What are the Best Tips for Hand Knitting?

Christine Hudson

Hand knitting can be a relaxing and rewarding hobby, or it can be a frustration. The key to creating a garment that fits involves understanding a few basics in hand knitting. Each pattern may require a slightly different yarn, stitch type or size of knitting needles. Many patterns will say what materials and knitting needles are needed, but some may not. For those patterns which are not specific, there are some basic hand-knitting tips to help.

A hand knitted sweater.
A hand knitted sweater.

A very basic part of knitting is understanding needle sizes. Knitting needles typically come in sizes 0 to 50 inches in the US (0 to 127 cm), with the smaller numbers meaning a smaller diameter. The smaller the diameter, the more tightly the stitches will usually be. Garments that should have tight knitting and be close-fitting will generally need a knitting needle size of 0 to 8 inches (0 to 20 cm). Those which are designed to be loose-fitting and more breathable may require the use of larger size needles.

Knitting needles and yarn.
Knitting needles and yarn.

When the needles have been chosen, it is then time to decide on a yarn. Yarn is available in many types of synthetic, natural and blended fibers. Natural fibers tend to be more durable, but slightly harder to wash, while the synthetic kinds are normally easier to care for, but more rough on the skin. The blends are designed to have the same attributes as natural yarn, but are generally cheaper. The most helpful way of deciding on what yarn to use is for individuals to go to a craft or fabric store and feel the different yarns available—it helps for individuals to not only think about how the yarn will feel, but how easy or difficult it might be to work with.

Some hand-knitting patterns will state how many stitches create an inch or centimeter with the particular needle size and yarn the creator used. This is typically displayed as "STS per inch" and is a good reference, but may not be exactly true for the yarn and needles the knitter has chosen. A difference in these measurements may create a big difference in the overall size of the garment, and it may not fit correctly. To find out how many stitches the yarn and needles chosen will need to make an inch, the knitter can simply knit a few stitches and measure until she reaches an inch. This can then be applied to the pattern to create a garment which meets the necessary measurements.

Circular and flat hand-knitting may be done with circular or flat needles. Flat needles will create a flat knit and are normally good for projects such as blankets, scarves or shawls. While it is possible to create garments such as shirts or socks with flat needles, it typically requires more time and steps to complete the seaming process. Circular needles will knit round garments when used correctly. Using circular needles is often referred to as "knitting in the round" — it is normally easier to knit socks, shirts and other rounded objects using circular needles because it doesn't require seaming.

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