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
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.
Step 2: Pick up the back loop of the stitch one row below and lift it to your knitting needle.
Step 3: Slip both stitches back to the left needle.
Step 4: Knit these two stitches together (here’s how to k2tog).
Step 5: Bind off the remaining two stitches on your right needle as normal.
Here’s my full tutorial on binding off the last stitch with 3 alternatives + a video.
2. A better way to SSK
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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?
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
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…
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
Step 2: Pull out the “wrong” stitch.
Step 3: And then bring the strand to the front for a purl stitch.
Step 4: Slip the stitch back to the left needle to bring the strand fully to the front/back.
Step 5: Purl the stitch using that extra strand.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.