A common misconception for people who do not knit or those just learning how is that there is just one technique. In truth, there are multiple knitting techniques, each used for a specific purpose. Of course, the average knitter would never use every known method but as knitting skills become stronger it would be necessary to use more than one.
When someone first learns to knit, the goal would be to gain confidence in just one basic technique. However, once accomplished it would be time to develop additional or more advanced techniques of knitting. Of course by learning more methods, an individual would have the opportunity to use a broader range of yarns and more complex patterns as a means of creating higher end knitted items.
The purpose of this article is to offer information about techniques used by most knitters but again, it takes a lot of practice and time to master every method listed. So we do not complicate the matter, we created categories to include beginner, intermediate, and advanced knitters, each with examples of techniques most commonly used. We want to point out that regardless of the chosen technique, there is a casting on to get a knitted piece started and a casting or binding off, which finishes the item.
Adding, increasing, reducing, or subtracting stitches is how shaped clothing is knitted. In addition, most patterns can be modified simply by using multiple colors of yarn or switching up the size and type of knitting needles used. Overall, knitting is based on a two stitch concept, which most people know as “knit” and “purl”. However, by using various combinations of knit and purl, virtually hundreds of unique items could be knitted.
When first getting started, a beginner should learn one of the two basic stitches. Although the type and complexity of knitted items would be limited, a person would have the ability to create items such as winter scarves, potholders, and dishcloths. The following are specific techniques that would be ideal for a beginner to learn.
- Drop Stitch – To create open vertical stripes, this would be the perfect technique. Using solid fabric, a person would begin knitting stitches and then drop one or several stitches on purpose. This unique method creates a ladder or run, which goes to the edge or bottom of the item. Based on how drop stitches are used several unique and beautiful looks could be achieved.
- Intarsia Stitch – While this is one of the harder techniques within the beginner category, someone with good skills in basic stitches should pick up on this quickly. For this, several different colors of yarn would be used along with standard needles. Then, to keep idle yarn out of the way, sewing bobbins are ideal. A person would knit to the point of changing color at which time the next color would be brought underneath the prior color. There are variations of this technique but for a beginner, we suggest using a pattern that calls for vertical stripes in straight rows.
- Rib Stitch – This is another great technique for a beginner, which consists of knit and purl stitches being alternated on the same row, giving a ribbed appearance. This particular method is used to create elastic ribbing on necklines and cuffs for basic sweaters.
- Seed Stitch – The other name for this method is moss stitch, which involves one knit stitch being alternated with one purl stitch for full rows. From there, a person could choose to knit or purl across the complete row using a raised texture if wanted.
- Shadow Stitch – Sometimes, this is called an Illusion Stitch, which is used to make patterns that change depending on the direction the knitted item is viewed. Although the name sounds challenging, this is actually an easy technique used by beginner and intermediate knitters. This method consists of two rows of knitted yarn of one color followed by two rows of knitted yarn of a second color with this pattern repeated. If wanted, the rows can also be purled, which still creates an amazing effect.
- Slip Stitch – For this technique, a stich would be passed from the left knitting needle to the right one but without creating a knitted stitch. In other words, the yarn passes behind or in front of a slip stitch, making it virtually invisible. The outcome is a small horizontal bar that looks much like woven cloth. Another option for this technique involves knitting on the adjacent row so the stitch is much taller than other stitches. While a beginner would need to practice, once mastered, the slip stitch is fun to work with.
- Stockinette Stitch – Also called the stocking stitch, this is the most recommended stitch for a person to learn on. This flat woven stitch is produced by repeating a knitted row and purled row.
Some knitting techniques used by intermediate knitters are still relatively easy while others tend to be more challenging. Below are some examples of popular methods used.
- Diamond Stitch – By using a beginner Seed or Moss Stitch along with Stockinette Stitches for the background, an individual would create a Diamond Stitch with beautiful texture. A variation of this is lozenges, which are made by connecting diamond shapes.
- Fair Isle Stitch – When using yarn of multiple colors, this is one of the more popular techniques used. The name comes from Fair Isle Scotland where knitting multicolored garments and linens are a way of life. Typically, this technique would be used with at least five different colors although only two colors would be used per row. However, these two colors would only be worked in the round and limited in length.
- Mosaic Stitch – Although this technique produces beautiful items, it is relatively easy for an intermediate knitter. Two colors of yarn would be held to one side with the knitter working with only one color at a time. While there are variations, a popular technique consists of casting on one row of just one yarn color followed by the second yarn color being added and knitted on two rows going across and then back. The visual effect of color but also height difference is stunning.
- Slip Stitch – This method is also used by intermediate knitters using two colors of yarns but four stitches. For instance, the stitches would be labeled 1, 2, 3, and 4 or A, B, C, and D. Using circular knitting needles the first color or yarn would be knitted as 1/A, purled as 2/B, slipped wyib as 3/C, and slipped wyif as 4/D. After sliding the stitches back to the starting point, the second yarn color would be slipped wyib as 1/A, slipped wyif as 2/B, knitted as 3/C, and purled as 4/D. This pattern would repeat until the item has been finished.
The following are methods of knitting that someone with in-depth experience would use.
- Cable Stitch – This particular method of knitting is denser and less flexible than other techniques. Additionally, the gauge is very narrow. Usually, a Stockinette stitch is used along with a reverse stocking background to create changes in height but also an interesting meta-cabling effect.
- Cable Braid Stitch – This method of knitting could be done as a one or two-cable braid for a beginner and a three or four-cable braid for someone on an intermediate level. However, an advanced knitter could make a five-cable braid known as a Celtic Princess Braid, a six-cable braid called the Saxon Braid, or a seven-cable braid. These produce a crest on one side and trough on the other, which is visually interesting and pleasing. In all cases, the outcome is comprised of varying depths and cables with a serpentine design.
- Lace Stitch – Of all knitting techniques, this is considered one of the most difficult. This stitch is used to create holes in fabric but without compromising strength or integrity of the fabric. Again, there are several possibilities for a lace stitch but the one that expert knitters like best consists of stitches being on the right and wrong sides of the fabric. With this, pattern stitches would be knitted on one side only, which sets the created holes apart by two threads minimum.