Beginner's Guide to Knitting

The rewards of knitting go well beyond owning a lovely handmade scarf. In fact, science is providing us with plenty of other reasons we should pick up the knitting needles. Penelope Quinn shows us the basic steps.

When you think of knitting, you may conjure up images of Grannies on rocking chairs industriously click-clacking to make baby bonnets for a school fete. But the knitting community extends far past that. Even in today’s society where it’s far easier – and cheaper – to pick up a machine knitted scarf from any fashion chain, knitting is experiencing a heartening revival.

But it’s not just celebrities, hipsters and young creatives picking up the knitting needles; occupational therapists are also encouraging patients in hospitals, clinics, schools and even prisons to knit.  Experts are convinced the repetitive motions of knitting activate the parasympathetic nervous system – which in turn quiets the fight or flight response.  In fact, science is proving what a lot of crafters knew all along - knitting is a great way to treat anxiety, depression and stress.

Knitting also involves many different areas of the brain including memory, attention span, visiospatial processing, creative and problem solving abilities.  It can even protect the brain from damage caused by ageing. Then there’s the reward of the finished product, or knowing it will be a much-loved gift that’s been made with love, not bought with money.

In case you needed another reason, Guardian Pharmacy is calling on knitters to help warm the hearts of children. The Guardian Angel program is once again supporting Save the Children Australia – more than 2 million knitted items have been donated to children all over the country in the sixteen years it’s been running, and this year, they hope to donate a further 110,000 items.

I love craft, but I’ve never been a knitter – and this was just the reason I needed to start.  I tried a few YouTube and online tutorials, but the best way for me to learn is to have someone teach me. So I turned to my friend and inspirational Eco Artist Angela Van Boxtel who is an expert knitter, crotchetier and environmental warrior. She uses her skills to make all kinds of incredible things out of garbage and recycled items, and regularly holds workshops to teach others how to combine creativity and sustainability.

One stormy afternoon we sat ourselves on the beautiful Manly beach in Sydney where Angela ran through a few of the basic steps. It can be frustrating at first as your stubborn brain tries to bend itself around a brand new skill but once it clicks, it’s quite addictive – and now, I can safely say I’m hooked!

Here are a few steps Angela taught me, but I encourage everyone to go out there and learn the way that’s best to you!

First, you need to learn how to CAST ON.

1. Make a slipknot with a 20 centre metre tail. Loop the yarn, then pick up the yarn inside of the loop and pull through. You’ll make a knot – pull it tight, but keep the loop at the top open. Then, slip the knot onto a knitting needle and pull it tight.

2. Hold the needle and knot in your right hand. Place the yarn attached to your yarn ball behind your left hand and over your palm. Keep your tail yarn out of the way.  Place the needle underneath the yarn, across your hand. There should be a loop formed around your knitting needle, and pull that loop tight.

3. Repeat this process. Cast on as many stitches as you need for the ‘length’ of your piece. Try to keep your loops facing upwards. Also I learned that you want your loops quite loose as tight are very hard to knit from!

Now, it’s time to get knitting!

Hold the needle with the stitches in your left hand – hold the needle without stitches in your right. Insert the needle without stiches under the front of the first loop.

Repeat the knit stitch until you’ve transferred all the stitches on the first needle to the other.  Then, repeat this process back and forth.

Now, the ‘working yarn’ the yarn attached to your yarn ball, needs to be rapped around the right needle counter clockwise. Wrap it from front to back. Now, poke the right needle through the hole and ‘pull off’ the old stitch by dragging it up the tip of the needle. Created a knot on your right needle? Then bravo – you’ve just knitted!

Next week, I’ll be teaching you how to cast off!

If you’re interested in getting involved in knitting, ask around friends to show you how – most people love the opportunity to pass on their skills.

To get involved with the Guardian Angels, pick up a free pattern book from your local Guardian Pharmacy for step-by-step instructions on a number of different items to knit. Knitters can also get discounts on wool and yarn from Spotlight stores around Australia.

Knitters can take their specially crafted item to a local Guardian Pharmacy by August 31 and items will be distributed through Save the Children programs to help children that need it most. Find out more at

For more craft tutorials, visit

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