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Beginning Simple Knitting: Basic Skills

Updated on February 15, 2012


My new hobby of knitting provides a relaxing activity when my brain, body or both are fatigued, enables me to give one of a kind gifts, impresses friends and family, and gives me a creative outlet. This hub will help you get launched into the world of knitting. This is a hobby that can be solitary or social, you can become an expert if you wish, or spend the rest of your knitting life comfortably turning out simple scarves.

My daughter in the first hat I knitted.
My daughter in the first hat I knitted.

How do I break in?

I suggest a two pronged approach: get yourself a knitting mentor, and get a good basic book like Knitting for Dummies. When you first start, another human being to figure out just how you keep mysteriously dropping stitches is invaluable. I found this help at the local library. A group of about 20 knitters met there for two hours a week, ranging in age from 8 to probably over 70. When the seating got scarce the kids sat on the floor, or even under the table. I thought I needed a time consuming new hobby like I needed a hole in the head, but my daughter kept dragging me over to them, and gazing with longing eyes at the funky hats and scarves emerging from her school friends’ bamboo needles. I finally broke down and bought each of us a set of needles and a ball of yarn.

A scarf I knitted as a Christmas gift
A scarf I knitted as a Christmas gift

Find your mentor


That library group included two ladies who were not only long time knitters, but certified to teach. They helped me through the basics of casting on (first attaching a row of stitches to one needle, the foundation from which you will continue knitting your project) and learning a basic knit stitch. Let me just say that it takes some time to get comfortable reliably knitting straight across and back again. The most common error is adding stitches, and the beginner is always flummoxed at how 20 stitches grew into 23. Several times I’ve been somewhere like waiting for a takeout pizza, knitting away my waiting time, when a stranger comes up to me and tells me she really wanted to learn to knit, but extra stitches kept appearing and, and….here the hands flutter around in frustration. It’s a stage many go through, and the problem is solved by experience, repetition. I know that sounds overly general, but if you keep at it, the stitches will even out, you’ll figure out where you went wrong, and be on your way. Being in a group of knitters while working through this initial stage, rather than home alone, will keep your spirits up. I’ve found knitters in general are a supportive lot, happy to admire your projects and cheer on your progress.


Knitting clubs or groups like the one I found are excellent for beginners, and have the benefit of being free. Often yarn stores have such groups, since they know the group will always be needing supplies. Yarn and craft stores also often have paid classes, though in my opinion these can get pricey quickly. A class is most worth the money if you already have your basic skills down, and want to tackle a more advanced project.


If you have a buddy who knits she (or he) may be able to get you started, although not everyone is a born teacher. Some people have excellent skills themselves, but not the communication style or the know how to guide beginners. Your best friend might be a good knitting mentor, but then again your best mentor might be that elderly neighbor you thought you had nothing in common with.

A video of basic casting on

Get yourself a good book


Whoever she or he is, your knitting mentor will not be available all hours of the day and night, and this is where your good, basic knitting book comes in. I checked Knitting for Dummies out of the library, and then referred to it so often I bought my own copy. I know other beginner’s manuals are out there, but since this one worked out so well for me I never acquired any others, so I can’t compare. Some tips for finding a good manual: you want for sure step by step directions for basic skills including casting on, casting off, weaving in, knit stitch, purl stitch, adding a stitch, decreasing a stitch. Clear illustrations should accompany the steps.


When you begin knitting you think you will remember specific skills: it seemed so clear at the time. But it’s amazing how the memory fades. You get to the end of your first project, cast off, make finishing touches, plump it around a bit, and show it to all your knitting friends. Then you start thinking about what you will make next! A different color yarn, a different texture. A gift to surprise someone. OK, now I’m all ready – wait a minute, how did that casting on thing work again? That’s where your book comes in. You can recheck casting on method as many times as you need, and no one is the wiser.


There’s a lot to just getting started knitting. Next, I’m going to write a hub about different types of yarn.


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    • graceomalley profile image

      graceomalley 4 years ago

      Nice to meet you, Michele!

      Thanks for visiting.

    • misslong123 profile image

      Michele Kelsey 4 years ago from Edmond, Oklahoma

      That is a great idea - to get a mentor. I taught myself how to knit. I did the basics at first. Then, my mom had a heart attack and took it upon herself to master knitting. I think I wanted to show her up lol so I worked hard to master knitting even better. Great hub! Michele

    • graceomalley profile image

      graceomalley 5 years ago

      angie - Knitting doesn't get the credit it deserves as a complex skill! Especially when you start out, it is difficult, but once you 'get the hang of it,' the rows will start to fly by.

      Thanks for visiting!

    • profile image

      angie3 5 years ago

      knitting is hard