“I'm a really slow knitter
without magic.”

Lesson One: Just for Starters

For our first lesson, we've got a fairly large amount of ground to cover to get you to a completed washcloth, but it's not too much, I promise. And, by the end of the month, you'll have a completed washcloth, made with your own two hands.

A quick word of advice: Knitting is a tactile thing; you can read all you want about it, but you're not likely to "get" it until you've got some yarn and needles in your hands. So, I suggest doing some practice work as you read the lesson; otherwise, it's probably gonna go over your heads and get really frustrating. (True story: Tarma and I were talking about knitting the other day, and she was reading instructions for a bind-off I wasn't familiar with; it wasn't until I tried it on my needles that I "got" it. It's just part of the fun, I promise. :D)

Casting on

To begin, we need to get the yarn looped onto the needles; we do this by casting on. There are, well, a lot of different ways to cast on, and we'll learn several methods as we go through the class. However, pretty much all the basic cast ons require a slipknot to start, so let's take a look at how to make one of those.

Making a slipknot

Hold the yarn between your thumb and index finger, about where you want the knot to end up. Wrap the working yarn around your index and middle fingers, letting the working yarn hang behind. Pull the working yarn in through the loop created on your fingers and tighten — but not too much, or you'll lose your knot. You can now adjust the size of your loop by pulling on the working yarn (to make a smaller loop) or on the loop itself (to make a larger loop).

Unless otherwise stated, the slipknot will count as your first cast-on stitch.

Loop Cast On

Of all the different cast ons, the Loop method is probably the easiest to learn. It's not always the easiest to knit evenly, but since we're just starting out, we want to get the yarn on the needle quickly, and this is a very quick and simple way to do it.

To start, make a slipknot in your yarn, leaving 4 or 5 inches free as a tail (that will be woven in later). Place the slipknot on your LH needle (left hand needle, meaning the needle you hold in your left hand... clearly), with your working yarn facing the needle tip. Adjust the size of your slipknot so it fits comfortably (slightly loosely) on the needle. (If you can fit two needles securely, that's probably a good size.)

Now, the fun part. Take the working yarn in your right hand and and grab it in a 'thumbs up' gesture. This should put the working yarn in your curled-up fingers. Place your thumb on top of the yarn and, in a nice, smooth motion, wrap your thumb around the yarn. Then, starting at the base of your thumb, take the tip of your left needle and transfer the loop from your thumb to the needle.

If looping the yarn onto your right thumb is awkward for you, try the Backward Loop Cast On. I find the easiest way to do this is to follow the instructions for the Loop Cast On, except you're using the RH (right hand) needle and your left hand.

As the name suggests, this cast on loops the yarn in the opposite direction as the Loop Cast On. While there are slight differences between the two, for our purposes, we're going to consider them as the same.

The Knit Stitch

Now that you've got the yarn cast on, it's time to knit. Like, properly knit. Basically, you do this by getting a new loop of working yarn through the loops on your LH needle and onto your RH needle. There are two ways to do this — English or Continental. It doesn't matter which way you go about it, as they both accomplish the same thing, so just use whatever's the most comfortable for you.

A quick tip: Always be sure to work your stitches on the straight part of your needle (meaning the non-pointed part), as opposed to the tips. Your knitting will be more even this way, so it'll look better, and, as an added bonus, it'll be easier for you to work with.

A quick note: The simplest knitting stitch pattern is called garter stitch, which is made by knitting every row. Even though it seems rather bulky, it isn't always. A fine, thin yarn knit can be used to knit something in a delicate lacy garter stitch.

The Knit Stitch (in the English method)

With the working yarn in your right hand and at the back of your work, insert your RH needle into the front leg of the first loop on your LH needle. (The tips of your needles should be crossed like an X.) Wrap your working yarn, back to front, onto your right needle, and pull through the loop. This should transfer your new loop onto your RH needle.

The Knit Stitch (in the Continental method)

With the working yarn in your left hand and at the back of your work, insert your RH needle into the front leg of the first loop on your LH needle. (The tips of your needles should cross like an X.) Position the working yarn between the needles, then take the tip of the RH needle around the back of the working yarn and pull it and the yarn through the loop. This should transfer your new loop onto your RH needle.

Binding off

Before we can call our work done, we need to secure our stitches so we don't need a needle holding them in place. It's actually a fairly simple process.

Basic Bind Off

Start by knitting two stitches. Now, using the tip of your LH needle, pull the first stitch on your RH needle over the second stitch and the RH needle tip, letting it drop. With one stitch on your RH needle, you've bound off one stitch.

Continue by knitting one stitch and passing the previous stitch over the newly knit one. When you have one stitch remaining, total, make the loop a bit bigger, then cut your working yarn a few inches from your project. Pull the free end of yarn through the remaining loop and tighten.

This bind off can sometimes be a bit tight and not as elastic as you might want, so try to work the stitches a bit more loosely than you would if you're just knitting. You can also try using a larger needle size, but that's only helpful if you have a larger needle to begin with.


All knitted projects require some amount of finishing. It's probably the most tedious and least fun of any project; at least it is for me. But, it's 100% necessary, so we might as well just dive right in.

Weaving in ends

Okay, I admit it: I hate weaving in ends. It's one of the reasons I like single-ball projects like socks, and why I like knitting with 100% wool, even though it's not practical for my lifestyle. However, there are always, always ends to weave in, so you gotta just suck it up and deal. Basically, the idea is to weave the tail bits of yarn into the knitted fabric so they're invisible. Just take your tail yarn, thread it into your yarn needle, and sew it into the fabric, trying to follow the path of the knitted yarn. When you've weaved several stitches worth of weaving, trim the yarn close to the fabric, and you're done.

Now, you shouldn't really knot the yarn, but I admit, I do sometimes secure my end-weaving with a knot, and for something like this, it's not a bad idea to do it.

In my experience, weaving in ends effectively doesn't have to be particularly exact. I'm very rarely as exact as the books and sites suggest, but it works. If, however, you want a really handy article, with excellent illustrations, on the proper way to weave in ends, read this Knitty.com article by Theresa Vinson Stenersen; it's really excellent.

Knitting Terms

Check here for explanations of basic knitting terms that appear in the lessons.


About your professors

Click here to read about the knitting histories of your beloved professors.



If you've got a question about the class, the requirements, or any of the lessons, feel free to ask.