Teaching Knitting, Part 1: Basics

KnittersPicI have taught knitting to many people over the past 30 years, individually and in groups.  In teaching, I want my students to enjoy learning, knit something without too much pain that is also immediately useful and master specific, basic skills important to building their confidence.  (pic source)

Here is a sequence I have found that works very well when teaching people to knit.

Learning the basics (knit & purl):  The overall goal is for students to learn the building blocks of knitting.  They will also learn to understand and recognize the similarities and differences between the two stitches.

Lesson 1:  Goal – long tailed cast on, first on single and then on double needles

Lesson 2:  Goal – knit six inches in garter stitch

Lesson 3:  Goal – knit six inches in straight stitch

Lesson 4:  Goal – knit six inches in K2/P2 rib

First project:  A hat

    • great for teaching how to take two basic measurements (on top of gauge) and make a small (immediately wearable!) project without a printed pattern
    • knit in the round with circular needles or flat (seamed together later)
    • the new knitter is able to quickly finish – and wear! – her/his first project

Second project:  A narrow, short, lace scarf

    • great for learning to knit basic lace
    • excellent for learning how to read a pattern graph

Third project:  A pair of socks

    • great for learning shaping techniques
    • great for bolstering pattern reading skills
    • great for boosting confidence (sock construction “looks” complicated but really isn’t!)

Fourth project:  An Icelandic sweater

    • great for learning color work
    • goes quickly as it’s knit in the round (and on large needles)
    • great for learning basic sweater sizing
    • great for learning how to adjust sizing
    • very little finishing needed

Now at this point the new knitter has mastered a lot of skills – both technical and pattern reading – and just needs encouragement and a little support as s/he goes deeper into the world of fiber art!

P.S. I recobread_pics3mmend meeting to knit over coffee, tea and somandelbreadplateme goodies.  It helps defray NKA (“new knitter’s anxiety”).  Besides, it’s always been a good excuse for me to pull out a brotform, a sourdough starter, and sacks of flour to start a batch of raisin bread to serve.  Of course, while the bread is proofing I have time to make a batch of chocolate-raisin or hazelnut-anise mandelbread.  Oh what fun!


About sweatyknitter

Fiber art devotee, author, and amateur artisan bread baker.
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22 Responses to Teaching Knitting, Part 1: Basics

  1. Is there a local yarn shop near by?


  2. I like your easy lesson plans! If only you lived closer to me. I struggled to learn to knit traditionally so finally taught myself loom knitting. Would still like to learn to knit traditionally some day….


  3. My grandmother taught me “fancy” knitting stitches on washcloths. A great way to make pretty and useful projects!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Maggienesium says:

    Hurray for the Bay!!! I’m going to start shopping for a LYS and lessons while I finish up the projects I’m on and then I’ll get to start fresh 🙂


  5. Many wonderful shops in the SF Bay Area that offer lessons! (I was born in SF, raised in Marin County, and lived part of my adult life in the East Bay.)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think so … good coffee/tea + some noshes + yarn = glorious opportunity to learn to knit! 🙂


  7. I think your kitchen must be the perfect place to learn knitting – with that sumptuous food close to hand and your proven, patient knitting methods at the ready, your student is well catered for in all his/her needs! BTW that bread looks FANTASTIC!!


  8. caityrosey says:

    I learned quite out of order too. Mom taught me to knit when I was little, but I didn’t learn how to cast on properly until years later.

    Most of my early projects were dishcloths (the kind that start with just one or two stitches). I had learned how to make a half-hitch knot in girl scouts, so I used that when I needed to cast on by myself. That and backward loops.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Maggienesium says:

    I absolutely love the Pacific Northwest but fortunately I also love the San Francisco bay area which is where call home. We do visit up there often so maybe we’ll get to knit together one day 🙂 In the mean time, your response just sealed my fate. I am totally getting knitting lessons.


  10. I think so too! I love starting new knitters on the round … mostly straight stitch, no needles to drop – and a hat is born quickly, ready to be blocked and then worn!



  11. This order has worked so well with new knitters … they see and wear their progress! And I just built a levain (wild yeast sourdough) for a bread made from “ancient” grains (einkorn, kamut, spelt) tomorrow … What fun (and such great smells will waft from the kitchen)! >


  12. I learned quite out of order, by your list, but yours is definitely an order that makes sense! Loooove the look of that bread too!


  13. Really like your progressive plans/projects. In my opinion a hat is a much better starter project than the more often used garter or stocking stitch scarf which will never look good with a beginners tension and is so boring it rarely gets finished. Getting a bit of shaping in early is also a really good plan.


  14. In my kitchen … 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

  15. I live in the Pacific Northwest area of the U.S. Are you nearby?! Self-taught knitters, I have found, tend to be inconsistent in their skills and techniques … though I admire that someone could self-teach knitting! (I think crocheting is far easier.) >

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Pia says:

    Where can I get me some of that awesome looking bread?


  17. Maggienesium says:

    I’m with Sweatyknitter on this one, on ward! And you are more than welcome to come hangout with us and knit socks on live knit days – we’re all levels of newbie sock makers and are all trying different things so its an awesome environment.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Maggienesium says:

    Where do you love so that I can move there and learn to knit from you? I’m really only half kidding 🙂 I’ve taught myself to knit mostly but I’m not consistent and I think the problem is in my mechanics so I think I’ll start 2016 by re-learning to knit and I’ll take your good advice of making tea and delicious baked goods to keep motivated 😉


  19. Wow, you’ve been busy! I have not heard “biggity” before … but I think I get the jist. 🙂 You have every right to be proud of your knitting accomplishments! And I’ve never though of it as boasting when someone shares what she has been doing. (I mean, it’s not done at someone else’s expense!) Using projects from One Skein Wonders has probably been a great way to learn to knit! It sounds like you’re definitely ready to try a pair of socks! Let me know if you’d like any suggestions!


  20. jenyjenny says:

    I have knit lots of projects from One Skein Wonders: hats, berets, lots of scarves with instructions and just plain free form, a baby sweater, head bands, purses (just a rectangle that is folded, stitched and lined, with a strap attached), wash cloths, a pair of fingerless gloves in size 1 circular needles, I-cord, provisional cast-on, bee stitch, cable. So far, no socks, no lace, nothing very big…thanks for asking! I feel biggity telling you all my accomplishments!


  21. I strongly support knitters “forging ahead” 🙂 …

    If you tell me (1) what you have knit, and (2) whether you follow exact patterns or more free form, I am happy to suggest both ideas, patterns and/or schematics for your next project. The first time I undertook a sock, I was SO nervous, and as soon as I turned the heel I thought “Wow, why was I so scared?!” 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  22. jenyjenny says:

    That sounds thrilling! I have been knitting for a year and I haven’t even tried socks or a sweater. If you think it is feasible, I will forge ahead–at least, after I finish my current proj, a pair of fingerless gloves…

    Liked by 1 person

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