Lesson Two: The Knit Stitch
Alright, by now you should be quite comfortable with Casting On using the Backwards Loop Cast-On. It is time to learn what to do once you get all those stitches on your needle. Make sure the tail and live yarn are hanging down and the edge is lined up nicely along the bottom. The live yarn (the one attached to your yarn ball) will be near the needle tip. Slide the stitches to the needle tip but be careful not to drop any off. If your loops do not slide easily you may have cast-on too tightly. BTW - The first row is always the trickiest. If you are having a hard time getting the right needle into the stitch to start, it probably means that you Cast-On or knit your last row too tightly. Ease up on how hard you tighten your stitches.
Take the needle with the stitches in your left hand and your empty needle in your right. Knitting boils down to this simple chant: In, Around, Under, Off. Let’s say that several times together out loud (seriously, say it aloud). In, Around, Under, Off. In, Around, Under, Off. In, Around, Under, Off. Do you feel the cadence yet? In, Around, Under, Off. Ok, now to explain.
Take the right needle and slide it INto the first stitch on the left needle. Go IN from the front to the back. Your needles should cross inside the loop so that the right needle is behind the left needle. Be sure that the live yarn hangs down in the back.
Hold the needles together in this cross shape with your left hand and use your right hand to wrap the live yarn AROUND the right needle. Be sure to bring the yarn AROUND from the back (counter-clockwise). This loop will be your new stitch (the orange bit of yarn).
Bring the tip of the right needle UNDER the left needle, through the middle of the original stitch, catching your new loop with the tip of the right needle. Be careful not to drop your new loop (the orange one) off the right needle.
Slide the old stitch OFF the left needle (the pink loop). Be careful not to drop the stitch on your right needle (the orange loop). You now have new stitch on the right needle. Gently tighten the new stitch by pulling down on the live yarn.
And that is knitting. In, Around, Under, Off.
Repeat with the next stitch, and the next, until you reach the end of the row. In, Around, Under, Off. In, Around, Under, Off. In, Around, Under, Off. Saying the chant while you do it really does help in the beginning. Basically knitting is just a process of linking loops together or you can think of it as trading loops from one needle to the other.
When you get to the end of the row, switch which hand holds each needle (loops start on the left) and repeat the process Be sure to keep the live yarn in the back and on the second row be careful not to grab the tail yarn instead of the live yarn. At the end of your row you should have the same number of loops as you started with... if you have less you probably dropped a stitch off the tip and if you have too many you probably let you live yarn come around to the front of your needles at some point. Don't panic. We are just practicing at the moment and working on establishing your knitting rhythm. Keep going and don't worry too much about it for now. In, Around, Under, Off.
Just so you know knitting every single row like this is called Garter Stitch. It will create a finished piece with bumpy rows.
Tip… Be sure to always keep the live yarn in the back. If you are bringing the yarn to the front and then knitting you will be adding extra stitches and holes into your work by creating what are called Yarn Overs. This is a very common Newbie mistake (but thinking positively... you have just learned your first lace stitch ;) ). So be careful and make sure the live yarn always hangs down behind your work BEFORE you insert your needle into a stitch. Any yarn twisting around a needle will create a new loop.
Some details about what you are doing, for those of you who are interested. First off this style of knitting is sometimes called the American Style or the Throw Style. This is because you are manipulating the live yarn with your right hand in which you “throw” it around the needle to make the new stitch. The European or Continental method has you holding the live yarn with your left hand. Some find it faster that way since there is less wrist movement but personally I prefer the right hand method because I feel like I have more control over tension (totally a personal preference). What is tension… we’ll talk about that in a moment. But what comes down to is personal preference and I just wanted you to be aware that there are other ways to manipulate the yarn in case you see pictures or have a friend who does it that way.
What is tension? Tension is how tightly you knit… or basically how tightly you pull your stitches on your needle. Tension that is too loose can create sloppy looking work and tension that is too tight can make it VERY hard to knit. Worse yet is when you have uneven tension, some loose and some tight stitches. Consistency is key to nice results. Tension also affects something called gauge, but that is a conversation for another day. In my experience, Newbies tend to be too tight! If you are having a hard time putting your needle into a stitch then you are knitting too tight. Try not to pull down too hard when you get a new stitch onto the right needle. You don’t want the loops sliding off (that’s really bad too) but you have to be able to comfortably knit it again on the next row. It should slide easily along the needle… you shouldn’t have to use your finger nails or apply force to slide it along.
Ok, so practice a bit with some scrap yarn. Cast on about 20 stitches and knit a few rows. Then take it all out and start all over. I would suggest doing this a few times. Although you aren't making any progress on a project this way, I think it helps take the fear of messing up out of the equation. My kids in class thought it was pretty funny to get a row or two going and then start all over. They also shrugged off any mistakes because they knew there wasn't going to be a permanent record of them. We will be starting our first project later this week.