tips tricks and techniques
Good morning … we’re all set to have some kind of weather the tail-end of this work-week, so I thought it would be a great time to teach a bit about how to get started knitting. It’s not hard … it’s relaxing … and it’s the perfect thing to occupy hands while the wind/snow is blowing outside and the fire is heating up the inside.

So, sit back and see if you’d like to try and start knitting …

TOOLS: First, you want to get a set of knitting needles and some yarn. The best bet for starters is “worsted-weight” (if there is a large number on the ball band, it will say “4”) and size 8 or 9 needles (knitting needles increase in size with a larger number — using size 50s is like knitting with flag poles!). You should always buy the best yarn you can afford — don’t go with a cheap acrylic but opt for 100% wool or a wool-blend that is predominately wool. Do not use cotton as it doesn’t have any “give” and can be very tiring to work. Other natural fibers work well but are often spun loosely, so your best bet is a wool like Plymouth’s Galway or, if you’d rather a blend, Plymouth Encore.

That’s it. That’s all you’ll need to start knitting. As you become more proficient, you’ll branch out and buy all kinds of different needle sizes, needle types, notions and accessories. But for just starting out … you just need “two sticks and some string”.


How to start out: The Cast On

the start of something big:  the cast on

the start of something big: the cast on


Make a slip knot on one needle as follows. Make a yarn loop, leaving about 4″ length of yarn at free end. Insert knitting needle into loop and tighten yarn from free end to make a loop on needle. Pull yarn firmly to form a slip knot on the shaft (not the point) of the needle. Pull yarn end to tighten — this is your first stitch! [Step 1 in graphic]

Place the needle with the slip knot in your left hand, placing the thumb and index finger close to the point of the needle — this will help you control the needle.

Hold the other needle with your right hand, again with your fingers close to the point. Hold the needle firmly — but not tightly.

Your right hand will control the yarn coming from the ball — to keep the yarn flowing evenly, wrap yarn loosely around your pinky and up through your palm to your index finger.

Insert the point of the right needle — from front to back — into the slip knot and behind the left needle.

Holding both needles with your left hand, and using right hand to hold yarn, wrap yarn around your needle — from front to back. [Step 2 in graphic]

Now, holding right needle with right hand, draw yarn through stitch with the point of the right needle. [Step 3 in graphic]

Place new stitch on left needle by sliding left needle into stitch from right needle.

Pull yarn gently to make stitch snug on needle. You have now made one stitch — and there are now two stitches on left needle. [Step 4 in graphic]

Insert point of right needle — from front to back — into stitch you’ve just made and behind left needle.

Repeat steps until you have desired number of stitches — about 20 for practice.

Once you have 20 stitches on your needle, pull off all stitches — yank yarn and START ALL OVER AGAIN! Do this 4 or 5 times until your stitches are cast on evenly. When you feel comfortable we’ll really start knitting.

How to Begin Knitting — the Knit Stitch

most basic stitch: the knit stitch

most basic stitch: the knit stitch


Here’s the KNIT STITCH. [Note: when doing only knit stitch, we call this pattern “garter stitch”]

Step 1: Hold the needle with the cast on stitches in your left hand. Insert point of right needle in first stitch, from front to back, just as in casting on.

Step 2: With right index finger, bring yarn from ball over point of right needle.

Step 3: Draw yarn through stitch with right needle point.

Step 4: The next step is where this differs from casting on — slip the loop off the left needle and LEAVE IT ON THE RIGHT NEEDLE ONLY. Pull snugly. You’ve now completed your first knit stitch.

Repeat these four steps until you have worked across all cast on stitches — there should be no stitches remaining on the left side — and all stitches on right needle should be equal to number cast on. Always check this!

Next Row: turn right needle, hold it now in your left hand and place empty needle in your right hand. Work another row of stitches — following steps 1 thru 4 — and make sure not to knit too tightly.


How to Begin Knitting — the Purl Stitch:

the "backside of knitting" - the purl stitch

the “backside of knitting” – the purl stitch


Here’s the PURL STITCH. It’s the opposite of KNIT stitch, so you’ll be putting the needle from back to front to purl, and holding the yarn in front of the work.

Step 1: Hold the needle with the cast on stitches in your left hand. Insert point of right needle in first stitch, from back to front.

Step 2: Holding yarn in front of work, bring yarn around needle in clockwise direction.

Step 3: Draw yarn through stitch with right needle point.

Step 4: Slip the loop off the left needle and LEAVE IT ON THE RIGHT NEEDLE ONLY. Pull snugly. You’ve now completed your first purl stitch.

Repeat these four steps until you have worked across all cast on stitches — there should be no stitches remaining on the left side — and all stitches on right needle should be equal to number cast on.

Next Row:
turn right needle, hold it now in your left hand and place empty needle in your right hand. Work another row of stitches — following steps 1 thru 4 — and make sure not to knit too tightly. Continued in this way until you have as many rows as directions say — in another form of “garter stitch” (all purl rows).


How to End Your Knitting Piece — Binding Off:

ending the piece - the bind off

ending the piece – the bind off


Now that you’ve learned to cast on and knit/purl a bit, you’ll need to know how to finish the piece (or swatch) that you’ve made. This is known as binding off or casting off – we’ll call it BINDING OFF (BO).

Be sure to work loosely (but not TOO loosely).
Step 1: Knit the first two stitches as you’ve been doing. Now insert the left needle into the first of the two stitches on the right needle. Pull it over the second stitch, using the left needle, and completely off the needle. You have bound off one stitch. Continue across.
Step 2: When you have bound-off the last stitch, pull the yarn loop large and cut. This end will be hidden in the knitting or used to sew two pieces together.


knit side, purl side, ribbing

knit side, purl side, ribbing


All knitting is made up of only two basic stitches, the knit stitch and the purl stitch. These are combined in many ways to create different patterns, textures, and designs. When you alternate knit and purl rows — you create stockinette (or stocking) stitch which creates a smooth, V’d side and a bumpy purl side.When you alternate 1 or 2 stitches of knit, and 1 or 2 stitches of purl in each row, you have ribbing – a great elastic edging.

[graphics courtesy of the Yarn Standards website, maintained by the Craft Yarn Council of America — a great spot for learning all about knitting and just what you can do with “two sticks and some string”]

Keep practicing and practicing until your stitches are even and you begin to develop muscle-memory. Remember, this is supposed to be relaxing so if you start to stress, put it down and come back later. Hold the yarn the way that feels comfortable to you. Also, if you are a crocheter, or a dominant-leftie, you might want to try “continental knitting” where the yarn is held in your left hand.

Here are some online resources that might help you on this new venture:

Beginner Backpack -- felted and fun

Beginner Backpack — felted and fun

ON-LINE RESOURCES:
• Yarn Companies: if you have a favorite yarn or yarn-producer, they probably have a website filled with free patterns, tips on using their yarns and links to designers who work for them. Lion Brand, Plymouth, Cascade, Universal, and others all have web-presences. Check the yarn-ball-band and look for the *.com or the distributor’s name, and then google it.
• Ravelry – www.raverly.com – if you haven’t been on this website yet, why not? It is a great, online community of knitters, crocheters and other fiber fanatics. It is a free community to join. Here, you’ll find free (as well as cost) patterns, designers who will joyfully (usually) answer your questions, etc. Any stitches, patterns, designs, techniques you may want to explore: you can find an answer or advice at Ravelry!
• youtube – www.youtube.com – just about any question you might have with knitting can be answered by searching for a youtube video! Some are better than others … but make youtube your first source for checking for information as it really is a treasure trove (and the videos are free!)
• YarnStandards – http://www.craftyarncouncil.com/standards.html — if you’re curious about abbreviations, symbols used on yarn labels or any other industry-standard type of questions, this is the resource for you. Created and maintained by the Craft Yarn Council (whose membership includes yarn companies, accessory manufacturers, magazine, book publishers, and consultants in the yarn industry), this site has links to knitting and crochet help, obtaining certification as a teacher, learning about the standards (abbreviations, fiber labeling and pattern direction ratings) within the industry and other helpful tips.

Holler if there is anything for which you’d like clarification or more detail. If you’d like to try your skills on a simple (but fun) pattern … check out my Beginner Backpack on Ravelry (it’s free to join Ravelry AND the backpack pattern is a free download) .sig block

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