Get Started and Learn How to Knit

Welcome! If you're a beginning knitter, you can start with our 45 minute "How to Knit" series. This 3 part introduction to knitting walks the new knitter step-by-step through the knitting basics: Long Tail cast-on and the knit and purl stitches and basic knit bind-off and finishing your knitting. Along the way you'll pick up many knitting tips and guidance on how to identify and fix common knitting mistakes. If you're already familiar with the craft and just need a quick refresher, take a look at the "There's a lot more to" section below. The site is divided into primary techniques, as well as knitting tips, advanced knitting techniques and knitting abbreviations.


How to Knit: A Complete Introduction for Beginners Part 1

How to Knit: A Complete Introduction for Beginners Part 1

Grab your knitting needles and yarn and get ready to learn how to knit! How to Knit: A complete introduction for beginners is a step-by-step tutorial for new knitters to follow along and learn to knit.

How to Knit: A Complete Introduction for Beginners Part 2

How to Knit: A Complete Introduction for Beginners Part 2

This is the second part of a three part video on the basics of learning how to knit.

How to Knit: A Complete Introduction for Beginners Part 3

How to Knit: A Complete Introduction for Beginners Part 3

This is the final part of a three part video on the basics of learning how to knit.


There's a lot more to

Be sure to check out all the sections of this website:

What to knit first?

A scarf is the most common first project. A felted purse or lap-top sleeve is another great first project. If you've knit your scarf in feltable yarn (see below), you may even be able to stop half way, and seam it into a purse and felt it.   A hat on circular needles is another fine project. Whatever you choose, be prepared to embrace the quirky imperfections that go with the territory of any first project.  If you'd prefer to hide imperfections, felting works great. Felting obscures details that smooth yarn would otherwise show readily.

For more ideas, take a look at our free pattern directory. A knit dishcloth is an excellent first project. It a quick knit, and you can choose a dishcloth that will allow you to practice desired skills such as basic knitting and purling, increases, decreases, and even cables. And with a little more knitting you can turn most dishclothes into a baby bib. 

Warning: If you make a scarf in the lovely stockinette stitch (alternating a knit row with a purl row), the side edges will curl in. You will have a rolled-up tube of a scarf! So I don't recommend stockinette stitch for a scarf. Use garter stitch instead (this is all knit stitches, back and forth for every row, or some other pattern or alternate knit and purl stitches. See the Stitch Patterns section.   

Yarn and Needles:

A smooth, ordinary wool yarn is great for a first project. It's easy to knit with, and allows you to see what you're doing, and learn from mistakes.  

If you look at the yarn label, it will have a recommended needle size (look for an icon of two crossed knitting needles, with a number under it). Stay away from anything smaller than US size 8 needles (5mm) if you don't want it to take you forever to knit. US size 10 1/2 needles (6.5mm) will cruise through an average ball of yarn at a very satisfying rate.

You can knit on the classic set of two straight needles, or you can venture into exciting territory right off the bat and buy a circular needle (two short needles connected by a cable).  A circular needle can be used back and forth just like two straight needles, or used to knit things in the round, such as a hat (a great beginner project).   

I would warn against pairing the most slick needle (nickel plated brass needles) with very slick yarns (mercerized cotton, some synthetics, soy & bamboo yarns, even the smoothest wool yarns). This combination will have you knitting very tightly in order to maintain control over extremely slippery stitches. Tight knitting is hard on the hands and frustrating to work (decreases can be agony), and is certainly a habit to be avoided.   For beginner knitters, who have a particular need for control over the stitches, I love recommending the Denise Interchangeable Needles. They offer an ideal mid-point in the slickness-control spectrum that is great for beginners, and you can knit with any yarn type in comfortable tension and control.  

*If you're going to felt it:

Choose 100% wool that is NOT labeled "machine washable," or "superwash," as those won't felt. Felting projects are also one instance where you can get away with faster knitting on larger needles than recommended on the label, like US size 10-1/2 for yarn labeled US size 8 or 9 needles. The felting will still shrink it down to even smaller than normal knitting if you agitate it long enough. One thing to note: Felting shrinks the object a bit more height-wise than it does width-wise. A square-knit sample may end up as much as 20% shorter, maybe even more if you really felt the heck out of it. If you felt a hat, it will be a smaller head circumference, and will probably end up above the ears unless you knit the head section longer.

I have my needles and yarn! What next?

Start with a cast-on to put some loops on your needle. If you're all about challenge and want to know it all, jump in with Long Tail cast-on. If you want to get right to the knit stitch without that rather involved cast-on, Knitting On is another useful cast-on to know, and you can actually practice the knit stitch as you do it. (Note: the videos for Knitting On were shot without sound. There are also two versions, one for Continental knitters, and another for English.)

Wait, "Continental and English?" What's this about?

The majority of knitters in America are English-style knitters. Occasionally a knitter who started as an English knitter will fall in love with Continental knitting, as I did. Other knitters, having heard about this compelling trend, try Continental but find that they are much more natural with the English method. This is merely about preference, one that ultimately your hands will decide for you. The good news is, the two methods can be used interchangeably and create the exact same resulting fabric, so you can play around, and try them both out. Try both knitting and purling. Learning both methods is not wasted (see 2-color Stranding in the advanced techniques section).

If you don't want to try both, and you just want to choose a method and go, here's a starting point: Do you already crochet, holding the yarn in the left hand? Or do you find it easy to improvise and adapt hand movements? Try Continental. Do you want a sure-fire knitting method, predictable and reliable, with the fewest finger acrobatics possible? Try English!  

Here are four videos:

If you want to read more descriptions about these videos, click on the Free Videos tab above and you'll find them in the Knit and Purl sections, along with descriptions of why a knitter might favor each method. You may also notice that there are yet even more knitting and purling methods out there. Knitting and purling make up the vast majority of knitting, so once you've accomplished a knit and purl stitch, however you end up doing it, pat yourself on the back!

Demonstration of a small project

Here is the world's tiniest knitting project, which I have knit just to show you all of the steps needed for a project like a scarf, as concisely as possible. This overview has some excellent beginner tips!

Reading a Pattern

The thing to know here is that patterns use lots of abbreviations. CO 26 sts., means cast on 26 stitches. Use whatever cast on method you favor. When they say k3, they mean knit three stitches. Patterns also like to use asterisks, like *k2, p2, repeat from *. This means knit 2, purl 2, knit 2, purl, 2, etc., until the next directions. Browse our glossary sometime, for a full list of abbreviations and what they mean. There are also a handful of videos in the glossary that you won't find elsewhere on the site. Most notably, Sl (Slip a stitch), and CDD (centered double decrease).


Remember how your first scarf was narrow in one place, and wide in another? You were holding the yarn more tightly in one area (knitting with a tighter tension) and more loosely in the other (knitting with a looser tension). This resulted in a fabric of differing gauge (smaller stitches and bigger stitches). By the end of your scarf, things probably started looking pretty even and excellent, with only minor variations. (For how to avoid even minor variations, which can be substantial on fitted garments, see the next section, "Mastering Tension.")

Once you can maintain consistent tension, you can knit a sweater, or other garment that specifies gauge. Getting the correct gauge is all about knitting on the correct size needles. The correct size, which may or may not be the size recommended in the pattern. The only way to know is based on your own knitting, since knitters knit at different tensions. Most knitters prefer to knit a small sample of knitting (called a gauge swatch) in the exact yarn and needles they expect to use, to confirm that they have the correct needle size, before casting on for the project. Here are three videos on this all-important topic of gauge.

Here are three videos on Gauge.

Mastering Yarn Tension

There are a few factors that can affect your knitting tension.

Stress is one factor, often causing a knitter's tension to tighten up. But since there are few things more relaxing than knitting, this is the last thing I want to you think about. Instead, just be aware if your knitting becomes difficult to slide across the needles, and if so, try to loosen up.

The other biggest factor in tension change is actually environmental conditions. Humid days make for sweaty, sticky hands that pull on the yarn more, and cause a tighter tension than dryer conditions. Again, just be aware if your knitting is getting noticeably looser or tighter on the needles, or if the yarn is so loose it's harder to control. Then, make adjustments to stabilize your tension. Here is what I do...

  • How to loosen up: If my hands are sweaty or the yarn is textured and less willing to slide through my fingers, I will eliminate the wrap around my pinkie and instead just weave the yarn forward and back through my lower fingers. This gives me control, with less resistance on the yarn.
  • How to tightening up: When the air is especially dry, as when knitting in front of my wood stove, sometimes that wrap around my pinky isn't enough to maintain tension and I start feeling like I'm loosing control as I work my stitches. In this case, in addition to wrapping yarn around the pinky, I'll weave the yarn forward and back through my middle and ring fingers. If the yarn is especially slippery on top of the dry air, two wraps around the pinky usually does the trick.

There is no right or wrong way to tension the yarn, it's all about what works in the circumstances for you, relative to the way you usually carry the yarn.

Are there more videos to watch?

YES! Hover over on the tab at the top of the page that says "Free Videos," and select from the categories that appear below it. In addition to basic Knit and Purl stitches, you'll find Cast-ons, Bind-offs/Cast-offs, Increases, Decreases, Tips, and Advanced Techniques.

Some videos don't have sound?

That's right, it's not your computer. Our shortest videos were shot intentionally without sound, to be simply followed by watching.

More Knitting Basics...a few tidbits to know

If you make a scarf in stockinette stitch (alternating a knit row with a purl row), the side edges will curl in.  You will have a rolled-up tube of a scarf!  Use garter stitch instead (all knit stitches, back and forth for every row), or some pattern of alternating knit and purl stitches across the row, to get a flat scarf that doesn't curl in. If you've already started a scarf in stockinette, you can back it with fleece to keep it from rolling, or you can turn it into a bag (fold it in half, and sew up the sides) or other object. Felting will also eliminate rolling, although be aware that it changes the knitting dramatically.

If you're in love with a thin yarn, and determined to make something big with it, you can always double up the yarn, so it's two-strands thick, and then use bigger needles, for a faster project. Or just use big needles, for a lacy effect.

More beginner knitting tips on this page.

Happy Knitting! ~Amy & Sheldon