So, you’ve been knitting for a while, but you aren’t happy with your finished fabric. Your stockinette looks uneven and bumpy and you’re not sure what the problem is!
You want to know how to get a smooth and even fabric, and you’re ready to level-up your knitting knowledge to become a better knitter.
Great! Because below, I’ve compiled a list of 25 knitting tips and techniques that will help you even out those stitches and instantly make you a better knitter!
25 Knitting Tips That Will Instantly Make you a Better Knitter
Ready to learn how to become a better knitter? Let’s do this!
1) Start with good quality ingredients
If you want to produce good quality knits, you need to start with good quality ingredients. Yarn is at the heart of your knitting, and not all yarn is created equally. So, it’s vital that you put some careful thought into your yarn choice for a project.
Sure, good quality yarn bought from your local yarn store (LYS) is more expensive than the dollar store variety, but believe me when I say that cheap, shoddy yarn will result in cheap, shoddy knits – no matter how good a knitter you are.
Once you start investing in better yarn, you will start producing better products – irresistible knits that you’re excited to wear and proud to gift.
So, buy the best you can afford. It is absolutely worth it!
2) Choose the right yarn for your project
Beyond investing in better quality yarn, it’s important to buy yarn that is suitable for your project. There is a vast amount of yarns available, dyed in an array of spectacular colours. But colour isn’t the only aspect of choosing yarn that you need to think about. When choosing yarn, you’ll also want to consider:
Think about how your knits will be used or worn, who they are for, and what properties are necessary for your knits to function effectively. Here’s some ideas to get you started:
Soft ~ Durable ~ Elastic ~ Breathable ~ Warm ~ Cool ~ Machine washable ~ Natural ~ Biodegradable ~ Renewable ~ Smooth ~ Textured ~ Light coloured ~ Dark coloured ~ Variegated ~ Light ~ Drapey ~ Heavy ~ Absorbent ~ Repellant
Knowing these things, you can make more informed decisions about fiber content, thickness, texture, and colour.
2) Fiber Content
What is the yarn made from? Where and how was it produced? Is it suitable for the project?
In general, animal fibers (wool, cashmere, mohair, angora, alpaca, etc.) are a good choice for cold-weather accessories and clothes because they are warm, cozy and light weight. They are more elastic than plant fibers, so they will hold their shape better.
Plant-based fibers (cotton, flax, hemp etc.) are typically less elastic than animal fibers, so they are better for garments that are straight, have more drape and don’t depend on rib for “fit.” They retain less heat and are breathable, making them a great choice for spring/summer garments.
Plant fibers are usually stronger and more durable than animal fibers, making them ideal for home accessories.
Yarn comes in a variety of weights (thicknesses), ranging from very thin (lace) to very thick (jumbo). The thickness of the yarn you choose will affect the drape and feel of the finished fabric.
When knitting complex stitch patterns, cables or lace, you want the stitch-work to speak for itself. You need good stitch definition, so a smooth yarn is the best choice. Fussy, novelty yarns will distract from the beauty of the stitches.
Yarn ply also affects stitch definition. In general, the greater the number of plies, the greater the stitch definition.
Choosing colours can be fun. It’s an opportunity to be creative and express your own personal style. But if you’ve been in a yarn store lately, and stood there awe-struck by the overwhelming choice available, you know it can be stressful too!
Simple stitch patterns are best for colourful, self-striping and variegated yarns. So, if you find yourself drawn to a beautiful hand-painted or sparkly novelty yarn, then stick to a simple stockinette pattern, and let the yarn really shine.
If working complicated stitch patterns, stick to plainer yarn and lighter, solid colours to let the stitches stand out. Very dark yarn (like navy blue and black) will hide your stitches.
Once you have chosen your colour, you must make sure that there are enough balls or skeins from the same dye lot to finish your project. You should get into the habit of buying an extra ball in the same dye lot (just in case) that you can return to the store if you don’t need it. Buying a skein later from a different dye lot might result in slight (but noticeable) colour variations in your work.
If you want to learn more about choosing the right yarn for your project, I recommend this Craftsy course by Clara Parkes: Know Your Yarn: Choose the Perfect Yarn Every Time. (affiliate link).
3) Use the right tools for the job
Knitting needles come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and materials. To get better results with your knitting, you need to know how to choose the right needles for the job. For example, for each weight category of yarn, there is a recommended needle size (or a range of needle sizes):
If the needle size is too small for the yarn, you will get a stiff fabric with tight stitches. If the needle size is too big for the yarn, you’ll end up with a looser, floppier fabric.
These are just guidelines, not hard and fast rules. They are meant to help you decide what needles to start with, but you’ll need to knit a gauge swatch (see tip #4), using your yarn and needles before you can know if they will be the winning combo.
Tip: Keep your ball band! That handy-dandy piece of paper wrapped around the yarn is chock-full of essential information (fiber content, color, dye lot, yardage/meters per grams/oz), including the recommended needle size and gauge.
The material your needles are made from can also impact your knitting. For example, if you’re using metal needles and you find it hard to control the stitches or they are slipping off the needles too easily, try knitting with bamboo or wood needles – they tend to be a little “stickier.”
On the other hand, if you’re using wooden or bamboo needles and you’re finding the stitches don’t slip off your needles easily enough, then try metal needles.
As with most things, it’s a matter of personal preference, so experiment until you find the right fit for you.
4) Knit a gauge swatch
If you are following a pattern and/or you want your finished knits to come out a certain size, then you must knit a gauge swatch. It’s the only way to know, with any accuracy, how big or small your project will turn out to be.
Every pattern will tell you what the recommended gauge is. This is how many stitches there are in one inch of fabric. Your goal is to match that gauge exactly. If you are off (even by 1/2 a stitch per inch) it can make all the difference.
Seriously, do not skip this step! (Yes, I know you want to get started with your project, but make this the very first thing you do!)
Even if you use the recommended yarn and needle size, your tension may be different – your gauge is unique to you. The only way to make sure you have the right gauge is to do this step!
5) Hold and tension the yarn consistently
If your knitting looks “messy” or bumpy, it is because you have uneven stitches across a row (some stitches are bigger than others). To knit a nice, smooth fabric, you need to keep your yarn at the same tension as you create each stitch.
You can do this by tensioning the yarn between your fingers and easing out yarn as you need it. Again, there is no “right” way to tension your yarn. It will become a matter of personal preference and comfort. And you will get better with practice.
6) Get in the mood
Your mood can have a surprising impact on your knitting tension. If you’re stressed and wound up when you start knitting, your tension may also be tight and wound up.
As the soothing and repetitive motions of knitting work their magic, you’ll (hopefully) start to relax a little. But, unfortunately, your tension may also ease up, and you’ll notice the change over the length of your fabric. That, you don’t want.
So, if you’re feeling stressed or tense (and know that this will negatively impact your project), spend some time getting in the mood and relaxing before you start your project. A few things you could try:
- Listen to relaxing music
- Make some soothing tea
- Meditate for a few minutes
- Spritz the room with some of your favourite essential oils, use a diffuser, or burn incense
- Practice deep breathing exercises.
Alternatively, you could have a “warm-up” project that you work on to release tension, before working on your important project.
7) Make all your stitches the same size
To get a nice even fabric, you need each stitch to be the same size. The combination of having an even tension on the yarn, and the needle size determine the size of each stitch.
As you knit, try to make sure that you are wrapping the yarn about the fattest part of the needle and not the narrower tips.
Also, avoid the urge to pull on the working yarn to tighten the stitch after you have created it. Your stitches should fit snugly around the needle but also slide easily along it.
8) Read the pattern all the way through
Before you cast on your stitches, take the time to read the pattern all the way through. As you do so, make sure you understand the instructions and imagine yourself knitting each step. Does it make sense? Do you understand how the garment is being constructed?
If not, take the time to think it through. Ask yourself, why the pattern says to do this or that. Doing this will make you a better knitter.
Don’t believe me?
Think of it as deciphering a secret code. Once you crack the code, you can use that knowledge to make more informed choices. For example, you’ll know which bits of “code” are essential and which ones can be altered (or ignored). You can start making changes within patterns to better suit your personal preferences.
Heck, you can even start writing your own patterns!
9) Practice new techniques before you start your project
If, after reading the pattern through, you realize there are some new techniques you are unfamiliar with, take some time to practice them with scrap yarn before you start your project.
For example, if you’re trying a new cast on method, try it out a few times with some old yarn so that you don’t waste your “good” yarn (you know, the stuff we talked about in tip #1!).
It’s also a good idea to practice a new stitch pattern before you start knitting your project, so you can get all of your mistakes out of your system.
To do this, grab some old yarn and cast on enough stitches to equal at least 4” of stitch pattern, plus two or three stitches on each edge. Some stitch patterns occur over a certain number of stitches, so you might want to fudge the number of stitches to allow for full repeats.
For example, if you’re practicing a 6 stitch cable pattern, make sure that you cast on a number of stitches that is divisible by 6, and then add a couple of extra stitches for each edge.
10) “Read” your knitting
Making sense of how knitted fabric is constructed will allow you to “read” your knitting and anticipate the pattern. You’ll be able to know what stitch you need to knit next just by looking at it.
This will free you up to “just knit” without having to stop to look at the written instructions every two seconds.
For example, when knitting a rib stitch pattern, you knit the knits, and purl the purls. With seed stitch, it’s the opposite – you purl the knits and knit the purls. So, once you have set up your stitch pattern you should know what comes next just by looking at your stitches.
With experience (and deliberate practice), you’ll be able to use this technique for more complicated patterns.
Reading your knitting can help you to identify mistakes soon after you’ve made them, (rather than 2 inches of knitting later). Which leads me to my next tip…
11) Check your work regularly
As you knit across a row, check your work for mistakes. Checking your work regularly is the best way to identify mistakes as soon as they happen.
Every now and then, I stop to look at my fabric and inspect it for weird-looking stitches or something that just doesn’t look right.
Do this often and you’ll start noticing mistakes sooner rather than later. This can literally save you hours of time!
12) Keep detailed notes
It’s a good idea to keep a little notebook in your knitting bag at all times. Whenever you start a new project, write down all the important information. What important information? I’m glad you asked! Here are a few things you could note:
- The name of the pattern and the designer
- The yarn name and brand)you are using
- Fiber content
- Dye lot
- Washing instructions
- The needle size you are using (remember that gauge swatch we talked about? What size needle are you using to achieve the pattern gauge)
- Your gauge (before and after blocking)
- The date you started and finished the project
- Any alterations or modifications you make to the pattern
- What you like or don’t like about the pattern (or other thoughts that come up as you knit).
- Things you might do differently next time?
- Keep track of rows worked by using a tally system.
- Where you left off, and where you need to start from the next time you pick up your knitting
You’ll be grateful that you kept these detailed notes when you come back to a half-done project that you put aside six months ago. Believe me!
Tip: You can keep a record of your projects (including photos), yarn stash and notes in Ravelry.
13) Finish your row
This is a quick tip. Whenever possible, finish the row you’re working on before you put your knitting down. If you leave your knitting in the middle of a row, you may find that when you pick up your knitting again, your tension is different, and it could be visible in your fabric.
(My kids are certainly used to hearing me say “let me just finish this row…” Ha!)
14) Keep the stitches moving along
If you’re noticing random loose stitches scattered throughout your stockinette fabric, you have a tension problem. But this time, it’s related to how you manage the stitches on the needles before and after you knit them.
The goal is to keep the stitches on the left needle moving smoothly up close to the tip of the needle, and then after they are knit to the right needle, moved along smoothly to make room for new stitches. This way, each stitch is being created with the same amount of yarn.
It’s a good idea to have your stitches bunched up close to the tip of the left needle for easy knitting and flow. With the stitches nice and close to the tips, you can feed them out one at a time and they don’t have to be stretched or tugged to get them off the needle.<
But you must keep moving new stitches into place. If you just keep knitting without readjusting, you’ll be giving out more yarn for the stitches that are further from the tips, resulting in different sized stitches.
Once the new stitches are on the right-hand needle, you need to move those along to make room for new stitches.
You’ll want to do this every four or five stitches or so. If you try to knit too many stitches before adjusting, you’ll end up with bunches of stitches and a tension problem.
I use my lower three fingers (my pinkie, ring finger and middle finger) that clutch the needle to do this. Others use their thumb. Use whatever method works for you, just keep practicing. It will become automatic in no time.
15) Use your “smart” fingers for better control
With the stitches bunched close to the tips for easy knitting, you need to keep them under your control. Otherwise, they’ll slip off the tips before you are ready.
I do this by pressing the first stitch on the left needle (the one closest to the tip) against the needle using the middle finger of my left hand (I’m a Contintental knitter, so my left index finger is tensioning my yarn. English-style knitters might use their index finger to control these stitches).
When I’m ready to let the stitch slide, I give it a little help by pushing it up and off with my middle finger.
(Note: I borrowed the term “smart” fingers from Felicia Lo, who uses it in this article about knitting with speed and efficiency.)
16) Minimize your movements
If you want to become a faster and more efficient knitter, then you’d benefit from learning how the experts do it.
Watch this video of Miriam Tegels, the World’s Fastest Knitter. Notice how small her movements are? To knit more efficiently, you want to minimize the movements that all of your fingers and hands make when knitting. Pay attention to your own method of knitting and see how you might make your movements smaller and your technique more efficient.
17) Learn how to fix mistakes (big and small).
Mistakes are inevitable, but by learning how to fix them you will drastically improve your knitting knowledge and expertise. It is one of the best ways to learn and understand your knitting. Once you no longer fear making mistakes, you are free to make them.
And you will become a better knitter in the process of learning to fix them.
Don’t be afraid to rip out your work to where you made the mistake or even to rip it all out and start over. Ripping out is just a part of knitting. My motto is: “If in doubt, rip it out!” You won’t regret it.
For a more detailed course on how to fix your knitting mistakes, check out Ann Budd’s Craftsy class, Save Our Stitches: Fixing Knitting Mistakes. (Affiliate link)
18) Join new yarn at the beginning of a row
If possible, avoid joining new yarn in the middle of a row. Unless you are very experienced, or thoughtful about your method of joining yarn, you may end up with a noticeable hole and/or looser stitches at the join site.
This is particularly true if you are knitting stockinette stitch in a solid colour, where inconsistencies in the middle of your fabric will stand out. If you’re using a variegated yarn or a complex stitch pattern, the join site may not be as noticeable.
If you run out of yarn mid-row, I recommend unknitting (tinking) back to the beginning of the row and joining the new yarn at the edge. This way your yarn ends can be woven into the seams (or edge stitches) where they will be less noticeable.
19) Practice knitting without looking
Learning how to knit without looking is a great way to get familiar with your knitting. You have to feel your stitches, and this will help you become a better knitter.
By learning how to knit without looking, you’ll be able to maintain eye-contact with people when you talk to them, and you’ll be able to read books, attend lectures and presentations, or watch movies while you knit. All which translates into more knitting time!
20) Learn the Continental style
When I was a beginner knitter, I wanted to learn how to knit more efficiently. The consensus among experts seemed to be that the continental method was typically more efficient, and so I taught myself, and switched from English to Continental style.<
In my experience, this has allowed me to knit faster and more efficiently, and my stitches are more even and consistent. However, I want to be clear that I don’t think any one method is “better” than another. Not at all!
In fact, I realize now that I could have improved my English style to be more efficient (at the time I was not tensioning my yarn around my fingers properly – I was dropping and picking up may yarn!)
Another benefit to learning continental style (well, actually learning both methods), is that when I started to explore stranded colour knitting (Fair Isle), I was able to hold one colour in each hand and this made it easy, fast, and efficient!
21) Try Combined knitting
Uneven knitting is sometimes caused by different tension between knit and purl rows (also known as “rowing out”). If you look at the purl side of your stockinette stitch and there are pairs of purl rows with deep “gutters” in between, it is likely that this is the problem.<
To create a smoother, more even-looking fabric, try the Combined method (sometimes called combination knitting), which twists stitches in one row and untwists them in the next. This makes your tension much more consistent between rows.
22) Practice (deliberately)
One of the absolute best ways to become a better knitter, is to practice; And practice a lot.
But beyond just increasing the amount of time you spend knitting, you also need to engage in deliberate practice. The goal of deliberate practice is improve performance.
So, if you want to improve, you need to challenge yourself. What you choose to practice needs to be hard enough to push you outside your comfort zone, but not so hard that you’re out of your depth.
One thing is for sure; if you keep doing what you already know how to do, you won’t get significantly better.
Deliberate practice requires significant mental effort. If your brain isn’t fully engaged, it’s not deliberate practice. If you could knit in your sleep, then you’re not getting better at knitting.
You need to add some new challenges into the mix – techniques you haven’t mastered yet.
Don’t know where to start? For an excellent bucket list of knitterly ideas, check out The Knitter’s Life List (affiliate link).
23) Take your knitting everywhere
To get more knitting into your life, you need to start looking for opportunities to knit wherever you are. Throughout the day, there will be many pockets of time in which you could be knitting.
Take advantage of these opportunities because over time, these little opportunities add up to a lot of knitting time!
I always have have a small project that I can take with me everywhere. Small projects that are perfect for on the go knitting include swatches, dishcloths, socks, sleeves and hats.
24) Block your knitting
Many of us are guilty of skipping this part. But, if you want to improve your knitting, this is an important step!
I like to think of it as giving my yarn a well-deserved spa treatment. You know, to help it relax. After all, that yarn has be spun, and wound, tugged, pulled and manipulated into stitches and it’s feeling a bit stressed.
Giving your yarn a little spa treatment will help all the stitches relax, giving your knitted fabric a smoother and “finished” look.
25) Have patience
“Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.” – Debbie Millman
In a culture in which we often expect immediate success, it is important to remember that expertise is developed over time.
We must have patience with ourselves as we try, fail, learn, and grow.
I love what Maria Popova of Brain Pickings has to say about this. She reflects, “the flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one spritely burst and yet, as a culture, we’re disinterested in the tedium of the blossoming.”
So that’s it! 25 knitting tips to help you become a better knitter. I hope you find something you can use and I’ve love to hear which tip you found the most helpful. Please let me know if the comments below.
Have another knitting tip to add to the list? Please share in the comments!
Peace, love and Knit Om,