17 Knitting Tips for Beginners

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If you’re new to knitting, this list is for you. It’s a collection of tips for beginner knitters that will help you up your game quickly.

None of these tips are a big secret. They’re just lessons people have learned the hard way. And they’re all here so you don’t have to.

Some of these tips will be very basic, maybe too basic for some of you. But others are more advanced. They cover everything from figuring out the right knitting needle for project to learning techniques like the purl stitch.

Tips for Beginner Knitters

Balls of yarn in bowl with knitting needles

1) Relax before you knit

This may sound silly, but if you’re tense, it will make your knitting tighter and your stitch pattern uneven. It can also make cause hand pain and potentially even give you carpal tunnel syndrome.

Relax your body by taking some deep breaths or stretches. Check out our 15 quick stress relief tips for more ideas. Put on some relaxing music, TV (ambient fireplace or nature videos on YouTube can be great) or a podcast (just not one that makes you angry).

Think of knitting itself as a self-care ritual. This will help you to get in a relaxed frame of mind and knit your very best.

2) Learn your basic stitches

It takes practice to learn how to hold your yarn and needles, and how to make the basic stitches. You can find instructions for doing this in any good knitting book or online. Annie’s offers some online knitting classes, as does Udemy.

While practicing, focus on making your stitches even. Gauge swatches (more on these later) are great practice because you’ll see how to make your stitches the right size for every project.

The basic stitches you’ll want to learn to knit include: cast on, garter, stockinette, purl, and knit. There are plenty of resources online for learning the basic knitting stitches.

3) Pick quality yarn and needles

The quality of your tools and materials matters in knitting. Better tools are easier and more fun to work with. They also make a better quality knitting project.

Two online shops for quality yarn and needles are Annie’s Craft Store and Darn Good Yarn, which sells specialty handmade recycled yarn. You can also shop for yarn at local shops.

Skeins of yarn on store shelf

4) Pick the right needle for your project

A lot of knitting patterns will tell you what size needle to use. When in doubt, know that if your stitches are too tight, that means the needle is too small. If the stitches are too loose, that means they’re too large.

Your needle size also needs to fit your yarn, and the wrapper that came with your yarn should tell you what needles will work. (Keep those wrappers!)

5) Metal or bamboo needles?

Metal knitting needles can feel slippery, and may cause stitches to slip off too easily. Bamboo needles can hold them on better and give you more of a feeling of control.

6) Circular needles?

Circular knitting needles are another option, and they come in both aluminum and bamboo. They’re very versatile. You can use them to knit flat or round projects.

One big advantage? They’re a lot harder to lose and they don’t work their way into the nether regions of a couch or chair if you set them down for a minute.

Another big advantage is that they’re a lot more portable. They fit more easily into knitting bags and even purses. But because their total length is longer than straight needles, they make it easier to avoid dropping stitches.

You can read more about how to pick the right needle.

Purple skeins of yarn with circular knitting needles

7) Pick the right yarn for your project

Again, many patterns will suggest a type of yarn. Stick as close as you can to the recommendations, but pick something you like. The project should have the color, texture and weight you want it to have.

Remember: if you’re knitting something to give to a person, people sometimes have strong preferences about material. Some people find acrylic and some types of wool too scratchy, for example.

8) Gauge swatch

Start every project with a gauge swatch. Your pattern will give you a recommended gauge, which is how many stitches per inch will make your it come out the right size. Knitting a swatch first will show your if your stitches are too big or small. Even a small size difference can be huge in a finished project.

If it’s not the right size at first, unravel your yarn and try again. Scrap yarn is great for this.

9) Rip out your mistakes

One of the great things about knitting is that you can always rip out or “frog” stitches to get back to a mistake. It’s a pain, but it beats having the finished product look wonky.

10) Keep your yarn tension consistent

That is, the tension between your needle and your yarn. This is one of the things that takes practice. Uneven tension leads to uneven knit stitches, which leads to an uneven finished project.

Try keeping the yarn between your fingers and easing out a bit at a time as you come to it. There’s no one right way to do this. You just have to keep trying until you find what works for you.

11) Read your pattern first

Go over each new pattern before you start knitting. The better you understand your knitting project, the better it will turn out. Make sure you understand all the steps and how you’re getting from one step to the next to the finished project.

What if a pattern calls for a technique you haven’t used before?

12) Practice new techniques before you start

If a knitting pattern calls for a technique that’s new to you, practice it first. Scrap yarn from old projects is perfect for this.

It’s a good idea to practice the new technique on a swatch so you do it several times over. Once you get the hang of it, you’re good to go.

13) Check for mistakes

Keep checking for mistakes. You may want to check at the end of each row when you’re first starting.

Look for stitches that just don’t look right. Or a row that seems uneven, tight or loose compared to others around it. Or a dropped stitch.

The sooner you notice mistakes, the less time you’ll spend fixing them!

Knitting with dropped stitches

14) Mark where you left off

When you need to stop knitting in the middle of a project, it’s important to be able to tell where you left off. Ideally, you want to finish the row you’re working on before you stop.

You can also note on your pattern where you are, using pencil or post-its so you don’t permanently mark it.

15) Use small movements

One thing that will instantly make you a better knitter is using small hand movements. Focus on moving your hands as little as possible and your arms virtually not at all.

This can be a little different for everybody. You have to observe yourself and see where you can minimize your hand movements.

16) Learn both English and Contiental style knitting

The two main types of knitting are the English style and the Continental style. In the English style, the yarn is held in the right hand and the needles are in the left. In Continental knitting, the yarn is held in the left hand and the needles are in the right.

Most people consider Continental faster, more efficient, and easier on hands and wrists. And many people coming from crochet find it easier to learn this technique.

Neither technique is better than the other. It’s a matter of finding out which one works best for you.

17) Fix dropped stitches with a crochet hook

Instead of ripping out good stitches to get back to a dropped stitch, you can use a crochet hook to fix it.

  • Insert the crochet hook into the dropped stitch
  • Hook the next rung of the ladder
  • Pull the rung through the loop of the dropped stitch