Learn to Knit For Beginners: Free PDF Patterns & Online Tutorials
If you've ever wanted to learn to knit but not known where to start, we're here to help! Here at CraftWorld and Knit Now headquarters, we love knitting - the act of creating a beautiful, brand-new object from just yarn and needles is just a little bit of everyday magic. But we also know that it can be a little bit daunting if you've not tried it before, so we're going to take it step by step and help you fall as deeply in love with this wonderful craft as we are.
This piece is written by Kate Heppell, the founding editor of Knit Now magazine, who is now the Head of Content at Practiacal Publishing and currently steering the Good Ship CraftWorld. She has plenty of experience in teaching people to knit and a lot of opinions about all things woolly!
Essential Knitting Supplies
First things first, you're going to need to grab a few essentials!
Fundamentally, the only two things you need to start knitting are yarn and knitting needles.
What yarn should I buy as a beginner?
Everyone has different opinions on this but fundamentally, the most important thing when learning to knit is buying the right yarn for your project. If you have a specific project in mind, just buy whatever the pattern tells you to get.
If you want to practice first and not necessarily make anything in particular, I'd recommend buying a good-quality chunky yarn. You want something chunky so that you can see clearly what you're doing, and as a beginner you'll probably be doing a fair bit of pulling out and re-knitting, and a good quality yarn will hold up to that well.
I love self-striping yarns and they are brilliant for helping you feel like you're making progress. When I was a new knitter I made lots of projects using James C Brett Marble Chunky and I also love gently patterned yarns like King Cole Comfort Cheeky Chunky.
What's the worst yarn for a beginner?
Now, I don't mean to be controversial here but there is one type of yarn which I think is a big no-no for beginners, and that is the single-ply yarn. Most yarns are made of several strands (known as plies) which are twisted together to form one thicker strand of yarn. This makes the yarn stronger and less likely to pill. Single ply yarns on the other hand are much softer, often fluffier and easier to split, which can leave beginners in frustrated knots and with a finished piece that might not hold up to much wear.
Now, single ply yarns absolutely have their place in knitting, don't get me wrong! Some of them are absolutely stunning, and when handled in the right way they can produce wonderful results - but I just don't recommend it for your very first project. If you're curious about reading more about single-ply yarns, Jillian Moreno wrote a super-informative piece for MDK which I absolutely recommend.
And what needles do I need to learn to knit?
Again, this starts with what project you want to make. If you've chosen a pattern, that will tell you what needles to aim for, or if you've just picked up some yarn without any particular plans, take a look at the packaging of your yarn - that will give you a recommended needle size.
You'll probably want to start with straight needles, but there are so many materials to choose from and everyone has their own favourites! In general as a beginner you will probably be looking for a reasonably grippy material such as wood, because it will help you keep your stitches on the needles - but go ahead and try every needle you can get your hands on, you never know what you'll fall in love with.
What else do I need in my knitting kit?
Well, you can certainly get carried away buying knitting goodies once you get started! Don't worry though, you only really need a handful of things. My top tips are to start with these and then work your way up to other little widgets once you've fully fallen in love with knitting.
- Small, sharp scissors or snips
- Darning needle with a blunt end and a large eye for weaving in ends and sewing up
- Stitch markers to help you keep track of your work - the most versatile are the locking style
How to Start Knitting - learn the easiest cast-on
Creating the first row of knitting is called casting on. There are lots of different ways to do this but for beginners, I recommend starting with the "knitted cast-on".
The Knit Stitch
Guess what - if you've cracked the knitted cast-on, you're going to find the knit stitch a breeze! This is the absolute foundation of all knitting, so spend some time knitting a few rows every day for a week or so to get this motion committed to your muscle memory. Every time you sleep on it, it gets easier, I promise!
The knit stitch is flat in the front and has a bump in the back. If you knit every row of a project, you will have bumps on both sides and you'll make a fabric known as garter stitch. This is super soft and squishy and it holds its shape really well.
The Purl Stitch
Once you've got the hang of Knit, it's time to meet her twin sister Purl! You might find that it feels weird at first because your hands have got used to working the knit stitch, but keep practising and you'll get there I promise! A purl stitch is really just a backwards knit stitch when you get down to it, so don't be scared of it.
A purl stitch has a bump in the front and is flat in the back. If you work alternate rows of knit and purl, you'll create stocking stitch, also known as stockinette stitch. Stocking stitch is very smooth on one side and all the bumps are on the back. The sides of stocking stitch will tend to roll up, so don't worry - you're not doing anything wrong!
Finish your knitting - Casting Off
This simple way of finishing off your knitting is yet again another variation on the knit stitch! There are lots of different ways to cast off, but we're keeping is beginner-friendly here so I recommend learning the knitted cast-off first.
Oh, by the way - I'm from the UK so I say "cast off" - my American pals will tend to say "bind off". Neither one of them is right or wrong, they're just regional differences!
Quick & Easy First Knitting Project
Honestly, one of the biggest and most common mistakes I see new knitters make is choosing the wrong project. This is a totally personal thing of course - what's right for one person isn't going to be right for everyone - but I'm going to give you some guidelines.
First off, beginners, I beg you - don't start with a scarf! They go on (and on and on and on) FOREVER and the vast majority of people will get very bored less than a quarter of the way through. If you absolutely insist on starting with a scarf and nothing will dissuede you from it, then treat yourself to some lovely super-chunky yarn and chunky needles to match.
That said, the great thing about a scarf is that it's just a rectangle, it doesn't have to be a particular shape and it doesn't have to fit! Those are great things for beginner projects but they're not the only option.
Ideas for rectangular knitting projects:
- Fingerless gloves
If you're looking for something a bit more creative and adventurous, why not try one of these?
The hat and the floral wreath use shaping stitches but guess what - those are just variations of the knit and purl stitches you've already learned! You can find our step-by-step guides to shaping here.
The Dreaded Dropped Stitch
Making mistakes is part of the learning process with knitting just as much as any other skill. They're going to happen, no matter how experienced you are. Instead of being scared of making a mistake, why not make some deliberately, so that you can learn how to fix them?
Step Up Your Knitting!
Once you've mastered the basics, the great news is that everything else you do as a knitter is a variation of those knit and purl stitches. We've got a couple of fantastic free books which are perfect for beginners - download the PDFs here: