In this knitting class, I’ll teach you the basics of hand knitting. Whether you’re an absolute novice or you want to refresh some rusty skills, this beginner class will get you going! You’ll be guided through making cozy scarves, hats, and mittens while learning the tools, fibers, and vocabulary you need to take on any knitting project after the class is complete. You’ll put in the necessary practice during this class to establish consistency in your own knitting style, which is the key to creating even, professional looking finished projects!
Class table of contents:
- Welcome to Knitting (you are here)
- Cast On
- Knit Stitch
- Bind Off
- Purl Stitch
- Fixing Mistakes
- Pattern Abbreviations and Knitting Gauge
- Knitting in the Round
- Stitch Decreases and DPNs
- Stitch Increases
- Picking Up Stitches
Knitting is a productive, portable, and inexpensive hobby that is fun for all ages. Hand knits make excellent personalized gifts. They have a distinct look and attention to detail that can rarely be replicated in commercially available products.
Studies have shown that knitting can reduce stress and provide relief for sufferers of depression and anxiety. The complex problem solving and repetition have effects on the brain similar to meditation and can help protect your brain against aging. Enjoy the creative satisfaction of making something heartfelt, warm, and beautiful!
Garter stitch scarf – Work on your yarn tension and muscle memory in this basic flat project!
Ribbed scarf – Learn to purl and combine with knitting to create ribbing in another basic flat project, using variegated yarn to achieve color effects.
Ribbed hat – Level up to knitting in the round and add a little shaping, and optional stripes! This hat can be worn two ways.
Basic mittens – I promise they’re not as hard as you may think. Learn more shaping techniques and finish this class proudly!
Tools and Materials for Knitting
You don’t need very many things to get started, and your first set of needles will take you far. If you have a friend or family member who’s been knitting for ages, you can probably borrow all the supplies you need for this class! I was lucky enough to have my mother, a Level Eleven knitting mentor, donate a very respectable starter collection to me at a young age. Experienced knitters become collectors of tools and materials. Don’t let this intimidate you! Collections build gradually over time as you take on different projects.
To start this class and knit the first two projects, pick up a 14 inch (35cm) pair of size 10 (6mm) straight needles and some chunky-weight yarn.
To complete all projects in the class, here’s the complete list of tools:
- 14 inch (35cm) pair of size 10 (6mm) straight needles
- size 8 (5mm) circular needle
- size 8 (5mm) double-pointed needles (DPNs)
- stitch markers (or small lengths of a contrasting color yarn)
- yarn needle
- crochet hook (for fixing mistakes)
- scarf projects (total): 600-900 yds (550-820m) chunky weight yarn such as six balls Lion Brand Yarn Wool-Ease Chunky (three balls per scarf– stitches in light colors are easier to see)
- hat project: 350 yds (320m) worsted weight yarn across two colors, such as two balls Lion Brand Yarn Wool-Ease
- mittens project: 350 yds (320m) worsted weight yarn in one color, can be same yarn as hat
Needle case shown is by The Circular Solution “Sticks” case.
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Different knitting projects require different types and sizes of knitting needles. Depending on the size of the project (think sweater vs. sock), needles come in different lengths. These different length needles also come in a variety of sizes (noted in US and/or metric or sometimes UK or Japanese), which refers to the diameter. Choosing the right needles for your project is a critical decision that affects the resulting size and density of the knit, as well as your comfort while constructing it.
Most beginner projects start on a pair of two straight needles in the medium size range (8-10.5 or 5-6.5mm). Each straight needle has an end cap to prevent stitches from falling off the ends of the needles. Stitches are knit from the left needle to the right needle until a row is complete, then the needle positions are swapped to start the next row. Straight needles are suited to flat projects like scarves and can vary in length.
Projects like sweaters, hats, mittens, and socks aren’t flat. They are more like seamless knitted tubes. Where a tube is needed, circular needles are used to knit projects in the round. Stitches are knit from the left needle to the right needle in a continuous pattern– imagine a spiral staircase. Additionally, the flexible nature of circular needles makes them suited to knit very large projects that would be impractical with straight needles, like blankets. They are available in varying lengths.
Double pointed needles are also used for knitting in the round, but typically only when the project is too small for circular needles, like socks, sleeve cuffs, and hats. They come in sets of four, five, or six.
Knitting needles are made out of different materials, which provide different amounts of friction to your yarn. You’ll choose the material based partially on the yarn type, and partially based on your own preference for weight and stitching style.
Metal needles have the least amount of friction. Their ultra smooth surface lets stitches glide easily, and produces an audible clinking as you work.
Plastic needles provide more friction than metal and are very lightweight. They are affordable and easy to use.
Wooden needles have been around for centuries. They provide the most friction of the materials listed so far and can be super lightweight or have end caps that provide different amounts of counterweight.
Carbon fiber needles usually have metal tips, which gives them the lightweight style of a plastic needle with the precision and slipperiness of metal. They are also ultra durable!
As you can see, knitting needles are available for every flavor of project and knitter out there, but don’t feel overwhelmed! Over time you’ll learn your preferences for needle material, and you can always swap or give your less favorites to a fellow knitter, whose taste may be very different from your own.
Yarn Weights & Fibers
Yarn comes in different thicknesses or “weights” commonly referred to by the following terms:
- Lace: the thinnest, and made for just what it’s called!
- Super fine aka Fingering, Baby-weight, or Sock: the second-thinnest classification perfect for delicate projects
- Fine aka Sport-weight: for thick socks and fine-gauge sweaters
- Light worsted aka Double knitting (DK): versatile middle-weight for sweaters and more
- Medium aka Worsted-weight aka Aran: great for cozy blankets, warm sweaters, and winter accessories
- Bulky aka Chunky: perfect for winter accessories like scarves and hats
- Super bulky: the thickest strand of yarn, projects made with bigger yarn take fewer stitches (and less time) to knit!
You can find yarn made from different materials, too! Material blends are common and maximize desirable properties, for example a wool/acrylic yarn may have the luxurious feel of wool with the affordability of acrylic.
- Wool: animal fiber from sheep, available in varying softness and a broad range of prices
- Fleece: (cashmere, angora, mohair): animal fiber from goat (mohair) or rabbit (angora), soft and more expensive
- Cotton: plant fiber, affordable but not very stretchy
- Silk: animal fiber from silkworms, soft, durable, pricey
- Acrylic: synthetic plastic fiber, affordable, soft, durable, and easy to launder
- Novelty: various materials
These are small rings you’ll put on your needles to keep track of sections of stitches without constantly counting. Stitch markers are available in a variety of materials and styles that range from utilitarian to whimsical. In a pinch, you can use a knotted loop of contrasting color yarn instead of a stitch marker!
Yarn Needles and Scissors
To weave in yarn ends at the end of a project, you’ll need a large tapestry needle with a blunt tip.
Scissors are essential but they don’t have to be big or fancy (and your nail clippers will work in a pinch).
History of Knitting
Our ancestors developed knitting as a way to stay warm. Knitting is ancient– the oldest artifacts are from 11th century Egypt. Before the industrial revolution, hand knits were popular in Europe and traded globally. As mechanical knitting machines were developed, refined, and popularized, hand knitting was increasingly classified as a hobby. The industrial machines were capable of producing large volumes of small-gauge knitted fabric commonly used for underwear, socks, and stockings.
Knit garments saw a significant surge of popularity in the 1920s. Multicolor and cabled sweater designs flourished in the Western sportswear market. Home knitters were encouraged to knit socks, balaclavas, and gloves during the First World War and WWII. Knitwear has been a huge part of fashion ever since.
The hobby of hand knitting suffered a dive in popularity in the 1980s and 90s, but came back strong thanks to the internet (hey, that’s us!). If you haven’t read it, the History of Knitting page on Wikipedia is fascinating.