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The Complete Beginners Guide to Knitting Title Picture (Facebook Version)
The beginners guide to Knitting Title Picture

Introduction to the Beginners Guide to Knitting

Want to learn how to knit? Completely new to knitting or just looking to brush up on your foundational skills? You've come to the right place. Welcome to the Complete Beginners Guide to Knitting!

Knitting has been going through a bit of a resurgence in recent years, with many people discovering it's therapeutic nature in this stressful world. The sense of accomplishment and productiveness when you finish off that project (that you usually gift for a double joy-whammy). And of course, there is nothing quite like the sensation of creating something with your two hands.

Learning to knit may seem a little complex or confusing at first. Certainly, you can spend hours, days and month knitting together the most complex patterns you can dream of.

However, with a bit of direction, you will quickly see how simple and straightforward it can be. In fact, I am 100% sure that if you apply yourself, and spend just ONE hour reading & practicing the examples I demonstrate below, you will be able to knit by the time you reach the end of this article. Is it a deal?

In this article I focus just on the foundational elements of knitting. I have purposely avoided going beyond what I feel are the main building blocks so as not to overwhelm you, my dear pupil. These fundamental components involve how to tie a slip-knot and how to cast-on, which is just a fancy way of saying attaching the yarn to the needle.

Once you can attach your yarn to your needle, then we'll then go into the two most important knitting stitch techniques, how to knit & how to purl. With just these two stitches you can knit hundreds of different patterns and motifs, and I will quickly demonstrate two of them, the Garter Stitch and the Stockinette Stitch.

Unless you are making very, very small knitted garments (or are using huge balls of yarn), you will need to learn how to connect in new balls. Then finally, how to do a simple bind-off (which again is a fancy way of saying - how to get your knitting off your needles).

Ready to learn how to knit?

Tools of the Trade (Yarn & Needles)

Introduction

Let’s get started on our how to knit 101 class by discussing the tools and materials you are going to need.

I won’t lecture on this topics too laboriously, getting started with some yarn and needles is the most important thing. However, just to give you a quick intro…(you can always follow the hyperlinks to get more info!).

Yarn

As important as any pattern, the yarn you choose for a project will often define how well it turns out in conjunction with your abilities as a knitter. Different fibers have different properties and are therefore beneficial in specific projects and are decidedly unwise in others.

Traditional-Cotton-Wool-Dying-TurkeyGenerally, the main types of yarns you will come across are wool, acrylic, cotton, alpaca, cashmere, silk and also blends of two (or more of these fibers). There are of course many, many more fibers you can knit with – bamboo, angora, and I recently came across an article about a group of women knitting plastic bags into mattresses for the homeless!

All of the different fibers behave slightly differently when they are on your needles, and of course, have different properties that may desirable in your final garment. To give two examples; cotton is very absorbent so making it an excellent choice for a dishcloth while wool is a great insulator, so a great choice for that winter sweater.

After the type of fiber, the next decision is always going to be the thickness (or weight) of the yarn. Yarn comes in many different weights from super-fine, suitable for lace items to super bulky (or even heavier) that are best used in rugs or thick blankets. You can find a table explaining the different yarn weights here.

Lastly, color. This one comes down to personal preference. Choose what you think looks good!

Knitting Needles

As with yarns, needles come in various materials; aluminium, bamboo, wood etc. and in different forms, primarily straight versus circular needles. And then there are cable needles (but we will leave those in the drawer for today).

Needles also come in various sizes, and you match the needle size to the weight of the yarn you are using, we will touch a bit more on this in a moment. Although, if you are impatient then check out this chart again. Additionally, if you want to convert different needle sizes (between the US vs. Uk vs. European), you can click this link.

Knitting Accessories

There are also many other more minor knitting accessories from tape measures to gauge checkers to tapestry needles and crochet hooks, to stitch counters and markers, to the humble pair of scissors.

Our Recommendations

Rather than try and give you an exhaustive review of the full range out there (which would take a while). Instead, I am going to break it down for you - if you already have some yarn and needles, great! Practice! If you want a little bit of advice on where to start, then follow my recommendations below.

As a beginner, it is probably easiest to go with a worsted (medium-4), cheap, acrylic or wool blend yarn. This medium weight yarn is easier to handle at first until you become more nimble with your fingers and a master of the various techniques you are going to learn. Acrylic or wool blend, because it tends to be cheap and is relatively manageable unlike, say, cotton which can be tricky to knit with.

knitting-gear

The bare essentials of life...

If you are going with a worsted yarn, then you’ll need a size 7-9 needles (4.5-5.5mm in European/7-5 in the UK). Bamboo or wooden needles are best, to begin with as they aren’t as slippery as metal ones, which may prevent a few dropped stitches as you get the hang of it.

Also, you are going to need to pick up some accessories for your first project; a tapestry needle, some measuring tape and a pair of scissors. The others mentioned above can be useful, but there is no sense in overwhelming you (and your shopping basket) on your first go around.

Go to your local store, have a look around, feel the yarn and find something you like and ask questions of the staff if you are not sure. Alternatively, for ease Knit Picks offer four different starters Learn to Knit kits that provide the materials and instructions for knitting a dishcloth, hat, scarf or a jumbo set (there are also several others on Amazon).

Basic Knitting Techniques

Ok, so you have your yarn and needles and are ready to become a knitter. We are going to go through seven basic techniques that once learned, will give you a good grounding and set you on your way to becoming a master knitter!

How to Make a Slip Knot

Whilst in general knots and knitting do not go together there is one instance where making knot is not only acceptable but quite commonplace - making a Slip Knot for your first stitch.

Rock climbing, sailing and knitting. These three very different activities all share one commonality, the Slip-Knot. The slip-knot is a spectacularly handy knot in many walks of life, simply because you can loosen and move the knot along the yarn (or rope) by pulling on one of the yarn ends. Alternatively pull it tighter by pulling on both yarn ends simultaneously.

It's primary purpose in knitting is to create and secure the first stitch of your knitting project onto your needle. Notice that I said " the first stitch"? Yes, the slip-knot when attached to the needle should be counted as your first stitch, so if your project requires you to cast on 16 stitches, then the slip-knot would make 1 and you would then Cast-On 15 more stitches for a total of 16.

Whilst it is fairly common to create a slip-knot for you first stitch, it is not completely necessary. Many experienced knitters will argue that you can make the first stitch by simply threading on an open loop rather than a knot, resulting in a seam that is neater than one with a slip-knot. Additionally, if reworking with later revisions or additions to the project, on or near the cast-on edge, the finishing is neater because no tiny bubble is created by trying to rework yarn near the initial slip knot.

Having just said all that, then why am I teaching you how to make a slip-knot? There are benefits of creating your first stitch with a slip-knot, these being that your yarn is firmly attached to your needle, and it makes it easier to maintain an even tension casting-on the first few stitches and while knitting the first row. These two things are often something that beginners struggle with so I would recommend that until you get the hang of managing your tension, you begin with a slip-knot.

This lesson will take you through the two primary methods of how to create a Slip Knot, using step by step photos, video, and written instructions. Once you have learned to make a Slip Knot, you will be ready to move to the next lesson on "How to Cast-On".

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Instructions - How to tie a Slip Knot

You will need a skein of yarn to begin.

1. Take the end of the yarn and draw out about 10-12 inches (25-30cm) of yarn. Fold or twist the yarn in the middle of this stretch to create a loop.

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2. Holding the base of the loop together with your left hand, insert your thumb and forefinger of your right hand through the loop.

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3. Keeping the loop over your thumb and forefinger, reach and grasp the working yarn (yarn attached to the skein). Then pull the yarn through the original loop. You should now have two loops, the original one and the one you have just pulled through it.

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4. Still holding the new loop with your right-hand, grab the ends of the original loop with your left hand and pull. The original loop should now tighten around the second loop, thus creating a slip knot.

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5. Holding a needle in your right hand slide the Slip Knot onto the needle and pull the yarn to tighten the knot. The knot should be tight enough that the yarn doesn't slip off the needle...but not so tight that you can't move the knot along the needle with your fingers.

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You are now ready to cast-on the remaining stitches!

You will need a skein of yarn to begin.

1. Take the end of the yarn and draw out about 10-12 inches (25-30cm) of yarn, laying it on a table or other flat surface. Fold or twist the yarn in the middle of this stretch to create a loop.

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2. Take the loop you have just made and fold it over the top of line of yarn running towards the ball of yarn (the working yarn). The working yarn line should visually divide the loop into two halves.

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3. Grasp the working yarn line, and pull it upwards through the loop. Then taking your knitting needle and slide it through, underneath the working yarn line that you have pulled up and over the original loop.

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4. You should now see that the working-line has formed a new loop. With this on your needle, pull gentle on the loose end and working yarn ends together. This will tighten the slip-knot on your needle.

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You are now ready to cast-on the remaining stitches!

Video Instructions - How to tie a Slip Knot

Video instructions by Studio Knit

How to do a Single Cast on Title Slide

How to Single Cast-On

To begin any knitting project you have to start with a foundation row on your left needle, this is called "casting-on" in knitting parlance.

There are a variety of different methods for casting-on in knitting, the Single Cast-On being one of the simplest. You may also see this approach referred to as the thumb cast-on or the backward loop cast-on for reasons that once you have tried the instructions will become evident to you.

The Single Cast-On creates a very fine, loose edge to your knitting project, which may be exactly what you are looking for and works particularly well with Lace Stitches. Additionally, when you encounter any patterns that require you to cast-on in the middle of a project, then the Single-Cast on may just be the ticket due to it's quick and easy nature.

Whilst the Single Cast-On is one of the simplest methods to use, (being so straight-forward that it is likely the most common method first taught to beginners) it does have some drawbacks. It can be a little difficult to maintain an even tension while knitting the first row of your project, leaving you with super tight stitches or large loopy ones (or hopefully not, but a combination of the two). The solution to which is to take the first row slowly and ensure you are keeping an even tension.

This lesson will take you through how to perform a Single Cast-On using step by step photos and written instructions. To start this project, you will have to know how to form a Slip Knot. Once you have cast-on then you will be ready to try the Knit Stitch.

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How to Single Cast On

Instructions - How to do a Single Cast On

Once you have made a Slip Knot with your yarn you are ready to begin casting on.

1. Holding a needle in your right hand slide the Slip Knot onto the needle and pull the yarn to tighten the knot. The knot should be tight enough that the yarn doesn't slip off the needle...but not so tight that you can't move the knot along the needle with your fingers.

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2. Take the working yarn in your left hand and grasp it between your fingers and your palm by making a loose fist. Pull the yarn so it's lightly taught and place your thumb over the top of the yarn.

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3. Push down and rotate your thumb around the back of the yarn and then towards you so that the yarn is now looped once around your thumb.

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4. Bring your thumb into a upright position, like you are trying to catch a ride hitchhiking. Take the needle in your right hand and slip it between the yarn and the base of your thumb, so the needle moves upwards, relative to your left hand.

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5. Pull your thumb down, out of the loop thereby transferring it entirely to the knitting needle. Pull the yarn to tighten the loop on the needle (but not too tight).

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6. You should have your slip knot plus a new loop on your right-hand needle. Continue the process until you have the desired number of stitches that your knitting project requires.

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You are now ready to begin knitting your first row!

Video Instructions - How to do a Single Cast On

Video instructions by Oh Crafty One

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How to Knit (k)

The two techniques that form the backbone of most knitting projects are the knit stitch and the purl stitch.

In fact just learning to knit (or to purl), means you already have the skills necessary to make knitting’s easiest stitch pattern - the Garter Stitch.

This lesson will take you through how to knit a knit stitch in both the English style (American Style in the US) and Continental style using step by step photos and written instructions. The lesson assumes that you have already learned how to Cast-On.

Once you have learned the basic technique of the knit stitch, practice by knitting a little square (or swatch). To do this cast-on anywhere between 20 and 40 stitches, and then begin knitting the first row as per the instructions below. One important tip that threw me when I started knitting - Always hold the yarn to the back of the work before starting a knit stitch!.

Once you reach the end of the row, you are going to "turn your work" - take the right needle with all the work and transfer it to your left hand; then taking the empty needle from your left-hand, shift it to your right. You are then ready to start your second row. Keep repeating until you reach the desired size, and you will have knitted your first piece of work in what's known as the Garter Stitch.

As you progress and wish to broaden your knitting abilities, you will see that learning how to do the knit & the purl stitches will form the foundation on which you will learn more advanced techniques; the majority of them based on variations of these two stitches.

Once you have mastered the knit stitch then you will be ready to try the Purl Stitch.

With the ability to do a knit stitch and a purl stitch, you will see that with just these two stitches you can create a huge variety of patterns by applying different combinations of just these two stitches, as you can see by visiting our Knit & Purl Stitch collection.

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Instructions - How to Knit (k)

Once you have cast-on the required number of stitches, you are ready to begin your first knit stitch.

1. Holding the needle with your cast-on yarn in your left hand, ensure that the working yarn (connected to the yarn ball) is at the back of the work. Hold the other needle in your right hand.

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2. Start your first knit stitch by inserting your right hand needle through the bottom of the first stitch (loop) and push up, so that it is behind the left hand needle.

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3. With your right hand take the working yarn (attached to the yarn ball) and wrap it counter-clockwise around the back of the right-hand needle and through the middle of the two needles.

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4. Pull the working yarn fairly taught and hold in your right hand along with the right hand needle.

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5. Now work the right hand needle downwards and rotate your wrist slightly (relative to the cast on needle) such that the tip of the right needle is resting on top of the working yarn between the two needles.

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6. Turn the point of the right-hand needle slightly towards you and push it through the hole created between the working yarn and the stitch (loop) on the left-hand needle. If done correctly, both needles should now be sitting in the same hole.

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7. Holding onto the un-knitted stitches on your cast-on needle in your left-hand, use the right hand needle to pull the stitch off your left-hand needle. Your knitted stitch should now be sitting on your right hand needle with the stitch (cast-on) from the previous row hanging below it.

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Once you have cast-on the required number of stitches, you are ready begin your first knit stitch.

1. Hold the Cast-On Needle in your left hand. Take the working yarn (the yarn from your cast-on needle) and allow it to sit over your left forefinger and thread it under your middle and index fingers and wind it counter clock-wise once around your pinky.

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2. Start your first knit stitch by inserting your right hand needle through the bottom of the first stitch (loop) and push up, so that it is behind the left hand needle.

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3. Using the tip of the right hand needle swivel it right and underneath the working yarn strand.

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4. Holding the working yarn fairly taut, using the right hand needle, pull the working yarn wrapped around it down and through the stitch you entered.

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5. Holding onto the un-knitted stitches on your cast-on needle in your left-hand, use the right hand needle to pull the stitch off your left-hand needle. Your knitted stitch should now be sitting on your right hand needle with the stitch (cast-on) from the previous row hanging below it. .

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Video Instructions - How to Knit (k)

Video instructions by Good Knit Kisses

Knit Short Hand

Whenever you see the ‘k’ in the traditional knitting instructions on eKnittingStitches.com then you are meant to knit a stitch. Similarly, if the instructions say that should "k3", then you should knit the next three stitches.

Likewise, if using our knitting charts then a blank square means to knit that stitch if you are on the right-side & a black dot means to knit that stitch when working along the wrong side of the fabric as shown in the figure below.

 
Knitting Chart Symbol for Knit Stitch (Right Side)

Knit (Right Side)

Knit (Wrong Side)

 
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How to Purl (p)

The purl stitch can be thought of as the opposite, yet the same as the knit stitch: essentially the mirror image or "ying and yang".

The purl stitch is the second technique that when combined with the knit stitch are the bedrock of the majority of knitting patterns and more advanced techniques.

This lesson will take you through how to knit a purl stitch in both the English style (American Style in the US) and Continental style using step by step photos and written instructions. The lesson assumes that you have already learned how to Cast-On.

Again, similar to the knit stitch, once you understand the basic technique I'd advise you to practice by making a little test swatch. Cast on around 20 to 40 stitches, and then keep purling every stitch along the first row, turn your work and continue purling the second row, turn again, and so on, and on, until you have your square.

As with the knit stitch, I cannot emphasise the following enough - Always hold the yarn to the front of the work before starting a purl stitch!

On completion of your square you'll notice that you again have knitted a square of Garter Stitch. This goes back to what I said above, while the purl looks the opposite regarding technique it is the same stitch as the knit just from the reverse side.

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Instructions - How to Purl (p)

Once you have cast-on the required number of stitches, you are ready to begin your first purl stitch.

1. Holding the needle with your cast-on yarn in your left hand, ensure that the working yarn (connected to the yarn ball) is at the front of the work. Hold the other needle in your right hand.

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2. Start your first purl stitch by inserting your right hand needle through the top of the first stitch (loop) and push it through, so that it is in front of the left hand needle.

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3. With your right hand take the working yarn (attached to the yarn ball) and wrap it counter-clockwise around the back of the right-hand needle and through the middle of the two needles. The yarn should be sitting in between the two needles, so that you can see each needle sitting in its own hole.

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4. Now work the right hand needle downwards and rotate your wrist slightly (relative to the cast on needle) such that the tip of the right needle is resting on top of the working yarn between the two needles.

Turn the point of the right-hand needle slightly away from you and push it through the hole created between the working yarn and the stitch (loop) on the left-hand needle.

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5. Holding onto the un-knitted stitches on your cast-on needle in your left-hand, use the right hand needle to pull the stitch off your left-hand needle. Your purled stitch should now be sitting on your right hand needle with the stitch (cast-on) from the previous row hanging below it.

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Once you have cast-on the required number of stitches, you are ready begin your first knit stitch.

1. Hold the Cast-On Needle in your left hand. Take the working yarn (the yarn from your cast-on needle) and allow it to sit over your left forefinger and thread it under your middle and index fingers and wind it counter clock-wise once around your pinky. Your fingers should be in a relaxed position in front of the left-hand needle i.e. closer to you than the needle.

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2. Start your first purl stitch by inserting your right hand needle through the top of the first stitch (loop) and push it through, so that it is in front of the left hand needle.

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3. Using your left fore-finger wrap the working yarn counter-clockwise around the right-hand needle.

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4. Holding the working yarn fairly taut, using the right hand needle, pull the working yarn wrapped around it down and through the stitch you entered.

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5. Holding onto the un-knitted stitches on your cast-on needle in your left-hand, use the right hand needle to pull the stitch off your left-hand needle. Your purled stitch should now be sitting on your right hand needle with the stitch (cast-on) from the previous row hanging below it.

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Video Instructions - How to Purl (p)

Video instruction by Dummies

Purl Short Hand

Whenever you see the "p" in the traditional knitting instructions on eKnitting Stitches then you are meant to purl a stitch. Similarly, if the instructions say that should "p3", then you should purl the next three stitches.

Likewise, if using our knitting charts then a black dot means to purl that stitch if you are on the right-side & a blank square indicates to purl that stitch when working along the wrong side of the fabric as shown in the figure below.

 

Purl (Right Side)

Knitting Chart Symbol for Knit Stitch (Right Side)

Purl (Wrong Side)

 
How to do a simple bind off title slide

How to Simple Bind-Off

You've come to the last row of your knitting project so now it's time to get the project of the needles and "lock in" your stitch work so they won't unravel by Binding-Off.

There are a variety of different methods for Binding-Off in knitting (sometimes also called Casting-Off), the Simple Bind-Off being one of the simplest. You may also see this method referred to as the Knit Bind-Off for reasons that once you have tried the instructions will become obvious to you.

This lesson will take you through how to perform a Simple or Knit Bind-Off using step by step photos, video and written instructions.

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Instructions - How to do a Simple Bind Off

So you have come to end of your project, now it's time to Bind-Off.

1. Knit the first two stitches using your preferred method (Continental or English). These should be sitting on your right needle.

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2. Take the left hand needle and slip it through the first knit stitch that is on your right-hand needle.

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3. Using the left needle, pull the first knit stitch over the second knit stitch and off the right-hand needle. Also, let it slide off the left-hand needle. Ensure the second knit-stitch is still sitting on your right-hand needle.

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4. Knit another stitch as normal, this is stitch number three.

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5. Again, take your left-hand needle and slip it through the second knit stitch you made. Using your left-hand needle work the second stitch over the third stitch and off your needles.

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6. Repeat along the whole row until the last stitch. Once here, use a pair of scissors to cut the working yarn about 5-6 inches (12.5-15cm) from the swatch. Pull the needle off and then pull the yarn to make the final stitch taught.

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Congrats on finishing your knitting project!

Video Instructions - How to do a Simple Bind Off

Video Instruction by Knitting Tips by Judy

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Joining in Yarn

So you are happily knitting up a storm on that scarf/blanket/hat/jumper (delete where appropriate) and then boom. You realize that you are only a quarter of the way through, and you only have 12 inches of yarn from your ball left. What to do?

The obvious answer is to get another ball of yarn. The less obvious part is how you join your new ball of yarn into your existing work.

There are multiple different ways of joining in yarn. Many people have a particular preference and don’t deviate from it, ever. We are going to learn a very straight forward way to do it that is applicable in most situations.

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Instructions - How to Join in Yarn

Time to add in another ball of yarn and you at the start of the row? or you want to change color?

1. Insert the needle through the first stitch (knitwise or purlwise, depending on the pattern).

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2. Wrap the new yarn around the working needle (as you would do normally), leaving a tail of at least 4-5 inches.

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3. Knit (or purl etc) the stitch as you normally would.

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4. Continue working across the row for another five or six stitches.

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5. Tie the tails of the old yarn and the new yarn together. Not too tight!

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6. Keep going, and when you finish the work you are going to unpick that knot and weave the ends in.

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So you are midway through a row and realize you are running out of yarn. No problem.

1. Insert the needle through the next stitch (knitwise or purlwise, depending on the pattern).

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2. Wrap the new yarn around the working needle (as you would do normally), leaving a tail of at least 4-5 inches.

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3. Continue working across the row for another five or six stitches and tie the tails of the old yarn and the new yarn together. Not too tight!.

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4. Keep going, and when you finish the work you are going to unpick that knot and weave the ends in.

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How to Join in Yarn - Video Instructions

Video Instruction by Sheep & Stitch

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Weave in Ends

In the previous tutorial we learned how to join in a new ball of yarn, which when you finish your project will leave many little knots of yarn sticking out all over the place. It’s now time to deal with these and give your project the finish it deserves while making sure your joins are snug enough that your project doesn’t unravel at the first chance it gets!

As with joining in new yarn, there are multiple ways of weaving in the ends, and although there is not necessarily a wrong way to do it, there are certainly ways that are better than others. Unfortunately, that also comes with the caveat that there is no right way either as it depends on the pattern you are creating.

You will learn two methods below, one that is brilliant for weaving in ends in stockinette stitch and another that will give you invisible joins in garter stitch.

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How to Weave in Ends - Instructions

So you've finished you project and are now staring at those unsightly yarn ends, what to do?

1. Using a tapestry needle, take the yarn tail and push it away from you and through the nearest purl “bump”.

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2. Pull the yarn through and with the needle pulling towards you push it through the first purl “bumps” neighbour. Let’s call this purl bump number two.

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3. Turn the needle parallel to the row of purl bumps and push it through underneath the “v” shape below the second purl “bump”.

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4. Run the yarn and needle through the second purl “bump” again.

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5. Move to the next purl “bump” along and pull the yarn and needle down towards you and through.

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6. Keep repeating this until you have passed the needle through five

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So you've finished you project and are now staring at those unsightly yarn ends, what to do?

1. With the right side of your fabric facing you, pull the yarn and needle through from the wrong side. Then orientate the needle vertically (away from you) and weave the yarn through every alternate stitch between the “v”s for about 8-10 rows.

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2. Turn the needle perpendicular to the row of “vs” and pass it through underneath the adjacent “v” shaped (knit) stitch.

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3. We are going to reverse step one, and with the needle pointed towards you, weave it in and out for about 8-10 rows between the knit stitches.

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4. Orientate the needle perpendicular and again slip it underneath the adjacent knit stitch.

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5. Repeat steps 1-4 a one more time and you should have weaved and tucked your tails in securely!

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Basic Knitting Stitches

Now we have gone through some of the basic techniques together, I am going to show you the two simplest knitting patterns around - the Garter Stitch & the Stockinette Stitch (or Stocking Stitch in the UK). These two stitches are very versatile, and if you wanted, you could just learn these two and be able to knit sweaters, scarves, blankets, you name it.

Once you have learned these though I am sure you will want to get more creative. We have put together another blog post, 7 easy knitting stitches for beginners, where you can expand your stitch library. If you are feeling overwhelming ready for your next challenge, then you can also peruse our knitting stitch library.

The Garter Stitch

Introduction

The garter stitch is the first step into the world of knitting for the majority of people, as it is one of the easiest and (possibly as a result) the most common stitch patterns used in knitting projects.

The garter stitch gives a rugged look, comprised of a series of horizontal ridges which will feel bumpy to the touch - these ridges formed from the tops of knitted loops on every other row.

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