How to Knit


Knitting & More­

­Imagine the wonder of simple balls of yarn transformed, stitch by stitch, into beautiful, perfectly fitted sweaters or treasured one-of-a-kind gifts. Feel the satisfaction of finishing the last stitch and knowing that you've made your own creation, something that is uniquely yours.

Join the thousands of women and men -- teenagers, children, young mothers, seniors, celebrities -- who are discovering a passion for knitting. All it takes to get started is a ball of yarn, a pair of knitting needles, and this helpful article, where you’ll find tips on purchasing yarn and needles, instructions for basic knitting stitch patterns, and so much more.

With a little practice, you’ll soon be knitting luxurious throws, adorable children's clothing, and fabulous accessories. No doubt you'll be planning your next project before the first is even finished!

Get down to the knitty gritty with help from the following pages:

Knitting Needles
Learn about the wide variety of knitting needles available and how to choose the right set for your next project.

How to Select Knitting Yarn
Before choosing knitting yarn, check out the tips on this page to ensure you find the right weight and fiber of yarn.

How to Cast On Stitches
Find a knitting cast-on method that suits you and your project in this informative section.

Learning the Knit Stitch
Master the technique of creating a perfect knit stitch every time with help from the steps and illustrations on this page.

Learning the Purl Stitch
Find out all about purling -- the other essential stitch for knitting patterns -- in this helpful section.

How to Bind Off Stitches
Begin the finishing process for your knitting project by learning how to bind off stitches on this page.

Knitting Stitch Patterns
From stockinette to garter, the stitches detailed in this section are bound to turn up in most of your knitting projects.

Understanding Knitting Instructions
Learn how to decode the instructions for knitting patterns in this helpful section.

Knitting Abbreviations
Find a long list of the most common knitting abbreviations and their meanings on this page.

Let's get started by learning the ins and outs of knitting needles on the next page.

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Knitting Needles

Knitting needles are available in a wide variety of materials: aluminum, plastic, and other fabricated substances, along with natural woods. You can make your own needles out of dowels sharpened on one end. Or you can buy rare antique, sterling silver, or gold-plated needles, or even needles with the ends adorned with precious gems. Whichever you choose, just know they all knit the same, and all can get lost in the cushions of the couch.

Novice knitters may prefer to use needles of bamboo or wood because the stitches are less likely to slide off. These materials help grip the stitches. With experience, you'll find a type or brand of knitting needle that becomes your favorite. To begin, it's a good idea to buy an inexpensive pair that appeals to you and start from there.

Needles come in a range of sizes, from a very tiny size 0 (you don't want to start with these!) all the way up to size 50 (you'll only use these in rare instances for specialty projects). Knitting patterns include a suggested needle size. You won't know the actual size you need to work the pattern until after you make your gauge swatch.

There are three styles of knitting needles: straight (single-point), circular, and double-point needles. The most common style is straight, single-point. These needles are sold in pairs and are available in both 10- and 14-inch lengths. They have a knob on the end opposite the point to prevent stitches from slipping off. The needle size is sometimes stamped on the knob or on the needle shank. Straight needles are best suited to working back and forth in rows to make a flat piece of knitting.

From left to right: circular needles; straight, single-point needles, double-pointed needles.
Clockwise from left:
circular needles; straight, single-point needles; double-pointed needles.

To avoid sewing seams, you can work in rounds using circular needles. Circular needles consist of two short needles connected by a thin, plastic cable. When choosing circular needles, look at the place where the cable connects to the needle. It should be smooth so stitches glide easily from cable to needle. Circular needles are available in most ordinary sizes, with cable lengths of 16, 20, 24, 29, and 36 inches. Use a length that comfortably holds the number of stitches you are using. Circular needles are used for seamless, knit-in-the-round items, but they can be used to knit flat pieces as well.

The third type is double-pointed needles. These short needles have an identical point on each end, and either end is used to knit. Double-pointed needles are usually sold in sets of 4 or 5 and are available in lengths from 6 to 8 inches. Shorter lengths are available for making socks or gloves. This type of needle is best used for knitting in the round or for making I-cords or other small, flat items made with few stitches.

In the next section, we'll discuss the variety of yarn available for knitting and how to choose one that will work best for your project.

Knitting Supplies, Tools, and Accessories

Needles and yarn will get you started, but as your knitting skills progress, you'll want to acquire the following:

  • Scissors: Any sharp, pointed scissors will do. Springs in handles are also great time-savers, since you simply squeeze to clip the yarn.

  • Tape measure or ruler: For the most accurate measurements, use a hard ruler. Use a yardstick for larger items. If using a tape measure, buy a new one. Old tape measures tend to stretch and lose their accuracy.

  • Tapestry needles: Tapestry needles (also called yarn needles) are oversize sewing needles used for sewing seams and weaving in yarn tails. A tapestry needle has a large eye, suitable for threading yarns. It's a good idea to have both blunt and sharp needles. The blunt style weaves seams without snagging stitches, and the sharp needle will slide through stitches when weaving yarn tails.

  • Point protectors: Point protectors are rubber tips that fit over the knitting needle tips to prevent stitches from falling off. They also keep the sharp needle points from jabbing something. Protectors come in several sizes, and you'll need a few to fit various needles.

  • Row counter: This gadget helps keep track of the number of rows worked. Some slip onto the needles and are turned after each row; others sit by your side and are clicked after each row. Or, in place of a purchased counter, paper and pencil also work.

    Knitting Accessories
    Clockwise, from upper left: scissors, point protectors,
    tapestry needles, row counter, tape measure.

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How to Select Knitting Yarn

The only thing more fun than finishing the last stitch of a project is choosing the yarn you'll use for the next one. There is a huge selection of yarns and colors available, and choosing one can be the most difficult part of your project. Arm yourself with the following information, and you'll be sure to choose yarn that you love and is perfect for your project.

Once you find a pattern you like, read the materials list carefully. It tells you everything you need to know about the yarn you'll be using. Most patterns specify the exact brand and color used, which makes shopping much easier. Check with your local yarn shop to see if they carry that yarn, and in what colors. If they don't, they should be able to suggest an alternative. Or search for the yarn at one of the many online shops.

When substituting yarn, always choose a yarn from within the same weight category, that is a similar fiber, and has a similar gauge. Once you know these three things, you can consider other brands of yarn to substitute.

The pattern tells you what weight of yarn to use. Yarn weight falls into several categories. The basic five are: fingering, sport, DK, worsted, and bulky. Fingering, or baby, weight yarn is very fine. It's often used for socks, lacework, and baby clothes. Sport weight yarn is heavier than fingering weight and can be used for almost anything, including afghans, baby items, crafts, and sweaters.

DK weight stands for double knit and is thicker than sport weight. It is primarily a European yarn weight, though several American companies are now importing it under their own company name. Worsted weight is the most commonly used yarn. It's used for sweaters, afghans, pillows, and many other items. It works up quickly and is a good weight for new knitters. Bulky, or chunky, weight yarn is used for rugs, coats, and heavy sweaters. It is thick and heavy and works up very quickly on extra-large needles.

Fingering, or baby, weight yarn; sport weight yarn; DK weight yarn; worsted weight yarn; bulky, or chunky, weight yarn.
From top to bottom: fingering, or baby, weight yarn; sport weight yarn;
DK weight yarn; worsted weight yarn; bulky, or chunky, weight yarn.

Within each of these categories are all sorts of yarn made from many different fibers. The fiber most often associated with knitting is wool. Wool is a beautiful, durable yarn that is a pleasure to work with and holds its shape well. Check the fabric care symbols on the label carefully -- many wools aren't machine washable. Before you choose wool, make sure you're willing to care for it properly.

Cotton yarns are very popular because they make a cool and comfortable product. Cotton is usually labeled as hand-wash only. Blends are any imaginable combination of fibers, including natural and synthetic. While most knitters prefer natural fibers, synthetics have their advantages. They are often inexpensive, readily available, offer a wide color selection, and are easy to care for.

Choose a yarn that's right for your pattern and based on your personal taste. A good tip is to buy one ball or skein (called the ball from here on) of the yarn you want to use before starting the project. Knit up a large swatch in the stitch pattern, and wash or dry-clean it in the same manner you'll use for your finished project. You'll learn several things from this experiment: your gauge, if you like working with the yarn, if the yarn shrinks or stretches after cleaning, and, most important, if the dye runs.

The next question is "How much yarn do I buy?" That information is found in the pattern materials list and on the yarn label. If you buy the brand the pattern calls for, simply check to see how many balls are needed for the size you're making.

When substituting yarns, first determine if the new yarn ball has the same number of yards or meters as the pattern yarn. Check the yarn label to see how many yards or meters the ball contains, and divide this number into the total yardage needed to determine how many balls you need. Round this number up to the nearest ball to make sure you'll have enough yarn.

Before purchasing, check the dye lot number on every ball of yarn you've selected. Yarn is dyed in huge lots, or batches. When distributed to retail stores, dye lots are often mixed together. You may not be able to see any difference when comparing two different dye lots in the store, but after completing a project, you'll realize just how "off" two balls of "Off-White" can be. The probability of buying or finding matching dye lots months later is unlikely. Check each dye lot number, and buy all the yarn you'll need before you start your project. You'll be very glad you did.

Now that you have your yarn and needles, you're ready to get started! Learn all about casting on stitches in the next section.

Handy Knitting Accessories

It's li­kely you'll eventually want to add the following tools to your knitting bag.

  • ­Bobbins:Bobbins are usually made of plastic and hold small amounts of yarn cut from the main ball. Knitters use bobbins for working intarsia knitting (patterns with a lot of color changes). The yarn is wrapped around the bobbin and then pulled through one end and joined to the knitting at the appropriate place.

  • Cable needles: These short needles are used when crossing cable stitches. There are three basic types: a short, straight double-pointed needle; a double-pointed needle with a dip in the center (to hold the stitches); and a U-shaped needle with one leg longer than the other. The style you choose is a matter of preference.

    Cable needles are available in different diameters. Choose one slightly smaller than your project needles. You only need one cable needle for a specific project because it is used only once for each cable twist.

  • Crochet hooks: These hooks have many uses: picking up stitches, rethreading dropped stitches, closing seams, or working crocheted edgings around knitted pieces. Some cast-on methods use a crochet hook.

  • Needle-size gauge: This tool features a window that allows you to measure stitch and row gauge at the same time. Some styles also have holes with which to measure basic needle sizes.

  • Stitch holder: A stitch holder holds stitches off the needle until you need them. There are several types available, including one that works like a safety pin. Many knitters use a length of smooth cotton yarn and thread it through the stitches, tying the ends into an overhand knot to prevent the stitches from slipping off.

  • Stitch markers: These little tools help mark pattern sections, increases or decreases, or the beginning of a round in circular knitting. Markers are slipped onto your needle or are attached to the work through a stitch. When casting on many stitches, place a marker after every 20th stitch, and speedily count across the row in sections of 20 stitches. To hold your place in a pattern, slip the marker from left to right needle on every row. Markers come in assorted sizes; use the size closest to your needle size. Using one that is too large may stretch and distort your stitches.

  • Little extras: Other useful things to keep in your bag are knitter's coilless pins, safety pins, a small notebook and pen or pencil, rustproof T-pins for blocking, sticky notes for marking your place in patterns or taking notes, an emery board to smooth a rough edge on a needle, and a travel pack of tissues.

    Knitting Accessories
    Clockwise, from upper left: cable needles, stitch markers,
    stitch hooks,
    crochet hooks, needle-size gauge, bobbins.

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How to Cast On Stitches

The cast-on row is the foundation row of knitting. There are many ways to cast on stitches. One method may be faster or easier for you or may work better for certain techniques, such as buttonholes. Try each of the cast-on methods below, and start with the one that appeals to you most.

Note: The cast-on should be as elastic as the body of your knitting. If needed, the cast-on may be worked using a needle two or three sizes larger than your gauge needle. Knit the stitches onto the smaller needle as you knit the first row.

Making a Slipknot

The first stitch on your needle for most cast-on methods is a slipknot.

Step 1: Hold the yarn in your left hand about 8 inches from the end. With your right hand, make a circle with the yarn (fig. 1a). If it's helpful, hold the circle together between your index finger and thumb to prevent it from slipping away.

Fig. 1a. Making a slipknot 1
Making a Slipknot: Figure 1a

Step 2: With the working yarn behind the circle, insert the knitting needle through the circle from front to back and catch the working yarn, pulling it through the circle and forming a loop (fig. 1b).

Fig. 1b. Making a slipknot 2
Making a Slipknot: Figure 1b

Step 3: With the new loop on the needle in your right hand, gently pull both yarns (the tail and the working yarn attached to the ball) beneath the needle, then pull on the working yarn to tighten the new loop so that it fits snuggly around the needle (fig. 1c).

Fig. 1c. Making a slipknot 3
Making a Slipknot: Figure 1c

Cable Cast-on

This cast-on is especially good when you need a firm edge. Work loosely, without pulling the stitches too tight.

Step 1: In your left hand, hold the needle with the slipknot and hold the working yarn in your right hand. Insert the right needle through the slipknot from front to back (fig. 2a).

Fig. 2a. Cable Cast-on 1
Cable Cast-on: Figure 2a

Step 2: Wrap the yarn around the right needle from back to front and pull up a loop, creating a new stitch on the right needle. Insert the left needle tip into the new stitch (fig. 2b), and slip it onto the left needle.

Fig. 2b. Cable Cast-on 2
Cable Cast-on: Figure 2b

There are now 2 stitches on the left needle (fig. 2c). Note: To prevent the cast-on edge from becoming too tight, insert the right needle from front to back between the 2 stitches on the left needle before tightening the yarn. Gently pull the working yarn to snug up the stitch.

Fig. 2c. Cable Cast-on 3
Cable Cast-on: Figure 2c

Step 3: With the right needle in position between the 2 stitches on the left needle, wrap the yarn around the right needle as shown (fig. 2c), and pull through a new loop.

Step 4: Using the tip of the left needle, slip the new stitch from the right needle as before (fig. 2d), and slip the right needle out of the stitch.

Fig. 2d. Cable Cast-on 4
Cable Cast-on: Figure 2d

Repeat steps 3 and 4 to cast on additional stitches. End with step 4 to complete the last cast-on stitch.

Long Tail (or Slingshot) Cast-on

The benefits of this cast-on method are that it's quick to do and makes an elastic edge. Both working yarn and tail are used.

The tail length should be roughly three times the width of your desired cast-on, or about 1 inch (2.5cm) per stitch for worsted weight yarn, plus several inches extra for the yarn tail allowance to weave in later. If you underestimate the length of yarn tail needed, pull out the work, add more yarn to the length, and begin again. Or, begin the cast-on using two balls of the same yarn: One serves as the "tail," and the other is the working yarn. Tie the ends together in an overhand knot, leaving about a 6-inch (15cm) tail, and then make the slipknot as usual and begin the cast-on. When the cast-on is completed, cut one of the yarns, leaving about 6 inches (15cm), and begin to work with the other. When the garment is finished, untie the overhand knot and weave in the loose ends.

Step 1: Place the slipknot onto the needle held in your right hand, with the yarn tail in front (closest to you) and the working yarn (attached to the ball) behind the needle. Pull the working yarn taut over the left forefinger, and wrap the yarn tail around your thumb from front to back. Secure both the working yarn and the tail between the remaining 3 fingers of your left hand and the palm. Place the forefinger of your right hand on top of the slipknot to hold it in place (fig. 3a).

Fig. 3a. Long Tail (or Slingshot) Cast-on 1
Long Tail (or Slingshot) Cast-on: Figure 3a

Step 2: Insert the needle under the yarn in front of your thumb, working from front to back and pulling the yarn slightly upward (fig. 3b). Insert the needle over the yarn on your forefinger, moving from top to bottom so the working yarn lies on top of the needle to form the new stitch (fig. 3b).

Long Tail Cast-on 2
Long Tail (or Slingshot) Cast-on: Figure 3b

Step 3: Pull the needle toward you through the loop on your thumb as you remove your thumb from the loop (fig. 3c). At the same time, pull down on both pieces of yarn, tightening the stitch by pulling on the tail, keeping the stitch firm and even but still loose enough to slide easily.

Long Tail Cast-on 3
Long Tail (Slingshot) Cast-on: Figure 3c

Repeat steps to cast on additional stitches.

Simple Cast-on (Backward Loop Cast-on)

This cast-on is probably the easiest to learn, but it doesn't have a neat edge like other cast-ons. Use it when working a few cast-on stitches or on buttonholes. This cast-on tends to grow longer and become less manageable as you work the first row of knitting, and the cast-on stitches tighten, making it difficult to insert the needle.

Step 1: Place the slipknot on an empty needle with the yarn tail in back and the working yarn in front. Hold this needle with the slipknot in your right hand.

Step 2: With working yarn in your left hand, wrap the working yarn over your thumb from front to back, and grasp it with your remaining fingers to tension (fig. 4a).

Fig. 4a. Simple Cast-on (Backward Loop Cast-on) 1
Simple Cast-on (Backward Loop Cast-on): Figure 4a

Step 3: Insert the needle under the yarn looped around your thumb, working from bottom to top (fig. 4b). Pull up on the needle a little as you slide the yarn off your thumb and onto the needle.

Simple Cast-on 2
Simple Cast-on (Backward Loop Cast-on): Figure 4b

Step 4: Gently pull on the working yarn to tighten the new stitch on the needle (fig. 4c).

Simple Cast-on 3
Simple Cast-on (Backward Loop Cast-on): Figure 4c

Repeat steps 2-4 to cast on as many stitches as desired. End with step 4.

Knitted Cast-on

This cast-on is easy to work and is very similar to the cable cast-on. The difference between the cable cast-on and the knitted cast-on occurs after the first stitch is made.

Step 1: Place the slipknot on an empty needle and hold in your left hand, with the working yarn in your right hand. Insert the right needle through the slipknot from front to back (see fig. 2a above).

Step 2: Wrap the yarn around the right needle from back to front, and pull up a loop, creating a new stitch on the right needle. Insert the left needle tip into the new stitch (see fig. 2b above). Both needles remain in the new stitch.

Repeat step 2 for each new stitch until all cast-on stitches are made. Withdraw the right needle after the last stitch is made. Although both needles remain in the new loop at all times, the stitches collect on the left needle only.

We'll dive into learning one of the two basic knitting stitches -- the knit stitch -- on the next page.

Knit Loops and Purl Loops

Before you venture any further, look at the six illustrations below. They will help you understand many things about knitting, so study them well and plan to return to this page often. When a cast-on or stitch pattern specifies working into the front loop or back loop, simply match the instruction to the illustration to see exactly which part of the stitch is being described.

Knitting into front loop
Front loopBack loop
Knitting into front loopPurling into back loop
Purling into front loop

Front loop
Back loopPurling into front loop
Knitting into back loop


Knitting into back loop
Purling into back loop

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Learning the Knit Stitch

Knitting has two basic stitches: the knit stitch and the purl stitch. After mastering these stitches, you'll be able to create many stitch patterns.

Holding the Yarn

Experiment with the way you hold the yarn. Weave the yarn through your fingers as shown below, or try other ways until you find a method that works for you and feels comfortable. The ability to tension the yarn as it flows through your fingers while knitting allows you to maintain your gauge and work neat, even stitches. It's also less tiring on the hands.

Holding the yarn, American-English style
Holding the yarn, using the American-English method

Knit Stitch (k)

Knitting Style

Knitting is enjoyed and practiced all over the world, but not everyone knits in the same style. There is no right or wrong style of knitting. This article presents two of the more common knitting methods used in America: the American-
English method, with the yarn held in the right hand, and the Continental method, with the yarn held in the left hand.

The knit stitch is the most common and versatile stitch of all. It is smooth on one side and bumpy on the other. The smooth side is generally used as the right side of the work -- the side that faces out. The working yarn is always held behind the needle when making the knit stitch. In other words, the knit fabric and the needle will always be between you and the working yarn. When working flat, back and forth knitting, knitting every row creates garter stitch.

Knit Stitch, American-English Method

Step 1: Hold the needle with the cast-on stitches in your left hand. The working yarn is already attached to the stitch closest to the needle tip. Hold the empty needle in your right hand; take hold of the working yarn with your right hand, and hold it behind the right needle. Insert the empty needle from front to back through the first stitch on the left needle (fig. 5a). The right needle is underneath the left needle.

Knit Stitch American-English Method 1
Knit Stitch, American-English Method: Figure 5a

Step 2: Bring your right hand and forefinger toward the tip of the right needle (the yarn is underneath the right needle). Wrap the yarn around the right needle from back to front (fig. 5b). Be careful not to wrap it around the left needle, too.

Knit Stitch American-English Method 2
Knit Stitch, American-English Method: Figure 5b

Step 3: Keeping the yarn firmly tensioned in your right hand, bring the right needle toward you, pulling a new loop through the old stitch (fig. 5c).

Knit Stitch American-English Method 3
Knit Stitch, American-English Method: Figure 5c

Step 4: With the new stitch on the right needle, slip the old stitch off the left needle (fig. 5d). Unlike the cast-on, the new knit stitches are held on the right needle.

Knit Stitch American-English Method 4
Knit Stitch, American-English Method: Figure 5d

You have just knit your first stitch, American-English style. Repeat until all the cast-on stitches have been knit and are on the needle held in the right hand. Jump ahead to Knitting the Next Row, or cast on another 20 stitches and try the knit stitch, Continental style.

Knit Stitch, Continental Method

As in the American-English method, the yarn is always held behind the work when making the knit stitch.

Holding yarn, Continental method
Holding the yarn, using the Continental method

Step 1: Hold the working yarn and the needle with the cast-on stitches in your left hand and the empty needle in your right hand. Insert the empty needle into the first stitch on the left needle, from front to back (fig. 6a). The right needle is under the left needle.

Knit Stitch, Continental Method 1
Knit Stitch, Continental Method: Figure 6a

Step 2: Holding the yarn in your left hand, over the left forefinger and behind both needles, bring the yarn over the right needle from left to right as shown (fig. 6b). Be careful not to wrap it around the left needle.

Knit Stitch, Continental Method 2
Knit Stitch, Continental Method: Figure 6b

Step 3: Keeping the yarn firmly in your hand, pull the right needle and the yarn loop toward you, through the cast-on stitch (fig. 6c).

Knit Stitch, Continental Method 3
Knit Stitch, Continental Method: Figure 6c

Step 4: With the new stitch on the right needle, slip the old stitch off the left needle (fig. 6d). Unlike the cast-on stitches, the new knit stitches are held on the right needle.

Knit Stitch, Continental Method 4
Knit Stitch, Continental Method: Figure 6d

You have just knit your first stitch, Continental style. Repeat until all the cast-on stitches have been knit.

Knitting the Next Row, Either Style

The second and all subsequent knit rows are worked the same as the first: Knit each stitch on the needle in the left hand.

Step 1: When you have knit all the stitches from the left needle, turn the work, switching the needle with all the stitches on it from your right hand to your left.

Step 2: The working yarn is attached to the stitch closest to the needle tip. Insert the right needle into the first stitch and repeat the knitting steps across the first row, working into each of the stitches of the previous row instead of into the cast-on stitches.

Note: When beginning each new row, make sure the working yarn is beneath the needle holding the stitches and is not wrapped over the needle. If the working yarn is pulled upward, the first stitch will appear as two stitches, with both stitch loops appearing in front of the needle. If you knit both loops as single stitches, you'll increase the number of stitches on your needle. Remember, the front loop of each stitch should be in front of the needle and the back loop behind the needle (see Knit Loops and Purl Loops).

As soon as you feel comfortable making the knit stitch, you can try the easier projects in our Free Knitting Patterns collection. To finish these projects, you'll also need to practice binding off. For most projects, you'll also need to know the purl stitch, which you can learn about on the next page.

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Learning the Purl Stitch

The purl stitch (p) is the reverse of the knit stitch. The yarn is always held in front of the work when making the purl stitch. As you work this stitch, the bumpy side faces you and the side behind the needle is now the smooth side.

When working flat, back and forth knitting, purling every row creates garter stitch, just the same as knitting every row. Alternating rows of knit and purl makes stockinette stitch, in which the knit side is the right side and the purl side is the wrong side. The purl side of stockinette stitch is called reverse stockinette stitch, which uses the purl side as the right side and the knit side as the wrong side.

Purl Stitch, American-English Method

Step 1: Hold the working yarn and the empty needle in your right hand and the needle with the cast-on stitches in your left hand. With the working yarn held in front of your work, insert the empty needle from right to left through the front loop of the first stitch (fig. 7a). The right needle is in front of the left needle.

Purl Stitch, American-English Method 1
Purl Stitch, American-English Method: Figure 7a

Step 2: Bring the yarn in your right hand toward the tip of the right needle. Carry the yarn between the needles, and wrap it around the right needle from front to back, ending in front (fig. 7b). Be careful not to wrap it around the left needle.

Purl Stitch, American-English Method 2
Purl Stitch, American-English Method: Figure 7b

Step 3: Keeping the working yarn firmly in your right hand, use the right needle to pull up a loop, moving backward and away from you through the stitch on the left needle (fig. 7c). With the new stitch on the right needle, slip the old stitch off the left needle.

Purl Stitch, American-English Method 3
Purl Stitch, American-English Method: Figure 7c

Repeat for each new stitch.

Purl Stitch, Continental Method

Step 1: Hold the working yarn and the cast-on stitches in your left hand and the empty needle in your right hand. With the yarn held in front of your work, insert the empty needle from right to left through the front loop of the first stitch on the left needle (fig. 8a). The right needle is in front of the left needle.

Purl Stitch, Continental Method 1
Purl Stitch, Continental Method: Figure 8a

Step 2: Wrap the yarn around the right needle from front to back, ending in the front (fig. 8b).

Purl Stitch, Continental Method 2
Purl Stitch, Continental Method: Figure 8b

Step 3: Keeping the yarn firmly in your left hand, use the right needle to pull a loop through the old stitch on the left needle, moving backward and away from you (fig. 8c). With the new stitch on the right needle, slip the old stitch off the left needle.

Purl Stitch, Continental Method 3
Purl Stitch, Continental Method: Figure 8c

Repeat for each new stitch.

Purling the Next Row

The second and subsequent purl rows are worked the same as the first. Purl each stitch on the needle in the left hand.

Step 1: When you have purled all the stitches from the left needle, turn the work, switching the needle with all the stitches from right hand to left.

Step 2: The working yarn is attached to the stitch closest to the needle tip and held in front of the work. Insert the right needle into the first stitch with the yarn held in front of the stitches, and repeat the steps of the first row, working into each of the stitches in the previous row instead of the cast-on stitches.

Now that you've mastered knitting and purling, it's time to learn how to bind off stitches. Find tips on the next page.

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How to Bind Off Stitches

The binding off (BO) technique finishes the last row and secures the stitches so the needles can be removed. You will often see the phrase "bind off in pattern." This means work the last row of stitches as instructed, and bind off as you work. It sounds tricky, but it's not. The illustrations here show a knit row for the bind-off, but you'll want to practice the technique on both knit and purl rows.

Step 1: Hold the needle with stitches in your left hand and the empty needle in your right hand. Hold the yarn in position for the knit stitch, behind your work.

Step 2: Knit the first 2 stitches.

Step 3: Insert the left needle from left to right into the front loop of the first stitch on the right needle (fig. 9a). Note: This is the stitch farther from the right needle tip.

Binding Off 1
Binding Off: Figure 9a

Step 4: Use the left needle to pull this stitch over the second stitch and drop it off the right needle. One stitch bound off; the second stitch remains on the right needle (fig. 9b).

Binding Off 1
Binding Off: Figure 9b

Step 5: Knit the next stitch.

Step 6: Repeat steps 3-5 until you have bound off all stitches from the left needle and 1 stitch remains on the right needle. Cut the yarn about 4 inches from the stitch, and pull the yarn tail through the last stitch (fig. 9c). Remove the needle and pull the yarn tail to tighten.

Binding Off 3
Binding Off: Figure 9c

Many new knitters bind off too tightly. The bound-off edge should be as elastic as the rest of the knitting. If necessary, use a larger needle size to work the stitches in your bind-off row.

In the next section, you'll find information on some of the most common knitting stitch patterns.

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Knitting Stitch Patterns

There are many ways to combine stitches to create different patterns, but the basis of every pattern is the knit stitch and the purl stitch.

Garter Stitch (g st)

Knit every row in flat knitting, and you have garter stitch (fig. 10). It's a great stitch pattern for new knitters because it uses only one simple stitch. Because garter stitch lays flat without curling, it's often used at the beginning and ends of rows to create flat, non-curling edges. Note: If you knit in the round, on circular or double-pointed needles, you'll create stockinette stitch instead of garter stitch.

Garter Stitch
Garter Stitch: Figure 10

Stockinette Stitch (St st)

This is the most commonly used stitch pattern. Simply knit one row, purl the next, and repeat to produce this pattern. Stockinette stitch will curl at the edges when not stabilized with other, non-curling, stitch patterns, such as garter stitch. Because of that, border stitch patterns are usually added to the lower and upper edges, and the side edges are sewn into the seam. To obtain an accurate measurement, you can block it to keep it flat temporarily.

Stockinette Switch (knit side)
Stockinette Stitch (Knit Side): Figure 11a

The knit side (the smooth side) is called stockinette stitch (fig. 11a), and the purl side (or bumpy side) is called reverse stockinette stitch (fig. 11b). Reverse stockinette stitch is often used as a background for cable patterns.

Reverse Stockinette Stitch (Purl Side)
Reverse Stockinette Stitch (Purl Side): Figure 11b

Ribbing (rib)

You'll recognize ribbing as the stitch found at the cuffs and hems of sweaters. It is a very elastic pattern and knits up narrower than stockinette stitch on the same size needles. There are many ways of making ribbing, but the most common are the single rib (fig. 12a) and the double rib (fig. 12b).

Fig. 12a. Single Rib
Single Rib: Figure 12a

The single rib is made by alternating one knit stitch with one purl stitch (abbreviated as k1,p1). The double rib is more elastic than the single rib and is made by alternating two knit stitches with two purl stitches (abbreviated k2,p2).

Fig. 12b. Double Rib
Double Rib: Figure 12b

The most important thing to remember when making ribbing is that the yarn must be brought between the needles to the back of the work for the knit stitches and brought between the needles to the front of the work for the purl stitches. Sometimes new knitters finish a row and discover extra stitches, or they may find a hole in their ribbing several rows later. Knitting with the yarn in front or purling with the yarn in back is generally the cause. If you create a little mix-up with your stitches, remember that you can easily fix knitting mistakes.

Ribbing is very easy once you have learned to recognize knit and purl stitches. Instead of counting stitches, you simply knit the knits and purl the purls.

New knitters may have trouble understanding the instructions for knitting patterns at first. The tips on the next page will help.

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Understanding Knitting Instructions

Like most crafts, knitting has its own language. Knitting patterns use abbreviations, special terms, and punctuation. Knitting language may seem strange and a little intimidating at first, but you will quickly master it and be reading patterns like a pro.

At the beginning of a knitting pattern, you'll usually find a list of techniques used in that project. Review the techniques listed, and when you see one you don't know, practice the technique before starting the pattern.

Return to the pattern you plan to make, and read any special notes or instructions. Locate the size you want to make, and circle it throughout the pattern. Or make a copy of the pattern, and highlight the correct size numbers. In most patterns, the size numbers list the smallest size first, with the other sizes listed within brackets, beginning with the next size up, and so on. When one number or set of instructions is given, it applies to all sizes.

When a Finished Size is listed, the numbers given refer to the garment size upon completion (provided you maintain the correct gauge). These measurements include garment ease. Some patterns include both the body size and a finished size. For example:

Bust size: 36" [38", 40"]

Finished size: 40" [42", 44"]

Reading through the entire pattern may be confusing at first, so study small sections. If the pattern begins with the Back, read through those instructions to make sure you understand what will happen, then make the Back. Read through the next section, then knit it, and so on.

Pay attention to punctuation. One sentence usually represents one row; commas and semicolons may mean that something's going to change with the next stitch or row. Instructions inside asterisks, brackets, or parentheses are usually repeated, so look for the directions that explain what to do.

Schematics

These are line drawings of the basic garment pieces, to which measurements are added. Usually schematics show the basic measurements before neck ribbing, collars, or other embellishments are added. Check the schematic to determine which size will best fit you in width and length.

In the final section, we'll list some of the most common knitting abbreviations and their meanings.

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Knitting Abbreviations

Use this key as a reference for new and unfamiliar abbreviations found in knitting patterns.

[ ]
Work instructions within brackets as many times as directed
( ) Work instructions within parentheses in the place directed
* Repeat instructions following the asterisk as directed
* to ** Repeat instructions between the * and ** as directed
alt alternate
approx approximate
beg beginning/begin
bet between
BO bind off
CO cast on
cont continue
dec decrease/decreases/decreasing
dpn double-pointed needles
foll follow/follows/following
g st garter stitch
inc increase/increases/increasing
k or K knit
k1,p1 knit 1, purl 1
k2tog knit 2 together
kwise knitwise
LH
left-hand
m1
make 1 stitch
m1 p-st make 1 purl stitch
p or P purl
p2tog purl 2 stitches together
pm place marker
prev previous
psso pass slipped stitch over
pwise purlwise
rem remain/remaining
rep repeat(s)
rev St st reverse stockinette stitch
RH
right-hand
rnd(s) round(s)
RS right side
sk skip
skp slip, knit, pass slipped stitch over-1 stitch decreased
sk2p slip 1, knit 2 together, pass slipped stitch over the knit 2 together -- 2 stitches decreased
sl slip
sl1k slip 1 knitwise
sl1p slip 1 purlwise
sl st slip stitch
ssk
slip, slip, knit these 2 stitches together -- a decrease
sssk slip, slip, slip, knit these 3 stitches together -- a 2-stitch decrease
st(s) stitch(es)
St st stockinette stitch
tbl through back loop
tog together
WS wrong side
wyib with yarn in back
wyif with yarn in front
yfwd yarn forward
yo yarn over
yon yarn over needle

You are now a knitter! Practice the basic stitches you learned until you feel comfortable with them, and remember to refer back to the instructions if you get confused. Before you know it, you'll be knitting without needing to think about what your hands are doing.

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