Hand knitting is a form of knitting, in which the knitted fabric is produced by hand, using needles.

While the origins of knitting are unclear, we know it has been practised in many different parts of the world, over many centuries, producing objects of great beauty as well as items fulfilling practical needs. When done by hand, it has used simple tools, such as hand-carved sticks of wood, bone, quill and ivory or metal wires and fine steel knitting needles that were commonplace in the 19th century.

Most filling knits (that includes plain, rib, purl pattern) can be made by hand or machine, although commercial fabrics are generally machine-made. Basic stitches are the knit stitch, a loop passed through the front of the preceding loop, and the purl stitch, drawn through the back.

Hand Knitting: Basic Steps

• Casting on:

With your right hand, make a loop over the needle, keeping your right index finger inside the loop (1) , make another loop with your left hand (2) and pull the first loop over the second (3-4). Tighten the resulting knot and begin again until you have all the stitches required (5).

• Plain knitting:

Insert the right-hand needle through the front lf the stitch on the left-hand needle (1). Wind the thread under and over the right hand needle, leaving the thread at the back (2). Draw the thread through the first stitch with the right hand needle (3-4). Take the stitch you have made onto the right hand needle (5) and repeat (6).

• Purling:

Inset the right-hand needle upwards through the front of the stitch (1). Make a loop over this needle with the thread at the front (2) and pull it through the stitch (3).


1. Flat Knitting:

Flat knitting uses two straight needles to make generally two-dimensional (flat) pieces. Flat knitting is usually used to knit flat pieces like scarves, blankets, afghans, and the backs, fronts and arms of sweaters (pullovers).

In flat knitting, generally stockinette stitch, the hand-knitter knits from right-to-left on one side of the fabric, turns the work (over), and then purls right-to-left back to the starting position. Usually the smooth side of the fabric is considered the right side, the one facing outwards for viewing; and the side that faces inwards, towards the body, the ridged side, is known as the wrong side. Thus, flat knitting involves knitting each row on the right side, then purling each row on the wrong side, etc. If each row is knit (no purls) this creates garter stitch, which has the same appearance on both sides and creates horizontal ridges offset by valleys, rather than a knit and purl side. Patterned stitching, such as cables, can be accomplished with either flat knitting, or in the round, however the technique must follow the desired pattern.

2. Circular Knitting:

Circular knitting (also called “knitting in the round”) creates a seamless tube. Knitting is worked in rounds (the equivalent of rows in flat knitting).

Originally, circular knitting was done using a set of four or five double-pointed knitting needles. Circular needles were later invented making this type of knitting easier. A circular needle resembles two short knitting needles connected by a cable of varying length between them. A circular knitting needle with a long cable can be used in place of straight needles to create larger flat-knitted pieces of fabric. Both types of circular knitting are used in creating pieces that are circular or tube-shaped, such as hats, socks, mittens, sleeves, and entire sweaters.

In circular knitting, the hand-knitter generally knits everything from one side, usually the right side. Circular knitting is usually carried out on a single circular needle. In such cases, the knitter can resort to a variety of alternative techniques, such as double-pointed needles, knitting on two circular needles, a Möbius strip-like “magic needle” approach (commonly known as “Magic Loop”), or careful use of slip-stitch knitting or equivalently double knitting to knit the back and front of the tube.

Fabric Finishing:

• Felting

Felting is the hand-knitters’ term for fulling, a technique for joining knitted or woven animal-yarn fibres. The finished product is put in hot water and agitated until it starts to shrink. The end result typically has a felt-like appearance but has reduced dimensions. Bags, mittens, vests, socks, slippers and hats are just a few items that can be felted.

• Needle felting

Needle felting is a technique used to add decoration to a knitted or felted piece, where raw roving is applied using a very sharp barbed felting needle by repeatedly piercing the roving and background together. Once washed in hot water, the appliqued decoration is fused with the background. Felted knitting can be cut with scissors without concern about fraying.


There are many hundreds of different knitting stitches used by knitters. A piece of knitting begins with the process of casting on, which involves the initial creation of the stitches on the needle. Different methods of casting on are used for different effects: one may be stretchy enough for lace, while another provides a decorative edging. Provisional cast-ons are used when the knitting will continue in both directions from the cast-on. There are various methods employed to cast on, such as the “thumb method” (also known as “slingshot” or “long-tail” cast-ons), where the stitches are created by a series of loops that will, when knitted, give a very loose edge ideal for “picking up stitches” and knitting a border; the “double needle method” (also known as “knit-on” or “cable cast-on”), whereby each loop placed on the needle is then “knitted on,” which produces a firmer edge ideal on its own as a border; and many more. The number of active stitches remains the same as when cast on unless stitches are added (an increase) or removed (a decrease).

Most Western-style knitters follow either the English style (in which the yarn is held in the right hand) or the Continental style (in which the yarn is held in the left hand).

There are also different ways to insert the needle into the stitch. Knitting through the front of a stitch is called Western knitting. Going through the back of a stitch is called Eastern knitting. A third method, called combination knitting, goes through the front of a knit stitch and the back of a purl stitch.

Once the knitted piece is finished, the remaining live stitches are “cast off”. Casting (or “binding”) off loops the stitches across each other so they can be removed from the needle without unravelling the item. Although the mechanics are different from casting on, there is a similar variety of methods.

In knitting certain articles of clothing, especially larger ones like sweaters, the final knitted garment will be made of several knitted pieces, with individual sections of the garment knit separately and then sewn together. Seamless knitting, where a whole garment is knit as a single piece, is also possible. Smaller items, such as socks and hats, are usually knit in one piece on double-pointed needles or circular needles.


Wikipedia contributors. (2020c, July 18). Hand knitting. Retrieved from https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hand_knitting

Hale, K. (n.d.). V&A · The history of hand-knitting. Retrieved from https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/the-history-of-hand-knitting