I love to knit. A lot. I can, literally, spend several hours knitting. I will knit until my hands cramp and I have forgotten how to count. Knitting is pretty easy to learn and can remain a relatively affordable hobby. You will realize that last sentence is a lie after you become obsessed with knitting and find out how expensive the really awesome yarn is.
But for now, pick up some cheap worsted weight yarn at Michaels (it’s a medium thickness yarn). Buy the size needles it says to on the package—don’t worry about gauge yet. Learn the stitches first. I’m going to teach you how to knit and purl and from there, you can learn countless knitting stitches.
With a tail of about 6 inches, make a slip knot in your yarn:
The cast on I’m going to teach you is a simple knit cast on. There are other cast ons to learn that will yield prettier and stretchier edges. But this is a nice, simple one to learn that’s a good starting point for beginners.
Insert your needle into your slip knot. The yarn coming from the ball should be towards the tip of your needle.
Insert your second needle into the loop on the needle pointing towards the back.
Take the yarn that is connected to your ball,
Pull that strand between your two needles so the yarn is at the front.
With the needle in your right hand, pull the strand of yarn through the loop on your left needle.
Repeat this to cast on about 20 stitches.
Now you pretty much know how to knit! The only difference now is that instead of sliding that loop onto your left needle after you make a stitch, you’re going to keep it on your right stitch.
Your fabric is going to look a little different from mine. What you make at this point will look like the top of this swatch, which is garter stitch. In garter stitch, every row is a knit row. I’m working in stockinette stitch—the bottom half of the swatch—which is one row of knits followed by one row of purls. Don’t worry, I’m going to teach you to purl in just a sec.
So with the needle full of cast-on stitches in your left hand, insert the tip of the right needle into the first loop so it’s pointing towards the back.
Take the yarn that is connected to the ball, and wrap it around so that it is in between both needles.
With the right needle, pull the yarn through the loop on the left needle.
Slide the loop off of the left needle and keep the new stitch on the right needle.
That’s a knit stitch! Any time a pattern says to knit, this is what it’s telling you to do.
A purl stitch is the opposite of a knit stitch. In other words, the back of every knit stitch is a purl and the back of every purl stitch is a knit.
Purling is very similar to knitting, it’s just in the opposite direction. Insert your needle into the first loop on your left needle so that it is pointing towards the front.
Wrap your yarn around the front of the right needle.
Pull the yarn through the loop on the left needle.
Slide newly created loop off of left needle and keep on right needle.
Practice these basic stitches until you feel comfortable. You’ll notice at first that your tension won’t be even throughout your knitting. Your tension is what it sounds like: how tightly you are pulling your stitches. Everyone has a different tension when they knit, but you want to aim for a Goldilocks tension—neither too hard nor too soft, but somewhere in the middle. Once you get used to making the stitches, pay more attention to how you’re making them. Then you’ll be ready to start finding patterns! Ravelry and Etsy are great places to find inexpensive patterns from knitwear designers. There are also tons of books and magazines devoted to knitting.
Binding Off (or Casting Off)
When you’re ready to finish your knitting, you’ll need to bind off (or cast off) your stitches. This is how you go from open loops to a closed edge. I think watching someone bind off is more helpful than pictures, especially if you’re new to knitting. Here’s a great video from Lion Brand that shows you how: