So you want to knit 2: Casting on and basic stitches

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Now that you have your materials, I’m sure that you are sitting there trying to picture how it goes from this piece of sting and a stick to these pieces of fabric. The basics of it are easy, but like anything it will require practice to get it just right. The first step of any project is casting on. This is the process of getting the yarn onto your needles, so that you are all set to start knitting. I don’t have a video camera set up yet, and honestly, this is one of those processes where a video is so much more helpful than pictures. I did a little searching and found this video that seemed pretty good:

The great thing with a lot of things knitting is that you can do a quick search for “knitting cast on for beginners” and you will find lots. If this video doesn’t quite work for how you learn, because let’s be honest, we all learn differently, then definitely do a search and watch other videos, or look at pages with pictures until you understand it. Then whatever one you find that works, bookmark it, because you will want to refer back to it until you are comfortable enough to cast on a new project without it. This is also one of the reasons I like to start people off by knitting dishclothes. They get a lot more experience with starting and finishing their projects, than they would with a longer project, like a scarf. Long-tail cast ons, named for the long length of yarn you leave to be able to work those cast on stitches, is one of the most commonly used cast ons, but not the only one. I’ll give you more information on alternatives in a later post. But, this is a great place for you to start.

Once you have a bunch of stitches on your needles, you can just eyeball this. Stretch them out just a tiny bit and see how wide it is. This will be your project width as you work. You will probably want it to be about 6″ wide for a dishcloth, which if you are using the size US8/5mm needles and the worsted weight yarn I mentioned in the first post of this series, you will end up with about 30 stitches.


The first of the two main stitches you will need to know is the Knit stitch. This will give you a smooth side with “v” looking stitches. For this example, we will call this the Right Side of your work. You will find that everything you make will have a Right Side and a Wrong Side. While this isn’t important for our dishcloth, it is good to look for these now, so it will become second nature as you work. As you knit, you will find that your yarn is always sitting behind your needles/work.

To start out, all of your stitches will be on the needle that is in your left hand, with the point of the needle pointing to your right hand. Your right hand will be holding a needle, that has the point directed to the left needle. Using your right needle, slip the point under the very first stitch. This will look as if you are going through the stitch from the left to the right.

Once you have that needle slipped under the stitch, wrap your yarn around it from behind the needles to in front of your needles.

Using your right needle, still, slip the needle out from the stitch, while keeping the yarn you wrapped around it and pulling that yarn through. You will then let that stitch on your left needle, which now has a loop of yarn going through it, slip off that left needle.

You now have a new loop on the right needle, and that left stitch just drops down and is locked down below. And that is it. 😀 You’ve now knit a stitch! As you work through your dishcloth, you can definitely just keep knitting. When you run out of stitches on your left needle, take the right needle, and move it to the left hand, and turn it so the needle tip is pointing right. Then that empty left needle, will now become your new right needle. And you can knit all the stitches on the next row, and just keep turning and switching those needles. 😀 Or, if you would like to have just a smooth piece of fabric on one side, you can choose to purl the next side. Each time you switch those needles around after knitting or purling across all the stitches, you have completed one Row.


Purling is your second main stitch. Nearly every stitch you make will use either the knit or the purl stitch, so this is also very important to learn. When you see the fabric from the purl, it is very bumpy. Each bump on the fabric is one purl stitch. As you work your purl stitches, your yarn will always be in the front of your work (in front of your needles and fabric).

To purl, you will be using the needle in your right hand to slip into the stitch on your left hand by going through the top of the stitch. This is the exact opposite of the knit stitch. This will look like you are going into the stitch from the right to the left.

Once again, you will wrap the yarn around. This time, you will put the yarn in front of that right needle, around behind it, and back out to the front.

Then slip out your right needle, grabbing onto that yarn you have wrapped around it, and pull it through that stitch. As with the knit stitch, you will let the stitch on the left needle drop off. It is now locked in place by the loop you pulled through, which is now living on your right needle.


These stitches will give you what you need to get started. However, if you are making dishclothes, it probably won’t take you long to finish one. 6″ can go surprisingly fast. So, you will need to know how to finish your work. That is called the Bind Off (or Cast Off). I found a video that you can watch for a very simple bind off, which really will be your go to for a while. In a future post, I will talk about Bind Off’s in more detail, because there are alternate ways to do it, and tricks to make it work better for your project.

The key now is to practice. You will find initially that you have very tight stitches on your needles. It will probably be very hard to move them. This is completely normal. As you practice, you want to loosen your grip on both your needles and your yarn. The goal is to have your stitches be snug, but glide across your needle with no effort. As you loosen up those stitches, you will find that your fabric will be bigger even though you are using the same number of stitches that you used on dishcloth number one, and you will not need as many rows as you did on the first one. Again, this is completely normal.

I hope you find this helpful! I would love to see your dishclothes or scarves as you work through them. Please comment on the post, or you can join me over on my Facebook page at: I would love to see your creations!! In the next post I will introduce you to a pattern and teach you how to read it.

Thank you for reading!

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