How to knit

Oct 2, 2009 at 8:17 p.m. ET

Knitting is no longer a symbol of the stereotypical housebound woman. Rather, it's a wonderful and emancipating hobby. Learn to knit a simple rectangle, and we'll show you a few creative things you can do with it.

knitting needles with red yarn

Debbie Stoller, a US knitting icon and third-wave feminist, encourages women everywhere to take up their knitting needles with her book Stitch 'n Bitch Handbook: Instructions, Patterns, and Advice for a New Generation of Knitters , published in 2000. She's part of a knitting and crafting revolution that's happened on the quiet, but from the number of indie crafting communities online (and in pubs and kitchens), you can see that the funky joys of knitting have enveloped many of us like a cosy woolly sweater made of rainbows.

Why has knitting come back into our lives?

Knitting is emancipating. In a very physical way, knitting is taking power into your own hands. Everyone gets tired of buying clothes in cheap materials that tear and shrink well before their sell-by date. Doing things for yourself is always empowering.

It's great for your creative right brain. Knitting is a creative act, an act of art as well as of function. And knitting is catching: Everyone who sees your creations will feel as inspired to have a go as you were.

It's good for your methodical left brain. The monotony of click-clacking needles knitting rows is satisfying and steadying. The act of producing something useful and beautiful is remarkably beneficial to the soul.

It's good for your self-esteem. Even if you miss a stitch, you'll love what you create because you've made it yourself. You'll feel thrilled and loving towards each row you knit, because it's yours and no one else's.

It's good for your empathy. If you make something, you appreciate it. If you knit, you'll appreciate the effort that goes into every knitted product you see. You'll appreciate factories and people working at knitting machines at all hours. And you'll appreciate the love and time that went into your rainbow knitted scarf so much more.

The basics are simple to master. Knitting isn't elitist -- it's something anyone can do. Boys knit, girls knit, everyone knits. It's easier to learn from someone you know, but nowadays it isn't essential. Loads of websites can get you started on the basics such as these:,, and

Knitting is as cheap as the wool you choose. Again, that makes it open to everyone. And you can use cheap plastic knitting needles or sustainable birch hardwood ones. Your hobby isn't killing the planet or your pocket, however you play it.

Knitting is so very social. You can do it in company, anywhere, anytime. So many hobbies require quiet time and introspective reflection, but knitting is a craft that loves company and laughter (okay, gossip). You can have knitting parties down at the pub, on long bus journeys, or while someone is watching a TV programme they love but you don't.

Knitting is, quite frankly, useful. It's a good way to enliven old possessions, create gifts and make your own clothes.

Knitting can be a form of activism. The Stitchettes, a London-based knitting group, raised thousands of pounds for Cancer Research by going on a knitting crawl. One of their projects included adorning the lions of London's Trafalgar Square with knitted scarves.

the absolute basics of knitting

We won't explain it here, as other sites explain it far better (see our list of links that will help you learn to knit below). But to knit an ultra-useful rectangle ( and there's a lot you can make with a simple rectangle), you ideally need to know:

•   Cast-on
•   Cast-off
•   Knit technique
•   Purl technique

What you can do with a simple knitted rectangle

Knit yourself a scarf. If you've made a really long, thin rectangle, you've made a scarf! Either stripy, using different wools, or soft, black and spangly with black alpaca glitter wool, or... Scarves may be simple, but they're still wonderfully creative. And a lot of the superlong scarves currently available in shops are going for £70. That's a joke. Knit one yourself. Make it as long as Tom Baker's in the early Doctor Who. Just keep going and don't stop.

Customise cushions. Sew your knitted rectangle to a cushion cover, customising the cushion and covering any stains.

Knit an iPod/mobile phone cover. Small rectangles can be folded over and hand-stitched at the sides to make iPod and mobile phone covers. Easy. And everyone gets to see your handiwork on a daily basis.

Knit yourself armwarmers. Armwarmers go with most styles and outfits. Long, thin rectangles stitched together along the side make gorgeous armwarmers. Just measure round your arm at any point up to the elbow, knit a rectangle that's as wide as that, and as long as your wrist to your elbow. Stitch the sides together to make a long tube and voila: Armwarmers.

Knit yourself a shawl. Choose exciting wool, and a big old rectangle becomes a snuggly, funky shawl.

Knit yourself a weird skater/snowboarding hat. Get your woolly rectangle, sew it to make a pocket, and you've got a snowboarding hat. Sort of.

Knit a bag.A big folded rectangle can be sewn to make a pocket, with a really long, thin rectangle for the strap. Amazing: A knitted bag! Line the inside with strongish material to support the structure, though, or your lovely, fluffy delicate wool bag won't stay a bag for very long.

For more home and living on SheKnows

Where to find inspiration for your home
Declutter! One room at a time
Give store-bought items a unique twist

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