Every single knitted garment is created using just 2 basic stitches – the knit stitch and the purl stitch. In addition, you need to know how to start (cast on) a piece of work, and how to end (cast off or bind off).
Once these basics are mastered, everything else is just a variation on these stitches.
However, there are many different effects that can be obtained using both texture and colour and these will be covered at a later stage. For now just follow the links to find out how to make the basic knitting stitches.
There are several different ways to cast on, each giving a slightly different finish. Here I explain the one needle, thumb cast on. For a slightly less stretchy edge and, to my mind, a neater finish, try the two needle cast on.
Making a neat finish is essential with a piece of knitting to give a good edge for sewing together or, in situations such as the neckband, the cast off edge is visible on the finished garment.
Here I explain how to cast off.
Making a Knit Stitch
The Knit stitch is one of the fundamental building blocks of knitting. Once you have mastered the knit stitch you will be able to create scarves or hats using ‘garter’ stitch. Garter stitch is the name given to knitting where every single row is knitted.
Making a Purl Stitch
The Purl stitch is the reverse of the knit stitch. That is to say that a knit stitch looks just like a purl on the reverse and a purl stitch looks just like a knit stitch on the reverse. This is the only other stitch you need to learn to be able to knit anything as everything else is just a variation on how to knit and how to purl.
The picture shows ‘stocking stitch’ which is where you knit one row and then purl the next row. The front of the fabric is smooth and looks like lots of v stitches while the back is rough and bobbley. From the front all the stitches appear to be knit stitches and from the back they all appear to be purl stitches.
How to Knit Ribbing
Ribbing is where you knit and then purl in a regular sequence to make a stretchy hem or border. It is usually used at the cuffs and neckbands of jumpers for example.
The first picture shows 1×1 ribbing, that is knit 1, purl 1, repeated across the width of the fabric.
The second picture shows 2×2 ribbing which is knit 2, purl 2, again repeated across the whole width of the fabric.
Both these ribs give a nice springy, stretchy edge to the garment.
If you are left-handed you may be interested in finding out more about how to knit left-handed.