Knit-one, purl-two, knit-one, purl-two. Sound familiar? If you’ve ever sat with your grandma, attended a primary school class or watched a movie that has said these words, then you’re already one step into the knitting game.
The sequence of knitting and purling is a simple sequence that will allow the knitter to get a specific pattern in their garment.
And, while knitting was once a skill and hobby associated with women and grandmothers across the world, it has become a trend among millennials and the entire generation ‘z’ population. From the gigantic blankets that people have knitted with their arms and plastered over Instagram, to the environmental-conscious individuals wanting to make their own jumpers for the Winter knit.
Everyone can start and learn to enjoy the hobby that is knitting. So, with that in mind, the team at The Hobby Kraze wanted to let you in on the ultimate beginner’s guide to knitting where you can learn about the tools and tricks of the trade before showing us your finished pieces.
In this field guide to knitting, we’ll be covering everything from the origins of the knit to the knitting patterns, themselves. We’ll even open your world to the online communities you can join and share various Winter knit patterns in. Take a look at what you can find:
- What Are Some Terms Every Field Guide to Knitting Should Have?
- Why Should You Start Knitting?
- What Are the Origins of Knitting?
- What Materials Do Knitting Beginners Need to Get Started?
- How Do You Cast-On?
- What is the Difference Between the Knit-Stitch and the Purl-Stitch?
- How Can You Bind-Off?
- What on Earth is a Gauge Swatch and Should You Do It?
- How Do You Care for and Store Your Knitting Patterns When Finished?
- Are There Communities of Like-Minded Knitters?
While you may catch yourself just knitting similar scarves for friends, family, pets and your boss for a while, knitting is a hobby best spent with time, learning and patience. What we’re trying to say is; don’t give up just because you’re only creating a straight-knit scarf. These garments can still be beautiful and meaningful. And, when you feel confident, you can begin to incorporate knit and purl patterns.
What Are Some Terms Every Field Guide to Knitting Should Have?
With every hobby comes its own glossary of terms. Even if it’s to do with specific materials, weights, tools, patterns or garments. That’s why we thought we should clue you in on these terms, first. That way, you’ll be set for the rest of the article!
This is a tool made out of metal, wood or bamboo and is used to hold your open knitting loops as you knit. You’ll either have multiple straight knitting needles or one circular one.
This refers to the way your yarn is placed over and through itself to create a whole garment. Using the knitting needles in a specific movement will create this basic stitch with which most beginners learn their Winter knit.
After mastering the knit with your needles, you can begin to add in a couple of purls to your garment. These are often completed in the reverse manner to a knit stich. Knowing how to stitch and what the differences between the knit and the purl will come later on.
The cast-on is the act of making the initial loops (stitches) on a knitting needle. After the cast-on has been completed with your desired number of rows, then you can begin your knit and/or purl stitching. Some variations of the cast-on are called; alternating cable cast-on, backward-loop cast-on, chain-edge cast-on, Judy’s magic cast-on, etc.
Also referred to as ‘casting off’ the bind-off is the act of creating a final stitch that will seal the base of your garment and remove the stitches from your knitting needles.
A gauge is a small knitted piece of fabric that is used to standardise knitting tension. This enables you to knit a specific garment pattern and ensure its measurements will line up with your final product. Knowing how to gauge and the best practices will come in their own segment!
This is the word given to a changed stitch at the beginning and end of your pattern. This creates a finished edge along the right- and left-hand sides of your pattern. This can then be used to create invisible seams with other patterns.
A backstitch is used to create an invisible and final seam between to pieces of pattern through the selvedge. It is completed by inserting the yarn through the selvedge, coming back, entering the seam again and moving forward twice as far and repeating this process.
This term has two meanings within the knitting world. The first simply refers to the knit and the purl. These are the two ways to weave your yarn on a needle. Then, by changing up the sequence of these two stitches, you can create beautiful patterns on your garment.
The second is used in conjunction with ‘row’. A stitch is the number of times a loop has been created on a knitting needle. Each stitch refers to how wide you will like this piece to be.
Paired with the stitches, the row refers to how long you would like your piece to be. The more times you knit across your needle, the more rows you will form. Picturing the row and stitch like a graph, the stitch would be the ‘x-axis’ while the row would be the ‘y-axis’.
A cross-stitch is the act of using a different coloured or textured yarn on top of an already knitted fabric. This gives extra pattern and design. The typical cross-stitch is made in the shape of crosses on the right side of the fabric.
The garter stitch is not a stitch or needle manoeuvre. Instead it is the name given to the look of the knitted piece after it has been knitted with only the knit stitch and no purl stitches.
DPN (Double-Pointed Needle)
Most needles you’ll come across will have a pointed edge, circular or hexagonal barrel and a hood on the end. This hood prevents the stitches from accidentally falling off the other end of a needle. However, some needles have a point on both ends and are used to knit ‘in the round’. This creates circular ends to fabrics such as the top of a hat or the end of gloves.
The lifeline is separate piece of yarn (often in a different colour) that is inserted through each loop (or, stitch) on the needle. This can be done as and when you’d like. They act as a barrier. So, if you make a mistake later on, you can rip away your yarn until you reach the lifeline, then insert your needle where the lifeline is and carry on knitting.
A slipknot is an easily done and easily undone knot with the hands. It is often the initial knot in your yarn used to begin the casting-on process. To achieve the slipknot, raise three fingers together, holding the yarn under your thumb and against your palm. Take the yarn around your fingers and then push a loop of yarn over your thumb and under the initial piece of yarn. Then, pull on this new loop and the original end, allowing the slipknot to slide off your fingers. To undo, pull on the end closest to the loop.
A buttonhole is, unremarkably, the act of knitting in a hole to the garment. Often these are used as buttonholes, but they can also be knitted in as a decorative pattern.
To frog is to ‘rip-it’, ‘rip-it’, ‘rip-it’ all out. So, if you make a mistake, you can unhook your needles and begin pulling on the thread to undo the work you have done. In these cases it is best to have a lifeline to rip towards. This will also help you when you need to re-place your needles to continue learning how to knit.
Blocking a piece of fabric is allowing it to relax in water. Place your finished piece into a bowl of cold water, kneading the fabric to ensure it is saturated. Leave the fabric to soak for 15 minutes and remove from the water, squeezing excess liquid out (do not wring as this can warp your garment). Lay the piece onto a flat towel, pat down and leave to dry. Once dried, your fabric should be true to size and relaxed into the correct shape without curling.
When you buy your yarn, be it wool, polyester, nylon, cashmere and what-not, you’ll purchase it in a collected state. It may be in the ball, a skein (oblong) or a hank (sausage). And, around this, there is what’s called a ball band. This band of either plastic or cardboard will tell you everything you need to know about your yarn. The name, the length, the gauge size expectations, the colour code, the ink, the material make-up, the origin and more.
Bulky, Chunky, Worsted, Sock and Lace
These descriptive terms all refer to the size and weight of your yarn. Going from left to right in this sequence, the wool is at it’s thickest (think arm-knit blankets) to the smallest. The most common type is worsted because it is medium in thickness and is easy to work with on different needle sizes.
Why Should You Start Knitting?
There are many benefits of knitting, just like each hobby has its benefits. While this particular hobby can’t make you strong, lean or muscular, your pocket can thank you and your finger dexterity will be the root of jealousy for years to come.
So, here at the Hobby Kraze, we thought we’d reel off some of the benefits open to anyone including beginners after they’ve learned how to knit with this field guide to knitting.
- Engages patience
- Can be calming
- Is easy and repetitive
- Will have a satisfying product at the end
- It’s affordable
- It can be done anywhere
- It doesn’t require power
- You can make anything
- There are endless designs and patterns
- The social community can be reached anywhere online
- It can help with arthritis
- It’s good for increasing elbow, shoulder, wrist and finger dexterity
- Reduces depression
- Decreases anxiety and stress
- It can lower blood pressure
- It slows the onset of dementia
- There’s a cost-effective and meaningful gift at the end
What Are the Origins of Knitting?
If we dive into the history books of the knitting world, it takes us back to the 5th century Middle East and Egypt. Here, garments have been unearthed in the form of patterned socks.
Throughout the years, these socks were made with cotton rather than wool and were dyed with natural colours to create a pattern of images, symbols or words. Often, these socks have been found to have Arabic blessings knitted into them with the purpose of warding off bad luck and spirits.
Leading into the 14th and 15th centuries, these knitted garments were highly sought-after by fishermen as they provided heavy and warm clothing when out at sea. Especially within the Irish and Scottish history books, where yarn and wool were woven and knitted into tartans and tweeds for the hunter’s day. Knitting patterns became a staple process for many garments such as; hats, scarves, gloves, jumpers, bags, shawls and – of course – socks.
Then, in 1816, the first knitting looms were created, and the hand-knitting fashions were weaned off in lieu of demand. However, the practice was never forgotten. Even to the end of the 19th century, Queen Victoria was often pictured with her handmaidens crafting a new knit or sitting by a spindle.
Even today, the popularity of knitting has seen a recent boost. With celebrities such as Taylor Swift, Julia Roberts, Kate Middleton and Ryan Gosling all dipping their toes into the Winter knit hobby with intricate knitting patterns.
So, for this field guide to knitting, the team wanted to let you know that you could be part of this generation that carries on the knitting legacy for our future. With chenille jumpers and cashmere hats, there’s endless possibilities for fashion and knitting culture.
What Materials Do Knitting Beginners Need to Get Started?
There a few tools that might come in handy other than your knitting needles and your yarn. However, those really are the only two things you need to cast-off with this ultimate beginner’s guide to knitting.
But, we’ve put together a useful list that can help you on your journey to learning how to knit:
- Bamboo Needles
- Metal Needles
- A Circular Needle
- Double-Pointed Needles
- A Tape Measure or Ruler
- Gauge Tool
- A Bag to Hold it All
- Plastic Stitch Markers
- Knitting Patterns
- The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Knitting
- A Darning (Tapestry) Needle
- A Bowl
- A Towel
- A Row Counter
- Knitting Needle Protectors
- Stitch Holders
- Yarn Scraps for Lifelines
- Pen and Paper
How Do You Cast-On?
Now you know the terms of the trade as well as the tools you’ll need to get started, we can begin the casting-on process.
Whether you know you pattern or not, you’ll always need to start your knitting journey by casting your yarn onto a needle.
Now, the first step would be to decide how wide you want this piece to be. For example, you’re wanting to create a 5-inch wide scarf. This number will give us a guideline for our yarn tail when casting-on.
So, with your yarn ready and a needle to hand, you’ll want to create a slipknot in your yarn. This slipknot should be located at a specific point from the end of your yarn tail. To know this distance, simply multiply your ideal width (5-inches) by the magic number three. In this example we’ll have a slipknot with a tail of 15-inches on one side and the ball of yarn to the other.
When you have created your slipknot, slide it onto your needle and tighten. There, we have our first loop/stitch.
To get the other stitches and loops onto the needle, we’ll need to follow a small sequence.
- Step 1: Hold your needle in your right hand and the tail of the yarn in your left. Make sure your right-hand index finger is securing your slipknot on the needle.
- Step 2: With your left thumb, place it behind your yarn and pull forward to loop the yarn around your thumb.
- Step 3: Bring the point of the needle in front of your left thumb and underneath the yarn. Then, thread the needle through the underneath of the yarn loop you made with your thumb.
- Step 4: Keeping hold of the yarn with your left hand, pass the needle into the left hand and grab the ball-end of the yarn with your right hand.
- Step 5: With the yarn in your right hand, wrap it under and around the needle point, bringing it back to you between your needle and left thumb.
- Step 6: Take the loop still on your left thumb and bring it over the tip of the needle. Take your thumb out of the loop. You should only have hold of the needle and ball-end of the yarn in your right hand.
- Step 7: Pull the non-ball-end of the yarn to tighten your stitch onto the needle. And, you’re done. Repeat these 7 steps until you have your desired width on your needle.
What is the Difference Between the Knit-Stitch and the Purl-Stitch?
Now you have completed the cast-on process, the next thing to be aware of when learning how to knit your Winter knit is what stitching you’ll be doing.
As we mentioned before, there are two types of stich you can do when knitting to bring your garment to life. Creating a sequence of these stitches will bring a unique light to your scarf, jumper, hat, gloves and more!
You have your knit stitch and your purl stitch. The knit stitch is the most common stitch that people will master before heading off into the land of purling. However, when it comes down to the ‘knitty-gritty’ of it, both of these stitches are making a series of knots and bumps.
One thing to note is that the purl stitch is the complete opposite to the knit stitch. Meaning, when you knit stitch and the bump is on one side, the purl stitch will have the bump on the other side. It is making use of these concave and convex bumps of the knit and purl that will create the patterned effects.
The most common patterns include the knit-one-purl-two which creates a ribbing effect and the knit-one-purl-one which creates a moss stitch.
Here’s a step-by-step on how to knit-stitch:
- Step 1: Take the needle with all your loops on it and place it in your left hand. With your right hand, you’ll need to hold your other needle.
- Step 2: With your free/empty needle, thread the pointed end through and under the first loop (closest to the point) on your other needle. At this point, the tips of your needles should be crossing, and one loop should be over the both of them.
- Step 3: With the crossed needles being held in your left hand, grab your ball-end loose yarn with your right hand.
- Step 4: Wrap the loose yarn around the bottom (free) needle and back through the centre. Pull down to tighten.
- Step 5: With the free needle, slightly pull it out of the loop but not all the way. Using the tip of this same needle, you should be able to bring the needle back through the original stitch loop, so it is now sitting on top of your left-hand needle.
- Step 6: Using the right-hand needle, push the original loop off the left-hand needle and you should now have one loop on your right-hand needle. Repeat this process until you get to the end, turn around and repeat again!
How Can You Bind-Off?
After you’ve finished your segment and you’re ready to take it off the needles, there’s a final few steps you’ll need to complete in this how to knit ultimate beginner’s guide.
Binding off, also called casting-off (not to be confused with casting-on), is what you’ll do to get rid of each of the loops and stitches on your needle without the entire piece frogging. But, don’t worry, just like before we’ll take you through the step-by-step of what to do after knitting patterns:
- Step 1: Begin with the knitting process. You’ll need to knit the first two stitches so that you have two loops around your right-hand needle.
- Step 2: With your left-hand needle, take the point and insert it into the first loop you made (the stitch furthest away from your righthand needle’s tip).
- Step 3: With your left-hand needle, bring the first loop over the second loop and then drop it off the needle leaving you with one loop on your right-hand needle.
- Step 4: Go back to the usual knit so you have two loops on your right-hand needle, again.
- Step 5: repeat this process until you are left with one single loop on your right-hand needle and nothing on your left-hand needle.
- Step 6: Pull on the remaining loop to enlarge it.
- Step 7: Cut the tail of the ball-end yarn. Making sure it is at least a few inches long.
- Step 8: Remove the final needle from your Winter knit and thread the tail end you have just cut off through the final loop. Ensure you pull on the yarn to make sure the final loop is secure.
What on Earth is a Gauge Swatch and Should You Do It?
Let’s answer the second question first; yes. You should do a gauge swatch (although not everyone will). But, because this is The Hobby Kraze’s ultimate beginner’s guide to knitting, we feel you should know every knit and cranny to your stitch. A gauge swatch is a small square of knitted fabric that is used to check the measurements of your desired garment.
For example; say we had two individuals. They both wanted to make the same hat. They both have the exact same tools, yarn, needles and experience. The only thing that could possibly set the two end products apart would be the knit tension.
In the explanation for how to knit, we didn’t yet mention how loose or tight you should keep your loops/stitches. This is because it depends on you as a knitter and your end goal of knitting patterns. A looser knit will create a flexible and see-through end product while a tight knit can create a stiff and thick garment.
When you buy your yarn, it will have a ball band surrounding it. On the ball band it should have instructions to say how many stitches and rows will be in an inch. The same instructions will be written on a pattern, and it is up to you to find the right needles and yarn to match your end product.
For example, a ball band may say that a square of knit-only fabric will create a yield of 3 stitches per inch and 7 rows per inch.
When you do your swatch fabric, you need to cast on, knit-only and bind-off. Then, you can use a tape measure, ruler or gauge to see how many stitches and rows you have per inch.
If you have more stitches and rows per inch than you should, you know that your knit is too tight, and you should either loosen your knit or use larger needles.
If, on the other hand, you have fewer stitches and rows than is indicated, then you need to tighten your knit or use thinner needles.
Doing this will ensure your end product is the right size and fit. Far too often people begin making an item, only to have to give it to younger siblings, cousins or kids because they won’t fit. Or, vice-versa.
Top-tip: In this field guide to knitting, we want you to have the best experience. So, we’ll give you a little tip to the knitting trade. When you have made your gauge or swatch (and your final piece, too) you should block your fabric. As we mentioned in the glossary, blocking will allow your yarn to relax and form its true shape. This is especially useful for knitting patterns that curl such as the stockinette stitch (knit one row, purl one row).
How Do You Care for and Store Your Knitting Patterns When Finished?
As we are nearing the end of this hobby-filled ultimate beginner’s guide, the next step is knowing how to care for your finished pieces. This can include the storage options, too.
The first thing we’ll mention is that you should always read and re-read your ball band carefully. Often, some knitters will keep a knitting journal, taking notes of their knitting journey, what they were thinking at the time and add snippets from the ball band. This way, all the necessary information about this knit is in one place and you don’t have to fret about care instructions ten years down the line.
With that in mind, each type of yarn has its own special needs for the washing basket. There’s no use simply throwing it in with your whites or coloured’s and hoping for the best. Often they will need to be hand washed or dry cleaned.
Here’s a small list of the types of yarn you might come across at your local yarn store or hobby outlet:
To stay on the safe side, we say that most hand-knitted items should be hand-washed. This is because, even with acrylic yarns that can be machine washed, the knit stitch can become warped and pulled.
So, try getting your hands on some of the organic and gorgeous-smelling hand laundering bars. Then, submerge your item into a bowl of cold to warm water. We say this temperature is best simply because protein stains – such as blood and sweat – can set further into your garment. Plus, hot water hurts.
After lightly scrubbing stained areas with your soap, drain the bowl and add new cold water. Let your garment soak for about 20 minutes (or, as per the directions on the ball band). Then, you can remove, squeeze and pat your item dry with a towel. Make sure you don’t wring-out the water as this can damage yarn fibres, knitting patterns and ruin your Winter knit; you may as well have machine washed.
A final tip would be to store your dried Winter knit pieces in an air-tight or vacuum-sealed bag. This is because moths and other insects love to eat through wool and yarns. So, while your knitting patterns are out of commission for the Summer months, it’s best to keep them stored safely.
Are There Communities of Like-Minded Knitters?
Yes, yes and yes! There are many of us knitters out here on the internet and in groups across the country. You can find knitting groups on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Meetup and more.
We even suggest heading out to your local and independent yarn shop. It’s very often they’ll have an idea of some local groups that meet up for a coffee and knit morning. You never know, they may even take place in that store!
And, there you have it. Your ultimate beginner’s guide to knitting. From the Egyptian socks to your own knit-one-purl-two piece of fabric.
Don’t forget to keep checking into The Hobby Kraze for more guides, tips, trick and fun hobbies for you to try out.
If you find that a machine might help you out a little more on your garment adventure, why not check out or ultimate beginner’s guide to sewing?