10 years and selling her items at local craft shows in Colorado for three years.
This guide will take you from a complete beginner to a savvy knitter who understands advanced techniques. My goal is to thoroughly cover the basics of knitting 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.
Before you start on this endeavor, you want to know what you’re getting into.
How Long Does It Take to Learn to Knit?
You can learn the basics and be able to make a basic scarf in 1–2 afternoons of learning. 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 8 hours and a scarf in 24 hours. That gives you a really 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:
- 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 staying away from really chunky yarn or really thin "lace weight" yarn. Really 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 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 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.
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
It's easy to find acrylic yarns at large craft stores like Michaels and Joann's. They also tend to carry wools and wool blends. For the natural fibers, check out your local yarn store or an online retailer like KnitPicks.com.
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.
Needles come in a range of sizes. Both the diameter of the needle and the length is important.
Diameter: US 0–15 or 2–10mm
The thickness, or diameter, of the needle, 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 used 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 will need short needles while a big blanket will need longer ones.
There’s no hard and fast rule for needle length. You just need needles that are realistically sized for your project.
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 heels of socks and the tops of hats.
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.
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 to first select that pattern and then buy the supplies.
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 be adding a loop to the first stitch on the left needle and then transferring 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 Stitch (Video)
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 to learn about circular knitting. You cast on your stitches with whatever method 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 to not 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 if you simply start knitting the first stitch, a gap will probably form at the join. You can look up methods to join in the round to avoid this. The method I use might be the simplest:
- Skip the first stitch you would knit
- Knit all the way around to the last stitch
- 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 different. 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 just keep going when you hit the end of the row. You're always working on the "right side."
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