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Learn to knit

If you've never knit before, practice these techniques from cast on to bind off to learn the basic knitting skills you need for projects you'll find on this site.

Also check out our knitting learn how book "Knitting Made Easy" and our knitting made easy kit "Learn Knitting".

Choose a technique:

  • Introduction to Intarsia

    by Laura Bain

    Intarsia knitting is not all that different than Fair Isle, except that multiple colors can be used on one row (Fair Isle only uses 2 at a time). Also, separate balls of yarn are added into the row for each color block, rather than carrying all colors across the row. 

    More intarsia patterns are at the end of the page, under the instructions.

    Union Jack Pillow
    Knit in Soft unionJack
    Sweet Argyle Dress
    Knit in Anne Geddes Baby argyle
    Gifts Around The Tree Skirt
    Knit in Super Saver treeSkirt

    Reading a Chart

    ArgyleChartMost Intarsia knitting patterns are accompanied by a chart.  The chart is a visual representation of a written pattern. On the chart, each square is one knit stitch. Each knit stitch will be color coded to show which color you should work with. You may find it helpful to write in the numbers for any rows that are not labeled (and the columns in the repeat, for that matter).

    As mentioned above, in comparison to Fair Isle, which is usually worked in the round, intarsia is usually worked flat, so you would read the chart as if it shows the right side of the work facing you. Therefore on the first row you would read as you knit, from right to left. When working flat, the second row would be worked in purl from left to right.

    Hint: You may find it helpful to use a sticky note to cover up the rows you’ve already worked.

    Changing Color

    To change color in the middle of a row, or at any point when knitting, you simply drop the old color and pick up the new. You can use this technique to create stripes (the most simple of intarsia patterns), or to create an integrated border on a blanket or sweater. There is one caveat to that simplicity, because you may be changing color at the same vertical point repeatedly you will need to make sure you grab the new yarn by going under the old yarn (so as not to create a hole).

    Because you will knit each color block with a separate strand of yarn (instead of carrying any one color across) you will want to wind multiple intarsia bobbins with the colors you will use.

    bobbin

    Begin by casting on the number of stitches called for in with any weight yarn and a comfortable size needle for that yarn. In my example I’ve chosen Red Heart Soft Baby Steps in Aqua and Lavender and size 8 needles. For my example, I have cast on 40 stitches and will work 2 of the pattern repeats from the chart above.

    When you come to the point in your knitting that you need to change colors simply drop the first color and pick up the second. Continue working like this across the row:

    adding_color_sm

    As you build the project, row by row, the design will appear:

    INT_front_sm

    The back of the work should not show any carried yarn:

    INT_back_sm

    Now that you know the basics for intarsia knitting, here are a few more patterns which use this wonderful technique:

    LW4266

    Child's Foxy Tunic

    BearHoodie

    Baby Bear Hoodie

  • How to Knit Cables

    Whether simple or complex, cable patterns add depth and texture to your knitting, and they are easy to learn. Use a cable needle to cross one group of stitches over another, or move them across the background fabric. Your pattern instructions will give you details on how to place and cross the cables.

    • Most cables are worked in Stockinette stitch on a reverse Stockinette stitch background so they stand out.
    • Many cables involve crossing the 2 stitches over 2 stitches, or 4 stitches over 4 stitches, etc. Some cables involve unequal numbers, such as crossing 3 stitches over 4 stitches. Your pattern will have information on the types of cables used in the pattern and the abbreviations used for those cables.
    • Cable needles may be in a U shape or may be mostly straight with an offset section in the middle. Both designs work the same way, and which one is used depends on the individual knitter. When using a cable needle, make sure you remove the stitches in the same order you put them on.
    • Holding the stitches in front of the work forms a cable that leans left. Holding the stitches in back of the work forms a cable that leans right.

    Cable 4 Back (CAB)

    These instructions are one common type of cable. They involve crossing two stitches over another two stitches. All four stitches are in Stockinette stitch against a reverse Stockinette background.

    1. On a right side row, work to the position of the cable panel and slip the next two stitches to the cable needle.

    2. Hold the stitches on the cable needle at the back of the work. Knit the next two stitches from the left needle.

    3. Now knit the two stitches from the cable needle to form a cable that twists to the right.

    Cable 4 Front (CAF)

    1. On a right side row, work to the position of the cable panel and slip the next two stitches to the cable needle.

    2. Hold the stitches on the cable needle at the front of the work. Knit the next two stitches from the left needle.

    3. Now knit the two stitches from the cable needle to form a cable that twists to the left.

    Below: LW5043 Lattice Look Beanie Knitting Pattern

  • How to Decrease in Knitting

    Decreasing stitches makes your knitted piece narrower. Decreases are used for sleeve caps, neckline shaping, shaping the crown of a hat, etc., and are paired with yarn over increases in lace knitting.

    Two of the most common decreases are knit 2 together (k2tog) and slip, slip, knit (ssk). K2tog leans to the right and ssk leans to the left. They both combine two stitches into one stitch.

    There are other decreases that decrease by more than one stitch, and decreases that do not lean left or right. They are slightly more advanced and are in the Special Stitches section of our patterns.

    Below: LW4194 Carousel Hat Knitting Pattern

  • How to Increase in Knitting

    There are several ways to increase, and each method adds extra stitches to the row unless they are paired with compensating decreases. Increasing is used whenever a knitted piece needs to be wider, such as sleeve shaping.

    One of the easiest and most common increases is to knit into the front and back of a stitch (kfb). If a pattern does not give instructions for the type of increase to use, this is a good choice. Another common, although more difficult, increase is the Make 1 (M1). The M1 increase creates a new stitch by itself, without going into the previous stitch.

    The yarn over is third type of increase. Often used in lace knitting, it creates small holes (eyelets) in the fabric.

    Below: LW3136 Saddle Shoulder Pullover Free Knitting Pattern

  • Knit iCord: The Essentials

    by Laura Bain

    Making an iCord is a quick and easy way to create a beautiful knit cord which can be incorporated into many projects. A few of my favorite uses for iCord are as the ties for ear flap hats (as in my toddler hat) or as a cord to gather the waistband of a skirt, pants or a sweater.

    More iCord patterns are at the end of the page, under the instructions.

    Teddy Love Hat
    Knit in Boutique Infinity Teddy Love Hat Free Knitting Pattern LW4760
    Lace in the Cables Vest
    Knit in Soft Lace in the Cables Vest Free Knitting Pattern LW3234
    Squared Shades Throw
    Knit in Boutique Unforgettable Squared Shades Throw Free Knitting Pattern LW3571

    The iCord technique has been documented in a printed pattern as early as 1856. A book entitled The Finchley Manuals of Industry No IV. Plain Needle-Work calls this technique a "stay-lace" and offers a quick explanation of how to create this type of cording. In 1974, Elizabeth Zimmerman “rediscovered” this quick and easy way to create a lovely knit cord, which she dubbed the iCord (because, she believed it to be so simple an "idiot" could do it). It being a rather simple technique, once you get the knack for it, making iCord can be relatively mindless (always a bonus for those of us who sneak our knitting time into a few of the calm moments of a fully packed day).

    iCord on DPNs

    Knitting an iCord on double-pointed needles (dpns) is simple. To knit iCord lacing you will cast on a small number of stitches (usually between 3 – 6 stitches) and, instead of turning your work at the end of the row, you slide it to the other end of the needle and carry on knitting. This results in “knitting in the round,” but with a very few number of stitches.

    Begin by casting on the desired number of stitches with any weight yarn and a comfortable size needle for that yarn. In my example I’ve chosen Red Heart Soft Baby Steps in Elephant and size 8 needles.

    In this example will create an iCord using 3 stitches.

    Cast on (CO) 3 stitches:

    Now slide those CO stitches to the right side of the needle:

    Bringing the working yarn around the back of the knit stitches, simply knit the stitches (on what has become the left-hand needle):

    This is what your work will look like when you complete the first row:

    Again, slide the stitches from the left side of the needle to the right side:

    Knit theses stitches:

    This is how your work will look when you’ve completed the second row (and tugged on the tail):

    Repeat these steps until the iCord reaches your desired length:

    To finish, cut yarn and thread through the stitches on your needle. Pull tight. You can use a yarn needle to thread the ends up through the iCord.

    iCord Cast On

    If you are looking to add a decorative element as you cast on, the iCord cast on creates a lovely finished look for the bottom of sweaters knit from the bottom to the top.

    NOTE: Slip stitches knit-wise.

    First you will cast on 3 stitches (on your right needle):

    Slip those stitches onto the left needle:

    Knit into the front and back of the first stitch (KFB), this is an increase:

    You will have 4 stitches on your right needle when you finish this row:

    Slip 3 of the 4 stitches to the left needle:

    Kfb into first stitch and knit the 2 remaining stitches, you will have 5 stitches on the right needle:

    Continue to slip 3 stitches from the right needle to the left, KFB of first stitches and knit the last 2 until you have the desired number of stitches PLUS 2 on your right hand needle:

    To finish, slip 3 stitches onto the left needle:

    Knit the first 2 stitches together (k2tog), then knit the last stitch:

    Slip 2 stitches from the right needle to the left:

    Knit those 2 stitches together:

    At this point, the front of your work will be facing you, so if you want to work stockinette stitch, you will want to purl your second row (and knit the 3rd row, etc):

    iCord Bind Off

    Another way to dress up your work is to use the iCord Bind Off. Using this method of binding off works very well for bowls and purses (especially fulled/felted pieces), as it adds a lovely finished edge to your piece. Marly Bird also used this method in her Garter Stitch Shawl.  In this example I've used Red Heart Soft in Turquoise.

    When you are ready to bind off your work, you will first need to cast on 3 additional stitches (the backwards loop method will work well for this application):

    Knit the first 2 stitches:

    K2tog (through the back loop):

    Slip all the stitches back onto the left needle:

    Repeat these steps - Knit the first 2 stitches:

    K2tog (through the back loop):

    Slip all of the stitches back onto the left needle:

    After a few more repeats, the iCord will begin to become more pronounced:

    Finishing:

    When there are 3 stitches left on the right needle, slip them to the left needle:

    K2tog and knit 1:

    Slip 2 remaining stitches back onto the left needle:

    K2tog:

    Cut yarn and thread tail through the last loop:

    Weave in the end.

    Now that you know how to tackle the 3 most used iCord techniques, here are a few more patterns which use the iCord:

    I Heart U Baby Blanket Free Knitting Pattern LW3082

    LW3082 I Heart U Baby Blanket

    LW4588 Lace Border Shawl

    LW4588 Lace Border Shawl

    LW4305 Cabled Toddler Hat

    LW4305 Cabled Toddler Hat

      Marly's Garter Stitch Shawl Free Knitting Pattern LW5216

    LW5216 Marly's Garter Stitch Shawl

    Holiday Pillow with Stockings Free Knitting Pattern LW3693

    LW3693 Holiday Pillow with Stockings

  • How to Knit into Front and Back

    Knitting into the front and back of a stitch is one of the easiest and most common knit increases.

    On a knit row, work into the front and back of the next stitch: knit into the stitch and before slipping it off the left needle, twist the right needle behind the left and knit the same stitch again through the back loop. Slide the original stitch off the left needle -- there are now 2 stitches on the right needle made from the original one.

    On a purl row, the method of increasing is similar. Purl into the front of the next stitch, then purl into the back of it before sliding it off the left needle.

    Below: LW3949 Teen Endless Circle Vest Knitting Pattern

  • Changing Colors and Fair Isle Knitting

    by Laura Bain

    Some knitters seem to be intimidated about changing colors in the middle of a row or round, but the development of this simple skill will allow you to really experiment with different designs for your work, everything from knitting a blanket with an integrated border to a really fantastic Fair Isle sweater.

    More Fair Isle patterns are at the end of the page, under the instructions.

    Fair Isle Poncho & Arm Warmers
    Knit in With Love Poncho
    Fair Isle Knit Cowl
    Knit in Super Saver Fair Isle Knit Cowl Free Knitting Pattern LW4808
    Fair Isle Scarf
    Knit in Super Saver Fair Isle Scarf Free Knitting Pattern LW4084

    Knitting with 2 colors on the same row or round dates to at least the 1500's. The Museum of London collection boasts a lovely child's mitten that dates to the Tudor era. This simple mitten has but 3 rounds of decoration around the cuff, one of which alternates a lighter and darker brown every stitch. The name for the Fair Isle technique of stranded knitting comes from a tiny island in the North of Scotland where the technique was popularized (and some would say perfected).

    Changing Color

    To change color in the middle of a row or at any point when knitting in the round you will simply drop the old color and pick up the new. This may sound like an over simplification, but I assure you it really is that simple. You can use this technique to create stripes when working in the round, or to create an integrated border on a blanket or sweater. There is one caveat to that simplicity, if you are changing color at the same vertical point repeatedly you will need to make sure you grab the new yarn by going under the old yarn (so as not to create a hole).

    Begin by casting on the number of stitches caller for in with any weight yarn and a comfortable size needle for that yarn. In my example I’ve chosen Red Heart Soft in Turquoise and Light Grey and size 8 needles.

    When you come to the point in your knitting that you need to change colors simply drop the first color and pick up the second.

    colorSwitch

    When you are ready to change back to your main color, grab it from below and continue knitting:

    backtoMC

    Fair Isle Knitting

    Fair Isle knitting is as simple as using 2 colors repeatedly within the same row or round. Both of the colors will be used across the round or row and therefore you will carry both colors across your work. Due to the nature of Fair Isle knitting, it is easier to work in the round, which allows one to knit all rounds to achieve stockinette stitch (rather than needing to knit one row and purl the next, as when working stockinette stitch flat).

    NOTE: It is good practice, when changing colors, to grab your "new" color from below. This will ensure that there are no holes in your work.

    Work as directed above, picking up your color from below, but carrying both strands of yarn across/around work:

    FairIsle_01

    Carrying yarn across the back of your work will result in "floats". Try not to pull your stitches too tight or you will bunch up the knitting. This is how the floats will appear on the inside(back/wrong side) of your work:

    >FairIsleFloats

    As you build the project, round by round, the design will appear:

    FairIsle_02

    NOTE: When the colors change frequently, the floats will naturally be short but long floats can get caught on things, which can disrupt the fabric of your finished object.

    If your float is longer that 3-5 stitches, it is good practice to loop your floating yarn around your working yarn by dropping the  working yarn and picking up the floating color from underneath. Now you will drop the floating color, and pick up the working yarn and continue knitting the pattern. Twisting the yarns around each other shortens the float.

    Reading a Chart

    Most Fair Isle knitting patterns are accompanied by a chart (see below for examples of simple two-color charts). The chart is a visual representation of a written pattern. Some patterns do not include the written out instructions for Fair Isle designs.

    Chart02

    On the chart, each square is one knit stitch. Each knit stitch will be color coded to show which color you should work with. You may find it helpful to write in the numbers for any rows that are not labeled (and the columns in the repeat, for that matter).

    As mentioned above, Fair Isle is usually worked in the round, so you would read the chart from right to left and bottom to top, just like you knit.

    NOTE: If you have found a Fair Isle pattern that is worked, flat you will read the chart as if it shows the right side of the work facing you, therefore on the first row you would read as you knit, from right to left. When working flat, the second row would be worked in purl from left to right.

    Hint: You may find it helpful to use a sticky note to cover up the rows you’ve already worked.

    Chart01

    Now that you know the basics for changing colors, here are a few more patterns which use color changes to create stripes and use the Fair Isle knitting technique:

    StarsBalls
    LW4401 Holiday Stars and Balls Ornaments

     sweater
    Northern Lights Easy Fair Isle Pullover

  • How to Do a Backwards Loop Cast On

    The backwards loop method is the easiest method of casting on, but the edge might not be suitable for all projects.

    1. With the slip knot on the needle, wrap yarn around your index finger as shown. Insert tip of needle in loop.

    2. Remove finger and pull yarn gently to snug loop around needle. If loops on needles are too tight, you will not be able to knit into these stitches, so practice until the loops are consistent.

    Below: LW3128 Ribbed Hat and Scarf Knitting Pattern

  • How to Make 1

    One form of increasing in knitting is to work into the strand between two stitches. This increase is called a make 1, because you make a stitch by itself, instead of using a previous stitch. It is less noticiable than knitting into the front and back of a stitch.

    1. Insert the left needle from front to back under the horizontal strand that runs between the stitch on the right needle and the stitch on the left needle.

    2. Insert the right needle under this strand through the back loop.

    3. Knit through the back of the strand to twist the new stitch and prevent a small hole.

    Below: LW4267 Reversible Cable Wrap Knitting Pattern

  • How to Measure Knit Gauge

    Gauge is the number of stitches and rows per inch (or centimeter) in a pattern. If the gauge does not match the gauge given in a pattern, the item you're making will not end up the correct size.

    A gauge swatch is a small sample of your pattern that you make before starting the main item. It allows you to measure the gauge, so you can make sure that you will not run out of yarn and the finished item will be the size you want it to be. Not matching gauge isn't as important for something like a dishcloth or a bag, but for garments and accessories the wrong gauge could mean the finished item is too small to put on or fit for giant.

    How to Knit a Gauge Swatch

    When knitting a gauge swatch, always work with the same yarn you're using for the main item. Cast on enough stitches for your swatch to be 5-6 inches [12.5-15.25 cm] across, and knit enough rows to make a square. Work in the same pattern that the gauge calls for. If different gauges are given for different stitch patterns, make sure you make a swatch for each stitch pattern. If no pattern is given for the gauge, work in whatever the main stitch for the item is. If the pattern calls for multiple sizes of needles, use the size mentioned in the gauge.

    Sometimes the gauge is given in pattern repeats. For example, for a ripple pattern, the gauge may say that from one point to another point of the ripple is 5" [12.5 cm].

    For patterns made of individual pieces, the gauge might be given as the size of a finished piece. For example, a throw made of squares might give the gauge as the finished size of a square.

    Other times, instead of a gauge, there may just be a note that the gauge is not important for the project. If you're making a Scrubby dishcloth for example, it doesn't matter if the finished item is exactly the correct size, or uses slightly more of the ball of Scrubby.

    How to Measure a Gauge Swatch

    After completing your gauge swatch, place it on a flat, hard surface with good lighting. Use a ruler or gauge measuring device like the Susan Bates® Knit-Chek or Susan Bates® Gauge Grabbers to count the number of rows and stitches in the number of inches given in the pattern gauge. The best practice is to count over 4", but some gauges call for 2" or 1", especially if the yarn is very thin. The gauge swatch should be larger than the area you need to measure, so you can just use the interior stitches to measure your gauge. Remember, half-stitches count too!

    What if my gauge doesn’t match the pattern gauge?

    Unless you knit with the exact same tension as the designer, your gauge won’t exactly match up with the pattern gauge using the same yarn and hook or needle size. This is normal! To make your gauge match, choose a different needle size.

    If you have more stitches and rows per inch than the pattern calls for, use a larger size needle.

    If you have fewer stitches and rows per inch than the pattern calls for, use a smaller size needle.

    Example: Ribbon Tie Tunic

    Ribbon Tie Tunic Free Knitting Pattern LW5104 For this sweater, the gauge is 21 sts = 4" [10 cm] and 28 rows = 4" [10 cm] in Stockinette stitch. Consider size Medium, which has a finished bust measurement of 40". If you have 19 stitches in 4" [10 cm], instead of the 21 called for by the pattern, you will end up with a finished sweater with a bust measurement of 44" -- much too big! Conversely, if you have 23 stitches in 4" [10 cm], you will have a finished sweater measuring 36 1/2" -- way too tight

    Uses for Gauge Swatch

    Treat your gauge swatch the way you would treat your finished item: block it and wash it to make sure you know how to take care of your work when it is complete. You may find that wants to stretch some when washed, for example, and you must carefully lay it flat to dry.

    When you’ve finished your item and don’t need the gauge swatch anymore, recycle it! Combine it with other swatches to make pillows, bags, afghans….whatever you can envision! Make sure you only use it in projects with similar yarns, so the care instructions will be the same throughout all parts of the project.

  • How to Knit with 4 Needles

    Knitting with four double-point needles forms a seamless piece in areas that are too small for circular needles, such as socks and mittens. Double-point needles have points on both ends, allowing the stitches to slide off either end so that you can knit in the round.

    Some sets of double-pointed needles, or dpns, come with 5 needles instead of 4 needles. The basic principles are the same.

    Cast on the required number of stitches onto one of the four needles and then evenly divide the stitches onto three needles (or the number of needles specified in the pattern instructions).

    Arrange the three needles into a triangle, being careful to not twist the stitches. The cast on edge should lie on the inside of the triangle.

    With the empty needle, knit the first stitch of needle 1 (the first cast on stitch), pulling yarn tight to avoid a hole between the needles. Continue across the row until needle 1 is empty.

    With the now empty needle 1, knit the first stitch of needle 2 and work same as above. Continue in this manner across each needle and for each round, being sure to mark the beginning of each round with a stitch marker.

    Tip: To prevent "ladders" between the needles, give the yarn a firm tug when working the second stitch on each needle. This will tighten the first stitch of the working needle and the last stitch of the last needle and will help prevent holes.

    Below: LW4405 Create Some Charm Hat Knit Pattern

  • How to Knit with Circular Needles

    Circular needles may be used to knit projects in the round or to accommodate large numbers of stitches. Additionally many knitters prefer to use circular needles for all or most of their knitting, even when it is not required by the number of stitches or the pattern.

    To knit in the round with circular needles, the required number of stitches are cast on and spread evenly around the needle. The needle length should be shorter than the finished circumference of the project, so that the stitches are scrunched together. If the stitches are too spread out they will be more difficult to work with. If you are following a pattern, the pattern will tell you the correct length for the needles. Circular needles are measured point-to-point.

    After the stitches are cast on, the pattern usually instructs you to join the round, being careful not to twist the stitches. The cast-on edge should lie on the inside of the circle, and there should not be any sort of twist in the stitches. If the stitches are twisted the project will not turn out smoothly and must be restarted from the cast-on. To join the round, begin knitting. Since the final cast-on stitch is on the right-hand needle and you'll start knitting with the first stitch of the round on the left-hand needle, the project will connect itself into an unbroken circle.

    Since the cable on circular needles makes them longer than most straight needles, circular needles can hold more stitches than a pair of straight needles. When used to accommodate large numbers of stitches, circular needles are treated the same as a pair of straight needles. At the end of every row you will switch hands, so the empty needle is now in your right hand and the full needle is now in your left hand. The cable with the stitches can easily sit in your lap or on a table and therefore is supported.

    Below: LW4290 Double Chevron Beanie Free Knitting Pattern

  • About Knitting Needles

    Knitting needles are used in pairs to produce a flat knitted fabric and come in a range of sizes based on the diameter. They are usually made from aluminum or plastic, but are also available in wood and bamboo.

    There are 3 types of needles: straight, circular, and double point.

    Straight needles are what most people picture when they think of knitting needles. Straight needles come in pairs, and each needle is pointed on one end and has a topper on the other end to prevent stitches from sliding off. Straight needles come in two standard lengths -- 10" and 14".

    Circular needles consist of short needles that are attached to each end of a flexible cable. They can be used to knit flat projects as well as tubular projects (such as hats). Some people prefer to use circular needles for all of their knitting.

    Double-pointed needles, as their name implies, are short needles with points on each end, and are usually sold in sets of four or five. Double-pointed needles are used to knit tubular fabrics such as socks and hats.

    If you are having difficulty obtaining gauge or working smoothly with a particular type of yarn, consider changing the type of needles you are using. Try several different needle styles to find what you're most often comfortable with.

  • How to Bind Off

    When your knitted piece is finished, binding off closes the stitches so that they do not unravel when taken off the needles.

    Always bind off in pattern. If working in stockinette stitch, this means you will bind off by working all knit stitches if a knit row faces you and purling all the stitches if a purl row faces you. If you are working in ribbing, bind off as if you were continuing to rib. Most other pattern stitches can also be followed during the course of binding off.

    1. Knit the first two stitches. * Using the tip of the left needle, left the first stich on the right needle up and over the second stitch and drop it off the needle. Knit the next stitch. Repeat from the * until all the stitches have been worked and only one stitch remains on the right needle.

    2. Cut the yarn, leaving an 8" end for weaving in. Pull the end of the yarn through the last stitch on the right needle and tug it gently to fasten off the last stitch.

    Below: LW4615 Twisted Rib Vest Knitting Pattern

  • How to Assemble a Knitting Project

    There are multiple ways to attach knit pieces together. You may need to attach pieces of a sweater, for example, or attach blocks together to make a throw.

    Sewing knit pieces together is the most common way to attach them. You may also crochet pieces together, or you may pick up stitches on one piece and knit the second piece directly on it. This guide is concerned with seaming and with crocheting knit pieces together.

    Assembling a project has two components: placing the pieces together so they are correctly lined up, and attaching them. Patterns may give instructions on the suggested way to attach pieces together, but often will not give detailed notes on lining them up.

    If you are attaching pieces that are the same size and stitch count, you can line up the stitches so they are in pairs, and then attach each stitch to its paired stitch. If you are attaching pieces that are slightly different, such as a flat piece and a curved piece, or the end of a piece to the side of another piece, you may want to pin the pieces together before you start so they line up neatly. Pinning pieces is also recommended for larger pieces. Pinning helps keep on side from being stretched out or the seam from being uneven.

    Regular sewing pins often will not work with knit pieces, since the yarn is too thick and the existing spaces are too big. Instead, use Knit Klips or Stitchpins (locking stitch markers).

    A pattern may call for a particular method of attaching pieces together, or it may just say to attach them or to sew them. Use whichever method you are comfortable with and that gives you a seam you are happy with. Seams are generally designed to be invisible or unobtrusive. Using the same color yarn as the project is made in will help the seam to be invisible. Generally projects are sewn together using the same yarn they were made with. If a yarn is very bulky or textured, use a finer, smooth yarn in a matching color to attach them.

    The Mattress Stitch is a very common stitch for joining seams. (Read the guide.)The whipstitch is another common stitch, although it may be more noticeable. The Kitchener Stitch (grafting) is used to join the toe of a sock to avoid a seam. (Read the guide.)

    Another common method is to crochet the pieces together, either with a slip stitch seam or with a single crochet seam. A single crochet seam will be bulkier, but also more elastic.

    Below: LW4245 Bashful Bear Hat Free Knitting Pattern

  • How to Finish a Knitting Project

    After you bind off, you will want to finish your knit project to create a polished appearance. The time and care it takes to knit a project will be wasted if the finishing is sloopy; good finishing is the difference between "homemade" and "hand-made". Finishing methods depend largely on the end purpose of the project (pillow, afghan, garment) and the yarn you use to create the piece.

    Almost all knitting projects will require the ends of the yarn to be woven in securely so the project will not come undone. There are multiple methods depending on the project type and the yarn used.

    Depending on the yarn, you may need to block your work. Unless otherwise instructed in the pattern, you should always weave in your ends before you block, and block before you assemble the finished item. Blocking is less necessary with man-made fibers than with natural fibers.

    Projects that were made in pieces will need to be assembled. For example, you may attach the sleeves on a sweater or add a a flower applique to a hat. While the assembly can be done as you make the project on some patterns, on others you will need to attach the pieces together at the end either through sewing or crocheting them together.

    Other finishing steps that may be taken include adding borders, adding buttons or ties, or working embroidery on the piece.

    Below: LW3601 Cabled Wristers Free Knitting Pattern

  • How to Read a Knitting Pattern

    Before picking up needles and yarn, sit down and read through the pattern you will be using. Patterns are written in a language of their own, and this will help you become familiar with special stitches and abbreviations. Although not all publications use the same abbreviations, the terminology will become familiar with a read-through.

    In the middle of the PDF is the photo of the project, the name of the pattern, and a short description of the pattern. The information starts in the column to the left of the photo, skips over the photo, and continues in the column to the right of the photo.

    In the top of the left-hand column, there will be a number identifying the pattern. You can search for these numbers on the website to find patterns, or reference them if you contact Consumer Services with a question.

    Under the pattern number is a bar telling the skill level of the project, following a standardized system. Next follows the type of pattern, such as knitting or crochet, and then the designer.

    After the introductionary information is the list of the supplies you will need to make the pattern. These supplies include the yarn line, colors used in to make the project in the picture, and amount of each color, as well as the needle size or sizes and any other materials you will need. You can always change the color used in a pattern to another color that works better for you or your recipient.

    After the supplies section will be the gauge. You can read our guide to learn more about what gauge is and how to find it. Sometimes the section just says that gauge is not important. Craft projects will not list a gauge, because it does not apply.

    Next will be the size of the project. Occasionally the size depends entirely on how you make it, such as for many craft projects, and so will be left off. Projects that have only a single size, such as a throw or a scarf, will just list the dimensions of the finished item. If a project can have multiple sizes and multiple measurements, they will all be listed in order.

    If a pattern has multiple sizes, there will be a note with the measurements that tell you how the instructions are written. For example, for the Lattice Look Beanie, there is a note by the instructions that says "Directions are for size Small; changes for sizes Medium/Large are in parentheses." When you look next to the note, you will see that the sizing is listed as "To Fit Head Circumference: 22 (24”) [56 (61) cm]". In this case, the small fits a head that is 22" or 56 cm around, and the medium/large fits a head that is 24" or 61 cm around.

    The note next to the measurements also applies to the written pattern itself. The pattern starts with a note to "cast on 100 (120) stitches". This means you will cast on 100 stitches if you are making the small size, or 120 stitches if you are making the large size.

    In Red Heart patterns, the common abbreviations used in a particular pattern are listed at the end of that pattern. Less-common abbreviations are explained at the top of the pattern, before you get started making the project. Special stitches are also explained at the top of the pattern, such as a stitch pattern used in the project. Read our guide to learn more about pattern repeats and multiples.

    Below: LW4712 Sweet Sideways Dress Free Knitting Pattern

  • Knit Pattern Repeats and Multiples

    Within a row and within a pattern you may repeat stitches several times. These are written in repeats to make the pattern easier to read. If you find it difficult to follow along a pattern written this way, you can always take another piece of paper and write out every repeat yourself.

    Repeats

    One common method is to have an asterisk * somewhere in the row, and then instructions to repeat from the *. For example, you may have a row that is *K1, p1; repeat from * to end of row. In this case, you will knit one stitch, purl one stitch, knit one stitch, purl one stitch, and so on until you reach the end of the row. A similar version is *K1, p1; repeat from * to 3 stitches from end. In this case you will knit one stitch, purl one stitch, knit one stitch, purl one stitch until there are 3 stitches left on the left-hand needle. The pattern would then tell you what to do with the 3 stitches at the end.

    You may also have parentheses ( ) and/or brackets [ ] in a row. If both are used, parentheses are within brackets. For example, (K2, p3) twice, then knit across would have you knit two stitches then purl three stitches, then repeat that to knit another two stitches then purl three stitches, before you knit the rest of the stitches in the row. [K2, (p3, k2) twice] three times would have you knit two stitches, then purl three stitches, knit two stitches, purl three stitches, knit two stitches, then knit two stitches, purl three stitches, knit two stitches, purl three stitches, knit two stitches, then knit two stitches, purl three stitches, knit two stitches, purl three stitches, knit two stitches. Can you see why these are abbreviated?

    Stitch Patterns

    On many knit projects there is one pattern that is repeated multiple times. These stitch patterns are especially common on projects with lace and cables, but may be found in any sort of project.

    Pattern repeats are usually done over a specific number of stitches and a specific number of rows. The stitch patterns are usually given at the start of a pattern.

    For example, in the Easy-Fit Beanie, there are two stitch patterns given before you cast on: 1x1 Rib and Broken Rib. You use the 1x1 Rib along the bottom of the hat, and the Broken Rib over the rest of the hat.

    1x1 Rib (over even number of sts)
    Row 1 (Right Side): *K1, p1; repeat from * to end of row.
    Row 2: Knit the knit sts and purl the purl sts as they appear to end of row.
    Repeat Row 2 for 1x1 Rib.

    So after you cast on for this hat, you will knit one stitch and then purl one stitch all the way across the row. On the second row, you will knit all stitches that look like knit stitches and purl all stitches that look like purl stitches. Continue working this second row until the pattern calls for you to stop.

    Broken Rib (over even number of sts)
    Row 1 (Right Side): *K1, p1; repeat from * to end of row.
    Row 2: Purl.
    Repeat Rows 1 and 2 for Broken Rib.

    When the pattern indicates, you will switch to the Broken Rib pattern. For this pattern, you are also working over an even number of stitches. Row 1 is the same as Row 1 in the 1x1 Rib, but Row 2 is different. In this stitch pattern, you will be repeating Rows 1 and 2 instead of just Row 1.

    Pattern Multiples

    More complex patterns, including many cable patterns, will have you switch between stitch patterns within the same row. For example, in the Kid’s Cable Cardigan, you will work the Garter Ridge pattern once, then the Cable pattern several times, then end again with the Garter Ridge pattern once, all on the same row.

    Many pattern repeats tell you how many stitches they require to work. These repeats are call multiples. Multiples are useful if you like the pattern stitch from one pattern and want to use it on another project. For example, you may like the pattern stitch on a sweater, and want to use it to make a scarf. Knowing the pattern multiple allows you to figure out how many stitches you need to cast on to make another project with that stitch pattern.

    Some stitch patterns will just say that they are worked over an even number of stitches or over an odd number of stitches. To use one of these stitch patterns on another project, you would just need an even number of stitches or an odd number of stitches, following what the pattern says.

    Other stitch patterns will give you a specific number of stitches that it takes to work the stitch pattern. In this case, you will need to cast on the number of stitches needed for the stitch pattern times a whole number. If the stitch pattern is worked over 9 stitches, for example, you can cast on 18 stitches (from 9 x 2), 27 (from 9 x 3), 81 (from 9 x 9) and so on. Sometimes the multiple for a pattern is given as one number plus another number. For example, it may need a multiple of 10 + 2. This means that it will require 10 stitches (or 20 stitches, or 30 stitches, etc.) plus an additional 2 stitches.

    Below: LW4685 Kid's Cable Cardigan Free Knitting Pattern

  • How to Knit Ribbing

    Ribbing forms a stretchy band and is usually found at the bottoms of sweaters, sleeves, neckbands, hat brims and mitten cuffs, and at the tops of socks. When worked as an edging, ribbing is generally worked with smaller needles than the main body of the garment to keep the edges firm and elastic.

    Ribbing can be worked as K1, P1 ribbing; K2, P2 ribbing; or any combination of stitches that will be specified in the pattern.

    With ribbing, you are lining up the stitches so the knit stitches always look like they are on top of knit stitches and the purl stitches always look like they are on top of purl stitches.

    Knit 1, Purl 1 Ribbing (K1P1)

    1. Knit a stitch. Bring the yarn forward to the front of the work between the left and right needle

    2. Purl the next stitch.

    3. Return the yarn to the back of the work between the needles

    4. Knit the next stitch.

    5. Alternate Knit and Purl stitches until the row is finished (or for however many stitches the pattern specifies).

    At the end of the row:
    If you have an even number of stitches in the row, start the pattern again with a knit stitch.
    If you have an odd number of stitches in the row, start the pattern again with a purl stitch.

  • How to Knit in the Round

    Knitting in the round allows you to create seamless garments and accessories, such as sweaters, hats, and socks. Instead of knitting back and forth in rows and turning the work at the end of every row you will knit continuously in rounds, always working from the right-hand needle to the left-hand needle.

    For larger items knit in the round, circular needles are used. For smaller items, such as socks, double-pointed needles are used. On some projects, such as many hat patterns, you will start with circular needles. When the circumference of the hat becomes too small for the circular needles you will switch to the double-pointed needles, which allow you to create very small pieces.

    How to Knit with Circular Needles
    How to Knit with 4 Double-Pointed Needles

    Regardless of the method of knitting in the round, as you begin to knit you will need to join the cast-on row without twisting the stitches and mark the start of the row. After you cast on the required number of stitches, carefully turn them so the bottom of each stitch is facing down and the stitches are not twisted. If you join the round and begin to knit with twisted stitches there is no way to fix the twist -- you will need to start over at the cast-on.

    To join the round, begin knitting. Since the final cast-on stitch is on the right-hand needle and you'll start knitting with the first stitch of the round on the left-hand needle, the project will connect itself into an unbroken circle.

    Place a stitch marker between the first and lace stitch of the round to mark the end of the round. Without the stitch marker it will become very difficult to see the end of the round once you have knit a few rounds. Take care you do not stop knitting at this point if you need to pause in your work. If the stitch marker does not currently have a stitch on either side, it can easily slide off and be lost.

    Below: LW4907 Comfy Beanie Free Knitting Pattern