Knitting 101: Understanding the Basic Knit Stitch

If you’ve ever been curious about knitting but weren’t quite sure where to start, look no further! In “Knitting 101: Understanding the Basic Knit Stitch,” you’ll find a clear and concise explanation of the fundamental technique that forms the backbone of knitting – the basic knit stitch. Whether you’re a complete novice or have some experience under your belt, this article will break down the process in a friendly and approachable way, equipping you with the knowledge you need to pick up those knitting needles and create beautiful projects. So, let’s unravel the mystery and explore the world of knitting together!

Choosing the Right Yarn and Needles

Knitting is a wonderful craft that allows you to create beautiful garments and accessories. One of the most important aspects of knitting is choosing the right yarn and needles for your project. With countless options available, it can be overwhelming to make a decision. But fear not, we’re here to guide you through the process!

Selecting the Right Yarn

When it comes to choosing the right yarn, there are a few factors to consider. First and foremost, you need to determine the fiber content that will suit your project best. Common yarn fibers include wool, cotton, acrylic, and blends. Each fiber has its own unique properties, such as warmth, drape, and durability.

Next, you’ll want to consider the weight or thickness of the yarn. Yarn weight can be categorized into several categories, such as lace, fingering, sport, worsted, and bulky. Keep in mind that the weight of the yarn will influence the final look and feel of your project.

Lastly, think about the color and texture of the yarn. Choose a color that complements your style and consider the stitch pattern you’ll be using. Texture, such as smooth or fuzzy, can also add interest to your project.

Choosing the Proper Needle Size

Once you’ve chosen the perfect yarn, it’s time to select your needles. Needle size is essential as it determines the gauge and overall look of your knitting. The gauge is the number of stitches and rows per inch of your project. If you’re working on a garment or following a pattern, it’s crucial to match the recommended gauge to achieve the correct fit and dimensions.

Needle sizes are measured in both metric and US sizes. The larger the number, the larger the needle size. Thicker yarns generally require bigger needles, while finer yarns need smaller ones. However, it’s always a good idea to knit a swatch to ensure that your gauge matches the pattern.

Understanding Yarn Weight

Yarn weight is an essential concept to grasp as it helps you determine the right yarn for your project and the appropriate needle size. The Craft Yarn Council has established a standard system that categorizes yarn weight based on the number of wraps per inch (WPI). This system uses numbers from 0 to 7, with 0 being the finest and 7 being the bulkiest.

Understanding yarn weight is crucial because it affects the drape, texture, and warmth of your project. It’s also necessary for substituting yarns in patterns and ensuring that your finished garment or accessory turns out as expected.

Holding the Needles and Yarn

Once you have your yarn and needles ready, it’s time to start knitting! Before diving into the stitches, let’s discuss the two most common methods of holding the needles and yarn: the English method and the Continental method.

The English Method

In the English method, the yarn is held in your right hand. Rest the needle with the stitches in your left hand. To create a stitch, insert the right needle into the stitch on the left needle from left to right. Wrap the yarn around the right needle, bringing it under and over the needle. Then, pull the right needle through the stitch, slipping the old stitch off the left needle.

The English method is popular among beginners, as it allows for better control over the tension of the yarn. If you’re comfortable with crocheting, this method may feel more familiar to you.

The Continental Method

The Continental method, also known as picking or German knitting, involves holding the yarn in your left hand. With this method, you’ll hold the working yarn between your left thumb and index finger, allowing it to flow freely. The right needle is used to pick up the stitches.

The Continental method is often praised for its speed and efficiency, as the movements are generally smoother and more streamlined. If you’re already comfortable with crochet or holding the yarn in your left hand, give the Continental method a try.

Making a Slip Knot

Before you can start casting on stitches, you’ll need to make a slip knot on one of your needles. The slip knot forms the foundation for your knitting and allows you to control the tension of your stitches.

To make a slip knot, start with a loop of yarn and insert the needle through the loop. Gently pull the yarn, creating a knot that can slide along the needle. The slip knot should be snug but not too tight. Adjust the size of the loop as needed by pulling the yarn ends.

Remember to keep the tail end of your yarn long enough to weave in later. Once you have your slip knot ready, you’re all set to start casting on your first stitches!

Casting On Stitches

Casting on stitches is the first step in creating a knitted fabric. There are numerous cast-on methods, each suited for different purposes. Let’s explore a few popular cast-on methods you can try.

Long-Tail Cast-On

The long-tail cast-on is one of the most versatile and widely used methods. It creates a neat and elastic edge that works well for a variety of projects. To begin, make a slipknot and place it on your needle. Hold the yarn tails between your thumb and index finger, leaving a loop of yarn between your thumb and the needle. Insert the needle through the loop under your thumb, bring the yarn over the needle, and pull it through the loop. Repeat this motion until you have the desired number of stitches.

Knitted Cast-On

The knitted cast-on is another popular method that produces a firm and even edge. It’s an excellent choice for projects that require a sturdy start, such as socks or sweater cuffs. To start, make a slipknot and place it on your needle. Insert the right needle into the slipknot as if you were going to knit. Instead of knitting the stitch, use the right needle to wrap the yarn around your thumb, creating a new loop. Slip this new loop onto the left needle, and repeat until you have the desired number of stitches.

Cable Cast-On

The cable cast-on is ideal for projects that require a decorative edge with a firm foundation. It creates a neat and slightly stretchy edge that adds a touch of elegance. Start by creating a slipknot and placing it on your needle. Insert the right needle into the slipknot as if to knit. Instead of knitting the stitch, bring the yarn under the right needle and then between the two needles. Use the right needle to bring the yarn over the left needle from front to back. Slip this new loop onto the left needle, and repeat until you have the desired number of stitches.

Other Cast-On Methods

There are numerous other cast-on methods, including the backward loop, provision, and tubular cast-on. Each method has its own unique properties and is suitable for specific applications. As you explore the world of knitting, feel free to experiment with different cast-on techniques to find your favorites.

The Basic Knit Stitch

Now that you’ve cast on your stitches, it’s time to learn the basic knit stitch. This stitch forms the foundation of knitting and is used to create different stitch patterns and textures.

Inserting the Needle

To begin the knit stitch, hold the needle with your cast-on stitches in your left hand. Insert the right needle into the first stitch from left to right, going from front to back. Ensure that the needle is positioned under the left needle.

Wrapping the Yarn

With the right needle still inserted into the stitch, take the working yarn between the needles, bringing it from back to front. The yarn should cross between the two needles, forming an “X” shape.

Pulling the Yarn Through

Once the yarn is in position, use the right needle to catch the yarn and pull it through the stitch towards the top of the left needle. The right needle should now be behind the left needle.

Creating the First Knit Stitch

With the loop of yarn pulled through the stitch, gently slip the old stitch off the left needle. You have now completed your first knit stitch!

Continuing the Knit Stitch

To continue knitting, repeat the steps of inserting the needle, wrapping the yarn, pulling it through, and slipping off the old stitch until you reach the end of the row or until your pattern specifies otherwise.

Fixing Common Knit Stitch Mistakes

As you become more proficient in knitting, you may encounter a few common mistakes along the way. Don’t worry, mistakes happen to everyone! Here are some common knit stitch mistakes and how to fix them.

Dropped Stitch

A dropped stitch happens when a stitch slips off your needle, unravelling a portion of your knitting. To fix a dropped stitch, first, identify the dropped stitch and the corresponding row it belongs to. Insert a smaller-sized crochet hook or a spare knitting needle into the dropped stitch from the front to the back. Carefully catch the horizontal strand that runs between the stitches above the dropped stitch and pull it through the loop of the dropped stitch, pulling it back onto your needle.

Twisted Stitch

A twisted stitch occurs when you accidentally insert your needle into the stitch incorrectly, causing the stitch to twist. To fix a twisted stitch, insert the left needle into both the front and back leg of the stitch from left to right. This will untwist the stitch and bring it back to its correct orientation.

Yarn Over

A yarn over is intentionally created in some knitting patterns, but it can also occur accidentally. If you notice a yarn over where there shouldn’t be one, simply drop the yarn over off your needle and continue knitting as usual.

Unintentional Increase or Decrease

Unintentional increases or decreases can occur when you inadvertently add or lose stitches. If you notice a stitch that shouldn’t be there, carefully unravel your knitting back to the incorrect stitch and fix it according to your pattern instructions. To fix a missing stitch, use the technique mentioned earlier for fixing dropped stitches.

Adding Style to Your Knit Stitches

Once you’ve mastered the basic knit stitch, it’s time to explore different stitch patterns and add some flair to your projects. Here are a few popular stitch patterns that can elevate your knitting:

Seed Stitch

The seed stitch creates a beautiful texture and is made by alternating knit and purl stitches within a row. It produces a bumpy surface that resembles scattered seeds, hence its name. The seed stitch is versatile and suitable for various projects, including scarves, blankets, and hats.

Garter Stitch

The garter stitch is the simplest stitch pattern and is created by knitting every row. It produces a squishy, ridged fabric and is reversible, meaning it looks the same on both sides. The garter stitch is great for beginner projects and adds a classic touch to scarves, dishcloths, and baby blankets.

Stockinette Stitch

The stockinette stitch is the most common and recognizable stitch pattern. It creates a smooth and flat surface with knit stitches on the right side and purl stitches on the wrong side. The stockinette stitch is perfect for showcasing yarn colors and also forms the base for many advanced stitch patterns.


Ribbing is a textured stitch pattern commonly used for cuffs, collars, and edges of garments. It is created by alternating knit stitches and purl stitches within a row, usually in a 1×1 or 2×2 ratio. Ribbing adds elasticity to knitted pieces and provides a snug, tailored fit.

Creating Patterns with Knit Stitches

Once you’ve mastered a few stitch patterns, you can start creating intricate designs and motifs using combinations of knit stitches. Here are some popular ways to create patterns using knit stitches:


Stripes are created by alternating two or more colors within your knitting. They can be simple and bold, or subtle and blended. To create stripes, switch colors at the beginning of a row, carrying the unused color loosely at the back of your work.


Colorwork, also known as Fair Isle or intarsia knitting, involves using multiple colors within the same row or round to create intricate designs. It allows you to incorporate images, patterns, and motifs into your knitting. Colorwork can be challenging but incredibly satisfying once you get the hang of it.


Cables are created by crossing stitches over one another, creating twists and braids. They add depth and texture to your knitting and are often used in cable scarves, sweaters, and blankets. Cable patterns typically involve a combination of knit and purl stitches and require the use of a cable needle or other techniques to hold stitches at the front or back of the work.


Lace knitting involves creating delicate and intricate patterns that feature decorative holes or “eyelets.” It is often used to make airy shawls, elegant tops, or dainty accessories. Lace patterns are created by strategically increasing and decreasing stitches within a row or round. They can be intimidating, but with practice, you’ll be amazed at the stunning lace projects you can create.

Basic Knit Stitch Variations

In addition to the basic knit stitch, there are several variations that can add interest and texture to your knitting. Here are a few commonly used variations:

Purl Stitch

The purl stitch is the inverse of the knit stitch and creates a bumpy texture on the right side of the fabric. To make a purl stitch, insert the right needle into the stitch from right to left, going from back to front. Wrap the yarn counterclockwise around the right needle, bringing it to the back, and pull the right needle through the stitch, slipping the old stitch off the left needle.

Slip Stitch

The slip stitch is used to create textured patterns like ribs, ridges, or colorwork. To make a slip stitch, insert the right needle into the stitch as if to purl, but instead, slide the stitch from the left needle to the right needle without working it. The slipped stitch can be worked later in the pattern or left as is to create texture.

Yarn Over

As mentioned earlier, yarn overs can occur accidentally or can be intentionally used to create eyelets in lace patterns. To make a yarn over, simply bring the yarn from the back to the front over the right needle without working a stitch. On the next row, knit or purl the yarn over as instructed in your pattern.

Central Double Decrease

The central double decrease is used in decorative stitch patterns to decrease two stitches at once and create a symmetrical shape. To make a central double decrease, slip two stitches together knitwise, knit the next stitch, and then pass the slipped stitches over the knit stitch. This results in the middle stitch being brought forward, creating a centered decrease.

Finishing Your Knit Project

Once you’ve completed your knitting, it’s time to finish off your project and give it that polished look. Here are a few essential finishing techniques:

Binding Off

Binding off, also known as casting off, is the process of securing the live stitches at the edge of your work to prevent unraveling. To bind off, knit the first two stitches as usual. Insert the left needle into the first stitch on the right needle and lift it over the second stitch and off the needle. Repeat this process, knitting one stitch and passing the previous stitch over until you have one stitch remaining. Cut the yarn, leaving a tail, and pull it through the last stitch to secure it.

Weaving in Ends

Weaving in ends is a crucial step to ensure that your project looks neat and professional. Using a tapestry needle, thread the yarn through the nearby stitches on the wrong side of your work. Weave the yarn in and out to secure it, and then trim any excess yarn.

Blocking the Finished Piece

Blocking is the process of wetting or steaming your knit piece to help even out stitches, relax the fiber, and shape the final garment. Different types of yarn and projects require different blocking methods. Wet blocking involves soaking the finished piece in water, gently squeezing out the excess, and shaping it to the desired dimensions. Steam blocking involves using a steam iron or garment steamer to lightly steam the piece while shaping it.

Blocking gives your finished project a polished and professional look, and it can enhance stitch definition and drape. Be sure to follow the specific blocking instructions for your yarn and project to achieve the best results.

In conclusion, understanding the basic knit stitch is essential as it forms the foundation of your knitting journey. By learning how to choose the right yarn and needles, hold your needles and yarn correctly, cast on stitches, fix common mistakes, and add style and complexity to your knitting, you’ll be well on your way to creating beautiful and unique projects. Remember to start with small, manageable projects to practice your skills and gradually challenge yourself with more complex patterns. Happy knitting!