To Begin Knitting, Start With a Pretzel

It was recently pointed out to me that I don’t have any content on how to begin knitting.  I originally thought that there is a lot of that kind of content out there, so any additions I could make would be redundant.  Maybe that’s true, but the only way to find out is to provide the info I was asked for and see what happens.  For your first efforts, I strongly recommend you either start with the “World’s Easiest Beginning Knitting Scarf” pattern, or no pattern at all.  You can just cast on some stitches, knit till you feel like you have the hang of it and then go to a pattern.  (Scarves are easiest to start with.)

Step 1.  Make a slip knot & put it on a knitting needle.

If you don’t know how to make a slip knot, take your yarn and make a pretzel shape.  Look at the 2 small bits of yarn on the inside of the pretzel.  One of them will be under the outer yarn at both ends.  Put your needle under that bit of yarn and lift up.  Pull both ends of the yarn to tighten the loop on the needle – the loose end & the end going back to the ball or skein.  Ta da!  Your first stitch!


  1. Cast on with larger needles than your project calls for, if you’ve decided to start with a pattern.  If you’re not starting with a pattern, choose the largest needle size recommended on your yarn label.
  2. Use a smooth, solid-colored yarn.  Fuzzy, nubby & colorful yarns are fun, but not good for beginners. Use a medium-ish yarn weight: double knit, worsted, or Aran are good.
  3. I’d go with a cheap yarn, but not one you dislike.  You don’t want to hate working with it.

Step 2.  Making more stitches, aka casting on.

There are many ways of casting on.  I’m only going to cover my favorite.

  1. Hold the needle with your first stitch in your left hand .
  2. Using the needle in your right hand, insert from the left of the stitch all the way through.
  3. Loop the yarn from the yarn ball/skein over the right hand needle.
  4.  Pull the loop back through the stitch on the left hand needle.  You now have 2 stitches, one on each needle.
  5. Put the left hand needle through the stitch on the right hand needle, from the left, & slide the stitch onto the left needle.  You now have 2 cast on stitches.
  6. You can continue to make stitches by repeating 1 through 5 until you have the desired number of stitches on your left-hand needle.  Note:  there are other ways to make stitches.  This is just one way.

Step 3.  Knitting Your First Row – English style

  1. Hold the needle with all the stitches in your left hand.  Your working needle goes in your right hand.
  2. Insert the right-hand needle, left to right, into the stitch at the end of the left-hand needle.
  3. As for casting on, wrap the yarn from the ball around the tip of the right-hand needle & pull it back through the stitch.
  4. This time, keep the loop of yarn – your new stitch – on your right-hand needle & let the original stitch fall off the tip of the left-hand needle.

Congratulations!  You have knitted your first stitch!  Now, repeat this process until all of the stitches on the left-hand needle are on the right-hand needle.

Step 4.  Your First Pattern:  Garter Stitch, or Knit All the Rows!

  1. All of your stitches should be on your right hand needle.  Check to make sure the number matches the number of stitches you cast on.
  2. Transfer your right-hand needle to your left hand.  The last stitch of the first row will now be the first stitch of the second row.
  3. Repeat the process laid out in Step 3 until, once again, all the stitches on your left hand needle are on your right hand needle.
  4. Spend some time closely examining your knitting.  Look at how the yarn travels through each stitch.  A ridge will have formed between the 2 rows.  This is a unique feature of garter stitch and can help you when you’re counting rows.

Knitting every row is a stitch pattern called garter stitch.  It’s a very useful stitch, especially at the edges of projects because it doesn’t curl.  As you continue with your project, make sure you continue to check each row to make sure that you have the same number of stitches you started out with, unless the pattern tells you otherwise.

Every beginner I’ve ever seen has become confused at some point and added or subtracted stitches.  Don’t be alarmed when it happens to you.  Try to go back and figure out where it went wrong.  You can rip out all the stitches back to that point & knit it over again.  This is called ripping or frogging (rip it, rip it), when you’re trying to have a sense of humor about it.  If you continue with knitting, you will have lots of experience with frogging, so a sense of humor comes in very handy.

Final Advice

Have fun with your knitting!  No one gets everything right the first time they try. If you’re a perfectionist, take this opportunity to be patient and forgiving toward yourself.

For some reason, in the beginning, it always feels like it’s taking forever for the project to get anywhere. It’s even worse when you’re a beginner.  Again, be patient, stick with it.  You’ll get there.

Keep counting your stitches.  Take time after every row to look at your knitting and try to develop an understanding of how it works and what the stitches look like.  This will help you a lot when you need to identify mistakes  and want to minimize the amount of frogging you have to do.

Try to keep the tension on your yarn even by threading it through the fingers of your right hand.  There are other ways to keep the tension even, so if that doesn’t work, experiment.

Do what works for you.  Try different techniques, but if it doesn’t work for you, or you just don’t like it, drop it.  Knitting should be fun!

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