How to Knit, Actually

I wish I was the kind of person who was good at creating visual step-by-step instructions, diagrams, or videos in order to provide good knitting instructions. Unfortunately, I am not. But as an information professional, at least I am good at aggregating resources. And after all, there are already so many good instructions out there; why add more to the mix? Here are easy to follow tutorials that will give you all the skills you need to make the projects listed in my last post.

How to Knit via Martha Stewart. I secretly (actually, publicly) love Martha Stewart. Her instructions are a little bit bare-bones, but I really like the charming diagrams, and the fact that she talks about details like making gauge swatches and picking up dropped stitches. Those are very useful things to think about. Also, there are separate instructions for knitting in the round, which will be useful for making hats, cowls, or mitts.

Videos seem like the way to go now in terms of breaking down individual techniques. Youtube did not exist when I was learning how to knit. Young people everywhere are blown away by this, but there you have it. Here are a few videos that should cover all the basics:

How to cast on (long-tail cast on)

How to make a knit stitch

How to make a purl stitch

How to increase (make 1)

How to decrease (k2tog)

How to decrease (ssk)

How to bind off

I recommend waiting to watch these until it is actually close to time to use them – otherwise this all seems like meaningless jibber jabber. Or at least that is how instructions feel to me.

Also helpful is Interweave’s knitting glossary. Any unfamiliar term you’ll see in a pattern is probably listed here, often with a helpful diagram or illustration.

I personally like to have a nice library of knitting books on hand. I love old stitch dictionaries and Elizabeth Zimmerman books in particular, but for a knitter just starting out, I am especially partial to recommending Debbie Stoller’s Stitch N Bitch. My mom got me this book back when it first came out, and I found it more helpful than any other book I had seen, especially in terms of mastering basic skills. It’s also extremely charming and funny, which never hurts.

As a bonus, here is an old image of what I still continue to be essential knitting supplies:


Very-Beginner Knitting Patterns

I have recently been asked to teach a few friends and coworkers how to knit, and it reminded me of something I have meant to do for a long time, which is to compile a list of good patterns and resources for beginning knitters. Obviously this is much easier to do now that things like Ravelry and Youtube exist – it is a little crazy to think now that they were not around when I was learning. Technology, right? I’ll save links to online and print resources that actually teach you how to make these projects for a separate post.

Moving right along. These are patterns I would suggest as first, second, or third projects. I chose them because the instructions are very clearly written and the skills required are the first ones knitters learn – mainly knit and pearl  – but also because I think they are a little more appealing than knitting endless scarves. Not that you can ever have too many plain scarves (I would even say I don’t have enough.)

1. Jared Flood’s Noro Striped Scarf

I wish I had realized as an early knitter that just because my skills weren’t advanced, that didn’t mean I had to use gross yarn. It should be the opposite. Nice yarn will totally carry a simple project. This scarf is great because the changing colors of Noro in the stripes keep it from ever being dull, and it gives you plenty of practice knitting and purling. Bam.

2. Jen Geigley’s GAP-tastic Cowl

I like big needles and big yarn. In no time at all, you have a super wearable thing. More knitting and purling, but this time in seed stitch, which is a nice change from stockinette or ribbing, and you learn to knit in the round.

3. Helen Waittes’ Watch Cap

Another super simple and fast project. Hats are nice because they include decreases, (or increases) depending on the direction in which the hat is knit. Those are good to learn for bigger projects that require more shaping. And everyone likes to wear hats.

4. Leslie Friend’s Toast (or Toasty)

Toast is essentially a tube – just a really simple but pretty wrist-warmer kind of thing. Toasty adds a thumb gusset, which is not as scary as it sounds. Knit toast, then work your way up to toasty if it intimidates you at first. The nice thing about knitting something stockinette in the round is that there is only knitting and no purling. In my opinion, that is the best of all possible worlds.

So there you go. Four things that it would be really easy to get started with. Any of these could be a first project that you would actually want to wear on your person. That is more than I can say for a dozen garter stitch scarves.

(Nothing against garter stitch scarves.)