Knitting basics 1 – cosy garter-stitch earwarmer

I'm not photogenic!

In this quick and simple project, we’ll learn how to knit, how to cast on using the backward loop method, how to make an increase and 2 types of decrease, and how to bind off. We’ll also look at how to begin deciphering the mysterious code that knitting patterns seem to be written in!

You will need:

  • Knitting needles – a size between US7 and US10
  • A chunky yarn – I used a thick acrylic yarn – less than 1 skein
  • tapestry needle for finishing

First lets have a look at the pattern.

co 5 and knit 3 rows

Increase section

row 1: k1, kfb, k to last 2 stitches, kfb, k1
row 2: knit

Repeat these 2 rows 5 times (15 sts)

Knit plain until work measures 25cm

Decrease section:

Row 1:k1, sl1k1psso, k until last 3 sts, k2tog, k1
Row 2: knit
Repeat these 2 rows 5 times (5 sts)

Knit 3 rows and bind off

Oooo-kaaay… um, what?

Lets start with the first line – “co 5 sts“. The abbreviation ‘co’ (sometimes written ‘c/o’) stands for ‘cast on’ – and ‘sts’ is of course ‘stitches. There are several ways to cast on, depending on both personal preference and the qualities the edge should have, for example how stretchy it should be. Today we’ll use the simplest – the backward loop cast-on. This is not the best method for larger pieces, as it tends to get longer and loopier the more stitches you cast on, but today we’re only working with 5 stitches, and the other methods are a lot easier to learn once you are familiar with the knit stitch. So lets get you going!

backward loop cast-on

Step 1, begin by making a slipknot in your yarn and sliding it onto the needle. Most cast-ons start with a slipknot. Step 2, holding the needle in your right hand and the long end of the yarn in your left, wrap the yarn clockwise round your thumb. Insert the needle into the loop (step 3), and transferring the loop to the needle, pull taut (step 4).

Repeat steps 2-4 three more times to cast on a total of 5 stitches.

OK, now you’re ready to knit! There are 2 styles of knitting – English (‘throwing’) and continental (‘picking’). I show you English style in the video below. Different knitters find different styles more comfortable. As to holding the needles and yarn, there is not really any right or wrong way – don’t let anyone tell you you’re ‘doing it wrong’! Experiment to find what works for you. For example, most English-style knitters tension the yarn by wrapping it around a finger. I find that awkward, so I don’t. It doesn’t seem to make a difference in the finished fabric! Anyway, on with the video:

(I think the next thing I need to make is a tripod – I videoed this with the camera between my teeth!)

As you can see, there are 4 steps to remember. First insert the right-hand needle through the next stitch – it should be behind the left-hand needle and going through the stitch in the same direction (i.e. both needles should go bottom-to-top). Wrap the yarn around and between the needles, back-to-front/left-to-right. Use the left-hand needle to lift the old stitch over the new one, then slip the old stitch off the left-hand needle.

Knit 3 rows.

The next section of the pattern reads “row 1: k1, kfb, k to last 2 stitches, kfb, k1“. Well, ‘k’ is ‘knit’ – and so ‘k1′ means ‘knit one stitch’. But what the heck is ‘kfb’? It stands for ‘knit front-and-back’,  one of several ways to increase, or add a stitch. Knit front-and-back leaves a little bump, while other increases often leave a small hole. These are useful for lace knitting, but we don’t want holes today, so lets learn kfb.

It’s called ‘knit front-and-back’ because you’re actually knitting two new stitches into one – one into the front of the stitch and one into the back. If we tried to knit 2 stitches into the front, we’d just end up with one big loop, so we have to change direction, knitting into the back of the stitch. I made a quick video to demonstrate:

As you can see, you knit the first part of the stitch normally – but you don’t drop the stitch off the left-hand needle. Insert the right-hand needle again, this time in the opposite direction to the left-hand needle – into the back ‘leg’ of the stitch. wrap the yarn and make the second stitch in the same way as the first. Drop the stitch off the left-hand needle.

row 1: k1, kfb, k to last 2 stitches, kfb, k1
row 2: knit

Repeat these 2 rows 5 times (15 sts)” – so, we’re knitting one stitch, making an increase in the next stitch, knitting across until there are 2 stitches remaining on the left-hand needle, making another increase in the next stitch, and knitting the last stitch. This means you are adding 2 stitches. The next row is just plain knitting. We’ll do these rows 5 times in total, which means we should end up with 15 stitches on the needle.

From here on in, it’s plain knitting for a while – until it measures about 25cm from the cast-on edge to just below the needle. We’ll pick up this project again on Friday, when I’ll be teaching you two different decreases, and how to bind off. Happy knitting!

12 thoughts on “Knitting basics 1 – cosy garter-stitch earwarmer

  1. I was going to make a comment about the casting on – to say that it was called the thumb method in some places.

    But having looked at the pictures again … I now see the difference between the backward loop cast on and the thumb cast on.
    Duh me. Probably I should go back to my needles.

  2. Thanks for your explanation and pattern!! Your text and still photos are very clear and helpful. The video portions are empty, however. Have they been removed? Or do I have a problem with my browser?

  3. I now see the difference between the backward loop cast on and the thumb cast on. Thanks for your explanation and pattern. I enjoy watching the video that you post.

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  5. Thanks for the videos, Abigail! I’m trying to go along with it as I watch. It’s my fourth attempt now … pretty embarrassing ;) … but I’m getting the hang of it.

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  7. Great stuff! I enjoyed watching the videos. You made it look so easy to do for us. I’m going to the market now to buy knitting needles, chunky yarn, and tapestry needle.

  8. What a nice video! It’s easy to follow along and is quite helpful for beginners like me. Your blog is such a pleasant surprise! I love crafts of all kinds — bringing out my artistic side helps me relax and take my mind off the pressures of work.

  9. I’m not really a newbie but I did come across some new stuff in this pattern. I was tempted to just substitute other stitches I already knew (thumb method and M1) but I followed it exactly as written and I feel more accomplished now. The decreases I already know but thanks for the easy to follow guide on the backward loop cast on and kfb.

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