Mastering knitting basic instructions takes practice and patience. Beginners would do well to approach knitting with an open mind, an adventurous spirit and the willingness to learn from the inevitable mistakes. Be warned: Once you get the hang of knitting, you might just find you can't leave home without your knitting needles and a project in hand.
Gather (or Borrow) Some Knitting Supplies
If you find that you've fallen in love with knitting, you'll soon discover there's a lot to learn about yarn-from the fibers its spun from to its weight to how its dyed-but for beginner projects, look for yarn that's labeled worsted weight (sometimes called Aran).
Worsted weight yarns are the most common and are typically knitted upon US Size 7 or 8 needles. Purchase one or two skeins, depending on the yardage (and how much you want to practice). Wool is best, but if you want to save a few dollars, you can learn to knit with acrylic blends just as easily.
Knitting needles are made from a variety of materials-bamboo, rosewood, milk casein, plastic and metal-and vary in thickness and in length. US Size 8 needles are good, middle-of-the-road choice for beginners and suited well to worsted weight yarns. For most beginners, a standard length, straight needle is perfect to learn how to knit.
You'll also want a good pair of scissors and a couple of stitch markers. Stitch markers sit on the needles in between the stitches and can be used to mark places in the pattern where the stitch called for changes or some knitters like to place them every 25 stitches or so to make counting stitches in large projects easier. Finally, you'll want a tapestry needle to help weave in the yarn tail when you finish your project.
The process of putting the first row of loops onto the knitting needle is called casting on. There's more than one way to cast on your stitches, but all of them start with forming a slip knot.
Unwind or pull an 8" length of yarn and hold it in your left hand between your thumb and forefinger. The loose end should be on your left, while the long end attached to the yarn should be on your right. With your right hand, wrap the ball end of the yarn clockwise around your forefinger and middle finger; pull a loop of yarn from the ball end through the loop around your fingers. Release the yarn from your left fingers, but don't let go of the loop you pulled through with your right hand. Then, with your left hand, pull the loose end gently. One slip knot made.
Slide the slip knot onto the needle and pull on the loose end until the loop hugs the needle.
Next, move that loop close to the top of the needle, taking care it doesn't come off. Hold this needle in your left hand and with your right hand, insert your other needle into the loop from bottom to top, front to back. Your right needle should be angled behind your left so that the two together form an X.
Take the ball end of the yarn into your right hand and wrap it counterclockwise around the right needle. Think of the left needle as your placeholder and hold it steady. Use the right needle to push the yarn looped around it through the slip knot. Your right needle should now be in front of the left, one loop on each needle.
Transfer the loop on the right needle to the left needle. One stitch cast on. Repeat the process, each time working off the stitch you just transferred to the left, until you've cast on the desired number of stitches for your project.
The number of stitches you cast on determines the width of your project. For a basic scarf in worsted weight yarn, this is approximately 25 stitches.
The Knit Stitch
In knitting, there are really only two stitches: the knit stitch and the purl stitch. Every other stitch is just a variation of one of the two. There are two ways to approach the knit stitch-English and Continental. Each method has its own following, but most people find it easier to learn English or right-handed knitting first, then adopt Continental later.
Hold the needle with the cast on stitches in your left hand, thumb and forefinger resting on either side of the first stitch and the rest of your fingers supporting the needle in your hand. With your right hand, hold the working yarn that flows off the left needle by letting it fall lightly over your forefinger. Pick up the right needle in your right hand, forefinger with yarn draped over it, pointing upward.
Slide the point of the right needle through the first stitch on your left needle, bottom to top, front to back so that your needles make an X. The left needle should be in front, the right in back.
Hold the needles with your left thumb and forefinger at the X where they cross. You can release the right needle and it will stay secure. With your right hand, carry the working yarn draped over your forefinger up and wrap it counterclockwise around the right needle.
Hold the right needle in your right hand again and pull the working yarn taut, but not tight. Slide the point of the right needle down and back out of the stitch on the left needle, top to bottom, but this time, back to front (this is the opposite motion from how you brought the needle in). Did the new loop you formed come with you?
Your needles should again form an X. Next, move your right needle up and position the new loop about an inch from the top of the needle. Slide your right needle to the right, removing the loop from the left needle as you go. One knit stitch formed.
Keep knitting each stitch from the left needle onto the right until no stitches remain on the left needle. One knitted row completed.
Switch hands, so that the right hand needle with the stitches is your left hand and the empty needle is in your right. Make sure the working yarn is hanging straight down on the inner edge of the left needle. Repeat the process outlined above. Two knitted rows completed.
Continue knitting until you've created the length of fabric you desire (if you're knitting a scarf, you could be here a while: most scarves are anywhere from 48" to 72" in length).
What do you do when you've reached the end of your scarf? You get it off the needles, a process that's called binding off.
Knit the first stitch on the left needle, then knit the second. You have two stitches on your right needle. Slide the tip of the left needle under the bottom stitch on the right needle and move it up and over the top stitch and off the needle. One stitch left on right needle.
Knit the next stitch off the left needle and onto the right, then carry the bottom stitch up and over the top stitch and off the needle. Repeat these two steps until you're left with only one stitch on the right needle. Cut the yarn, leaving about a 6" to 8" tail and pull it through the last stitch to secure.
Weave this tail into your scarf using a tapestry needle. You'll want to thread that yarn in and out of about 4" worth of stitches on the wrong side (interior) of your knitted item. Snip the tail close to the end.
With some helpful knitting instruction, it isn't difficult to learn the basics behind knitting backwards.
According to the Craft Yarn Council of America, knitting has caught on in a big way, with the number of practitioners almost doubling from 1996 to 2002.
You have to learn how to use two needles when you knit, whereas you need only one hook for crochet, but knitting for beginners is simple, and knitters will usually defend their work as the more polished-looking of the two.
Even though you might think knitting is a complicated craft to learn, you need to master only a few basic types of knitting stitches. With a pair of knitting needles, an inexpensive ball of yarn and a little patience you'll be on your way to knitting scarves and sweaters.
Knitting needles come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and they are made from several kinds of materials.