If you’re looking for something to do on your camping trip that is both relaxing and productive, then knitting may be a great activity for you. While you create beautiful, handmade items, your body relaxes and experiences therapeutic healing at the same time! Using both of your hands for a focused activity is stimulating for your brain, so knitting has the same mental benefits as doing a puzzle. So if you find yourself twiddling your thumbs and wishing you had something to keep your hands and your mind busy, give knitting a try!
If you head to a craft store to get some yarn, you may be a little overwhelmed with all the different types to choose from. Not only are there a multitude of brands, there are different weights as well. A weight is simply how thick the yarn is to begin with. Here is a breakdown of the basic weights you will find and what they mean:
- Lace: Lace has a number on it of 0 and can be called thread or cobweb yarn. This type of yarn is very fine and is typically used for making things like doilies or other very delicate items.
- Super Fine: This is also known as sock yarn and can be found with a number 1 on it. This is typically used for socks, clothes for a new baby, and other somewhat delicate items.
- Fine: Also called sport or baby yarn, this yarn has a number 2 on it. This is great for light sweaters, baby clothes, and baby blankets. It’s thick enough to be warm, but usually very soft.
- Light: Light yarn is also known as DK, or light worsted weight. You can find this weight by looking for a number 3. This is great for clothing and scarves.
- Medium: This is the most commonly used weight and has a 4 on it. It can also be called worsted or afghan. This is good for almost anything including sweaters, blankets, hats, gloves, and more.
- Bulky: Bulky yarn can also be called chunky, craft, or rug yarn. This one will have a number 5 on it and is good for things like rugs, jackets, and warm blankets.
- Super Bulky: This yarn has a number 6 on it and is sometimes also called roving yarn. This is great for heavy blankets, rugs, and sweaters!
When following a pattern, it will let you know which size yarn to use, as well as which size needles to use. You will also see that most patterns talk about gauge. Understanding what gauge is is important as well.
The gauge is simply the combination of needle and yarn size to get the desired project size. This comes in handy for two different reasons. The first is that, even when using the exact same yarn and knitting needles, two different knitters will end up with different-sized items. This is because different knitters will pull their yarn tighter or looser. You may also find that yarn you want to use is not the same size as what the pattern calls for. You can still use it as long as you switch your needle size to get the correct gauge. The pattern will say something along the lines of “10 knit stitches and 20 rows will render a 2” x 2” square.” What you will do is make a 10" x 20" swatch and see how close to 2" x 2 " you get. Then adjust the size of the needle accordingly.
Let's Get Started
You will need to gather the necessary supplies before you can start knitting. You can purchase the items separately or in a kit from the craft store. For knitting you want to be sure that you will have the following to get started:
- Knitting needles: Start with a size 8, or 5 mm. This is a very general size that will be used with most worsted weight yarns. Knitting needles will have two numbers on them, US and mm size. For these needles, the 8 is the US size, and they are 5 mm. Needles will range between a size 0 which is 2mm and size 50 which are 25 mm.
- Stitch holder: These will help to hold open stitches so you can take the needle out and not lose the stitch.
- Stitch markers: These can be hooked to a single stitch so you know where that stitch is when you come back on the next row. This may be a place where you change color, do a different type of stitch, or add or decrease stitches.
- Point protectors: These will go over the tip of your needle and cover the point. Not only will it keep your needle from sticking into things it shouldn’t, it can help hold your work on the needle if you need to put it down.
- Knit tally: This can be used to keep track of the number of rows you have completed while knitting. This way if you forget as you follow a pattern, you can see which one you are on and refer to the instructions for that row in your pattern.
- Tapestry needles: These will be used to weave in the yarn ends when you are done. This helps give the project a more finished look than just cutting off the ends.
Now that you have all your supplies, you need to know what the patterns will be referring to.
Patterns use abbreviations to keep them simple, short, and easy to follow. Knowing what these abbreviations are ahead of time will ease a lot of frustration. Here are the basic abbreviations you will need to know aside from the stitch abbreviations. We will include the abbreviations for the stitches when we do our step-by-step guide:
- Alt: Alternate
- Beg: Beginning
- Bet: Between
- Cont: Continue
- Dec(s): Decrease(s)
- EOR: End of row
- In(s): Increase(s)
- Incl: Including
- Pu: Pick up stitches
- Rem: Remaining
- Sk: Skip
Now you’re ready to start learning some stitches!
***All stitches are written using a right-hand method. If you are left handed, just invert the hands on the directions as you go. The abbreviation for each stitch is found just after the name in parenthesis.
Casting On (CO)
Casting on is getting the yarn on the hook. You can’t start knitting without this one:
First make a slip knot (this counts as one). Then,
- Make a loop in the yarn.
- Place the loop over the tail end of the yarn.
- Pull the strand that is in the middle up to form a loop.
- Place the loop on the needle.
- Pull tight.
To cast on more stitches:
- Put the right needle into the loop you now have on your left needle from the front.
- Wrap the yarn around the right needle.
- Pull the loop through using the right needle, being careful not to drop it.
- Pull the loop out to the right to create some slack to work with (as you get better you’ll need less slack).
- Bring the right needle up onto the large loop you have just created.
- Remove the right needle and pull tight.
- Continue until you have the correct amount of stitches you need to start with.
Knit Stitch (K)
The knit stitch is the most basic stitch in knitting. This is the staple for knitting and the first actual stitch you want to learn before any others.
- Holding the needle with the cast stitches on it in your left hand, and the other in your right, slip your empty needle into the loop, crossing the right needle under the left.
- With the working end of your yarn in the back of your needles, wrap it around the tip of the right needle, counterclockwise.
- Pull the tip of the right needle through the loop on the left needle, bringing the working yarn with you.
- Once you have the right needle all the way through with the new loop on it, carefully pull the loop you were working in on the left, off the needle.
Purl Stitch (P)
The purl stitch is basically a backward knit stitch. You will be able to see this once you try it and take a look at the stitch from both the front and the back.
- Make sure your working yarn is in front of your needles.
- Holding your needle with the stitches on it in your left hand, insert the needle in your right hand in the first loop from the front.
- Bring your working yarn up over the front of the right needle and around it.
- Use the right needle to bring this loop through the stitch.
- Once your new loop is securely on the right needle, carefully slide the loop you were working in off the left needle.
Yarn Over Increase (YO)
The yarn over increase allows you to add stitches as you go and increase the size of your work. The direction of the yarn will change depending on if you are working a knit or purl stitch, but the concept is the same.
- Wrap your yarn around your needle.
- Ensure that the working yarn is in the back if you are next working a knit stitch and the front if you are next working a purl stitch. This means if you are moving from a knit stitch to a purl stitch you will need to wrap the yarn a second time so that it is in the front.
Knit Two Together (K2tog)
When you see this, it basically means to put your needle through two loops, and then complete the knit stitch the same as usual.
Purl Two Together (P2tog)
This is the same as knitting two together, just from the front as a purl stitch. Make sure to insert into two stitches and then complete as a normal purl.
Binding Off (BO)
Binding off, or sometimes called casting off, is when you begin to remove your stitches from the needle at the end of your work. This will bind the stitches so they won’t unravel.
- Knit the first two stitches.
- Go into the first stitch on the right needle with the left needle and pull it over the second stitch.
- Drop that stitch.
- Knit the next stitch and repeat from step 2 until you have one left on the needle.
- Pull the loop you have left on the needle up to make it longer and remove the needle.
- Cut the yarn to leave a tail.
- Pull the end of the tail through the loop and pull tight.
How Stitches Work Together
With knitting, the way you stack your stitches changes the appearance of your project.
Garter Stitch: Knitting each row will create what is called a garter stitch. You will get the same results if you purl each row as well as the back of a knit stitch is a purl stitch and the back of a purl stitch is a knit stitch.
Stockinette: When you alternate between purl and knit rows you create what is called a stockinette stitch.
Seeded Stitch: Some rows will call for you to knit one stitch and then purl the next, continuing this until the end of the row. Then when you start the next row, you will alternate every other stitch but make sure you knit the purl stitches and purl the knit stitches. This is called a seeded stitch.
Ribbed Stitch: If you want a ribbed look, such as what you find on the end of a sweater or the cuff of a mitten, give the ribbed stitch a try. Once you have cast on, you will knit two, purl two. Once you begin your next row, you will knit the knit, and purl the purl.
How can you tell which is which? Here is an example to help you see it:
There are many more combinations of these two stitches that will make different patterns. Once you are comfortable with the basic stitches, you can find great tutorials on how to do the more difficult stitches. As long as you know how to purl, knit, and yarn over, you have the basic fundamentals that you will need to create tons of beautiful items.
What to do if you make a mistake!
Hopefully you caught your mistake right away so you don’t have to back up too far. If the mistake is made in the row you’re currently working on, it’s easy to back up a few stitches until you get to the mistake. The process is a little different depending on whether it is a knit or purl stitch you’re taking out, but as long as you can tell the difference between the two, it’s very simple. This can be a pain if you realize a few rows later that you have made a mistake, but it is fixable. Unfortunately you will have to take out all the work you’ve done until you reach the row where the mistake was made. Many great tutorials can be found on YouTube to show you just how to do this, as well as all the stitches mentioned above.
If you're new to knitting, start out with a small project, such as dishcloths, headbands, bibs, and coasters. Visit Ravelry.com where you can access great patterns both for free and for purchase. You have to join the site in order to use it, but it's easy and free.
Do you knit when you're camping? Do you have any advice for new knitters? Tell us in the comments!