Knitting comprises of rows of looped yarn drawn through the previous row of loops in such a way that they prevent them from unravelling and a ‘cloth’ of yarn results. How you draw one loop through another determines the texture of the cloth but in essence there are only two ‘directional’ stitches (st), the knit or plain (K) and the purl (P), which are in fact reversals of one another. Combining, moving, increasing or decreasing these two basic stitches and transferring the yarn between them results in a limitless variation in textures – also confusingly called stitches – which you then shape to produce 3-dimensional structures. Now add different material yarns and colours and you have the basis for a lifetime of inventive and satisfying self-production which is both functional and artistic. Anything you can imagine, you can knit!
In this tutorial I demonstrate the K, both open and twisted, with emphasis on understanding it’s structure and formation to help you recognise, diagnose and fix your own mistakes as you progress through your patterns. With just this one st you can produce a strip of ridged knitting – called garter st (G st) – perfect for your first handmade scarf.
1.Cast-on the desired number of sts (covered in another tutorial).
2.Ensure your waste yarn is tied up out of the way so as not to be used by mistake.
3.For people who are RIGHT-hand dominant: the needle with the cast-on is held in your left-hand (LH), the empty needle in your right-hand (RH) and the working yarn can be held in either hand:
- Continental Knitting – the working yarn is held loosely wrapped over the back of the non-dominant hand (index to little finger and back under) such that your hand can move easily away from the needle feeding out yarn as it is needed. The needle with the previously worked row is held in place with middle, ring and little fingers, the thumb pushes the st up the needle toward the tip ready to be knit, and the index finger varies its position under and pushing up on the working yarn to keep it taught when necessary. The dominant hand moves the empty needle through the st to ‘catch’ a loop of working yarn and draw it through.
The benefits of this style are that both hands have a function which some people find smoother and faster. The tension tends to be on the tight side.
- English Knitting – the working yarn is held loosely wrapped around the dominant hand (under middle to little fingers, back over, then under the palm) such that your hand can move easily away from the needle feeding out yarn as it is needed. The empty needle is held with thumb and middle finger in and out of the stitches and the dominant index finger moves under the working yarn to ‘flick’ a loop over it. The second needle just rests in the non-dominant hand and thumb and index finger push the previous rows stitches up towards the tip.
This style can be found to be clumsy and is aided by letting go of the empty needle when it is held in a st and ‘throwing’ the whole hand with the working yarn around the tip to form the loop instead of ‘flicking’ it. This is slower but also loosens the tension.
4.For people who are LEFT-hand dominant: the needle with the cast-on is held in your RH, the empty needle in your LH and the working yarn can be held in either, however, whilst the directions to follow for each stitch are the same it should be noted that this will require you to mentally reverse the shaping of all patterns and read charts from left to right instead of right to left. The rest of this tutorial is illustrated with the working needle in the RH – an illustrated left hand guide for both knit and purl stitches can be found under the heading ‘Ambi-knitting‘.
[Note from the author: It is possible for left-handed people to knit as right-handed comfortably using the continental method described above and I would advise attempting all methods to determine which suits you best. If you are feeling particularly adventurous try knitting one row right-handed and then without exchanging the needles from hand to hand knitting the next row left-handed to produce a piece of flat Stocking st (St st) with all K stitches on the right-side (RS) without ever needing to learn how to purl!]
5.With the working yarn held at the back slip the empty needle (A) into the first st from left to right and front to back so that the stitch is held open.
6.Wrap the yarn clockwise around the needle and draw this loop back through the st to the front.
7.Slip the worked st off needle B. The new st sits on needle A with it’s left leg (leading to the working yarn if right-handed) at the back and it’s right leg (leading to the working yarn if left-handed) at the front. If a st is accidentally dropped off the needle you should take care to ensure that it sits in the same manner when picking it up again or you will end up with an errant twisted st in your pattern (covered later).
8.Repeat steps 5-7 to the end of the row.
9.Transfer the full needle to the other hand, turning it so that the wrong-side (WS) is face up. You will be looking at a row of ‘bumps’ or ‘bars’ under the needle. These are purl stitches produced when you knit into the the right-side (RS).10.Ensure the yarn is held at the back again before you position the empty needle, as with step 5. If you position the needle first then take the yarn back you will create an extra stitch at the beginning of this row.
11.Work steps 5-8 to the end of the row.
12.You will now see a row of ‘horseshoes’ below the needle which are the knit stitches.13.Transfer the needle to your other hand and note that the row just worked appears now as purl stitches on the RS.
14.Repeat steps 5-10 repeatedly until you have an adequate length for a scarf and cast-off (demonstrated in another tutorial).
Twisted Knit St
- instead of an open horseshoe these knit stitches have crossed legs that draw them tighter together. There are two methods by which they are produced to give a right over left twist or left over right twist respectively. The first is used to emphasise lines particularly in lace patterns and is referred to in knitting patterns as through the back loop (tbl). The second is generally considered to be a mistake. By being familiar with how they look and how they are produced at an early stage whilst learning to knit you can avoid creating them accidentally and making your garments tighter than the pattern originally intended.
1.Follow steps 1-3 or 4 above as usual.
2.With the working yarn held at the back slip the empty needle (A) into the first st from right to left and front to back.3.Follow steps 6-8 above as usual.
4.The twisted stitch is created in the row below those positioned on the needle.
1.Follow steps 1-5 above as usual.
2.Wrap the yarn anti-clockwise around the needle and draw this loop back through the st to the front.3.Slip the worked st off needle B. The new stitch sits on needle A with it’s left leg (leading to the working yarn) at the front and it’s right leg at the back.
4.Repeat steps 1-3 until the end of the row.
5.The twisted stitches will not appear until you have worked the next row as usual. They can therefore still be resolved by working each st in this row, either as a K or a P, through the back loop.
Photo’s and text copyright ©onehandknits (Anna Richardson) 2010. Not for redistribution.