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"Knit" redirects here. For other uses, see Knitting (disambiguation).
Multi-colored knitwork made in stockinette stitch.
Demonstration of knitting and basic stitches

Knitting is one of the processes for using yarn to create a textile or fabric.

The knitting process has multiple active stitches (that require a stitch to be pulled through them) at one time, as opposed to crochet that only has one active stitch.

The most common type of knitting is weft knitting. Weft knitting creates multiple loops of yarn, called stitches, in a line (called a row) or circle (called a round). The knitter adds a new stitch to the row/round by pulling a loop of yarn through a loop from the prior row, securing the new stitch, and releasing the stitch from the prior row. Variations on creating stitches include making a new stitch through multiple stitches, making multiple new stitches through the same stitch, twisting the loop of yarn in different ways, pulling the new stitch through the prior stitch in a different direction, and making the row/round of stitches in a different order than the prior row/round.

The most common forms of weft knitting currently are machine and two-needle hand knitting.

Different types of yarns (fibre source, thickness, twist, and colours), needle sizes, and stitch types may be used to achieve knitted fabrics with diverse properties (colour patterns, texture, weight, heat retention, water resistance, and strength).


There are two major types of knitting: weft knitting and warp knitting.[1] In the more common weft knitting, the wales are perpendicular to the course of the yarn. In warp knitting, the wales and courses run roughly parallel. In weft knitting, the entire fabric may be produced from a single yarn, by adding stitches to each wale in turn, moving across the fabric as in a raster scan. By contrast, in warp knitting, one yarn is required for every wale. Since a typical piece of knitted fabric may have hundreds of wales, warp knitting is typically done by machine, whereas weft knitting is done by both hand and machine.[2]

Weft-knitting may also use multiple yarns in the same fabric to create patterns. The two most common approaches are intarsia and stranded colorwork. In intarsia, the yarns are used in well-segregated regions, e.g., a red apple on a field of green; in that case, the yarns are kept on separate spools and only one is knitted at any time. In the more complex stranded approach, two or more yarns alternate repeatedly within one row and all the yarns must be carried along the row, as seen in Fair Isle sweaters. Double knitting can produce two separate knitted fabrics simultaneously (e.g., two socks) or integrate the two fabrics into one.

In the knit stitch on the left, the next (red) loop passes through the previous (white) loop from below, whereas in the purl stitch (right), the next stitch enters from above. Thus, a knit stitch on one side of the fabric appears as a purl stitch on the other, and vice versa.


In securing the previous stitch in a wale, the next stitch can pass through the previous loop from either below or above. If the former, the stitch is denoted as a knit stitch or a plain stitch; if the latter, as a purl stitch. The two stitches are related in that a knit stitch seen from one side of the fabric appears as a purl stitch on the other side.

Typically, a new stitch is passed through a single unsecured ("active") loop, thus lengthening that wale by one stitch. However, this need not be so; the new loop may be passed through an already secured stitch lower down on the fabric, or even between secured stitches (a dip stitch). Depending on the distance between where the loop is drawn through the fabric and where it is knitted, dip stitches can produce a subtle stippling or long lines across the surface of the fabric, e.g., the lower leaves of a flower. The new loop may also be passed between two stitches in the present row, thus clustering the intervening stitches; this approach is often used to produce a smocking effect in the fabric. The new loop may also be passed through two or more previous stitches, producing a decrease and merging wales together. The merged stitches need not be from the same row; for example, a tuck can be formed by knitting stitches together from two different rows, producing a raised horizontal welt on the fabric.

Not every stitch in a row need be knitted; some may be left "as is" and knitted on a subsequent row. This is known as slip-stitch knitting.[3] The slipped stitches are naturally longer than the knitted ones. For example, a stitch slipped for one row before knitting would be roughly twice as tall as its knitted counterparts. This can produce interesting visual effects, although the resulting fabric is more rigid because the slipped stitch "pulls" on its neighbours and is less deformable. Mosaic knitting is a form of slip-stitch knitting that knits alternate colored rows and uses slip stitches to form patterns; mosaic-knit fabrics tend to be stiffer than patterned fabrics produced by other methods such as Fair-Isle knitting.[4]

In some cases, a stitch may be deliberately left unsecured by a new stitch and its wale allowed to disassemble. This is known as drop-stitch knitting, and produces a vertical ladder of see-through holes in the fabric, corresponding to where the wale had been.

Within limits, an arbitrary number of twists may be added to new stitches, whether they be knit or purl. Here, a single twist is illustrated, with left-plaited and right-plaited stitches on the left and right, respectively.

Right- and left-plaited stitches[edit]

Both knit and purl stitches may be twisted: usually once if at all, but sometimes twice and (very rarely) thrice. When seen from above, the twist can be clockwise (right yarn over left) or counterclockwise (left yarn over right); these are denoted as right- and left-plaited stitches, respectively. Hand-knitters generally produce right-plaited stitches by knitting or purling through the back loops, i.e., passing the needle through the initial stitch in an unusual way, but wrapping the yarn as usual. By contrast, the left-plaited stitch is generally formed by hand-knitters by wrapping the yarn in the opposite way, rather than by any change in the needle.

Illustration of entrelac. The blue and white wales are parallel to each other, but both are perpendicular to the black and gold wales, resembling basket weaving.

Edges and joins between fabrics[edit]

The initial row/round of a knitted fabric must be cast-on using a different method than sustained knitting. Similarly, the final row/round must be bound/cast-off.

Side edges of knitting require no securing. They are known as the selvages; the word derives from "self-edges", meaning that the stitches do not need to be secured by anything else.

Vertical and horizontal edges can be introduced within a knitted fabric, e.g., for button holes, by binding/casting off and re-casting on again (horizontal) or by knitting the fabrics on either side of a vertical edge separately.

Two knitted fabrics can be joined by embroidery-based grafting methods, most commonly the Kitchener stitch. New wales can be begun from any of the edges of a knitted fabric; this is known as picking up stitches and is the basis for entrelac, in which the wales run perpendicular to one another in a checkerboard pattern.

Illustration of cable knitting. The central braid is formed from 2x2 ribbing in which the background is formed of purl stitches and the cables are each two wales of knit stitches. By changing the order in which the stitches are knit, the wales can be made to cross.

Cables, increases, and lace[edit]

Ordinarily, stitches are knitted in the same order in every row, and the wales of the fabric run parallel and vertically along the fabric. However, this need not be so, since the order in which stitches are knitted may be permuted so that wales cross over one another, forming a cable pattern.

A wale can split into two or more wales using increases, most commonly involving a yarn over. Depending on how the increase is done, there is often a hole in the fabric at the point of the increase. This is used to great effect in lace knitting, which consists of making patterns and pictures using such holes, rather than with the stitches themselves.[5]

By combining increases and decreases, it is possible to make the direction of a wale slant away from vertical, even in weft knitting. This is the basis for bias knitting.


Five sets of tools can create knit fabric:

  1. No tools, using only fingers: finger knitting.
  2. A single needle with an eye: Nålebinding.
  3. A crochet hook that has a cord attached to the end to hold working stitches: knooking.[6]
  4. Two needles: hand knitting. This is what is most commonly called simply knitting.
  5. A rigid frame: spool knitting or loom knitting. The frames are also variously known as knitting boards, knitting rings, knitting looms, knitting spools, knitting knobbies, knitting nancies, or corkers.
  6. A hand-cranked or powered machine: machine knitting.

Other tools may be used to prepare yarn for knitting, to measure and design knitted garments, or to make knitting easier or more comfortable.


Knitting may be done with ribbons, metal wire or more exotic filaments, but the vast majority of yarns are made by spinning fibers.


Main article: Yarn
The two possible twists of yarn

In spinning, fibers are twisted so that the yarn resists breaking under tension; the twisting may be done in either direction, resulting in a Z-twist or S-twist yarn. If the fibers are first aligned by combing them, the yarn is smoother and called a worsted; by contrast, if the fibers are carded but not combed, the yarn is fuzzier and called woolen-spun. The fibers making up a yarn may be continuous filament fibers such as silk and many synthetics, or they may be staples (fibers of an average length, typically a few inches); naturally filament fibers are sometimes cut up into staples before spinning. The strength of the spun yarn against breaking is determined by the amount of twist, the length of the fibers and the thickness of the yarn. In general, yarns become stronger with more twist (also called worst), longer fibers and thicker yarns (more fibers); for example, thinner yarns require more twist than do thicker yarns to resist breaking under tension. The thickness of the yarn may vary along its length; a slub is a much thicker section in which a mass of fibers is incorporated into the yarn.

The spun fibers are generally divided into animal fibers, plant and synthetic fibers. These fiber types are chemically different, corresponding to proteins, carbohydrates and synthetic polymers, respectively. Animal fibers include silk, but generally are long hairs of animals such as sheep (wool), goat (angora, or cashmere goat), rabbit (angora), llama, alpaca, dog, cat, camel, yak, and muskox (qiviut). Plants used for fibers include cotton, flax (for linen), bamboo, ramie, hemp, jute, nettle, raffia, yucca, coconut husk, banana fiber, soy and corn. Rayon and acetate fibers are also produced from cellulose mainly derived from trees. Common synthetic fibers include acrylics,[7] polyesters such as dacron and ingeo, nylon and other polyamides, and olefins such as polypropylene. Of these types, wool is generally favored for knitting, chiefly owing to its superior elasticity, warmth and (sometimes) felting; however, wool is generally less convenient to clean and some people are allergic to it. It is also common to blend different fibers in the yarn, e.g., 85% alpaca and 15% silk. Even within a type of fiber, there can be great variety in the length and thickness of the fibers; for example, Merino wool and Egyptian cotton are favored because they produce exceptionally long, thin (fine) fibers for their type.

A single spun yarn may be knitted as is, or braided or plied with another. In plying, two or more yarns are spun together, almost always in the opposite sense from which they were spun individually; for example, two Z-twist yarns are usually plied with an S-twist. The opposing twist relieves some of the yarns' tendency to curl up and produces a thicker, balanced yarn. Plied yarns may themselves be plied together, producing cabled yarns or multi-stranded yarns. Sometimes, the yarns being plied are fed at different rates, so that one yarn loops around the other, as in bouclé. The single yarns may be dyed separately before plying, or afterwards to give the yarn a uniform look.

The dyeing of yarns is a complex art that has a long history. However, yarns need not be dyed. They may be dyed just one color, or a great variety of colors. Dyeing may be done industrially, by hand or even hand-painted onto the yarn. A great variety of synthetic dyes have been developed since the synthesis of indigo dye in the mid-19th century; however, natural dyes are also possible, although they are generally less brilliant. The color-scheme of a yarn is sometimes called its colorway. Variegated yarns can produce interesting visual effects, such as diagonal stripes; conversely, a variegated yarn may frustrate an otherwise good knitting pattern by producing distasteful color combination.

Commercial applications[edit]

Industrially, metal wire is knitted into a metal fabric for a wide range of uses including the filter material in cafetieres, catalytic converters for cars and many other uses. These fabrics are usually manufactured on circular knitting machines that are similar to those using yarn.

Many fashion designers make heavy use of knitting in their fashion collections. Gordana Gelhausen, who appeared in season six of the television show Project Runway, is primarily a knit designer. Other designers and labels that make heavy use of knitting include Michael Kors, Fendi, and Marc Jacobs.

For individual hobbyists, websites such as Etsy,Big Cartel and Ravelry have made it easy to sell patterns on a small scale, in a way similar to eBay.

History and culture[edit]

Main article: History of knitting

The word knit is derived from knot and ultimately from the Old English cnyttan, to knot.[8]

Nålebinding (Danish: literally "binding with a needle" or "needle-binding") is a fabric creation technique predating knitting using only one needle with short lengths of yarn fed through its eye. When and where two-needle hand knitting was invented is unknown since knitted fabric archeological evidence is rare. Several fabrics are thought to be the earliest example of two-needle knit fabric, but were made with Nålebinding. The earliest example of two-needle knitting is cotton socks with stranded knit color patterns found in Egypt from the end of the first millennium AD.[9]

In Europe, knitting was originally a male-only occupation; the first knitting trade guild was started in Paris in 1527.[10] After the invention of the knitting machine during the Industrial Revolution, knit fabrics increasingly were made by machine and hand knitting became a leisure activity.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Knitting Basics". Alamac American Knits LLC. 2004. Retrieved 2006-12-27. 
  2. ^ (Spencer 1989:11-12)
  3. ^ Bartlett, Roxana (1998). Slip-Stitch Knitting: Color Pattern the Easy Way. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press. ISBN 978-1-883010-32-4. 
  4. ^ Starmore, Alice (1988). Alice Starmore's Book of Fair Isle Knitting. Taunton. ISBN 978-0-918804-97-6. 
  5. ^ Sowerby, Jane (2006). Victorian Lace Today. XRX Books. ISBN 978-1-933064-07-9. 
    Swansen, Meg (2005). A Gathering of Lace (2nd ed.). Schoolhouse Press. ISBN 978-1-893762-24-4. 
  6. ^ "I'd Rather Be Knooking". Retrieved 2011-07-09. 
  7. ^ Masson, James (1995). Acrylic Fiber Technology and Applications. New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc. p. 172. ISBN 0-8247-8977-6. 
  8. ^ Games, Alex (2007). Balderdash & piffle : one sandwich short of a dog's dinner. London: BBC. ISBN 978-1-84607-235-2. 
  9. ^ Theaker, Julie (2006). "History 101". Knitty. Retrieved 2007-03-29. 
  10. ^ Porter, Roy; John Brewer (1994). Consumption and the World of Goods. London: Routledge. pp. 232–233. ISBN 0-415-11478-0. 

Additional reading[edit]

  • Hiatt, June Hemmons. (2012). The principles of knitting: Methods and techniques of hand knitting. Simon & Schuster, New York.
  • "Knitting". The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Columbia University Press. 2003. 
  • Rutt, Richard (2003). A History of Hand Knitting. Interweave Press, Loveland, CO. (Reprint Edition ISBN)
  • Spencer, David J. (1989). Knitting Technology: a Comprehensive Handbook and Practical Guide. Lancaster: Woodhead Publishing. ISBN 1-85573-333-1. 
  • Stoller, Debbie. (2004) Stitch 'n Bitch: The Knitter's Handbook. Workman Publishing Company
  • Thomas, Mary. (1938). Mary Thomas's Knitting Book. Dover Publications. New York. (1972 Reprint Edition ISBN)
  • Zimmermann, Elizabeth. (1972). Knitting Without Tears. Simon & Schuster, New York. (Reprint Edition ISBN)
  • Gschwandtner, Sabrina. (2007). KnitKnit: Profiles and Projects from Knitting's New Wave. Stewart, Tabori and Chang, New York.
  • Patel, Aneeta. (2008) Knitty Gritty - Knitting for the Absolute Beginner. A&C Black
  • Zimmermann, Elizabeth. (1981)"Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac". Dover Publications
  • Isaacson, Steve. (2013). Carol Milne Knitted Glass - How Does She Do that? ISBN 978-1482748048

External links[edit]