This post continues the Domestic Servitude Series.

Once considered old ladies' busy work, I'm here to try to bring a comeback to knitting. With knitting you can provide items for the home that will not only last longer but usually work better and are far cheaper (in the long run). Knitting can be a peaceful time full of introspection while you create and craft.

Today I'm going to ask you to go out and buy a few supplies and try your hand at knitting. We'll learn the two simple stitches and then how to combine them to make a dishcloth. This was the way that I learned to knit and while I haven't done anything large scale I can say that I've made blankets, dishcloths, and socks. I'm pleased with my work and it's very enjoyable.

To do any of this practice as well as the dishcloth pattern at the end of this post you will need to have:

  • 1 pair size 7 (4.5mm) knitting needles
  • 1 skein any color 100% cotton yarn (I recommend Peaches and Creme brand)
  • scissors
  • ruler

Unlike the cartoons and pictures you may have seen, you will be holding the needles in an upside down V. I'm not sure why they ever had the needles with the ends pointing up. It's just odd to me. There are 2 common ways to hold the working yarn also called Continental Knitting and English Style Knitting. You can pick either way that you are comfortable with. I'll show you each of those as we learn the first stitches. Are you ready?

Casting On

Casting on is the way you add stitches to your needle in the number your pattern requires. There are several ways to cast on. The way I do it may not be the way you feel comfortable doing it. I do what's called the Long Tail cast on, and I'm going to include the video for that here as well as links for other ways to cast on. The Long Tail cast on does a full row of knitting as you create the stitches so if your first row isn't going to be knitting, then you need to do a different cast on method. Find one you feel comfortable doing.

The Knit Stitch

This first video is English Style Knit Stitch. It's also called throwing yarn because you hold the working yarn in your right hand and 'throw' the working yarn over the needle. This is the way I stitch. Notice how the needle goes in the stitch from left to right? Pay attention to that.Knit stitches are always done with the left needle going into the working stitch from left to right. That's important to remember.
The second video is Continental Style Knit Stitch. Knitters of this style hold the working yarn in their left hand and are called 'pickers.' Notice how she just picks the yarn up with her left needle?

If you only do knit stitches you get a pattern called the Garter stitch. You will be doing this pattern for part of the dishcloth pattern below.

The Purl Stitch

The second stitch is called the purl stitch. Once you know these two stitches you can do anything with knitting because it'a all a combination of knit and purl stitches. The purl stitch is the backside of the knit stitch. It's like you are doing the knit stitch backwards.

I'm going to show you as I did with the Knit Stitch the two common ways, English and Continental.

Notice as you watch these videos that the difference between knit and purl is that in purl you insert the needle from right to left. Opposite of knit. Now, you'll also see that the working yarn is in front of your work.

It's a simple as that. The hardest part for me was learning how I preferred to hold my yarn and to keep a consistent tension. That comes with practice. When I first started out my stitches were really tight. Now they are just right.

The Gauge

Every knitting pattern has a gauge indicated. It's commonly written like 4 sts = 1 in. which reads 4 stitches equals 1 inch. With every new pattern you do you will want to do a swatch 4 inches by 4 inches and using a ruler count the number of stitches in one inch. This is your gauge. Say when you count you get 6 stitches per inch when the gauge is 4. You will want to loosen up your tension or use a larger needle to compensate and get the gauge right. Same for if your measure is less than the gauge. You will want to use a smaller needle or tighten up your tension.

Gauging a Swatch of Knitting

Why does this matter? Well, for things like dishcloths it doesn't. But if you move on to socks or sweaters and other clothing items you'll want to make sure you will be able to make it the right size, so knowing your gauge and matching it to the pattern will be more accurate.

How to Bind Off

Binding off is also called casting off. Just like with casting on, there are many ways to do it. You can find several videos on YouTube on how to cast off if you prefer a different method.

Now you are ready to put your skills together in your first knitting project! I have a basic dishcloth here that will use both the knit and purl stitches you learned above.

Note about abbreviations

Every pattern can have a different abbreviation key for the stitches but there are some very common choices and I'll tell you what the ones are for the following pattern.

K = Knit stitch

P = Purl stitch

sts = stitches

rep from * = repeat pattern from * to *

Basketweave Dishcloth/Washcloth

Yarn: Lily Sugar ‘n Cream, here shown in ecru, or your favorite color

Needles: US size 7 or your preferred dishcloth needles

Cast on 36 sts.

Rows 1-2: K Row 3: K. Row 4: K3, P to last 3 sts, K3. Row 5: K 3,*K1, P4, K1, rep from * to last 3 sts, K3. Row 6: K 3, *P1, K4, P1, rep from * to last 3 sts, K3. Row 7: K 3,*K1, P4, K1, rep from * to last 3 sts, K3. Row 8: K 3, *P1, K4, P1, rep from * to last 3 sts, K3. Row 9: K. Row 10: K3, P to last 3 sts, K3. Row 11: K 3, *P2, K2, P2, rep from * to last 3 sts, K3. Row 12: K3, *K2, P2, K2, rep from * to last 3 sts, K3. Row 13: K 3, *P2, K2, P2, rep from * to last 3 sts, K3. Row 14: K3, *K2, P2, K2, rep from * to last 3 sts, K3.

Repeat rows 3-14 2 more times. Repeat rows 3-10 one time.

P one row. K one row.

Bind off. Sew in ends.

Enjoy knitting!