Knitting isn’t just fun, it’s also a practical hobby which can produce anything from warm winter socks to stuffed toys and full-sized blankets. To get started knitting, one will need knitting needles, yarn, a good pair of scissors, and a yarn needle or crochet hook, all of which can be found through online retailers like eBay.
Types of Knitting Needles
Most beginners start with straight knitting needles that have a point at one end and a stopper at the other end to keep stitches from sliding off. These needles may be made of plastic, aluminium, steel, wood, or bamboo. However, there are a couple other types of knitting needles to be aware of:
Double-Pointed Knitting Needles
These needles have points at both ends, with no stopper. They can be used to knit unbroken loops of varying sizes, and can be used for creating a hat or sleeve in one piece.
Imagine two double-pointed knitting needles, with a thin cable connecting the end of one needle to the end of the other. That’s a circular needle. Think of it as an extra, extra long double-pointed needle, capable of knitting large, unbroken tubes or holding large numbers of stitches for projects like blankets.
Matching Needles With Yarn
Choose the yarn for a project first; then check the wrapper on the skein of yarn. The wrapper will say which size of knitting needle gives the best results with that type of yarn. Every knitter’s stitches are a little different, but generally, thinner needles create small, tight stitches, while thicker needles create large, loose stitches.
Basic Knit Stitches
All knitting is the product of just two stitches: the knit stitch and the purl stitch. But before one can learn the stitches, the first step is to get the yarn on the needles; this process is called casting on. There are several ways to cast on; one of the most versatile is the long-tail cast on, which is best explained with a video. Once the stitches are cast on, it’s time to practice the knit and purl stitches.
The Knit Stitch
- Hold the knitting needle with the cast-on stitches in the left hand, with the point facing toward the right and the working end of the yarn in the back of the work. Hold the other knitting needle in the right hand, and loosely wrap the working end of the yarn around one or two of the fingers on the right hand; this helps regulate stitch tension.
- Slide the point of the right-hand needle into the first stitch on the left-hand needle, from left to right. Let the point of the right-hand needle pass underneath the left-hand needle, not on top.
- Wrap the yarn anti-clockwise around the point of the right-hand needle.
- Slide the right-hand needle back out of the original stitch, bringing the wrapped yarn with it. Let the original stitch slide off the left-hand needle. This completes one knit stitch.
- Repeat steps 2 though 4 as needed to suit the pattern.
- Hold both needles and yarn as for the knit stitch.
- Bring the working end of the yarn to the front of the work.
- Poke the point of the right-hand needle into the first stitch on the left-hand needle, pointing toward the left. The right-hand needle should pass in front of the left-hand needle, not behind it.
- Wrap the yarn around the right-hand needle anti-clockwise.
- Slide the point of the right-hand needle through to the back of the original stitch, bringing the wrapped yarn with it.
- Let that stitch slide off the point of the left-hand needle.
- Repeat steps 3 through 6 as desired.
The Purl Stitch Casting Off
Casting off creates a finished edge to the knitting, so the stitches will not unravel. As with casting on, there are many ways to cast off stitches. The following is one of the easiest ways to cast off:
- Knit two stitches.
- Use the tip of the left-hand needle to slide the first, lowermost stitch up and off the right-hand needle, letting the stitch drop as soon as it’s off the right-hand needle. The stitch above it should stay in place.
- Knit another stitch.
- Use the left-hand needle to slide the lowermost stitch up and off the right-hand needle. The stitch above it should stay in place.
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 until just one stitch remains.
- Clip the working end of the yarn about 15 cm from the last stitch. Thread the working end through the stitch, and cinch it down so the yarn will not unravel.
- Use a yarn needle or crochet hook to weave any loose yarn ends into the knitted fabric.
All of the above can be done with a knitting machine too, although the process is somewhat different.