Updated September 20, 2018

Perfectly choreographed, the movement of yarn between two needles yields hats, scarves, sweaters, and mittens as if by magic. But what looks at first glance like a complicated trick is in fact a surprisingly easy technique to learn. Knitting is nothing more than the simple act of transferring a row of stitches from one needle to another. Repeat this process, and a length of fabric takes shape.

[Don’t miss out: Get Martha’s Guide to Knitting — it’s the exclusive resource for knitters of all skill levels.]

You will find several basic knitting techniques in How to Knit. The first time you knit, the needles may seem to have a life of their own. Through repetition, though, your hands will memorize the motions. Before you begin, practice with a pair of medium-size needles (such as U.S. size 8) and an inexpensive, medium-weight yarn, such as a cotton sport yarn. Always master one stitch before moving to the next. For a head start, ask an experienced knitter to cast on for you. Then skip ahead to the knit and purl lessons, and return to the cast-on when you feel comfortable. If you have a friend who can knit, watching her work might help you. Once you have mastered the stitches, try our hat pattern for specific instructions. Before long, you'll be curled up knitting, accompanied by the soothing click-click-click of your needles.

Hat sizing: 20-inch circumference (adult medium); gauge: 8 stitches and 12 rows in stockinette = 4 inches.

Scarf: We used a U.S. size 20 needle, so we only cast on 14 stitches.


What you need


How to do it

Part 1

Step 1

Cast on 40 stitches, working with both yarns together. Knit 2 rows. Work in stockinette (knit 1 row, purl the next; repeat) for 6 inches.

Step 2

Next row: Knit 3, knit 2 together (see "Decreasing" below). Next row: Purl. Next row: Knit 2, knit 2 together. Next row: Purl. Next row: Knit 1, knit 2 together. Next row: Purl. Bind off. Snip yarn, leaving 8-inch tail.

Step 3

Thread tail through yarn needle, and pass needle through bind-off stitches and tighten; sew up seam as shown below. We used contrasting yarn to make the seaming visible, but you should use the same yarn you knit with.

Step 4

Begin at the top, using a yarn needle to pick up the horizontal bar between the first and second stitches. Cross to the other side and pick up corresponding bar. Continue from side to side until finished.

Step 5

There are many ways to decrease, but this is the easiest. The method is the same as the knit stitch, except two stitches are knit at the same time.

Step 6

Insert right needle upward and into two stitches on left needle, entering lower stitch first, then upper one.

Step 7

Wrap yarn behind right needle and then forward between the needles, as when knitting.

Step 8

Tip right needle downward, catching wrapped piece and drawing it down through the two loops on left needle. Use right needle to slide this loop upward and off left needle. You have now decreased one stitch.

Step 9

Cast on, working with both yarns together. Work in 1 x 1 rib (knit 1, purl 1; repeat across row) for the length of the scarf. Bind off. Weave in ends.


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