Teaching a beginner to knit~ need tips/advice

It’s probably a dumb question, but are there any tips out there as far as teaching a beginner to knit? Seems it would be more difficult teaching the continental method to someone new to knitting. I
prefer the continental method myself, but know how to do the other way too. Any theories/suggestions? Also, is there a certain needle size and yarn type I should stick with?

Thanks a bunch,


That’s an interesting question, because I just recently taught a co-worker to knit. I can knit continental, but I taught her the “throw” method because that’s what I do better, and I can’t purl continental to save my life. Here’s what I learned from the experience:

Tell your learner that it’s OK if their knitting doesn’t look perfect right away. I told my co-worker over and over that tension is one of the hardest things to get and that she will get better in time.

Teach one thing at a time. I taught her to cast-on and let her practice that several times and then taught her the knit stitch. That was one lesson. I then let her practice just knitting for quite awhile so she could really get it down.

The second lesson was purling. She then practiced doing stockinette for a while. I explained to her about the nature of stockinette to roll and showed her how to use stitch markers to delineate a garter stitch border. She made a scarf and I showed her how to bind off.

I also got her to sign up on Ravelry, and showed her Knitting Help which she tells me she has used quite a bit.

She has now gone on to make a scarf without my help that includes increases and decreases. It’s this one. She’s really taken to it. But that doesn’t mean everyone will. I taught another person to knit who ended up just hating it and that’s OK.

I think the two most important things are to make sure you keep encouraging your student, and to make sure that you try to leave the needles in her (or his) hands as much as possible. People learn by doing, not by watching, and so when I was showing my learner how to knit, I sat next to her with my own needles and yarn and had her watch and repeat the motions at the same time, instead of just asking her to watch me and then having her do it. I think that made the biggest difference.

Good luck to you! I hope you have a wonderful experience teaching your friend to knit. :slight_smile:

ETA: I forgot to talk about needle and yarn type! I loaned her a pair of straight size 8s and had her get some light colored, smooth worsted weight wool to start with. I brought in a pair of metal Boye needles and some bamboos so she could decide for herself which she preferred. She liked the Boyes better. I think the most important thing is to have smooth and light colored yarn–it’s easier to tink and it it’s easier to see your stitches. It lets you get the motions of knitting down without getting caught up in fuzzy tangliness.

I think using larger needles are a good thing, such as size 13 or 15 and a bulky yarn. In kindergarten we used large crayons and large pencils because we were clumsy and first learning. I think this idea can be applied to learning to knit too.

I think you could try that, but you might want to have smaller needles on hand too. I’ve been knitting for quite awhile and I find any needles larger than size 11 to be extremely awkward and hard to knit with. But that’s me…it may be easier for your new knitter. I think around a 9 is a good size to start with.

Great suggestions Marria and Kellycat~ practical, down-to-earth and all very useful. Thanks! :slight_smile: I didn’t think about each of us having our own set of needles and yarn, then having her repeat my motions at the same time with the light colored yarn. Thanks for sharing the tips!

You guys ready for the super bowl? I just watch for the commercials (teehee.)

Thanks again,

Heh, I think I’m about one of the 7 people in the US that isn’t watching it. :teehee: I have a TV, but no cable and no reception, so we just use it for watching movies. I’m not really a big football fan, but I’ll have my online MLB account in time for spring training. :slight_smile:

We don’t watch and my sweetie makes a game of seeing how long it takes him to find out who wins. Sometimes he can go a day or two…

Marria, here’s something that might make you laugh~~ I had to ask my hubby was MLB was.

You guys are great.


Hi, Jan! :waving:

This is probably the best continental knitting video I’ve ever seen. It cleared up some misunderstandings I had and as a result my knitting got much smoother. I think this would probably work very well in helping someone new learn to knit.


Good luck and let us know how it goes!

Happy knitting,
Ruthie :slight_smile:

All the suggestions by the others are really good, but as a fairly new knitter who remembers learning how to by trial and error not so long ago, I would suggest that you teach her how to pick up dropped stitches fairly soon. That was the most frustrating thing for me to learn how to do…can still remember how panicked I was when faced with a dropped stitch. I also found metal needles to be too slippery and still prefer using plastic with less stitch dropping. Also, any time that I attempt something new that I am uncertain I can do without ripping back, I put in a lifeline…that has saved me from much frustration.
Good luck to you and your friend…

I’ve never seen that one, Ruthie. Thanks for sharing it, and have a great week!

Yes, that’s a very good point, Pat. Will definitely keep it in mind.
Thanks! :slight_smile:


Hi there!
There’s been a lot of great tips given already. My two cents is in response to your uncertainty about whether to teach the continental method. I think you should teach what you are most comfortable in doing (which i gather is continental) because your comfort level will have an effect on your student’s confidence. Learning any new skill is difficult, so I suspect the student would see both methods as equally confusing or difficult at the start. What’s important to keep in mind is not to overwhelm him/her with too many things at first.
Happy knitting (and teaching)!

Thanks for weighing in, K. I gotta tell you though, I’m still not sure which way to go on that. Seems like it took me forever to learn the continental method, and only after watching the video here at KH many many many times. I’m very comfortable with it now, though.

Appreciate your thoughts~ thanks for taking the time to write!

Even though I use the Continental method myself, I always start someone out with the English (or whatever it’s called) method - holding the yarn in the right hand. Most of the instruction books use/teach that method. If they want to know how I do it, then I show them, but only after they’ve gotten fairly proficient on the Right handed method first.
I usually start someone out with light colored yarn and size 10 needles. I have also bought booklets at the craft stores called, “Teach Me to Knit” or “Teaching a Group of Kids to Knit” and “I Can Knit - 11 Cool Knit Projects for Preteen Girls”. They have tons of teaching tips/pointers in those types of books for both the students and the teachers.
HTH, knitcindy

Thanks, Knitcindy! I’ll have to look for those books, probably on Amazon.

Well, now I’ll feel better about ditching the continental method in favor of the english. No use over-complicating matters, right? I guess I just needed to hear it from somebody else.

Thanks again for your thoughts and advice. Appreciate it~

People seem most frustrated by learning to cast on and working the first few rows. Until you get a little knitting below the needles, they tend to slide out and flop around a little. I cast on about 15-20 stitches and knit 10 rows, put in a lifeline, knit a couple more rows, then show them how to do the knit stitch. I think it’s important to show the knit stitch, stitch orientation and how to pick up a dropped stitch, and how to turn your work at the end of the row without getting those pesky “extra” stitches during the first session.
As to teaching Continental or English, I say to go with what you’re most comfortable teaching.

Great information, Denise. Thanks for taking the time to share. I’ll tell ya, who needs a “how to” book when I’ve got you guys! :slight_smile:

Thanks again,

I was going to suggest what Denise said. I taught several ladies (some were middle teens) and I had knitted up a little piece for each of them to start on. They all said they appreciated it. After they had the knit stitch down and felt like they were getting somewhere I had them rip out the whole works and taught them to cast on and they all said they were glad they didn’t start with that, and that first row of knitting from the cast on row, since it was harder.

I taught all these gals to do Continental from the beginning. I prefer that method and told them I wanted them to try it. It turned out they had all crocheted before so they had the hard part down already (how to hold the yarn). They all did well with it. But I taught my husband to knit a few years ago and I taught him the Continental knit stitch, but when we got to the purl he couldn’t do it and to keep him from giving up I had him switch to English and he said that was much easier. If I teach young children I like to teach English because it is physically easier in my opinion.

Hey there Merigold, thanks for responding. I’ll definitely save the cast on for later! I was just looking back through all the responses and realized that I really need to write all of these hints and tips down along with the pros and cons. There’s lots of good stuff here!

Appreciate your taking the time to write along with the hints and suggestions.