How to Knit and Crochet

Learn the basics! Plus knitting instructions, crochet patterns and practical projects for all levels.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
January/February 1984
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 Learn to knit and crochet warm winter craft projects.
PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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Welcome to the MOTHER EARTH NEWS mini-manual of winter craft projects. This article contains something for knitters and crocheters of every level of skill, from an easy scarf to a multi-cabled sweater. It explains the basics of both arts to aid the novice and to help jar the memory of the rusty.

Of course, there may, be a few people who initially won't be enthusiastic about such enterprises. "Why knit?" a noncraftsperson may grumble as he or she watches—fascinated nonetheless—while brilliant-hued Fair Isle sweaters, intricate fisherman's jerseys, or complicated cable pullovers emerge from an experienced knitter's speedily clicking needles. Well, aside from the satisfaction of creating a beautiful garment, knitting offers you the chance to do it better for less: We figured out from a yarn-sample card that an Icelandic sweater (retailing for $125) could be knitted for about $25 in yarn!

To be sure, that's using your own labor, but what kind of price can you attach to what might otherwise be wasted time, anyway? You see, one of the marvelous benefits of knitting is that it can be practiced anywhere and anytime a person has a few spare minutes. Who hasn't envied a needle clicker during a long, boring town meeting, political speech, or other obligatory function? That person's twiddling up something useful while many other folks are twiddling only their thumbs!

Crocheting (the needle-arts cousin of knitting) has delighted advocates, too. Some folks prefer crocheting, because it is faster than knitting . . . and, since it involves using only one needle, it is a bit easier to learn. (Many wise craftspersons learn both arts and then are able to employ whichever one is appropriate for the project they're undertaking.)

So draw a good light close by your favorite easy chair, throw another log on the fire, lean back, and dig into this mini-manual on how to knit and crochet. For the price of a few hours of your time and a few dollars for the basic supplies, you can have a rewarding pastime to enrich the rest of your life.

The Basics

Below you'll find directions for both knitting and crocheting, which should get a novice started. However, we strongly recommend supplementary reading, plus-if possible-attendance at a class or two. Many yarn shops offer instruction. Or try your local Y, other community groups, or even a skilled relative or neigh­bor for lessons. With a little coaching, you can have that first warm, cozy scarf or hat done before you know it.

How to Knit

Casting On

  1. Make a slipknot on the needle, about 2 feet from the end of the yarn (Fig. 1).
  2. Loop the end yarn around your left thumb and hold the needle in your right hand (Fig. 2).
  3. Insert the needle through the un­derside of the thumb loop (Fig. 3).
  4. With the right hand, wrap the yarn from the ball over the point of the needle from the back (Fig. 4).
  5. Draw it through the loop (Fig. 5).
  6. Gently pull the free end of the yarn with the left hand to tighten the stitch, while slipping the loop off your thumb.

Knitting

Hold the needle with the required number of cast-on stitches in your left hand and the other needle in your right hand. Insert the right needle into the front of the first stitch on the left needle from the left side (in other words, poke the needle up into the stitch), keeping the ball yarn to the back of your work. Now, with the right hand, bring the yarn over the point of the right needle. Draw the yarn through the stitch, and slip the old stitch off the left needle (Fig. 6).

Repeat the sequence as needed. You'll notice as you knit that a new row is being formed on the right needle. Always keep pushing your work up so that the stitch on which you are working is near the tip of the left needle. When an entire row has been knitted, switch the finished work to the left hand and begin the procedure again.

Purling

The purl stitch has two differences from the knit stitch.

  1. In plain knitting, you keep your yarn at the back of your work. In purling, you bring it to the front.
  2. In plain knitting, you insert your needle in front of the stitch from the left side. In purling, you insert your needle in front of the stitch from the right side (poke down). With the right hand, pass the yarn over and under the tip of the right-hand needle (Fig. 7). Draw the yarn through the stitch and slip the old stitch off the left needle.

Increasing

When you wish to increase the number of stitches in a row, knit first into the front of the stitch to make one stitch but do not slip the old stitch off the left nee­dle. Next, knit into the back of the same stitch to make another stitch (Fig. 8). Now, slip the old stitch off the left nee­dle. You'll find that two stitches will be transferred to the right needle instead of just one.

If you need to increase while purling, purl first in front of the stitch to make one stitch, but do not slip the old stitch off the left needle. Now, purl into the back of the same stitch to make another stitch (Fig. 9). Slip the old stitch off the left needle ... and you'll see that two stitches have been transferred to the right needle instead of one.

Decreasing

On a knitting row, you can decrease by knitting two stitches together (Fig. 10).

On a purling row, you can decrease by purling two stitches together (Fig. 11).

Yarn Over

If you're knitting, bring the yarn to the front of the work, then over the right-­hand needle to the back of the work. With the yarn in this position, insert the right-hand needle in the next stitch on the left-hand needle (Fig. 12) and complete a knit stitch. One extra loop is now on the right-hand needle.

For purling, bring the yarn to the front of the work, then over the right-hand nee­dle to the back of the work. Again bring the yarn to the front of the work. Now, with the yarn in this position. insert the right-hand needle in the next stitch on the left-hand needle and complete a purl stitch. One extra loop is now on the right-­hand needle (Fig. 13).

Binding Off

Begin by knitting two stitches loosely. With the left needle, pass the first stitch over the second one and the tip of the right needle, which leaves one stitch on the right needle. Knit the next stitch and repeat the process. Continue until all of the stitches except one have been bound off. Break the yarn and draw the end through the remaining stitch.

Knitting Abbreviations

K: knit

P: purl

inc: increase

dec: decrease

st(s): stitch(es)

tog: together (at the same time)

beg: beginning

sl: slip stitch to the right needle without knitting

psso: pass slipped stitch over following stitch

yo: yarn over

An asterisk (*) means repeat the in­structions following the asterisk as many times as indicated. Sometimes instead of an asterisk you'll see a phrase such as (K2 tog, K2) 5 times. This means that what­ever is specified in the parentheses should be repeated the number of times indicat­ed after the closed parentheses.

Knitting Projects for All Levels

If you are a beginner, start practicing with a rib-stitch scarf. If you already know the basics, learn how to knit a rainbow ripple afghan. For more experienced knitters, try a hand-to-hand sweater or hats!

How to Crochet

The Foundation Chain (or Chain Stitch)

  1. Holding the broad bar of the hook as you would a pencil, make a loop with the yarn, and then catch the yarn with your hook and pull it through the loop to produce a slipknot (Fig. 1).
  2. Lay some yarn from the ball be­tween the fingers of your free hand, with the strand wrapped once around the little finger, then under and over the other fin­gers as shown (Fig. 2).
  3. To crochet the chain stitch, catch the thread from the left forefinger and draw it through the loop on the hook (Fig. 3). Always bring the thread from behind the hook.
  4. Repeat this process until you have the desired number of stitches (Fig. 4).

Single Crochet

  1. Count back two chain stitches-do not count the loop on your hook!-and insert the hook into the second chain (Fig. 5).
  2. Catch the ball thread and draw it through the chain (Fig. 6).
  3. You'll now have two loops on the hook. Wrap the ball yarn over the hook and draw it through the two loops. You've completed one single crochet (Fig. 7).
  4. Hook the next chain and repeat the process.

Half Double Crochet

The half double crochet is made by wrapping the yarn over the hook and then inserting it into the third chain from the hook. At that point, there will be three loops on the hook. Wrap the thread over and draw it through all three loops at once (Fig. 8).

Double Crochet

  1. Wrap the yarn over the hook, then insert it into the fourth chain (Fig. 9).
  2. Wrap the yarn over the hook and pull it through the stitch. There will now be three loops on the hook (Fig. 10).
  3. Wrap the thread over and draw it through two loops, leaving two loops on the hook (Fig. 11).
  4. Wrap the thread over the hook again and draw it through the two re­maining loops, so one loop remains on the hook. You've completed one double crochet (Fig. 12).

Treble Crochet

  1. Wrap the thread over the hook twice, then insert the hook in the fifth chain from the hook. Wrap the thread over and draw it through the stitch, leav­ing four loops on the hook.
  2. Wrap the thread over the hook again (Fig. 13), and draw it through two loops, leaving three loops on the hook.
  3. Wrap the thread over again and draw it through two more loops, leaving two loops on the hook. Wrap the thread over once more and draw it through the two remaining loops, leaving one loop on the hook. You've completed one treble crochet.

Other Terms and Techniques

There are several other terms and tech­niques you'll need to become acquainted with that will crop up in crochet direc­tions. One is the slip stitch, in which you insert a hook in a stitch, wrap the yarn over, and then draw the yarn through both the stitch and the loop on the hook with the same motion. The slip stitch dif­fers from single crochet in that you don't wrap the yarn over again before you pull it through the loop on the hook. It's often used to join the ends of a short chain together so you can start on shaped items such as hats, bedroom slippers, or doilies.

Unlike larger articles-afghans, for ex­ample-which are usually crocheted in back-and-forth rows, shaped articles are made in rounds. The last stitch in a round is joined to the first stitch by means of a slip stitch before the crocheter begins the next round.

If you need to increase one stitch, work two stitches in the same stitch of a previ­ous row or work a stitch in the turning chain at the beginning or end of a row . . . the pattern directions will specify which method to use.

To decrease a stitch, work two stitches together by working the first stitch all the way to the final yarn over, but don't yarn over. Instead, begin working the next stitch until its final yarn over. At that point, perform the yarn over and draw the yarn through all of the loops on your hook.

Crocheting Abbreviations

ch: chain

sc: single crochet

hdc: half double crochet

dc: double crochet

tr: treble crochet

sl st: slip stitch

st(s): stitch(es)

rnd: round

inc: increase

dec: decrease

beg: beginning

An asterisk (*) means repeat the in­structions following the asterisk as many times as indicated. Sometimes instead of an asterisk you will see a phrase such as (ch 2, skip 2 ch, dc in next ch) 4 times. This means that the directions included in the parentheses should be repeated as many times as specified. 

Crocheting Projects for All Levels

To learn how to crochet cozy slippers and warm sweaters, see these articles:

How to Crochet Slippers in an Afternoon 

How to Crochet a Rainbow Sweater 

How to Crochet a Lob Cabin Pullover 


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