Knitting Stitches for Beginners: Defining Basic Terms and Stitches

Knitting Stitches for BeginnersKnitting was once thought of as something grandmas did when new grandbabies were coming, but in recent years knitting has become a favorite past time for the young and older alike.

By simply browsing the crafty site Pinterest using the search term ‘knitting’ you will find a multitude of projects and patterns for everything from scarves and hats to headbands, sweaters and even crafts for the kids. These new funky, beautiful knitted projects are great way to pass time in a relaxing way while making something you can enjoy for years to come. (While you are at it, you might even create some cute accessories to go along with your new knitted creations by signing up for our Ribbons and Hairbows Galore class!)

If you are new to the world of knitting, though, the terms and the types of knitting stitches for beginners can seem overwhelming. Sign up for our beginners class to learn about knitting after reading this article. Now, though, let’s get  acquainted with some of the terms you will hear when you start out. First stop – tools!

Wait? What? Tools!

Yes, tools. Before you begin knitting, even if you just want to spend a little time practicing, you will need a few tools. Scan any knitting aisle (or, more likely, aisles) in your local craft store and you’re bound to see dozens of items you might think you need. But what is most important? And what do you truly need to get started?

Below are just the basics. You might find other fun items you want to purchase as you delve into the world of knitting, but the following will at least let you practice before investing too much money into the hobby.

To get started in knitting, make sure you have:

  • Yarn
  • Knitting needles
  • Good scissors (sharp, like you would use for sewing, so they cut easily)
  • A sewing needle

Knowing the Difference Between the Two Knitting Styles

If you are a newbie to knitting you may not know there are actually two, not just one, knitting styles. While there isn’t a whole lot of difference between the two, some people do prefer one style over the other. if you learn both, you can incorporate both into one project.

The English knitting style occurs when you hold the working yarn in your right hand. This knitting method is also called the throw or American method and is the one most used in the US.

Guess what the German/Continental means? You got it! In the Continental knitting style you hold the working thread in your left hand.

Not so bad, right?! Let’s move on . . .

Knit and Purl Stitches

Knitting consists of both knit and purl stitches, which are the two main stitches used in knitting. While the stitches are basically the same they are done using a different technique. These two stitches can be done in different variations together to create other stitches. On a finished project, a knit stitch creates a smooth texture while a purl stitch will have a bump at its base.

Casting On

Before you can begin knitting anything you must learn to cast-on. Casting on means you must create a row of stitches on your needle that will be the base for the rest of your project, and so you will need two knitting needles along with yarn. There are several methods for casting-on in knitting. As you learn knitting stitches for beginners, you may note different patterns referring to these different methods.

For beginners, the easiest method for casting-on to learn is called the knitting cast-on. (Sounds about right, doesn’t it?!) In the knitting cast-on you will create a row of knitting on which to base your project. Long tail cast-on is another popular cast-on choice for beginning a knitting project. Additional cast-ons include the single (or backward-loop) cast-on and the cable cast-on.

What’s Next?

We have our tools, we know the difference between the English and Continental knitting styles, and we’ve talked a bit about knitting and purling. We have also discussed several methods for casting-on. Now we will look at some of the basic knitting stitches for beginners.

Garter Stitch

One of the first stitches to learn for beginners is the garter stitch, which is a stitch created by using the knitting stitch for each row. Easy, right? This stitch is great for many projects. Both sides of the piece you are knitting will look the same. This means you can turn the front to the back or the back to the front and have an identical project. If you are testing out knitting, and are learning knitting stitches for beginners, the garter stitch would be a great place to start. You might use this to create a new blanket. You won’t need to change stitches as you work on the project, and in the end you can turn the blanket from one side to the next and both sides will look the same.

Stockinette Stitch

While the garter stitch is probably the easiest stitch to learn and one you want to know when you start out in knitting, the stockinette stitch is commonly used in many patterns. The stockinette stitch involves first knitting on the right side of the project and then purling on the wrong side. (Here we go with that knit and purl again!) As you see we used the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ side expression, which means, unlike a project completed with a garter stitch, there will actually be a right side and a wrong side to the finished project. Projects that call for the stockinette stitch will typically utilize another type of stitch around the edge.

Rib Stitch

Want to create cool vertical stripes on your knitting project? Another popular knitting stitch for beginners is the rib stitch, which does just this. The rib stitch is created by alternating between knits and purls. 1 X 1 and 2 X 2 are very common rib stitch patterns. This stitch creates elasticity in the project. The project can be stretched, but it will also fall back into place. This is a popular stitch used for a variety of projects, as well as for edges of projects.

Beyond Knitting

Once you’ve tackled the beginning stitches in knitting you might want to tackle another type of hobby. If you’ve ever considered giving quilting a try you can easily learn. Use your special t-shirts (your baby’s, your race T’s, shirts you purchased at different vacation spots) to create a unique t-shirt quilt. How about creating a lamp shade for your home? Lots of opportunities to continue to keep those creative juices flowing while creating things you will actually use!

Getting crafty can be a relaxing hobby, and it can give you a way to create a variety of fun, unique projects you – or your friends if you give them for gifts – can enjoy for years to come.