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10 Knitting Terms Every Beginner Should Know

  • 6 min read
Top 10 knitting terms you should know
Knitting for beginners (Photographer: Rebecca Grant | Source: Unsplash)

What is Knitting?

Knitting is a creative and functional craft that has been passed down through generations. It is the process of creating fabric by interlocking loops of yarn with knitting needles. This craft has been practised for centuries and is an accessible, popular and versatile technique for producing a wide range of garments, accessories, and decorative items. The basic principle of knitting involves manipulating a continuous strand of yarn with needles to form interconnected loops, creating a flexible and elastic textile. You also have to understand a variety of knitting terms to get started.

Understanding Various Knitting Terms

For beginners, learning to knit can be an exciting and daunting experience. One of the key aspects of learning to knit is understanding the various terms and terminology associated with the craft. Whether you are following a pattern, learning from a book, or watching tutorials online, it is important to have a good understanding of knitting terms. This knowledge will not only help you follow instructions accurately but also allow you to communicate effectively with other knitters and to seek help more easily when needed.

Let's explore the top 10 fundamental knitting terms that every novice knitter should be familiar with.

1. Yarn Weight

The term "yarn weight" pertains to the thickness of the yarn strand and holds significant importance in shaping the ultimate appearance and texture of a knitted piece. Common yarn weights include lace, fingering, sport, worsted, and bulky. It is vital for beginners to choose the appropriate yarn weight for their projects, as using the wrong weight can affect the size, drape, and overall appearance of the finished piece.

To learn more, read our guide on Standard Yarn Weights.

2. Gauge

Gauge represents the count of stitches and rows per inch accomplished by a knitter using specific yarn and needle size. Understanding and matching the gauge specified in a pattern is crucial for ensuring that the finished project matches the intended size. To determine the gauge, create a small sample (swatch, usually 10cm - 15cm square) using the yarn and needle size suggested in the pattern, then measure the number of stitches and rows per inch. If your count doesn't match the pattern, you may need to go up or down a needle size, adjust tension and/or assess the yarn choice.

3. Cast On

The cast-on is the initial row of stitches on the needle before the actual knitting begins. There are various cast-on methods, such as the long-tail cast-on, knitted cast-on, and cable cast-on. Each method creates a different edge, and beginners should familiarize themselves with at least one or two to suit different project requirements.

4. Knit and Purl

Knitting and purling are the fundamental stitches in knitting. Knit stitches create a smooth V-shaped pattern, while purl stitches form a raised horizontal line. Combinations of these two stitches create various textured patterns, allowing knitters to add depth and visual interest to their projects.

Knit and purl stitches unite to create texture and dimension. Photographer: rocknwool | Source: Unsplash
Knit and purl stitches unite to create texture and dimension. Photographer: rocknwool | Source: Unsplash

5. Stitch Markers

Stitch markers are small, removable markers that help identify specific points in a knitting pattern. They can be placed on the needle between stitches or on the knitted fabric to mark key locations, such as the beginning of a round, a pattern repeat, or increases/decreases. Using stitch markers assists in keeping track of progress and ensures accurate pattern execution.

6. Binding Off

Once the knitting is complete, binding off (also known as casting off) is the process of finishing the edge and securing the stitches. There are several bind-off techniques, each yielding a different edge finish. Common methods include the standard bind-off, stretchy bind-off, and picot bind-off. Choosing the appropriate bind-off method is essential for achieving the desired look and functionality of the finished project.

7. Blocking

Blocking involves shaping and setting the final dimensions of a knitted item. It involves gently hand washing the knitted piece and then pinning it into the desired shape and size before allowing it to dry. Blocking helps even out stitches, enhances drape, and ensures the finished project looks polished.

8. Yarn Over (YO) and Decreases

Yarnovers create new stitches and are often used in lace patterns to form decorative holes. Decreases, such as "knit two together" (k2tog) and "slip-slip-knit" (ssk), are techniques that reduce the number of stitches in a row. These techniques are fundamental for creating shaping in projects like sweaters and hats.

Photographer: rocknwool | Source: Unsplash
Photographer: rocknwool | Source: Unsplash

9. Cable

Cabling is a technique that involves crossing stitches over each other to create intricate and decorative patterns. Cables often add texture and visual interest to knitted garments, such as sweaters and scarves. The process typically involves using a cable needle to temporarily hold a small set of stitches to the front or back of the work while the next couple of stitches are worked before working those off the cable needle. This creates a twisted, cable-like effect. Cable patterns vary in complexity, from simple twists to more intricate designs, making them popular for knitters looking to enhance their skills and create visually stunning projects.

Gray knitted beanie hat
Photographer: rocknwool | Source: Unsplash

10. Selvedge

The selvedge edge, also known as the selvage or selvedge, is the outermost edge of a knitted fabric. It is formed by the first and last stitches of every row and plays a crucial role in a project's overall appearance and stability. A neat selvedge edge makes it easier to seam pieces together, provides a clean finish to the fabric, and can be essential in creating a polished look for items like scarves, shawls, and blankets. Different knitting patterns may recommend specific selvedge techniques, such as slipping each row's first or last stitch, to achieve the desired result. Understanding how to maintain a tidy selvedge edge contributes to the overall professionalism of a knitted piece.

Bonus: The Best Knitting Yarns to Get You Started

Selecting the right yarn is crucial for the success and enjoyment of your knitting projects. ITO and Malabrigo are well-known brands for their high-quality, unique yarns catering to traditional and modern knitting aesthetics.

Here are our top three ITO yarns that are well-loved by knitters of all skill levels:

1. Sensai

ITO Sensai yarns for lightweight knitting
ITO Sensai yarns (Image credit: ITO Yarn)

A luxurious blend of mohair and silk, Sensai is a delicate and lightweight yarn that adds a beautiful halo to your projects. Ideal for creating ethereal scarves, shawls, and garments, Sensai comes in a range of subtle and sophisticated colours.

2. Kinu

ITO Kinu yarns (Image credit: ITO Yarn)- Knitting Terms for Beginners
ITO Kinu yarns (Image credit: ITO Yarn)

Kinu is a smooth, plant-based yarn made from 100% silk noil. With a slightly rustic texture, Kinu is perfect for creating breathable and comfortable garments. Its silk fibres give projects a lovely sheen and drape, making it an excellent choice for warm-weather accessories.

3. Gima 8.5

ITO Gima (Image credit: ITO Yarn) - Knitting Terms for Beginners
ITO Gima (Image credit: ITO Yarn)

Gima 8.5 is a crisp and smooth yarn made from cotton. It has a tape-like structure that knits up with a subtle sheen and a breathable fabric. Perfect for summer garments and accessories, Gima 8.5 provides a modern and elegant finish to your projects.

Our top three Malabrigo yarns include:

1. Rios

Malabrigo Rios yarn (Image credit: Malabrigo Yarn)
Malabrigo Rios yarn (Image credit: Malabrigo Yarn)

A worsted weight, 100% merino wool yarn, Rios is known for its softness and vibrant colours, making it perfect for a variety of projects, including cardigans and sweaters, hats, scarves and cowls, and blankets and throws.

2. Sock

Malabrigo Sock yarn for colourful knitting
Malabrigo Sock yarn (Image credit: Malabrigo Yarn)

A fingering weight yarn, Malabrigo Sock is a blend of merino wool and nylon, offering durability and a soft, squishy texture, ideal for socks and lightweight garments, including gloves, mittens, baby clothes, and shawls.

3. Rasta

Malabrigo rasta yarn for knitting
Malabrigo Rasta yarn (Image credit: Malabrigo Yarn)

A super bulky weight yarn made from 100% merino wool, Malabrigo Rasta is perfect for quick-knit projects such as scarves, cowls, hats, and blankets. Its vibrant colours and plush texture add a touch of luxury to your creations.

Start Your Knitting Journey Today

It can be overwhelming for a beginner to encounter so many new knitting terms, but taking the time to familiarize yourself with them will be incredibly beneficial for you as a knitter in the long run. Whether you're following a pattern or creating your own, understanding these knitting terms will give you the confidence to tackle a wide range of knitting projects. So, grab your needles, choose your yarn, and dive into the wonderful world of knitting!

Browse our collection of knitting yarns and knitting needles at Thread Collective Australia today.

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