The Purl Stitch

If you’ve already learned to Cast On and make The Knit Stitch, the next step is to learn the Purl stitch. Knits and Purls are the foundation of knitting and no project can be completed without them. As you work with both, you’ll notice that knits look like purls on the back and purls look like knits on the back. This uniformity allows the knitter to create solid sections of knits or purls as needed. Typically, the knit side is the “right” side or the side that faces outward when the project is finished. But sometimes, as with the green blanket featured at the top of my blog, the purl side is the right side with the image standing out in knits to present a finished face. Either way, you need to know how to do both stitches to do anything.

Hold the yarn to the front of the work. Insert your right-hand needle into the stitch from the right side of the stitch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Right-hand needle entering right side of stitch

This time, unlike with the knit stitch, the right-hand needle will remain in front of the left-hand needle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yarn over right-hand needle

Yarn over and push the loop back through the stitch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Loop is pushed back through stitch

Slip the stitch off the left-hand needle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Slip stitch off left-hand needle

Rinse and repeat.

Continue purling in this manner across the row.

When you work one row of knits and work the next row as purls, you will create a block of material with all knits on the front and purls on the back. This is called a stockinette stitch, and it is a common stitch in knitting. Some patterns may have sections of cable with sections of stockinette in between, so instead of detailing how many stitches to do it may simply say continue in stockinette stitch for those sections. Sometimes it’s abbreviated to St st. I plan to also post a glossary of common knitting abbreviations and what they mean, so check back if you’re having trouble deciphering a pattern.

That’s about it for the foundations of knitting. Practice casting on, knitting and purling until you get the hang of it. You can make practice blocks in stockinette stitch, or switch up the stitches you’re working with to create different textures. Check back for guides on simple beginner projects like a ribbed scarf and simple mittens. These types of projects are great for practicing your stitches and creating lasting items that are lovely to have around for the cold winter months.

Follow my blog for more knitting tutorials and the scoop on my latest projects.

Happy stitching!

The Knit Stitch

If you’re new to knitting, or even just looking for a refresher because it’s been a while, you’ve come to the right place. Every project is built one stitch at a time, and the knit stitch is essential to any knitting project. But first things first, you have to cast on. If you don’t know how to do this, please see my other tutorial post, Cast On, and then come back here to learn the knit stitch. If you’ve already got your beginning stitches cast onto your needle, this is a great place to start. So without further ado, let’s knit!

First, let me note that typically the first stitch is slipped and not knitted when working back and forth in rows. Sometimes this stitch can stretch out and look sloppy, but a simple fix to that is to simply tighten the stitch as you continue to knit. You’ll know what I’m talking about later as you get into it. For now, just move that first stitch over to the right-hand needle and then knit the second stitch.

Hold the yarn to the back of the work. Insert your needle into the stitch from the left side of the stitch, moving the needle front to back.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Right-hand needle going into the left side of the stitch

It will look a little funny at first, but trust me, this is correct. Your right-hand needle should move behind the left-hand needle and the stitch should look sort of twisted.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Right-hand needle is behind the left-hand needle

Now you wrap the yarn around the right-hand needle to be pulled through the stitch on the left-hand needle. This is called yarn over.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yarn over the right-hand needle

Now pull that loop up through the stitch, bringing the right-hand needle back to the front of the work.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Loop pulled through stitch onto right-hand needle.

Slip the stitch off the left-hand needle. The new stitch on the right-hand needle is holding it now.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Slip stitch off left-hand needle

Rinse and repeat.

And that’s basically it! Keep knitting in this fashion across the row. If you make a mistake, such as  entering the stitch from the wrong direction, it will twist your stitch the other way. See my post Dagnabbit for instructions on how to take out stitches.

Always remember that practice makes perfect, so keep at it. Your first few shots at knitting are likely to result in uneven stitches or stitches that are too tight or too loose. This is all part of the learning curve, and eventually you’ll get your stitches to the right tension to easily work with. Don’t sweat it, just keep practicing your stitches to get them nice and even.

Next up is your other essential stitch, The Purl Stitch.

Follow my blog for more knitting tutorials and the scoop on my latest projects.

Happy stitching!

Cast On

When learning a new craft, it’s easy to want to rush through the basic steps and dive right into that first major project. You think to yourself I see so many people do this it can’t be that difficult, can it? Then you hang yourself up on simple details, get frustrated, and throw your tangled ball of yarn and needles in the corner and forget about it for a month.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlways get the hang of the basics before diving in. Practice makes perfect. Beethoven didn’t start right out with creating Fur Elise, he had to learn the basics of music first. And the first step to any knitting project is casting on your stitches. Well, what in the world does that even mean? Casting on means getting all your beginning stitches onto the needle, and there are actually a few methods of doing so. Try them all and see which one works best for you.

The Easy WayI know what you’re thinking. Oh, this is the easy way, so why should I read any of the other ways, I’ll just always use this one! Well in the words of Admiral Ackbar: it’s a trap! Don’t fall into it. This method is one I reserve only for times I need to add more stitches in the middle of a project, such as mittens. (I’ll post a mitten tutorial at a future date). While the method is definitely easy, it can create uneven stitches and be difficult to get started with if you base your entire project off of it. Still, it is a necessary method to know when doing certain projects, so here it is:

Make a slip knot and place it on your needle – this is how every casting on method begins.

Take the longer strand of yarn (the tail gets ignored) and twist it into a loop.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Place the new loop on the needle and pull tight. Try to resist the temptation to pull it too tight as that will cause your stitches to be very difficult to work with.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Repeat until you have enough stitches on your needle.

Easy, right? Why wouldn’t you just do that all the time? Well, I’ve found that when you begin a project using this method, the stitches stretch out when you insert your needle into them trying to do your first row and it takes longer and makes you frustrated. That’s why I reserve this method for times when I need to add stitches in the middle of the project.

 

The two-needle wayI must make a confession, here. I’ve never actually used this method. In fact, I didn’t even know about it until I cracked open the “learn to knit” instructions page on one of my pattern books. I’ve always used the way my grandmother taught me, so this is a weird and wild thing for me to discover. Unlike the easy way and the way my grandma taught me, this cast on method goes onto the left-hand needle instead of the right and you make use of both needles. Here’s the play-by-play:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Make a slip knot and place it on your needle (this time to the left!).

Insert the right-hand needle into the left side of the stitch going front to back and wrap the yarn over the right-hand needle.

*Going from the left side of the stitch with the needle is referred to as “as if to knit”

**Wrapping the yarn around the needle is referred to as “yarn over”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pull up a loop through stitch and place the new loop on the left-hand needle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Insert right-hand needle between the last two stitches.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yarn over and pull up a loop.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Place the new loop on the left-hand needle.

Repeat the process of pulling loops up between the stitches and placing them on the left-hand needle until you have the desired number of stitches.

Easy enough, but I’m not sure how easy they are to work with once you get them all on the needle. I only cast on a few stitches for the purpose of this tutorial, and I didn’t much care for the way they seemed cramped on the needle. But if you try this out and work your first row and love it, then by all means keep doing it.

 

The way my grandma taught meThis is my tried-and-true method for casting on stitches, as I mentioned earlier. This method is a bit different in that you will be carrying the tail throughout the process, so you have to start with a looooooong tail. The length of the beginning tail will be determined by how many stitches you need and what size needle you’re using.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Make a slip knot and place it on your needle. Make sure you have a nice loooooooong tail.

Hold the needle in your right hand, and wrap the yarn over your left hand like so:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Make sure the tail is over your thumb and the longer strand (coming from  your ball) is over your index finger. Spread your thumb and forefinger apart, and trap the yarn ends in your other fingers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It looks and feels funny at first, but I promise when you get the hang of it, it’s quite fun. It looks a little like cat’s cradle when you have the proper grasp on the yarn.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Take the needle and move it up under the front yarn coming off your thumb (this is your tail).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Keeping the tail over the needle, move the needle back and over the front of the yarn on your index finger. Be sure to steer clear of the back strand of yarn coming off the index finger.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Grab that section of yarn you just went over and pull it toward you through the gap.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now you essentially have a loop wrapped around your thumb, you want that loop on your needle. Remove your thumb from the loop and press down on the tail under the loop with your thumb.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As you press down with your thumb, the tail will slip back around your thumb as it was in the original starting position. This is a good thing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pull tight (but not too tight!)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tilt your left hand back again so it looks like the starting position. Repeat these steps until you have enough starting stitches on your needle.

Now I know that that was a lot of detailed pictures and it feels really complicated. But seriously, give it a try. A good try. Once you get the hang of it, your needle will be flying under and over your strands of yarn and your left thumb will be smoothly circling in and out of the loops, pressing down to tighten and returning to the original position as if on its own. I’ve done this so often that I can cast on without even looking or thinking about it, merrily counting the stitches as I binge on Netflix. I pause now and again to double-check my count. I find this method to be super fun and it really does feel like you’re doing cat’s cradle.

I know some of you may wonder how do I know how long to make my tail?! And the answer is trial and error. Especially when casting on for a large blanket, it’s tough to say what length to start with and there really isn’t a set formula. I usually wind up with a super-long tail even when I’m done casting on all my stitches, and when this happens I just trim it to a reasonable length. Sometimes you’ll run out before you’re done casting on and have to start over again, moving your slip knot further up the yarn. It can be frustrating but stick with it because it really is a great foundation for your project because it keeps those beginning stitches from stretching out. And no, you won’t run out of yarn by using this method. I typically wind up with a good bit of leftovers once my project is done and I always use this method.

 

And that’s it! You’ve just learned three methods of casting on your stitches to start your project! Now you can graduate to learning your knit and purl stitches. I promise it’s not that hard. Try starting some sample squares using each of these cast-on methods to see which one you like to work with the best. My preferences aside, there is no right or wrong way to do it. Basically, as long as you get the right number of stitches on your needle, you’re doing a good job.

Pat yourself on the back and grab another cup of coffee, you’re well on your way to becoming another knit-tastic individual.

Follow my blog for all things knitting and more tutorials!

Happy Stitching!