Knitting is as Easy as 1, 2, 3

Let’s learn the basics for your new creative hobby!

So you’ve decided to start knitting, and to harness all the creative fulfillment and mental health benefits that come with it. Good for you! Here’s everything you need to know to get started:

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

To start your first knitting project, you won’t need all sorts of fancy materials—all you’ll need is yarn and knitting needles! There are so many kinds of yarn and needles out there, but the most important thing is making sure the two are compatible. The size of your yarn (often referred to as the weight or gauge) is important, because the thicker yarn and needles you use, the larger your stitches—and thus your project—become.

Here are a few key yarn weights to learn:

  • Fingering (best for size 1-3 needles): Fingering yarn is extremely fine and creates small stitches, most often used for knitting socks.
  • DK (best for size 5-7 needles): DK stands for double knit, meaning it’s often double the thickness of fingering (or sock) yarn. In the olden days, knitters would use sock yarn, held in double, to make a thicker garment, which is where it gets its name. 
  • Worsted (best for size 7-9 needles): Worsted yarn is medium thickness and an extremely versatile weight. This yarn can be used for just about anything, which makes it extremely popular with beginner knitters. 
  • Bulky (best for size 9-11 needles): Just as DK is double the weight of fingering yarn, bulky yarn is double the weight of worsted yarn. Bulky yarn is thick and sturdy, which is great for chunkier sweaters, blankets or rugs. 

In addition to your yarn weight impacting the size of your stitches, it also impacts how long your project will take. Some bulky sweaters boast that they can be completed in only a few hours, while socks knit with fingering yarn can take much longer. This is another reason we recommend starting with worsted weight: it’s versatile, easy to see, and lets you get the satisfaction of completing your first project even sooner!

When you’re shopping, you might see a slew of ways to measure yarn in addition to weight. Let’s break down a few more to help avoid any confusion:

  • Gauge: Gauge refers to the number of stitches and rows that will comfortably cover a portion (typically one square inch) of knitted fabric. The recommended needle size (included alongside) will help you achieve that gauge. Different countries—most notably, the U.S. and U.K.—utilize different systems for numbering their needle sizes, but you’re in luck: many yarns will note both a yarn’s U.S. size, from 00000 to 70, and its corresponding width, in mm, from 1 to 35. 
  • Crochet gauge: Many yarns will sport both a knit gauge and a crochet gauge, since knitting and crocheting utilize different amounts of yarn per stitch. Don’t worry about that for now—stick to the knitting stats!
    • Tension: A major factor impacting how large your finished piece turns out is how tightly you knit. This varies from person to person—your tension could be looser or tighter than what is needed in the pattern. Before starting the actual garment, we recommend always knitting a 4" square and then seeing how close that sticks to the pattern's measurements. You can go up or down in needle size to correct any tension issues, so you can be confident that when you follow the number of stitches directed in the pattern, you will have a properly sized garment.
    • Skein or Hank: Yarn is typically sold in a skein or hank — which is a loosely twisted oblong loop of yarn. To begin knitting with this yarn, it must be wound into a ball. You can do this with just your hands or the help of a friend (or chair!), or get fancy and invest in a ball winder to make the process even easier. 

    As you can see, you have many options when selecting your yarn. Our personal opinion? For a new knitter, we recommend worsted weight. This yarn is chunky and easy enough to hold in your hands, and it ensures you’re able to see each of your stitches clearly. Worsted weight yarn is ultra compatible with larger needles—ranging from sizes 7 to 9—which are also most comfortable to hold. For your knitting techniques, a stockinette stitch is the most beginner-friendly. Based on these guidelines, we created our beginner hat pattern, which we recommend to anyone asking where to begin. 

    Looking for one of the weights of yarn mentioned above? We sell all four mentioned weights in our online shop!

    Step 2: Casting On

    Once you’ve gathered your materials, it’s time to start knitting! The first step in any knitting project is casting on—this essentially means making your first row of stitches onto your needles. There are many different methods of casting on, but our favorite is the long-tail cast on. We find it is the most versatile and most forgiving for new knitters as it creates flexible stitches with a bit of stretch.

    For the long-tail cast on, we recommend this video tutorial from our friends at VeryPink Knits on YouTube, but if you’re not a visual learner, here’s a brief step-by-step guide:

    How to do a Long-Tail Cast On

    1. Create a slip knot a couple feet down the yarn, so you have a long tail.
    2. Put the needle in your right hand and slide the slip knot on your needle, holding the tail of the yarn in your left hand
    3. Put your left thumb on the yarn, push down and scoop your thumb upwards, so the yarn is looped around your thumb
    4. Slide the needle into the loop on your thumb, and pinch the needle with your left hand (this will free up your right hand)
    5. With your right hand, take the “working yarn” (not the tail) and wrap it around the needle counter-clockwise and grab the needle at the base with your right hand 
    6. Let go of the needle with your left hand (you’ll still have the loop of yarn around your thumb) and flip that over the top of the needle, let go and pull on the two strands to tighten.
    7. Continue the above steps until you have the desired number of stitches on your needle. 

    Step 3: The Knit and Purl stitch

    Now that you’ve casted on, you’re ready to start your stitches. There are many different types of stitches, the two most popular being the knit (abbreviated “k” in patterns) and purl (abbreviated “p” in patterns) stitches. These stitches show up in just about every knitting pattern, so once you master them, the possibilities are endless!

    How to do a Knit Stitch

    1. Insert the right needle into the first stitch, starting at the bottom of the stitch and pushing upwards, ending up with your right needle behind the left. 
    2. Grab the yarn connected to your ball with your right hand
    3. Wrap the yarn around the right needle counter-clockwise
    4. Gently pull the right needle down and pick up the yarn loop you just created with your needle (this should make your right needle now on top of your left)
    5. Push the right needle into the loop — you’ve made your first stitch! 
    6. Pull the right needle off the left needle
    7. Pull yarn attached to the ball to gently tighten the stitch if necessary.

    Yay! You did it!! 

    Got lost? Here is a helpful video tutorial

    How to do a Purl Stitch

    A purl stitch is essentially the exact same stitch as a knit stitch, just backwards! A quick step-by-step:

    1. Ensure your working yarn is in front of the right needle
    2. Insert the right needle into the stitch on the left needle, starting at the top of the stitch and pushing down, ending up with your right needle on top of the left
    3. Wrap the yarn all the way around the right needle counter-clockwise, creating a loop
    4. Pull the loop under and through the stitch on your left needle
    5. Push the right needle upwards through the loop
    6. Pull the stitch off the left needle

    Yay! You did it!! 

    Got lost? Here is a helpful video tutorial

    Congratulations, you’ve learned the basics, and are now officially a knitter/ Take a moment to pat yourself on the back before getting back to your new project. Looking for your first project? Check out our beginner hat pattern!

    Need some more help? We at Sunny Day Fiber love to help new knitters—feel free to ask us a question on our site, or send us an email, and we’ll do our best to get right back to you.