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How to Knit

Martha Stewart Living, November 1997

There are two basic knitting styles, the English method and the German/Continental method, but the only real difference lies in how the yarn is held.

With the English method, the working yarn is held in the right hand; with the German/Continental method, it is held in the left. While both methods produce equally fine results, here we use the German/Continental method.

Casting On
To begin knitting, you will need to create a foundation row of stitches on your needle by "casting on."

1. Make a slipknot by looping yarn into a pretzel shape, leaving a tail end at least three times the width of what you are knitting (if your scarf is 8 inches wide, you'll need a 24-inch-long tail). Slip knitting needle through pretzel shape as shown, and pull yarn ends to tighten.

2. Drape tail of yarn over left thumb and working yarn (ball end) over left index finger. Use your other fingers to catch yarn lengths in left palm. Insert needle upward through loop on thumb.

3. With needle, catch the working yarn that's on your index finger, and pull it through the loop on your thumb. Remove thumb from loop. Keeping yarn ends secured in palm, reposition thumb, and tighten new stitch on right-hand needle. Repeat these steps until you've cast on the required number of stitches.

Knit Stitch
Hold the needle with cast-on stitches in your left hand. Wrap the working yarn around your left index finger, and hold it in back of the left-hand needle.

1. Insert point of right-hand needle from front to back into the first cast-on stitch on the left-hand needle, opening up a stitch.

2. Catch working yarn with right-hand needle.

3. Pull yarn through opened stitch.

4. Slip cast-on stitch off left-hand needle while holding middle finger against second cast-on stitch to ensure it does not also slip off. The stitch on the right-hand needle is the newly formed knit stitch. Continue knitting across the cast-on row. When you have emptied the last stitch from the left-hand needle (completing a row), exchange needles, returning the needle with stitching to your left hand.

Purl Stitch
The purl stitch differs from the knit stitch in two fundamental ways: The working yarn is held in the front of the project instead of the back, and the needle is inserted from the back to the front instead of from front to back. Hold the needle with cast-on stitches in your left hand. Wrap the working yarn (ball end) around your left index finger, and hold it in front of the work.

1. Insert point of right-hand needle, from back to front, into the first cast-on stitch on the left-hand needle, opening up a stitch.

2. Lay working yarn over needle from front to back by moving left index finger downward.

3. Push working yarn from front to back through cast-on stitch. Slip cast-on stitch off left-hand needle while holding middle finger against second cast-on stitch to ensure it does not also slip off. The stitch on right-hand needle is the newly formed purl stitch. As a purl stitch faces you, it looks like a grain of rice; its reverse side looks like a V.

Dropped Stitches
If you drop a stitch while knitting, don't panic; it's simple to retrieve it with a crochet hook.

1. With the knit side facing you, insert crochet hook, front to back, into loop of dropped stitch.

2. Use hook to catch the first horizontal "ladder," and pull it through loop to the front.

3. Repeat until all ladders have been pulled through loop. Place the stitch back onto left-hand needle, with the right side of the loop on the front of the needle.

To pick up a stitch dropped on a purl row, turn your work around, and follow the directions for picking up a dropped knit stitch.

Joining Yarn
To join a new ball of yarn while knitting, simply stop knitting with the old ball (leaving at least a 6-inch tail) and begin knitting with the new one (also leaving a long tail). The first stitch will be loose; pull yarn ends to tighten it.

Casting Off and Weaving in Ends
These necessary steps keep stitches from unraveling once they're removed from the needle.

1. Knit two stitches. Insert left-hand needle into first stitch; lift stitch up over second stitch and (2) off the needle. Continue knitting stitches in this manner until all stitches have been cast off. Cut working yarn, leaving a 6-inch-long tail. Pull tail through last stitch to secure.

3. Use a yarn needle to weave tail ends of yarn through backs of several stitches, picking up only surface loops.

Comments (13)

  • mirath 7 Nov, 2010

    Nice easy instructions, but would be easier if could zoom photos for clarity.

  • kktandan 10 Nov, 2009

    Try YouTube - you'll get visuals you need

  • ROBINELIZA 3 Jul, 2009


  • ROBINELIZA 3 Jul, 2009


  • nana123 17 Feb, 2009

    I just want to say that I am a lefty as well. I had taken classes (at the big name craft stores) over the years and I could never "quite get it". I then took a beginners class at the independant yarn and fiber store. I had a teacher that was one of the top knitting instructors in the U.S. I was advised to learn to knit as right handed person and I finally "got it"! The instructions are written for RH people and you don't have to convert all the patterns.

  • greenfieldpeg 15 Feb, 2009

    I am left handed, and I'm having trouble , I realize that I have to do it backwards but it still is very differicult could you help
    thanks greenfieldpeg

  • heathergrey 17 Jan, 2009

    check out knitting, they have videos too. I am learning and it has helped my goal is to make the next scarf in January's Living when I know what I am doing.

  • Munchkin22 9 Jan, 2009

    I still don't get it. I can make several rolls after casting on, but then I don't know how to make anything with it. Sweaters, hats, mittens, etc.

  • nashstar 1 Jul, 2008

    this is too good to be true specially coz I've wanted to learn how to knit.

  • levaj 21 Apr, 2008

    I have been crocheting for years and now I can learn to knit

  • Carolynanne 2 Feb, 2008

    If you are want to practice knitting or crocheting make 10- 15 inch squares

  • lauraks555 16 Jan, 2008

    The cast on instructions are rather small. People having problems seeing the pictures can search for 'Long tail cast on", which is what is shown. A quick and simple cast on for those who can't get the long tail is the "short tail cast on". Both cast ons have their uses, the short tail is a great start for beginners.

  • lilsnikkys 7 Dec, 2007

    what a "tutorial", finally i can lear how to knit