When I first started knitting I noticed that I was much more relaxed, both physically and mentally. Before I started knitting, my brain used to be very jumpy and I would become anxious over futures that probably wouldn’t even happen.
As someone who used to have frequent panic attacks, knowing that there is something that is creative and non-destructive (not to mention portable) that I can do to calm down is a blessing.
It was no surprise to me to learn that knitting has some of the same mental affects as yoga and meditation, because I’ve experienced it firsthand. Knitting is an activity that I would recommend to just about anyone.
Besides stress relief, knitting can also:
- stimulate the motor cortex
- stimulate the occipital lobe
- stimulate the frontal lobe
- create a sense of purpose
- improve concentration
- improve memory
I think that knitting is one of the best hobbies a person can have, and I encourage anyone who wants to learn how to knit, to do so and try it out. So I have made a list of 5 things you need to know to start knitting.
Arguably there are only 4 things you actually need to know to start knitting. One of the points in this list is a bonus that will improve your knitting and will allow you to knit multiple different kinds of stitches, from the stockinette stitch to raised diamonds.
Though, raised diamonds are tricky, and if you’re knitting for your very first time you’ll want to do the easiest stitch of them all, the garter stitch.
1. How to Cast On
Cable cast on pictured above
Casting on is the very first thing you do when knitting, after reading your pattern thoroughly of course. Even if you’re not working off of a pattern, you still need to cast on.
There are many different ways to cast on, I prefer cable cast ons. The type of casting on you do doesn’t matter too much, some are more elastic than others and they all look a bit different.
If you’re knitting off of a pattern and it specifies what kind of casting on method is needed, do what the pattern says. If not, figure out which method you like the most and just use that.
2. How to Hold the Needles
You may be surprised that this comes after knowing how to cast on. When casting on, you may only be using one needle, and knitting requires two needles, so you need to know how to hold both of them, not just one of them.
There are 2 popular ways to hold the knitting needles, and 2 less commonly used ways. None of them are right or wrong, just experiment to see which one you like the most.
The two most common ways are the English method and the Continental method. English knitting and Continental knitting both have their own benefits. English knitting is considered to be simpler but it requires more movement. Continental knitting involves less movement and so it can be faster and easier on the hands and wrists.
It is difficult to judge which method is the fastest. As each knitter gets into their own rhythm, they’ll work at whatever pace is comfortable for them, and so someone doing English knitting can be faster than someone doing Continental.
It is less difficult to judge efficiency, and improving knitting speed is more about changing deficiencies and making your knitting more economic.
The two other ways of knitting are Irish cottage knitting (also called lever knitting or pit knitting) and Peruvian knitting. If you want to learn Irish cottage knitting or Peruvian knitting, you may be able to find instructional videos on Youtube.
When I learned how to knit, I was taught English knitting, but after I learned about tensioning the yarn using my fingers, I intuitively started knitting in a way that was similar to Irish cottage knitting. Since I find holding a needle under my arm uncomfortable, I just brace my right hand needle against my stomach, or I tuck it in between my ankles if I’m sitting cross-legged.
I am really fond of Irish cottage knitting because it is very easy to get into a good flow, and it’s easier to switch between purling and knitting which allows for very quick ribbing.
3. How to Knit
A few rows of garter stitch pictured above
You’ve cast on some stitches, you know how to hold your needles, now you need to learn the knit stitch. The knit stitch is used in so many patterns, and knitting using just the knit stitch creates the garter stitch.
When you first start knitting, try to master the knit stitch before moving on to the purl stitch. Learn how to keep your tension even, and start off with squares of the garter stitch. It won’t take long until you’ve mastered it and can you can start learning the purl stitch.
If you feel confident in your knitting ability, a garter stitch scarf made from soft and bulky yarn will be a quick but rewarding project.
4. How to Bind Off
Standard bind off pictured above
You’ve finished knitting a square, or maybe a cozy scarf, but it’s still on a needle. Don’t just slide it off the needle, if you do, it will unravel because it hasn’t been bound off. But binding off is easy to learn and easy to do, so you won’t have to worry.
There are 4 common ways to bind off. Binding off the standard way is very easy and doesn’t take much practice to master. In fact, by the second or third time doing it, it will feel very natural. Just be wary about keeping your tension from getting too tight, or you’ll have difficulty passing one stitch over the other.
5. Bonus: How to Purl
A few rows of stockinette stitch pictured above
The garter stitch is great, but if it’s the only stitch you know, you’re going to get bored of it. This is where the purl stitch comes in. Using the purl stitch in combination with the knit stitch you can do a lot of different things, the easiest of which is the stockinette stitch.
Purling is a bit tricky at first, but it will become easier once you get the hang of it. It’s pretty much the opposite of a knit stitch; the yarn is at the front instead of the back and you put the needle through the front of the loop. It doesn’t take too long to master, and soon you’ll be able to knit and purl easily.
Now you know how to cast on and bind off, how to knit and purl, and how to hold your needles. If you’re unsure what to do now, try making a scarf using garter stitch (knit all stitches) or stockinette stitch (alternate between knitting and purling every row).
Once you’ve done that you can experiment with the seed stitch and ribbing and then build up your knitting repertoire from there.
In case you are wondering, I used Bernat Roving, 80% Acrylic, 20% Wool, bulky yarn, in the color of low tide, and 12.75 mm (US 17) needles in all of the photos. The very first image in this blog post was modified so that the colors look different.