Let’s look at a few glossary terms to begin with. In parenthesis we have listed the common abbreviations for each term that you will find in knitting patterns.
Cast-on (CO) - Creating the stitches on the needle. This creates a foundation row upon which you build the rest of your project.
Bind off (BO) - Finishing an item by weaving the stitches together and pulling them off the needles.
Knit stitch (k) - This is the most basic stitch in all of knitting. We will go into how to do this stitch below.
Purl stitch (p) - This is the companion of the knit stitch, and it’s the total opposite. We’ll explain that in a minute as well.
Garter stitch - Created by knitting every stitch of each row when knitting a flat piece. The resulting fabric is “bumpy” and stretchier than stockinette stitch.
[photo of garter stitch]
Stockinette stitch (st st) - A combination of stitches in which one row is knit, and the next row is purled when working back and forth. This is the traditional knitted fabric you are used to seeing on your ready-to-wear clothing, it is recognizable by consisting of many little “V’s.”
[photo of stockinette stitch]
Working yarn - The yarn coming from the ball.
Yarn weight - This is a way of describing how thick yarn is. It is often written in yards per ounce or meters per gram. For example, a yarn that is 2 meters per gram is going to be thicker than a yarn that is 4 meters per gram. The more meters per gram, the thinner the yarn. Yarn weights in US terms are (from thinnest to thickest) cobweb, lace, fingering/sock, sport, double knit (or DK), worsted, aran, bulky (or chunky), and super bulky.
Fiber content - This is simply what fibers were used to make the yarn. Common fibers are wool, acrylic, cotton, alpaca, etc. This includes both natural (proteinaceous) and man-made (synthetic) materials.
Gauge - Gauge is how tight or loose you knit. This is typically measured in stitches per inch. Some patterns, such as sweaters, require a certain number of stitches per inch for them to fit correctly. In other patterns, such as some scarves, gauge is less important.
We recommend worsted weight yarn for most beginners as it is easier to see and control your stitches. We carry a variety of options to fit your price range, which can be found here. Most worsted weight yarn recommends a US size 6, 7, or 8 needle. Since most beginner knitters knit tightly, a size 8 is probably best. We carry several knitting needles in this size, which can be found here. At the end of your project, you will need to sew in the ends with a yarn needle, which we also carry here. A basic pair of small scissors such as these will also be helpful. We have a list of supplies you will need below, along with other helpful links, and how to choose the correct needles for your project.
For many people, it is easiest to start a simple project in garter stitch. This alleviates the pressure of having to learn both the knit and purl stitch at the same time. A simple dishcloth or a scarf are excellent first projects. A scarf may take longer, but has the added advantage of building more muscle memory. An excellent resource for patterns is the website Ravelry https://www.ravelry.com/account/login which does require a free account to use, but has hundreds of thousands of patterns in both crochet and knit varieties for a wide range of skill levels. We have a group that includes a forum, called The Real Paradise Fibers https://www.ravelry.com/groups/the-real-paradise-fibers where you can share your projects, ask questions, and find out about our current sales.
Now, onto the knitting! First, let us explore how to cast on. This is also explained in the video at the end.
Make a slipknot and leave a tail. The length of this tail varies depending on the number of stitches you will need to cast-on. To figure out where to tie the slip knot, measure three and a half times the width the pattern calls for.
Put the needle through the slipknot and pull snug with the short tail end of the yarn closest to you.
The string that is attached to your ball of yarn should be in the back and the string that is free in the front. Then hold this needle in your right hand with the 2 strings of yarn hanging down.
Make the okay sign with your left hand by pinching the thumb and index finger together.
Put these 2 fingers between the 2 strands of yarn, make sure the short tail end of the yarn is in front of your thumb and the long working yarn is behind your index finger.
With your free middle, ring, and pinky fingers on your left hand, grab around the 2 dangling strands of yarn, like you are making a fist, and hold the strands out of the way.
Separate your thumb and index finger- like you are making a sling-shot with your fingers. This will push the strands of yarn apart.
Look at your hand that is holding the yarn. Notice the loops around your thumb and index fingers.
Insert your needle behind the strand of yarn closest to you on your thumb.
Insert your needle in front of the strand of yarn closest to you on the loop around your index finger.
Pull your needle back through the loop on your thumb.
Release your thumb from the loop.
Pull the tail end of the yarn with your thumb, tightening the stitch you just made and creating another loop on your thumb. (You should have 2 stitches on your needle now, your slip knot counts as one of these stitches.)
Repeat steps 9-13 until you have the desired number of stitches cast-on. This type of cast-on is called the Long Tail Cast-on.
Next, we will explore how to do the knit stitch.
Wind the working yarn through your fingers to help you keep an even tension. How you do this is not important; just find whatever is most comfortable for you.
Hold the empty needle in front of the working yarn.
Insert the new (empty) needle into the first stitch, going upwards into the stitch and creating an “X” with your needles. The old needle (with stitches on it) is on top of the new needle.
Wrap the working yarn around the new needle only in a counter clockwise direction.
Sliding the new needle down, carefully catch this loop of yarn and pull it under the cast on stitch. You should now have one loop on the new needle and one on the old needle.
Pull the remaining loop off the old needle, leaving the new loop on the needle that was previously empty.
Repeat with all remaining stitches.
Once the row is finished, switch which hand each needle is in so that the needle with the stitches on it is once again in your left hand. The old needle becomes the new needle and vice versa.
When knitting a row that will be all knit stitches, make sure that your working yarn is beneath both needles at all times. It is especially important to double check this at the beginning of rows, which is where most new knitters accidentally add extra stitches.
To make a simple scarf, repeat this row until your work is as long as you want, then bind off.
To get started, check out our video on how to choose a needle, or simply browse through the collection of resources below!
Popular Brands of Knitting Needles
There are many types of knitting needles and many various manufacturers all over the world. The most popular manufacturer of quality circular needles is Chiaogoo knitting needles, who make both metal and bamboo needles. The red cords on the metal needles are super flexible and are a favorite among the staff here at Paradise Fibers. We highly recommend investing in a set of Chiaogoo's interchangeable sets once you become an established knitter, this way you are not constantly buying new needles for every project. Interchangeable sets also make for great gifts!
Our other favorites are the HiyaHiya needles. Produced in North America, their metal needles come in both steel and sharp steel- perfect for lace-y projects. HiyaHiya also has a bamboo line of needles that make knitting with cotton a breeze. HiyaHiya also has great interchangeable sets!
Another popular brand of knitting needle is Louet. Louet knitting needles are precision crafted and are a superior quality needle, produced in North America and backed by a lifetime warranty! Their new line - Squares - are square needles that are great for customers who have trouble holding circular needles and those with arthritis. The cables for these come in firm and soft options.
The Addi Turbo Circular needles are made of nickel plated aluminum with a very smooth join where the needle meets the cable. Addi also makes a bamboo circular needle as well as lace circulars which have a sharper point for smaller yarn. They come with a lifetime warranty.
Other Needle Resources
Other Types of Knitting
History and Culture
Knitting Checklists and Knitting Supplies