A step-by-step tutorial on the continental knit stitch for beginners with everything you need to know to get started.
So, you are about to start your first knitting project, but you don’t know how to knit a stitch yet? Then you came to the right place! In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to knit the knit stitch as part of my free knitting school.
What you need:
- A yarn of your choice.
- Needles matching the bulk of your yarn (check the label). Beginners should start with single-pointed needles to prevent the stitches from slipping off from the other end. Take something with nice round tapers. Bamboo will be great. Read my knitting needle guide for more information.
The knit stitch is the most classic stitch of them all, very easy to learn, fast to knit, and very versatile.
Let’s show you how to knit it, eh?
ⓘ In knitting patterns, you’ll see “knit” or simply a “K” to indicate this stitch. So, when you see K4 it means you need to knit this stitch 4 times. Sometimes it also says “knit to the end of the row” or “Row 2: Knit”. This means you have to repeat this stitch over and over again until you reached the designated place.
Reading tip: Here’s my full guide to how to knit continental for beginners.
- Start by casting on however many stitches you need for your project. If you don't know how to do this, here is an easy guide to casting on your first stitches.
- Pick up the working needle with the cast-on stitches with your right hand. Then, wrap the working yarn around the pinky finger of your left hand clockwise two times.
Tip: Later on you can change the tension by wrapping it around just once or three times instead. For me, two times work best but we are all different, so toy around a bit.
- Bring the working yarn across the back of your hands and let it rest on the last knuckle of your index finger.
- Pick up the working needle with your left hand a bit like holding a knife, keeping your index finger almost straight. Change the angle of your index finger until there is a nice tension on the yarn. Pull the tail of the working yarn, if things are a bit too loose yet.
ⓘ The working yarn needs to be behind the needle for this stitch. The little "knot" of your cast-on edge needs to be under the needle. If it's on top, bring it to the bottom clockwise.
- Pick up the remaining needle with your right hand, again a bit like a knife. Keep the tension on the working yarn.
- Insert the right needle into the first loop on the left needle from the left to right. Wiggle the needle a bit around, if the loop is a bit too tight (but don't overdo).
- Wrap the right needle around the working yarn (the one around your index finger) from above (counter-clockwise).
- Pull the yarn through the cast-on loop. You can use the tip of your middle finger to prevent the yarn from slipping off from the left needle as you pull it through. Don't cramp your fingers, keep a nice tension on the yarn and things will be easier.
- Slip the first stitch from your left needle (I use my middle finger to push the work towards the tip and then pull the stitch off with the right needle).
And just like that, you knitted your first knit stitch.
- Now, insert the right needle into the second loop from the left and repeat steps 6-9 until you are at the end of the row.
Alternative: You can also wrap the working yarn around your index finger instead of the pinky finger. In fact, this is probably the more popular version. I prefer it around the pinky finger, however, as I can easily change the yarn tension slightly by changing the angle of the index finger. You can increase the tension further by weaving the yarn through your fingers as well. Toy around until you find a comfortable tension.
Continue knitting the same stitch into every loop on your needles. Then, turn the work, bring the yarn to the back again, and continue knitting.
Note: Check out this tutorial if you l learn how to knit faster.
If you knit every row of a project in this simple knit stitch, you’ll get a pattern that is called Garter Stitch (because it’s pretty elastic and apparently was used for garters in the day before rubber bands).
2. English Knitting/throwing
The most popular method to knit the knit stitch in the U.S. is called ‘throwing’. You’ll also hear English knitting or American knitting, but they all refer to the same way to knit.
For beginners, this method is actually quite a bit easier, as you don’t need any special yarn holding technique. A lot of people struggle with pulling the yarn through the loops at first. With the English method, this will be much easier, as you will quickly see. The tension on the yarn will be quite different, though.
It will usually result in a much looser final product and the knitting will be a lot slower. You also have to move your hands much more and thus put more strain on your joints.
Anyway, let’s show you this alternative, eh?
Step 1: Pick up the working needle with your cast on stitches with your left hand. I recommend a long tail cast on for beginners.
Step 2: Insert the right needle through the first loop from the left and weave the working yarn through your fingers (I usually wrap it around the pinky finger.)
Step 3: Hold both needles with the left hand (they should form an X) and “throw” the yarn around the right needle clockwise creating a loop.
Note: Once you’ve got a couple of stitches on your needle, it will be quite a bit easier to prevent the needle from slipping off.
Step 4: Now you have to pull the right needle through the loop. Keep the tension on the working yarn with your fingers (some prefer thumb, others index finger) and the loop should slide through quite easily.
Step 5: Slide the first loop from your left needle and you have your first knit stitch on your right needle.
Step 6: Insert your right needle (with the one stitch on it) into the second loop, and repeat 3-5 until the end of your work.
As you can see, this method is quite less complicated and there is actually a rhyme to teach children knitting this technique. It goes like this:
In through the front door, (step 2)
Around the back (step 3)
Peep through the window, (step 4)
And off jumps Jack! (step 5)
The main problem with throwing is keeping a nice yarn tension. Your work will be pretty loose. Depending on your project, this can actually be an advantage, but sometimes it isn’t and it is quite a bit harder to adjust for it. You can pull the stitches tight after each throw, but this will result in a less uniform structure than continental knitting in my experience.
There is a solution to this problem, though. It’s called flicking.
When flicking, you wrap your working yarn around right fingers (much like in continental style) and you throw the yarn around your right needle using just your index finger. As you’ll never let go of your needles, it will increase the knitting speed quite a lot and lets you control your tension from start to end.
If you are working with very long needles, you can also fixate the right needle between your armpits. This leaves your hand free to do the throwing.
important things you should know about the knit stitch & common mistakes
The knit stitch is the most basic and simplest stitch there is. With it, you can already finish quite a lot of exciting projects. But you should definitely practice quite a bit to achieve an even appearance. Here are some common mistakes:
#1 Don’t knit the tail end
Often, there will be a rather long tail left after your cast on (read this tutorial how to calculate yarn requirements for a cast on). Always double check if you are not accidentally holding the tail in your hand when knitting the first stitches after the cast on. Might get you into trouble after the first, row.
I have a…uh…a..friend, yes, not me, certainly not, who often does that. 😉
#2 Always insert your needle from the front and the left.
This is very important because otherwise, you will twist the legs of your stitches creating an uneven and not so pretty structure. I don’t want to worry you, but you’ll be able to see a single wrong stitch from miles away in your finished work.
While knitting the garter stitch (meaning a work with just knit stitches), the loops always have to run from the back to the front. So, when you insert your knitting needle from the left and you pull it even further to the left, you should be able to see a “ladder”. If you don’t see this ladder, then you twisted your yarn somehow.
This often happens when you pick up a stitch (because you dropped it or your pattern requires it) or you inserted the needle from right to left.
How to fix this? Insert the right needle into the loop as you would knit, twist it in the opposite direction, and slip the loop onto your left needle again.
Pro tip: Some patterns actually require you to insert the needle from the right. This is called “ Knit through back loop“. This will twist the legs of your final stitch, which can be used to create elevated structures in a pattern.
#3 Dropping a stitch
You should always secure the stitches on your needle with your fingers. But sometimes you drop one and then the whole pattern will unravel. So, what can you do? Throw it into the garbage?
No, don’t panic. There are plenty of ways to fix it. But make sure to secure the dropped stitch right away with a spare needle or security pin.
a) If you didn’t pull on your work and there’s not too much tension on the yarn, you can often simply pick up the stitch again with your needles. Just make sure you don’t twist it that way.
b) If the stitch did unravel for a row or two, you can knit it back using a crochet needle. It’s basically a simple chain stitch, though you will have to alternate the sides for the garter stitch. So, take the crochet needle, insert it into the loop and then pull through the little connecting thread from the back. Continue until you reach your current row and slip it onto your working needle again. Here’s how to fix a dropped stitch in greater detail.
c) You can tink (reverse knit) your pattern. If you are working a very complicated pattern or using a very sensitive yarn, this is the preferred technique. It basically boils down to inserting your left needle into the loop BELOW the current loop on your right needle and then letting the top loop slide of the needle.
d) You can pull out your needles and unravel a row or two and then reinsert your needles into the remaining loops. The easiest way to do this is unraveling one stitch at a time and inserting your needle back into the dropped loops as you go.
Pro tip: If you notice a mistake in your knitting, this is also the way to fix it without unraveling. Simply unravel only that one stitch and then pick it up with a crochet needle again.
#4 Splitting the yarn
If you are using very sharp-pointed needles or fibers that aren’t twisted as much as regular 4 ply wool, you will end up splitting the yarn with your needles eventually (this is the reason why I recommend using round-tipped needles for beginners).
In this case, simply reverse knit the stitch and knit again. Otherwise, you will create little loops sticking out of your work you can’t properly cut away. It’ll also weaken your fabric.
If you notice those flimsy loops past the point where you want to unravel, you can try to hide them on the other side of your work by pulling them through with a crochet needle.
Next lesson: How to knit the purl stitch.