Following a knitting pattern can be simple once you learn the basics. If you are new to knitting, try making a practice swatch following the steps below before starting a project.
How to Cast On—Long Tail Method
The first step of knitting is to cast on stitches onto your needle. The number of stitches to cast on varies according to the project, and will be indicated in your pattern. There are many ways to cast on, but the most common is the Long Tail Method, which is explained below.
1. Make a slip knot, leaving a long tail of yarn. You will be using this tail of yarn to cast on, so it must be long enough to cast on the number of stitches required. About 1" per stitch is advised, so if your pattern requires you to cast on 20 stitches, make the slip knot about 20" from the end of the yarn. Place the slip knot on your needle and pull both strands gently to tighten the knot. You have now made your first stitch.
2. Holding the needle in your right hand, loop the loose end of the yarn over your left thumb. Loop the yarn from the ball over your left index finger. Hold both ends of the yarn with the fingers of your left hand against your palm.
3. Bring the needle down in front of your left thumb, forming a loop on thumb.
4. Insert the needle under and up into the loop.
5. Move the needle across and under the yarn on your index finger.
6. Draw yarn through the loop from your thumb.
7. Slip the loop off your thumb and gently pull the yarn away from the needle with your thumb to tighten the stitch.
8. Repeat the steps shown in illustrations 2 through 7 until the required number of stitches have been cast on.
How to Knit
1. Hold the needle with the stitches you have cast on in your left hand with your index finger on the first stitch. In your right hand, hold the empty needle. Place the yarn from the ball over your index finger, under the second, over the third, and under the fourth fingers of your right hand. Keep the yarn at back of the work. Insert the right needle into the front of the first stitch on the left needle. Pass the point of the right needle behind the left needle and rest it on your left forefinger.
2. Loop the yarn under and over the point of the right needle.
3. With the point of the right needle, draw the yarn down through the stitch on the left needle.
4. Slip the stitch off the left needle. Your first stitch is on the right needle.
5. For your second stitch, insert the right needle into the front of the second stitch on the left needle and repeat the steps shown in Illustrations 2 through 4. When inserting your needle into each new stitch, be certain to pass more than just the point of your needle through the stitch. Knitting your stitch on the point will make it too tight. Also, make sure to move up the stitches on the left needle as you work so that the stitch being knitted is always near the point of the needle.
Repeat these steps until you have transferred all of the stitches from the left needle to the right needle. This completes 1 row of knitting.
Transfer the needle with the completed row of stitches to your left hand and the empty needle to your right hand. Continue with the next row of your pattern.
How to Purl
1. Hold the needles in the same manner as for the knit stitch but with yarn at front of work. Insert the right needle into the front of the first stitch on the left needle from the right side. The right needle passes in front of the left needle.
2. Loop the yarn over and under the point of the right needle.
3. With the point of right needle, draw the yarn through the stitch on the left needle. Slip the original stitch off the left hand needle, leaving the new stitch on the right-hand needle.
4. For the next stitch, insert the right needle into the front of the next stitch on the left needle and repeat the steps from Illustration 1 through 3 until the loops on the left needle have been transferred to the right needle. This completes 1 row of purling. Transfer the needle with the completed row of stitches to your left hand and the empty needle to your right hand. Continue with the next row of your pattern.
How to Bind Off
When you have completed your project, you must “bind off” in order to lock your stitches in place. Otherwise the stitches would unravel when you pull out the needle.
1. Knit the first 2 stitches at beginning of a knit row. Insert the left needle into the front of the first knitted stitch on the right needle.
2. Lift the first stitch over the second stitch, then off the right needle. This will bind off 1 stitch.
Knit another stitch. You now have 2 stitches on the right needle. Repeat the steps in Illustrations 1 and 2 until the last stitch of the row remains on the right needle. Cut the yarn, leaving an end a few inches long. Draw the end of the yarn through the last stitch of your work.
Binding Off Purlwise: Simply purl the stitches instead of knitting them. Keep the yarn at the back of your work when slipping the first stitch over the second stitch.
How to Increase & Decrease Knitting
To adapt your knitting to the shape and/or size of the garment you wish to create, you cannot cut it as you would an ordinary fabric. Instead, you must shape it as you knit. You can do this easily by increasing or decreasing the number of stitches on the needle.
Increasing 1 Stitch: There are several ways of increasing, but the following method is the most widely used. Knit in front of the stitch, but do not drop it from the needle. Knit in the back of the same stitch. Drop the stitch from the left needle, keeping 2 stitches on right needle. You now have increased 1 stitch by knitting 2 stitches in 1 stitch.
Decreasing 1 Stitch: On the knit side of work, insert the needle through 2 stitches at once and knit them together. On the purl side of the work, purl 2 stitches together at the same time.
Basic Stitch Patterns
Once you know how to knit and purl, it is easy to work in the most common stitch patterns: garter stitch and stockinette stitch.
Garter Stitch: To work in a garter stitch pattern, you simply knit every row. This results in a ridged pattern with both sides of the work alike.
Stockinette Stitch: To work in stockinette stitch, you alternate rows of knitting and purling. This results in one smooth side (right side) and one ridged side (wrong side). If you use the purled side for the right side, it is referred to as reverse stockinette stitch.