New knitters often have the problem of increasing stitches along the sides of their work without realizing it. There's one common but incorrect way of starting a new row of knitting that can easily cause a knitter to mistake one stitch for two. Here's how not to start a new row of knitting if you want to keep your edges—and stitch counts—even.
The Wrong Way
When you get to the end of the row, the needle with the stitches is in your right hand and the empty needle is in the left. To keep going, of course, you turn the knitting over, switch the needle with the stitches to your left hand and the empty needle to your right and keep on knitting.
The potential problem comes with how you hold the working yarn when you start knitting that first stitch. On knit rows, the yarn is at the back. You have to be careful to bring the yarn to the back under the needle rather than over it.
If you bring the yarn to the back over the needle, that pulls the first stitch of the row up. It will look like two loops on the needle instead of one. If you knit into both of these loops, you've just accidentally increased your stitches.
The Proper Way
Whenever you're knitting a new row make sure you bring the yarn to the back from below the needle. To be extra sure you're only knitting the stitches you're supposed to, give the work a little tug before you get started. This allows you to see that there's only one loop on the needle for the first stitch.
A Few Extra Tips
To experienced knitters, turning the work to start a new row is natural and they can do it without thinking twice. Don't worry if you're struggling at first or your tension is a little loose at the edges. You will get to that point the more you knit. To help you out, here are a few extra tips:
Tug on the last and first stitches of each row. Every time you start and end a row, pull the end stitches a little tighter than you normal while you knit the next stitch. These stitches tend to be a little looser than the middle stitches and a gentle pull will even out your tension.
Slip the first stitch on a new row. This tip is especially helpful with scarves and other knit pieces that have exposed edges. You can cure any tension problems and create a clean edge by simply slipping the first stitch of every row onto the empty needle without actually knitting it. Essentially, you're stretching the stitch across two rows. Just be sure to keep your working yarn in the back so you don't twist stitches.
Don't rely on your first few rows. At the beginning of any yarn project—knit or crochet—things look awkward and when you're a beginner it can look absolutely wrong. The trick is to keep going! In all likelihood, if you're following the tips on creating stitches and turning your work, it will look better after about 10 rows, if not sooner. You'll also get used to the technique and become familiar with what feels right and what doesn't.
Practice, practice, practice. Before tackling your first project, do some practice swatches of just about five inches square. Use a yarn that's easy to work with, such as worsted weight yarn, and just start knitting. Pay attention to your stitches and how the needles move as you go from one row to another. Don't be afraid to start over if things start to go really wrong, either. You'll get it before you realize it!