Knitting skill levels

How to assess your knitting skill level, figure out how good you are, and which patterns are suitable for you.

Do you want to know how good you are at knitting? Or do you want to knit a pattern but it says “for experienced knitters” and you have no clue if you fall within that category? Well, then this easy test will help you assess your knitting skill level with ease.

One important note ahead: There is no global knitting council. As a result, there is no official grading system either that every book or designer adheres to. On top of that, each knitter learns the various knitting techniques in a different order (here’s a free knitting course with tutorials for almost all knitting techniques). Most beginners probably start with a simple cast-on and the knit stitch, but after that – it depends on your preferences.

Knitting skill levels:

The following categorization system thus aims to consolidate the various available sources and add hands-on recommendations & tutorials. Most patterns and books will differentiate between four different levels:

  1. Beginner
  2. Advanced beginner (sometimes also “Easy”)
  3. Intermediate knitter
  4. Experienced knitter

I added two more levels called “Advanced knitter” and “Master knitter”. People who fall into that category are typically very aware of their advanced skills, often because they took courses or even underwent some certification process, and they are already beyond the need for anyone else to tell them if a pattern is suitable for them or not. Still, I added them to paint the full picture of the story that potentially lies ahead of you!

Level 1: Beginner

knitting skill level 1 - the beginner

Definition: A knitting beginner is someone who grasps the most basic stitches and can finish simple patterns with aid.

Here are the skills you should typically know if you fall within that category:

If you learned all these skills and techniques already, then you can call yourself an advanced beginner and you are ready to tackle slightly more complicated projects.

Level 2: Advanced beginner

knitting skill level 2 - the advance beginner or easy

Definition: A knitter who easily handles the standard stitches, has learned directional increases & decreases, can follow simple patterns, and knows a technique to add color and texture to their projects.

Here are the skills you should know to call yourself an advanced beginner:

At this skill level, you will be able to finish most simple patterns. Maybe nothing fancy, yet, but little garments and accessories you can wear with pride.

Level 3: Intermediate knitter

skill level 3: intermediate knitter

Definition: A knitter who can follow most patterns with ease, is able to read knitting and charts, and knows advanced stitches and techniques for neater results. Knitting in the round is no longer a challenge, and advances have been made in lace knitting, brioche, or advanced colorwork.

These are the skills you will learn on your journey to becoming an intermediate knitter:

As an intermediate knitter, you are starting to feel really comfortable with knitting and you are in a position to start almost all common knitting projects. Maybe some of them will still be a little challenging but nothing practice and patience cannot fix.

Level 4: Experienced knitter

skill level 4 experienced knitter

Definition: Someone who knows how to adjust patterns according to their own preferences, can substitute yarn, is proficient in at least one major knitting technique, and can produce neat results consistently.

Common traits of an experienced knitter:

  • Knows a lot of knitting techniques, and is able to look up and learn the few unfamiliar stitches/techniques required for a pattern with ease.
  • The overall stitch definition of the finished projects is consistent and even. Things like ladders, curling, or puckering are no longer an issue and don’t require much thought.
  • Is proficient in at least one major knitting project (socks, sweaters, hats, shawls, blankets, or toys).
  • Is proficient in at least one advanced knitting pattern (lace, cables, colorwork, brioche, etc).
  • Knows how to choose yarns and colors, and how to substitute yarn for a pattern successfully.
  • Knows which needles are best for which project and which needles work best for you in general.
  • How to adjust a pattern and change portions according to your own preferences.
  • The overall knitting speed has been increased dramatically – either by learning how to do continental picking or English flicking (as just two examples).

In short, experienced knitters know what they are doing and they know how to get there with ease. They finished more than just a handful of projects and a lot of the knitting actually starts to happen subconsciously.

Level 5: Advanced knitter

knitting skill level 5 - the advanced knitter

Definition: Someone who knows how to design complex patterns and is able to accommodate a wide range of different body configurations. The overall stitch definition and execution are flawless. Even the most advanced techniques are known and can be taught to others without having doubts.

As an advanced knitter, you should…

  • Know how most of the basic fitted garments are constructed (sweaters, socks, hats, etc.)
  • Know how to adjust any pattern to accommodate a body configuration beyond the standard size (i.e. larger busts, wider shoulders, higher instep, thicker calves, etc).
  • Have a firm grasp of a wide range of knitting techniques way beyond the basics (so all the standard increases, decreases, multiple cast-ons/bind-offs, etc).
  • Be able to knit basic patterns without looking at your needles constantly.
  • Know your limits and strengths, and masterfully finish projects within these constraints.
  • Be able to knit with at least one other knitting style (e.g. Continental knitting, English knitting, Portuguese knitting, etc).

Level 6: Master knitting

knitting skill level 6 - a master knitter

Definition: Someone who truly understands the governing principles of knitting, and doesn’t need patterns anymore. Someone who can invent new stitches, techniques, or construction when needed, and replicate designs by simply looking at them.

The last very last step on your knitting journey is only the beginning. At its core, knitting is pure math. There are 4 basic ways to knit a stitch (knit, purl, ktbl, and ptbl). Using standard permutations and some creativity, you can basically derive any knitting technique on this planet from them.

Here are some examples:

  • An SSK is combining a mini 1×1 cable with k2tog.
  • A BR4St dec is nothing else but stacking two double purl decreases upon a centered double decrease and you can easily knit one part in the first row, and the second part in the second row.
  • If you use the single cast-on and purl all stitches through the back loop in the next row, you will have the technically same result as when you do a longtail cast-on. If, however, you just purl the stitches, the result will be a German twisted cast-on.
  • Double-knitting and brioche are essentially the exact same skill. The only difference is that you typically don’t knit both sides at the same time when you knit brioche. You can do that, however, just like you can double knit one side at a time (using double stockinette stitch)

In essence, a lot of knitting techniques produce the same result but there are different ways to get there. There are different ways to knit a simple longtail cast-on, just like there are different ways to knit a knit stitch (like picking with the left hand or throwing with the right hand).

At one point in your knitting journey, these kinds of realizations will come naturally to you. You can use them to make up your own techniques to facilitate your own knitting and the result will be your very own way of knitting.

Knitting skill levels: things to consider

someone assesing their knitting skill level

Here at the end of this list, there are a couple of things I want to share with you but there’s one message that is super dear to my heart: Your knitting skills are meaningless if they don’t bring you joy. And if knitting simple potholders in garter stitch brings you joy, then you already did everything right.

Do consider that all the grading systems and knitting skill levels you will find online and offline have been made up by one single human or company. In this case, it was me. Essentially I am saying that you should never take another person’s view of the world to diminish your worth.

Also, know that knitting is not a linear craft. There are very few prerequisites. Of course, you have to learn the knit stitch, a cast-on, and a bind-off, before you can finally learn stranded colorwork. But you could fill a lifetime with stranded colorwork without ever touching a cable needle, lace-knitting, or even knitting in the round.

At the end of the day, you decide which techniques you need and which you want to skip. So, if this table here says that you need to know how to read charts to call yourself an experienced knitter but you don’t…well…nothing happens! It’s your hobby, after all.

Important note: Don’t ever let yourself be intimidated just because someone says they have been knitting for 10, 20, or 30 years. The duration you have been doing something does not necessarily equal skill.

Why are the different levels at all, then?

This whole grading system has really just two functions: First of all, it should give you a good impression if a pattern is accessible to you. But really, deep down in your guts, you typically already know if you are ready for, say, a sweater or not. A good pattern (like my ribbed socks) will have a list of techniques you need to know to tackle it.

And if your pattern lacks these kinds of information and you are doubting yourself, well then that’s already a good indication that this pattern might not be ideal for you (but don’t forget that you sometimes need to challenge yourself!). And if you are past the point to worry about that (meaning you are an experienced knitter), the whole grading system is kind of meaningless anyway.

Secondly, this system can show you what a knitting class could contain if you want to “level up” your knitting skills. I tried to populate the list with many links and you could basically use it as a template to plan out your studies for the future.

In fact, that’s the way I structured it. If I had the task to teach your knitting from beginner to master knitter, then that’s probably the course I would take. I mean, not in every minute detail but by and large, yes.

Essentially I am saying, use this as a template but never as your bible. Knitting should be fun, and challenging yourself is often a good idea to advane.

Either way, that’s everything you need to know about knitting skill levels. Comment below if you still have any questions.

9 thoughts on “Knitting skill levels”

  1. You forgot the level of supposedly advanced knitters who still do really dumb things. I think I’m very clever and can knit well-fitting socks in my sleep. I recently started a pair with yarn I hadn’t used before (I did a swatch and everything to get a perfect fit for the recipient). You should have seen the beautiful, even stitches and the lovely flap-and-gusset heal. I ran out of yarn halfway through the foot. I have a feeling that this sort of thing doesn’t happen to master knitters.

    Reply
    • don’T be too harsh on yourself, Gina. Everyone makes a mistake once in a while. It’s how you handle those mistakes that defines the difference!

      Reply
  2. Hi Norman,
    I loved this post! I find knitting very relaxing in difficult stressful (virtual) meetings and I keep a project by my work computer (get the camera just right, and no one knows that I am creating). I think I am between advanced beginner and intermediate AND, thanks to you, I have a clear path to master intermediate because you listed out all the skills.

    Norman, you created a model of knitting skill acquisition that is similar to another theoretical model of skill acquisition that I studied in my PhD program in nursing: http://xbrl.squarespace.com/journal/2019/8/6/from-novice-to-expert.html

    Beginners (or Novices) have a collection of skills that they cannot always put together. They don’t know what they don’t know. They can be slow. And occasionally arrogant (how hard can intertarsia be?)

    Advanced beginners know what they don’t know. They can be slow and also anxious. (My work isn’t coming out the way I want! What do I do?)

    Intermediate knitters (Competent, in this model) have a range of skills. They are not necessarily fast but they know what they are doing. (It took me 2 months to knit my first sweater)

    Experienced knitters (Proficient in this model) are much faster and have mastered a range of skills. (My mom could do anything.)

    Advanced/Master Knitters (similar to Experts in this model) are leaders. They can do everything upside down and standing on their heads because they understand how everything inter-relates on a deep level. (YOU)

    Thanks for a great post!!!

    Reply
  3. What made me realize that I had become an experienced knitter was: 1) I enjoyed swatching, even if I wouldn’t really use the swatch for anything, and 2) I would rip back and knit again rather than live with a not ideal fabric. 😊

    Reply
  4. Love this article!
    Been there, done that kind of thing – embarrassingly, I am also classed a Master – it all boils down to applying logic, and creativity (for me). I buy patterns to support designers, and sometimes do knit them, just for the fun of it, even while re-adapting the pattern to suit my style or the item itself (using lace weight instead of DK, yet gaining same ‘gauge’ ratio, for example) 🙂 Being a sculptress (artist) and my insatiable curiosity since the age of three, I delve deeply into every craft (too many to list here) which capture my attention, never letting up on learning and experimenting – i also believe myself to be one of the most accomplished froggers on the planet, hehehe.
    Norman, you are a Master 🙂 Your videos are a delight to watch and listen to, and your tips are pure sterling too! Sometimes, even a Master can overlook something they should have remembered, hehehe.

    Reply
  5. Very interesting video/article. I guess I know more than I realized. Who knew I was an Advanced knitter, fooling around with even being able to do some of the Master knitters requirements. I see things in my mind and research and figure out what I want or need. I taught myself how to knit at the age of 11, with some instructions on a piece of paper. Then made my first couple pairs of socks at 15 as my older brothers found out I had learned how to knit. Then onto a fair isle sweater when I was 16. I love all the videos out there, all the tutorials so much to still learn. I have not done steeking yet, but have read enough on it I think I could finish a sweater with it. But alas I don’t wear much wool on my upper torso it makes me itch. Baby Camel yarn, alpaca and superwash yarn is just fine But I love to knit, teach people how to knit. To get them excited to learn this art form!!

    Reply

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