Newbie Knitting | The Knit Stitch

Newbie Knitting | The Knit Stitch

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.

Your Assignment

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.

Michelle ~ Wee Folk Art


  1. Thank you so much for these great tutorials, Michelle. My daughters and I have wanted to learn to knit for some time now. Yes, I know I could have learned before now, but Wee Folk Art is a daily visit for me, and having it here, just made it feel like the right time. We were busy casting on during the week, and we have already starting knitting this morning. We are all very excited to get started on our first project. WE LOVE YOU GUYS!!!

    1. hey michelle! have you thought about making some video tutorials? although your photos are great people who are my visual might find a video even more helpful (like me, I suppose hehe). Plus might safe ya a bit of time! Just a suggestion. But if you are like me and hate to hear yourself on record than that is understandable too! 😉

      1. Yeah, I can understand how some people might like a video, but it requires different equipment and different editing software than we currently have… at least to do it well. I don't think using our phones would meet our high expectations… hehe. We have no plans to switch to video tutorials for anything on our site at this time. Also, I find with videos that I am constantly pausing and having to go back. So there are some benefits to have the photos instead… you don't have to move onto the next step until you are ready. Besides I really like pretty photos ;). If you do need videos try or heck, type in "how to knit" on you-tube and I'm sure there are hundreds of videos available. Good luck learning to knit!

        1. Michelle,
          This blog is EXCELLENT. I am taking a knitting course through my school and this would have been immensely helpful when I learned how to do this 3 weeks ago! We learned in class with youtube videos, and those don’t work nearly as well as pictures. They move really quickly and it’s hard to see what exactly they’re doing. I’m currently working on my second sampler of stockinette stitches and I’m almost done! Thanks for this- I’ll definitely recommend this to my professor 🙂

  2. Thank you for these lessons. One of my DC is excited to learn how to knit. A friend will be coming soon to help, but she teaches the continental way of knitting, with the yarn coming from the left, as in crochet. (Maybe it only works that way for tight-handed people, which we all are.) My question is this, as I really can’t tell from all of your lovely photos–is the yarn coming from the left or right? Thank you and have a lovely day.

    1. I hold the live yarn in my right hand… which is how I explained it. I also explained toward the bottom of the post that I am a "thrower" verses a continental knitter. Either way is fine… just a matter of personal preference and if you learn the basics "throwing" with your right hand you will at least understand the mechanics of the stitch and you should have no problems adapting to your friend's way of knitting if you desire later. Everyone develops their own way of holding the live yarn. Some twist it around their hand, some around their index finger (either the right or left). My friends tease me that I can knit upside down and backwards… when I'm trying to teach something… just as long as you are getting the In, Around, Under, Off in the right order and the yarn stays where it should… how you hold everything is kinda up to you.

      1. Thank you, Michelle. As I don’t knit, I am at a loss as to how to begin. Your posts here are most helpful.

  3. I have usually used light-colored yarn when teaching, but will try variegated next time. What a good idea.
    This is a lovely tutorial, as always.
    Good luck, newbie knitters!

    1. I have always used light yarn, too, but this is brilliant. The yarn she is using is a hand dyed wool, and it changes colors quickly, which makes it easy for her to refer to stitches by their color. I can also remember when I was first learning to knit, and it was slow moving, using variegated yarn. I always felt so accomplished when I moved on to a new color. You could continually see your progress. Besides… it's so beautiful, too 🙂

  4. Thank you so much for posting this tutorial. I am already a knitter, but I will refer people to your blog for help, as I think you have done this very well.

    For all of us fiber-philes, would you please share what yarn you are using? The colors are amazing, and the yarn has a beautiful sheen!

    “My name is Jennifer, and I am addicted to yarn.”

    1. HEHE.
      It is Berroco Cotton Twist Variegated which is unfortunately discontinued now. It has a wonderful sheen. I bought it last summer on clearance from our local yarn shop and made Pixie this rainbow top. I have just a bit left over. I wanted to work with a variegated yarn for the tutorial and love the stitch definition of this yarn. Maybe you can track some down on ebay.

    1. I’m glad you were able to figure it out. Thanks for sharing you success story. Good luck with your new hobby! 🙂

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