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How to Knit: Complete Guide for Beginners

Do you want to learn how to knit? If so, you have come to the right place!

If you’re a beginner knitter, the thought of picking up needles and yarn may seem intimidating. But don’t worry! We promise that it’s not as difficult as it looks. In fact, once you get the hang of it, knitting can be a fun and relaxing activity.

In this guide, we will teach you how to knit from the very beginning. We’ll cover all the basics, including how to hold your needles and yarn, how to cast on and bind off, and how to do the knit stitch. By the time you finish reading this post, you will be ready to start knitting your very first project! Are you ready to get started? Let’s go!

a swatch of garter stitch fabric in blue yarn with brown wooden knitting needles and a ball of yarn

All About Knitting

Knitting is a popular craft that has been around for centuries. In fact, the earliest known examples of knitting date back to 5th century Egypt. Today, knitting is a hobby enjoyed by people all over the world. 

What is Knitting?

Knitting is the process of making interlocking loops of yarn with needles to create fabric. While knitting can be done by hand or with a machine, most hobby knitters prefer to knit by hand.

By combining the two basic stitches – the knit stitch and the purl stitch – in different ways, the knitter can create various textures, such as ribbing, cables, and lace.

Is it easy to learn how to knit?

Yes! Knitting is a relatively easy craft to learn. Even if you have never knit before, you can learn the basics in just a few hours.

Once you learn the basic stitches, you can create all sorts of projects, from simple scarves to more complex sweaters and blankets.

What do I need to start knitting?

Unlike some other crafts, knitting is relatively accessible. You don’t need a lot of fancy supplies to get started – just some yarn and a pair of needles.

You may also want a few other essential supplies, like scissors, a tapestry needle, a tape measure, and a project bag to store everything in.

What is the easiest thing to learn to knit?

Along with your supplies, you’ll also need a pattern.

Start with something small and easy, like a garter-stitch scarf or simple dishcloth if you’re a beginner. After learning the basics, you can move on to larger and more complex projects. Click here for more easy beginner knitting patterns.

Now that we’ve answered the question “what is knitting?”, let’s move on to the next question: how do you knit?

a swatch of garter stitch in blue yarn, with wooden knitting needles

How to Knit: The Basics

In this section, we will cover the basics of how to knit. First, we’ll talk about the knitting supplies you’ll need for your first project. Then, we’ll cover how to hold your needles and yarn, how to make the basic stitches, and how to cast on and bind off. These simple techniques form the foundation of all knitting projects.

After reading this section, you will know everything you need to start knitting your first project!

Knitting Supplies You’ll Need

Here are the tools and materials you’ll need to start your knitting journey.

Yarn

I recommend that beginners choose a light-colored yarn in a medium to bulky weight. This will make it easier to see your stitches and keep track of your progress.

When shopping, look for yarn labeled “worsted weight yarn” or “chunky yarn.” You can knit with acrylic or wool yarn – either fiber content is just fine. But, I would caution you to avoid novelty yarn or anything too lumpy and bumpy.

Knitting Needles

I recommend that beginners pick up a pair of wooden or bamboo straight needles for their first project. These types of needles are lightweight and easy to work with. They also have a bit more grip than metal needles, so you won’t have to worry about your stitches slipping off. 

When you’re shopping, make sure to select the correct size needle for your yarn. Check the back of the yarn label to see which size needle it recommends.

As you become more comfortable with knitting, you may want to try using different types of needles, like stainless steel. But for now, bamboo or wood will do the trick!

Stitch Markers

Stitch markers are little rings that help you keep track of your place in a pattern. You might not need them for your practice swatch, but they’ll come in handy for your first actual project. You can find stitch markers at most craft stores.

Tapestry Needle

A tapestry needle is a large, blunt needle used to weave in loose ends and sew together pieces of knitting. You can find tapestry needles at most craft stores.

There are a few different types of tapestry needles available: straight tip and bent tip, plastic, and metal. When shopping, choose a tapestry needle with a large enough eye to fit your yarn.

Scissors

Last but not least, you’ll need a pair of scissors to cut your yarn. Any pair of scissors will do, but you might want to pick up a small, dedicated pair of scissors to keep in your project bag.

Other Supplies

You may also want a few other basic supplies, like a tape measure to measure your swatch, a notebook to keep track of your patterns, and a project bag to store everything in.

Now that you have gathered all of your supplies, you’re ready to start knitting! In the next section, we’ll teach you how to hold your needles and yarn.

How to Hold Your Needles and Yarn

One of the most common questions new knitters have is, “How do I hold my needles and yarn?” The good news is that there are many different ways to do this, and you can try out different methods until you find the one that feels comfortable.

Needles

Let’s start with a few ways to hold the needles.

The first is the “overhand method.” To do this, hold the needles in your hands, with your palms facing down. Hold the needles as you would hold a knife and fork at dinner.

The second way to hold the needles is the “underhand method” or “pencil grip.” Hold the needles between your thumbs and index fingers as if you were holding pencils.

Some knitters hold their needles with a combination of these two grip styles – they hold the left needle in an overhand grip and the right needle in a modified underhand style.

There’s really no right or wrong way to hold the needles, as long as you’re comfortable and enjoying knitting. So, don’t be afraid to experiment with it and see what works for you.

Yarn

Now that you know how to hold the needles, it’s time to learn how to hold the yarn. There are two common ways to hold the yarn: the English style and the Continental style.

English Style

The first is called the English (or American) method. In this style, you’ll hold the yarn in your right hand, and use your right hand to wrap the yarn around the needle.

The English method is sometimes called “flicking” or “throwing” because the knitter throws the yarn counterclockwise around the needle.

If you are holding your yarn in the English style, you’ll tension it by weaving it through the fingers of the right hand.

Continental Style

The second way to hold the yarn is called the Continental method. In this style, you’ll hold the yarn in your left hand, and use your needle to grab the yarn from your left index finger.

The Continental method is sometimes called “picking” because you use the needle tip to “pick” the yarn from the left index finger.

If you are holding your yarn in the English style, you’ll tension it by weaving it through the fingers of the left hand.

Note: As you practice holding your yarn and needles, keep in mind that it will take a while to feel comfortable with this new skill. It may feel awkward initially, but you’ll develop muscle memory with just a few practice sessions. Keep going, and soon enough, it will just “click” for you.

Which way should beginners learn?

Most beginners – at least in the US and UK – learn to knit in the English style. Beginners may find it easier to control their tension when they hold the yarn in their right hand. And, if you’re right-handed, holding the yarn in the right hand may come easier to you.

On the other hand, many people think that the Continental style is a bit faster, especially on knit rows. And, the Continental style makes it easier to switch between knit and purl stitches – which comes in handy when you’re knitting ribbing or seed stitch.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • If you already know how to crochet, and are used to holding the yarn in your left hand, you might find the Continental style easier to learn.
  • If you are a left-handed person, you may find it easier to hold the yarn in your left hand. But, there are plenty of lefties who knit in the English style.

All said and done, knitting style is a personal preference. I learned how to knit in the English style and was very happy knitting that way until I learned Continental Style. I suggest trying both knitting methods to see which one is more comfortable for you.

Now that you know how to hold the needles and yarn, you are ready to start knitting! In the next section, we’ll teach you how to make a slip knot and cast on your first stitches.

How to Cast On

Casting on is the process of creating your first row of stitches. There are many different cast on techniques, and each method creates a slightly different look. Some cast ons techniques create a firm, sturdy edge, while others create a flexible and stretchy edge.

In this tutorial, we’ll be learning the Long-Tail Cast On. This technique is quite versatile and will work for almost all of your knitting projects.

the front side of the completed long tail cast on in blue yarn and wood knitting needle

Long Tail Cast On

The Long-Tail Cast On is done on one needle with two strands of yarn: the working yarn, which is the strand of yarn attached to the ball of yarn, and the tail end of yarn. (This is the “long tail” that gives the cast on its name.) 

  1. Measure out a length of yarn that’s 3 to 4 times as long as the width of your project. For example, if you’ll be making a 6-inch practice swatch, measure out a 24-inch piece of yarn.
  2. Then, tie a slip knot. Make a loop, and pass the tail end of the yarn behind the loop. Grab the tail yarn, pull it through the loop and tighten.
  3. Place the slip knot on the needle so that the yarn tail is closest to you. Hold the needle in your right hand, and use your right index finger to hold the slip knot in place.
  4. Grasp both strands of yarn with your left hand. Insert your thumb and index finger between the two strands of yarn, and spread them apart. Tilt your hand back to create two loops of yarn – one around the thumb and one around the index finger THe loops should form a “Y” or “slingshot” shape.
  5. Next, swing the tip of the needle under the outside strand on the thumb, and up through the center of the thumb loop.
  6. Then, swing the needle up and over the inside strand on the index finger, catching that strand.
  7. Now, pivot the needle sideways over the inside stand on the thumb, and down through the center of the thumb loop.
  8. Then, release the loop from your thumb. Pull slightly on the two strands of yarn to snug up the loop on the hook. Congratulations, you’ve just made your first cast-on stitch.
  9. Repeat these steps to cast on as many stitches as you need. If you’d like to follow along with me, cast on 15-20 stitches for your practice swatch. (When counting your stitches, remember that the slip knot counts as a stitch.)

For more information, check out this article: How to Cast On in Knitting.

Now that you’ve learned how to cast on, it’s time to start knitting! We’ll teach you how to do the knit stitch in the next section.

How to Make a Knit Stitch

The knit stitch (abbreviated “k” in most patterns) is the most basic of all stitches. It’s what you’ll use for almost every project you knit.

a swatch of garter stitch fabric in blue yarn with brown wooden knitting needles

Here’s how to make the basic knit stitch.

  1. Hold the needle with the cast-on stitches in your left hand, and the empty needle in your right hand. (The working yarn should be coming from the right-most stitch on the left-hand needle.) Hold the working yarn to the back of the work.
  2. Next, insert your right needle into the first stitch on the left-hand needle, from left to right. The right needle should go under the left needle, through the center of the first stitch, from front to back.
  3. Then, pick up the working yarn in your right hand, and wrap it around the right needle in a counterclockwise direction. This will create a loop of yarn on the right-hand needle.
  4. Now, use the right needle tip to draw the loop of yarn through the stitch on the left needle. Think of it as a sliding motion to pull the new loop of yarn under the left-hand needle and through the center of the stitch. At the end of this step, the right needle will be in front of the left needle, and there will be a loop of yarn on the right needle.
  5. Finally, slide the right needle up and to the right so that the stitch slips off the left needle. Congrats, you’ve just made your first knit stitch!
  6. Repeat these steps until you have knit all of the stitches on the left-hand needle. 

And that’s it! You have now learned how to knit the knit stitch. 

At this point, it’s a good idea to count your stitches to make sure you haven’t dropped a stitch or made any extra stitches.

For an even more detailed breakdown of the knit stitch, check out this tutorial: How to Knit the Knit Stitch.

Turning Your Work

Once you finished your first row of knitting, it’s time to turn your work and begin the next row.

At this point, the left-hand needle will be empty, and all the stitches will be on your right-hand needle.

To turn your work, swap the needles around so that you’re holding the needle with stitches in your left hand, and the empty needle in your right hand.

Now you’re ready to knit the next row. Keep knitting until your swatch is as long as you want it to be. (If you continue knitting each row, you’ll be making what’s called garter stitch!)

How to Cast Off (aka Bind Off)

When your practice swatch is as long as you’d like, it’s time to get those stitches off the needles. This process is called casting off, or binding off. The cast off secures the edge of your work so that it doesn’t unravel.

a swatch of garter stitch with all stitches cast off, and one loop left on the knitting needle

Like the term “cast on”, the term “cast off” doesn’t refer to a specific technique, but rather a whole family of techniques that you can use to finish your last row of knitting.

In this tutorial, we’ll teach you the basic cast off. This is the most common cast off method, and works for lots of projects.

  1. To start, knit the first two stitches on your needle as normal. Keep your tension relatively loose so that your cast off doesn’t become too tight.
  2. Then, insert the left needle into the first knit stitch on the right needle.
  3. Next, use the needle tip to lift the first stitch (the one on the right) over the second stitch (the one on the left). Let this stitch drop off the needle. You will now have one stitch remaining on your right-hand needle. Hooray – you’ve just cast off one stitch!
  4. Now, knit the next stitch on your left-hand needle as you normally would. You should now have two stitches on your right-hand needle.
  5. Next, use the left-hand needle to lift the right stitch over the left stitch, and let it drop off the needle. Ta-da! You’ve cast off another stitch!

Repeat the previous two steps until you have only one stitch remaining on your right needle.

In other words, continue the pattern of “knitting one stitch, casting off one stitch, knitting one stitch, casting off one stitch” until you have one stitch left on the right needle.

Finishing Off

Here’s how to finish the last stitch. Cut the yarn, leaving a 6-in tail to weave in later. Thread the yarn tail through the stitch, drop the stitch from the needle, and pull on the yarn tail to tighten. Then, weave in the yarn tail to secure it. 

a swatch of garter stitch, with all stitches cast off

Congrats! You have now learned how to cast off in knitting.

For a more detailed description of casting off, be sure to read: How to Cast Off in Knitting.

How to Weave in the Ends

Once you’ve finished casting off, you will need to take care of the yarn tails. This process, called weaving in the ends, secures the yarn tails and prevents your knitting from unraveling.

To weave in the ends, thread a tapestry needle with the yarn tails. Then weave each yarn tail through the fabric on the “wrong side”, so that it’s not too noticeable.

a swatch of garter stitch in blue yarn, with a metal tapestry needle

What about Purl Stitch?

The purl stitch is one of the most basic stitches in knitting, and it is often the second stitch that beginners learn – right after the knit stitch. It may seem a little intimidating at first, but I promise that you’ll be able to pick it up with just a little practice.

Purling is a great skill to learn early on, since it’s necessary for many patterns like ribbing, stockinette stitch, and moss stitch.

To learn how to purl, click to read: How to Knit the Purl Stitch for Beginners.

More Knitting Stitches to Learn

Once you have learned the knit and purl stitches, you are ready to start exploring some more stitch patterns. Below are some of our favorite stitch patterns for beginners.

Garter Stitch: The garter stitch is created by knitting every row. This results in a stretchy fabric that has a slightly ridged surface.

Stockinette Stitch: The stockinette stitch is created by alternating a knit row with a purl row. This results in a fabric that is smooth on one side and has a slightly ridged surface on the other.

Seed Stitch: The seed stitch is created by alternating between knit and purl stitches within the same row. This results in a fabric that has a textured surface.

More Knitting Techniques for Beginners

Here are a few other techniques that every knitter should know.

How to Read a Knitting Pattern

Reading knitting patterns can be confusing, but we’re here to help. In this article, we will walk you through how to read a basic knitting pattern.

How to Increase and Decrease Stitches

As you become more comfortable with knitting, you will want to start exploring some shaping techniques. Learning how to increase and decrease stitches is a great place to start.

How to Knit in the Round

Knitting in the round is a great way to create hats, socks, and other circular items. You can learn how to knit in the round using both double-pointed needles and circular needles.

How to Fix Common Knitting Mistakes

As a beginner, you are bound to make a few mistakes. But don’t worry! These mistakes can be easily fixed with a little bit of knowledge and practice.

Free Beginner Knitting Patterns

Now that you know the basics of how to knit, it’s time to get started on your first project! Check out our collection of easy knitting patterns for some ideas.

  • How to Knit a Scarf
  • How to Knit a Cowl (Infinity Scarf)
  • How to Knit a Hat

FAQs about Knitting

Here are some commonly asked questions about learning to knit.

Is it easier to learn to knit or crochet?

Both knitting and crochet are relatively easy once you get the hang of the basic steps. Here’s our guide to the differences between knitting and crochet. We recommend trying both and seeing what works best for you.

If you’d like to learn crochet, our guide to crochet for beginners is a great place to start.

What is the easiest thing to knit?

We recommend starting off with a simple dishcloth or scarf when you begin knitting. Not only because it’s a great way to practice your basic stitches, but also because it will be quick to finish. Our free beginner knitting patterns have lots of ideas to inspire your first knitting project! 

Which yarn weight should I start with?

Start by using a bulky yarn so you can easily see your stitches and track your progress. You’ll also be able to finish your project faster, so you can have the satisfaction of seeing results sooner! 

Which knitting needles are best for beginners?

We recommend simple straight bamboo or wooden needles to begin with. They’re lightweight, warm to the tough, and have a slightly grippy surface that will keep your stitches from sliding off the needles.

More Knitting Tutorials

Be sure to check out our other knitting tutorials for more helpful tips and techniques.

What’s Next?

Pin this post: Save this tutorial to your Pinterest boards so that you can come back to it later.

Leave a comment: We love to hear your feedback. Tell me in the comments below!

Share on Instagram or Facebook: When you make this project, share it on social media and tag me @sarahmaker. We love to see what you make!

pinterest image with a photo of a knit swatch with the text How to Knit

Have questions? Join the Facebook Group!

We hope this article was useful for you! If you have any additional questions, feel free to join my Facebook Group. We created this group for you to share pictures, ask questions, and help each other out.

a swatch of garter stitch fabric in blue yarn with brown wooden knitting needles and a ball of yarn

How to Knit for Beginners

Yield: 1
Active Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour
Difficulty: Easy

In this guide, we will teach you how to knit from the very beginning. We’ll cover all the basics, including how to hold your needles and yarn, how to cast on and bind off, and how to do the knit stitch. By the time you finish reading this post, you will be ready to start knitting your very first project!

Materials

  • Yarn

Tools

  • Knitting Needles
  • Scissors
  • Tapestry Needle

Instructions

  1. Cast on 15-20 stitches using the Long-Tail Cast On. the front side of the completed long tail cast on in blue yarn and wood knitting needle
  2. Knit all stitches across the row. wooden knitting needles and blue yarn on a light gray background showing the knit stitch
  3. Turn your work, and knit the next row. a swatch of garter stitch fabric in blue yarn with brown wooden knitting needles
  4. Keep knitting until your swatch is as long as you want it to be. a garter sttich fabric swatch wtih brown knitting needles and blue yarn
  5. Cast off (bind off) all stitches. a swatch of garter stitch with all stitches cast off, and one loop left on the knitting needle
  6. Weave in the ends. a swatch of garter stitch in blue yarn, with a metal tapestry needle

Notes

Once you have learned the knit and purl stitches, you are ready to start exploring some more stitch patterns. I recommend learning the purl stitch next!

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