10 knitting tips for beginners and advanced knitters

A massive list of knitting hints and tips. Smart adjustments of standard techniques & how to knit better the easy way.

Do you want to know how to get good at knitting? Do you want neat edges and a nice stitch definition? Then you came to the right place because this post contains essential knitting tips you can employ right away for instant results – even if you are a beginner.

I have been knitting for more than 30 years now. I learned my first stitches from my relatives and the rest from books (and later youtube videos). And let me tell you that the standard way of doing a lot of knitting techniques does not always yield the optimal results (on that note: check out my free knitting school where you will find tutorials for almost all stitches and techniques)

And the truly interesting part is: Often you can easily improve techniques by just adding a tiny little and super easy twist. I’m not talking about learning complicated repeats and using a purl decrease from the wrong side. No! I’m talking about things like simply slipping a stitch instead of knitting it, and so on!

Let’s dive right into it and let me show you my best knitting tips!

1. Neaten the last stitch of a bind off

a neater last bind off stitch - the edge doesn't show the ear

I’m sure you know how to bind off the standard way. But often, the last stitch of a bind-off looks a bit weird. It forms this little ear and it’s often a bit too loose. But there is a super-easy way to fix that. Here’s one of my favorite knitting tips:

Step 1: Instead of knitting the last stitch, slip it to your right needle.

slipping the picked up stitch on the right needle

Step 2: Pick up the back loop of the stitch one row below and lift it to your knitting needle.

lifting the left loop of the stitch one row below on your knitting needle

Step 3: Slip both stitches back to the left needle.

slipping the two stitches back to the left needle

Step 4: Knit these two stitches together (here’s how to k2tog).

knitting the two stitches together

Step 5: Bind off the remaining two stitches on your right needle as normal.

binding off the remaining two stitches the normal way

Here’s my full tutorial on binding off the last stitch with 3 alternatives + a video.

2. A better way to SSK

difference between ssk and ssk and ptbl in return round as shown on a swatch with the two decreases side by side

Generations of knitters have been arguing about the best left-leaning decrease. SSK (Slip, Slip, Knit) is certainly the most common alternative that sadly only yields passable results. And I’m not even joking when I tell you that I have probably read at least 20 different ways to knit a neater ssk. And a lot of these techniques are super complicated and involve a lot of slipping and pulling.

But there is a super simple solution that yields very nice results.

Step 1: Knit your SSK the way you normally would (you may want to play a stitch marker here). Make sure you only knit it at the very tip of your needles and avoid stretching out the stitches overly much.

Step 2: When you come across the SSK on the return round, don’t purl it. Instead, purl it through the back loop.

Note: If you are knitting in the round, you obviously would have not knit through back loop.

And that’s already it. What a lot of tutorials I read fail to mention is that SSK can look a bit wonky for two reasons. Sure, there is an issue with the tension. But at the end of the day, most of the left-leaning decreases also result in a twisted stitch. And if you stack a normal stitch upon a twisted stitch, that’s bound to look a bit weird.

a swatch comparing different left-leaning decreases

Note: The most invisible left-leaning decrease is SSP in my experience. But you have to knit it from the wrong side, so it’s maybe more a knitting tip for advanced knitters. SSPK is also a common alternative. I do, however, feel, it does not yield superior results.

3. A Neater cast on edge

Much like the bind-off edge, the cast-on edge can also look a bit weird. And there are actually two problems I often see:

1. The edge is too tight

too tight cast on edge project gets wider in the middle knit in stockinette stitch
A cast on edge that is too tight – the project gets wider towards the middle

So many people cast on using one needle only. But then they proceed knitting a very stretchy knitting stitch pattern (like a 2×2 rib or stockinette stitch) and their project gets wider towards the middle. Obviously, you can learn a stretchier cast-on method.

Or you use my knitting tip number two: Stick to your standard long-tail cast-on but do it around two needles.

cast on around two needles for a stretchier edge

And once you cast on the required number of stitches, carefully remove the second needle and start knitting. You can also use one or two needle sizes bigger instead. The first row or round will look a bit wonky but things will stretch out later on quite beautifully.

Note: This technique has its limits. You will only make the first “row” of stitches larger (which is defined by the circumference of your cast-on needles) but not the distance between each half-hitch knot. For even more flexibility, you have to do a full 2-needle cast on.

2. You start your cast on with a slip knot when knitting in the round

a much neater cast on edge in the round with no gap or knot
Almost invisible cast-on edge joined in the round

The second issue revolves around the way you start. Most cast-on techniques start with a slip knot. While there is nothing wrong with that when knitting flat, things look decidedly different when knitting in the round.

Here, that little knot is often very visible – even when you use a special joining method or you graft stitches to close the gap. And there is a super simple solution.

Start your cast on with a simple twisted loop.

a simple twisted loop around the knitting needle to start the cast on instead of a slip knot

It’s really that simple. From there, you can easily cast on the regular way (more or less using any cast-on technique you like). Who ever said becoming better at knitting had to be difficult, eh?

if you follow this knitting tip, the cast on edge will have no slip knot
The way the cast-on will appear on the needles after a couple of stitches

Note: When knitting flat this can sometimes result in somewhat rounded corners, so I’m usually only doing it when knitting in the round.

Reading tip: Read this tutorial if you want to learn how to knit neater edges

4. Fixing Twisted stitches on the fly

a twisted stitch on the left needle
A twisted stitch on the left needle

Here’s my fourth knitting tip: A normal knit stitch is mounted in a way that it comes from the back-left and runs across your needles ending on the front-right. However, there are many ways you can accidentally end up with twisted stitches which will be mounted exactly the opposite way. Here are the most common causes:

  • When you drop a stitch and pick it up again (the wrong way)
  • When you unravel/frog parts of your knitting and slip stitches back to your needle
  • When you pick up stitches for the gussets of your socks
  • When you fix dropped stitches with a crochet hook and slip the last stitch to your left needle the wrong way.

You should definitely fix these twisted stitches before knitting them. You can manually twist them around with your fingers, by slipping the offending stitch back and forth between the left and right needle, or…

fixing a twisted stitch by knitting it through the back loop and the finished stitch on the right side (split images)

You simply knit the stitch through the back loop. I feel this is just the easiest and most seamless way to fix a twisted stitch – especially since a ktbl is barely harder to knit than a regular knit stitch.

5. Knit with two different needle sizes

purling the return rown with one needle size smaller to fix the tension issues
I knit the right side with 5mm needles and the wrong side with 4.00 mm for this swatch

A lot of knitters struggle with their purl tension – especially English throwers. While I really urge you to work on your tensions, there is a little shortcut. You have to know that the size of your stitches is only defined by the right needle. Your left needle functions, more or less, as a stitch holder.

So, when you are knitting stockinette stitch and you always end up with these weird ridges where one row has bigger/looser stitches, then you can simply knit the return rows with a smaller needle size.

If you have an interchangeable knitting needle set, you can attach a different sized tip to either end.

knitting fancy pattern with two different needle sizes
A complex looking 1×1 rib achieved by knitting with two diferent needle sizes

And, if you attach a significantly bigger needle to one end, you can even create fancy lace like patterns. The shawl in the picture above was knit in a simple 1×1 rib. But it looks super complex because of the different kinds of stitches the different needle sizes create.

6. Fixing stitches without a crochet hook

a dropped stitch that has only unraveled one row. with a secret knitting tip, you can fix it without a crochet hook.

You may already know that you can fix a dropped stitch with a crochet hook. But if your stitch only unraveled one row (or two), you can also fix it with just your knitting needles.

Step 1: Pick up the dropped stitch with your left needle.

lifting the dropped stitch back to the left needle

Step 2: Bring the strand to the back of that stitch if it isn’t already there.

Step 3: Pull the strand through with your right needle.

pulling the strand through coming from the front and below

Step 4: Slip the stitch back to the left needle (make sure you don’t twist it, so insert the left needle into it from the front).

slipping the fixed stitch back the the left needle and untwisting it as you do

And if it’s a purl stitch, you obviously have to bring the strand to the front and pull the yarn through coming from the back.

This a super helpful technique for fixing stitches as well. Sometimes you accidentally knit a stitch that should have been a purl stitch (or vice versa) and you only notice the mistake one row later.

In these cases, you can adjust the stitch using almost the same technique (the example is for turning a knit stitch into a purl stitch):

Step 1: Insert your knitting needle into the stitch one row below.

inserting the right needle into the stitch one row below

Step 2: Pull out the “wrong” stitch.

pulling the strand/stitch out with your left knitting needle

Step 3: And then bring the strand to the front for a purl stitch.

brining the strand to the front of the work

Step 4: Slip the stitch back to the left needle to bring the strand fully to the front/back.

slipping the stitch back to the left needle

Step 5: Purl the stitch using that extra strand.

pulling the strand through coming from the back

This knitting tip is also very useful to adjust your tension. Some people use this technique to fix ladders. For example, you could slip every first stitch of each new needle. And in the next round, you use that little strand to knit the stitch. Since the strand will be much shorter than what you would normally use for a knit stitch, the ladder will not be able to appear.

7. Knit in the other direction to avoid complicated stitches

knitting the wrong side for some easer knitting

There is no denying that some stitches are more difficult to knit than others. It starts with a simple purl stitch but probably ends somewhere at p3tog tbl. However, when you are knitting in the round, you can sometimes circumvent these difficult stitches by knitting the wrong side.

So, instead of purling 30 rows, you can simply turn around your work, and knit from the wrong side.

For a seamless transition, you would have to slip the first stitch of that new round. And it’s better to change the direction in the middle of a needle (and not at the very end/beginning).

I do recommend using a special short-row technique (like the ones used for a german short row heel) to avoid a gap.

Other than that, almost all knitting stitch have a purl equivalent: k2tog – p2tog, SSK – SSP, ktbl – ptbl, and so on.

This knitting tip only truly makes sense if you have to knit a lot of rows with a more complicated stitch. Say, you start with 10 rounds in stockinette stitch and then you have to knit 40 rows in reverse stockinette sittch, etc.

8. Manually fixing ladders/loose stitches AFTER you finished

a couple of purl stitches that are much bigger than the rest in a swatch of stockinette stitch

Sometimes you don’t pay attention and you accidentally miss one or a couple of stitches too loose. For me, this sometimes happens when purling. I end up with a couple of purl stitches that are just bigger than the rest. And of course, when knitting in the round, you may create ladders whenever you switch needles.

While there are certainly ways to prevent these tension issues from the start, you can also fix them after you finished. You simply have to pull out the excess yarn and distribute it evenly among the adjacent stitches.

Step 1: Pick up your knitting needle and pull the offending stitch tight.

fixing the tension with a knitting needle by pulling out the excess yarn

Step 2: And distribute the excess towards either side by going into the adjacent stitches one by one and making the previous stitch a tiny big bigger than it originally was.

pulling the excess yarn further to the sides on stitch at a time

When knitting in the round, you can fix ladders in a similar way. Or you bring your knitting needle in from behind and sort of pull it down a whole column of knit stitches and stretching out the ribs between the V of the stitches right next to your ladder.

fixing a ladder by coming from behind with a knitting needle and stretching out the rungs of the ladder next to it

It’s a bit difficult to show this knitting tip in a picture. So maybe watch the video that comes with this article.

9. Avoid twisting your yarn

A swatch of stockinette stitch knit with a high ply yarn which makes the legs of the stitches twist into each other
A swatch in stockinette stitch knit with a yarn that has a z spin.

Almost all yarn is twisted as it is spun – some more, some less. Depending on that spin (twist), your knitted fabric will look a bit differently. That’s why stockinette stitch or ribbings will appear decidedly different when you knit them with 1 ply or a dk weight yarn (which has 8 plies).

So much, that some beginners think they were doing something wrong. But they didn’t. It’s just the natural way these yarns settle into the structure of your fabric. In these cases, you can only either live with the results or pick a different yarn.

In some cases, you are the one adding a twist through your knitting process. And that is a topic that is very rarely addressed. And at the center of the problem is winding skeins into yarn cakes, and especially center pulls.

Because here is the problem: You spin the yarn around as you wind the yarn cake, but as you unwind it, it stays put. It’s very easy to illustrate the problem with a ribbon. Wind it into a small cake and pull out the center. You end up with a highly twisted strand.

adding twist through center pull shown by pulling out a ribbon

And this can make your knitting look really irregular. But there is an easy way to avoid that. Either roll your yarn into a ball and put it in a yarn bowl. Or mount your yarn cake on a spindle so it can turn around as you unwind.

Knitting tip #10: Graft the last stitch to close the gap

a closed bind-off gap by grafting a knit stitch

When knitting in the round, you often end up with that ugly little gap between the last and the first stitch of your bind-off edge. But there is a super way to fix that. You can simply graft one stitch and the transition will be virtually invisible.

going into the gap from above

All you have to do is thread the tail on a tapestry needle. And then you have to go underneath the V of the first bind-off stitch coming from below. Next, go through the V of the last bind-off stitch coming from above, and hide the tail on the wrong side. And tada, your edge will be perfect.

Here’s a step-by-step tutorial on grafting stitches the easy way.

Bonus trick: Weave in ends with a sharp tapestry needle

Going vertically right through the strands to weave in a tail with a sharp tapestry needle. A useful knitting tip for better results
Going vertically right through the strands to weave in a tail with a sharp tapestry needle

And here is a really nice bonus knitting tip that will make your knitting look better as well. Learn how to weave in the right way. No matter how well you can knit, if you don’t hide your ends the right way it can screw up your whole beautiful work.

And one of the biggest mistakes I see so many knitters doing is using blunt tapestry needles for weaving in. Blunt tapestry needles were made for things like duplicate stitch, mattress stitch, and all other techniques where you have to go around stitches.

But for weaving in ends, you want to create as much friction as possible to secure that end. And of course, you want it to be as invisible as possible. And that’s why you need a sharp tapestry needle so you can pierce through the strands. Don’t go around it.

Here’s my full tutorial on weaving in ends that shows you how to do that.

Other knitting tips

One of the most important tips is probably practice. It might sound trivial and like a filler, but your brain and your muscles need time to adjust to a new technique. It’s only after you rehearsed a new technique for a couple of hours that it will start to feel even remotely natural.

And here’s an excellent tip I got from one of my subscribers on youtube: After you practiced, give it a good night’s rest. A bit of sleep will give your brain the chance to process what it has learned.

Anyway, those were my best knitting tips. Comment below in case you know a tip I did not mention or you have a question.

10 knitting tips for better results

17 thoughts on “10 knitting tips for beginners and advanced knitters”

  1. Great tutorial, thank you. I have nothing to add, but even after 60+ years of knitting, I learned a couple of things today. 😉

    Reply
  2. I’ve been knitting fo over 80 years. Your tips are what knitters really should read . congratulations on a job well done.
    Here’s a tip I learned from a friend.
    To get a really nice edge when knitting flat , especially for seaming do this . Row 1, set up row, with yarn in front, slip the first stitch, knit the second stitch. Yes you have a yarn over don’t worry you are not adding a stitch, now finish the row per directions. Row 2 and all other rows: with yarn in front slip first stitch, knit second stitch, there’s the y/o again , finish row till 2 stitches remain , knit 2 together. Bo the time you have a few rows you will see an edge that looks like chains that match cast on and cast off. A pretty finished edge, or ready for seaming

    Reply
    • Hey Anita,
      80 years! Wow, that sounds like I would like to pick your brain for future posts, lol! Thx for this lovely selvage. I originally wanted to add a section about selvages as well but was a bit hesitant. But I think I might just add one now! thank you!

      Reply
  3. Hello. I don’t have a suggestion or tip. I just wanted to say thank you for all your tutorials. I am just getting back into knitting after a many year hiatus…I am afraid quilting took over..I find your techniques and tips so helpful. So many sites have tutorials, but the picture leaves something to be desired. You show every steps of the way and the pictures are nice and clears. I am so glad I stumbled on your blog. Thanks so much. Keep up the good work.

    Reply
  4. Another tip when knitting a Scarf, is to do a provisional CO knit the scarf BO then pick up the provisional stitches and BO. That way both ends look the same.

    Reply
  5. Thank you. You always provide wonderful information, very clear and easy to follow. I am a new knitter so everything you provide needed.

    Reply
  6. Great job, Norman. I’m another 40+ years knitter. I read your newsletter to see what I’ve forgotten…or never learned! You always do a great job. I try not to miss your work for that reason.

    Reply
  7. When knitting from a chart back and forth, turn the chart upside down when knitting the wrong-side row. That way you don’t need to reverse the chart in your mind before knitting the wrong-side row. Thanks for your tips. I find them very helpful.

    Reply
    • hey Richard, that’s a really nice tip (and for those reading it: remember that you still need to read the symbols reverse).

      Reply
  8. It was gratifying to learn that my method of casting on without a slip knot isn’t a no-no!! And thanks for reinforcing what I know about twist…as a handspinner who now knits more than spins, I’m still using my stash of my handspun yarns…TWIST MATTERS! It’s so easy to forget the theory of twist when using commercial yarns. You can also use it for special effects by deliberately untwisting single-ply novelty yarns.
    And do I ever love what you share with us…and pass your comments to other knitting friends

    Reply
    • Hey Kathy,
      oh..it does? it never gave it much thought? Would you mind elaborating a bit? (or anyone else who has experience with it)

      Reply
  9. To make a neat edge when casting off, cut the yarn and pull the end of the yarn through the last loop. Then tack down the yarn as usual.

    Thank you for the hints, I’m always looking to be more efficient even after knitting for 60 years!

    Reply

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