Learning to knit is a lot of fun, and it's not as difficult as you might think. This guide to the basics and beyond has everything you need to get started, whether you've never picked up needles before or just need a refresher.
Essential Knitting Skills and Tools
There are several basic skills involved in knitting. These are the stitches and methods that you will use in every knitting project. In the case of the knit and purl stitches, they form the foundation for more advanced stitches that you'll learn in the future.
You can learn all of these with one simple project: My First Knitting Project.
You will also need a few basic knitting tools to get started. Don't go all out at first, just pick up a pair of needles (US size 6 to 8 is perfect for beginners), a ball of yarn (medium weight is easiest for learning), and a crochet hook or yarn needle. The rest will come later, so save your money until you get into it and have a better idea of what you need (or want).
Picking a Good Pattern for Beginners
Once you have the basics down, it's time to pick your first project. It's a good idea to start with something small and flat that doesn't require shaping.
Scarves are a great place to begin because they're so long that it forces you to really get to know the basic stitches. Also, dishcloths are fun and quick projects that simply require you to knit a flat square. They're both also useful projects and keeping your finished knitwear in sight is a great motivation to keep knitting.
Learn more about knitting skill level to help you choose a good beginner project.
Once you've reached the end of your knitting, all is not quite finished. Depending on the project, you will need to do one or several of the following before your work is done:
Many knitters enjoy the process of knitting more than these finishing tasks. It's true that they're not a lot of fun (they're not bad, though), but you cannot enjoy what you've created without them. Learn to love (or at least enjoy) these skills and avoid a stash of unfinished projects.
Learning New Skills
Once you're comfortable with the basics and have successfully finished a project or two, there are several other skills to try. Here are a few that are well-suited to beginners:
Try not to take on too much at once, but don't be afraid to challenge yourself. Remember, knitting is little more than making a series of loops across a row of stitches. Most patterns are very good about explaining complex or unique techniques and you can always search for the answers.
We all have problems with our knitting from time to time, but most of them are easily fixable. The worst thing that can ever happen when you do something wrong is that you have to tear the work out and start over (knitters have a sense of humor and call this frogging). Some mistakes, like a dropped stitch, can be fixed in less dramatic ways.
You will also want to learn about proper stitch orientation so you can put the stitches back on your needle correctly if (and when) they fall off.
Every knitter before you has probably had the same questions and most are willing to help. Knitting Paradise is a great community to take your questions to. You will also find Ravelry to be an excellent source -- it's kind of like a social network for yarn lovers.