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Monday, April 22, 2013

Back to Basics: Introduction to Knitting

By Kandis Hamrick

Choosing your tools

There are a variety of needle types to choose from in knitting. In addition to having straight sets of needles in varying sizes, there are also double-pointed needles (DPNs) and circular knitting needles. Standard knitting needles are pointed on one end and have a cap of some kind on the other, sometimes flat, sometimes rounded.

DPNs are much shorter than standard knitting needles and (as the name suggests) are pointed at both ends; they are typically used in knitting socks or other small projects that are knit in the round.

Circular knitting needles can vary greatly because in addition to different needle sizes, there are different cable lengths to consider. These needles are used for two reasons: knitting in the round or knitting a much larger project as you can keep more stitches on the cable.

Other factors to consider in choosing your needles is the material they’re made with. Common materials for needles are wood/bamboo, nickel/aluminum, or acrylic. I recommend trying each so you can see what feels right for you; personally, I don’t like the feel of acrylic and I prefer the sound of metal needles as you work, but for some that sound might be annoying. Use whatever feels right for you.

Simple stitches

Cast on
k - knit
p - purl
yo - yarn over
Bind off

Stockinette stitch is among the most recognizable stitches in knitting and is accomplished by alternating a row of knit stitches and a row of purl stitches.

Another common stitch pattern is the ribbed stitch which is accomplished by alternating knit and purl stitches to form vertical rows; this can be a simple k1, p1 pattern or wider ribs can be created by repeating k2, p2 and so on.

Putting it together

Once you’ve cast on using your preferred method, you’ll need to knit your first row. In the first row you’ll need to be careful to maintain the correct tension in your stitches. If your cast-on was loose then you may end up with loose loops in your first row. This is something that may take some practice to get just right, or you may want to try a different method of casting on that you find easier. There’s no right or wrong choice here, it just depends on your preference.

As you work knit stitches, you’ll want to keep your working yarn behind your work; when you work purl stitches, you’ll want to keep your working yarn in front of your work. When you reach the end of a row, you will simply turn your work and start your next row. When your project is the desired length, bind off and weave in the end of your yarn.

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