Learn to knit

Getting Started

We have created some basic Start to Knit notes with illustrations to show you how to start to knitting. The examples show a right-handed knitter who holds the yarn in their right hand. There are other methods but this is a basic way which will quickly get you knitting.

These notes are the copyright of the Knitting & Crochet Guild. We are a national charity which promotes all aspects of domestic knitting and crochet in the UK.We give permission for these notes to be copied or reproduced, provided this is for educational benefit and not for commercial interest, and that the Knitting & Crochet Guild is credited as the source of the information.

In these notes we take you through the essential steps and show you how to:-

  • Make a slipknot to start
  • Cast On
  • Knit Stitch
  • Purl Stitch
  • Cast Off/Bind Off
  • Increase & decrease
  • Knitting tips for new starters
  • Knitting a tension sample or swatch

You can download these Start to Knit notes here.

Variations to standard cast ons

When you've got the basics under your belt you might want to think about some of the many different ways to cast on. Different methods of casting on lend themselves to particular projects, you probably wouldn't want a firm cable cast on for a very fine lacy shawl for example.

Rita Taylor is a Guild member, designer and writer. She shares some thought about casting on.

There are more ways of casting on than you might think. I don't think there is any need to describe in detail the two basic cast ons, knitting on, and the cable cast on, but even these do have slight variations. For example you can twist the new stitch before placing it on the needle. This makes the cast on slightly looser than if you place it on the needle without twisting. The latter method is a bit neater, but there's not much in it. Both of these methods give a row of smooth slightly slanted stitches at the beginning when you start with a knit row.

The one-needle, or long-tail cast on, described as though you are right handed is worked as follows:

  • Leave a long end of yarn; approximately 1 yard for 75 stitches, then make a slip knot.
  • Place this on the needle.
  • Hold the short end of yarn across the palm and grip it with your fingers.
  • Bring the ball end forwards to pass across the front of the thumb *
  • Insert the needle under the strand furthest away from you, wrap the ball end around the needle, release the loop from the thumb and pull on the short end.
  • Repeat from * for the number of stitches required.
  • First row - knit or purl?

The long tail cast on, aka the thumb method or the one needle cast on, leaves a row of ridges if you begin with a knit row. For a smoother line, and one that makes it easier to pick up stitches if you want to add an edging later, begin with a purl row.

A similar cast on is formed by taking the yarn over the index finger instead of the thumb.

  • Keep the index finger to the right of the long strand;
  • Place the tip of the needle under the strand behind it and
  • Complete as above.

For all of these methods use a needle one or two sizes larger if your cast-ons are usually tight.

For more information about Rita's work you can visit her website