The Complete Beginners Guide to Knitting

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)


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!).


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.


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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