Your first knitting project should be something quick and easy. Many brand-new knitters make throwaway test patches first to learn the basic stitches. But you can knit lots of useful things with simple squares and rectangles too.
Here’s some helpful tips for what makes a good first knitting project along with a top 10 list of knitting ideas for absolute beginners.
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6 tips to help you choose beginner knitting projects
- Keep it small and simple.
- Use aran or worsted weight wool or acrylic yarn ideally, usually with 5mm needles (size 8 US).
DK yarn will also work, it’s just slightly finer to knit with & uses smaller 4mm needles (size 6 US). Here are my fave acrylic DK yarns that you can machine wash and dry.
- Avoid dark colours. Light or bright shades are easier to knit with.
- Look for patterns using just the knit stitch (garter stitch) if you’re a complete beginner.
- Stick to knitting basic square or rectangle shapes. Avoid patterns with increases, decreases, knitting in the round or any other techniques or terms you don’t recognise.
- Sign up for a free Ravelry account. This gives you access to lots of free patterns & you can search the world’s largest knitting pattern database too.
Which knitting stitches should I learn first?
There are only 2 basic stitch types in knitting, knit and purl, and the knit stitch is the easier one.
Learn the knit stitch first
New knitters always start by learning the knit stitch first, also known as garter stitch.
The key thing is to get really comfortable making knit stitches. Then, focus on knitting evenly – not too tight or loose.
Knit small simple squares or rectangles. They will look a state at first. Everyone’s do! With practise, you’ll quickly improve and see real progress.
You don’t need to waste time making boring test squares either. In fact, you can make all the beginner knitting project ideas below with just knit stitch if you like.
Then learn the purl stitch
Once you can knit a nice even fabric, you’re ready to learn how to purl. Then you can practise knitting small pieces of stockinette or stocking stitch, where you knit the right side rows and purl the wrong side.
Get confident knitting and purling rows before you move on to rib stitch. Here you alternate between knit and purl stitches in the same row to make a super stretchy fabric.
Perfect the basic 2 stitches
It’s worth getting really comfortable with the fundamentals of knitting first. Once you know these inside out, a whole world of knitting awaits.
Focus on knitting basic squares and rectangles for your first beginner projects. Only use the knit stitch at first and then add purl stitches as you progress.
Leave any other techniques for now. Avoid patterns with increasing or decreasing stitches, knitting in the round, different cast ons or any terms you don’t already know (e.g. yarn overs, slipping stitches).
Make useful things as you learn how to knit
While many new knitters start off knitting throwaway test scraps, it’s much more exciting to make real projects from day one. Start off small, and you can knit something useful in a few hours even as a complete beginner.
It’s really motivating to be able to put your new knitting skills to use straight away and create useful things as you learn. You will get better with each and every project and can see real progress.
Top 10 ideas for your first knitting project (all easy square or rectangle makes)
You can knit lots of things with just basic squares or rectangles. Don’t believe me? Read on for 10 ideas to get you started.
This list is ordered with the quickest and easiest beginner projects first.
If you are an absolute beginner knitter, I would recommend starting with one of the first 2 ideas: either a bookmark or coaster.
All of these ideas can be knit with just the basic knit stitch (garter stitch). If you know how to purl, you could also use stocking stitch (or stockinette) or rib. In fact most of these are quick and versatile projects that are ideal for trying out new stitch patterns.
There’s no shaping involved either. All you need to know is casting on, the knit stitch and casting off. For some projects you will also need to do simple seaming.
TIP: do not use dark colour yarn for your first projects. Even ninja knitters find dark colours challenging. If you ever receive a knitted gift made with black yarn, know that you are truly loved!
1. Knit a bookmark (or teddy scarf)
A skinny knitted rectangle makes a great bookmark, or a scarf for your fave teddy bear or toy too. Once you can cast on, do a knit stitch and cast off, you can make one of these in no time.
Simply cast on 8 stitches with worsted weight or aran yarn. If you want to use DK yarn, cast on 10 stitches instead. Knit 6 inches or your desired length and cast off. Congratulations: you’re officially a knitter!
I’ve written up a full version of this easy garter stitch bookmark knitting pattern, with step by step instructions, including how to make the tassel.
2. Knit a coaster
A small knitted square is useful as a coaster. Cast on around 20 stitches, and knit until your piece is approximately square.
You can quickly check the size without a measuring tape. Fold up the bottom right corner to meet the top row. When it reaches the top left corner you have made a square. Then cast off and enjoy a well earned lemonade on your nifty new coaster.
3. Knit a wristband
Knitted wristbands are super quick to make. Just cast on 10 stitches and keep knitting until it’s nearly long enough to wrap around your wrist. Bear in mind wool stretches a bit. 6 inches is about right for my small wrists.
Cotton is best for sporty wristbands, but if you’re an absolute beginner try knitting a wristband with acrylic or merino wool first. Those yarns are easier to knit with and get the sizing right.
4. Knit a dishcloth or face cloth
A medium size square knit with cotton makes a great dishcloth or face cloth. Plus it’s natural and eco friendly too.
Cast on 30-40 stitches, knit until your piece is approximately square and cast off. It may change size a bit in the wash, but you’ll likely end up with an 8-10 inch cloth.
Now cotton is not the ideal yarn for beginner knitters. Starting with acrylic or wool is easier, so maybe try one of the top 2 ideas first until you are comfortable making knit stitches.
Unlike wool & acrylic, cotton has no elasticity. Some cottons can also be splitty, so that your needle splits the strands of cotton as you try to knit the stitch. It can also feel a bit stringy to knit with and your tension or gauge can be a bit different too. So knitting with cotton can feel a bit strange at first. That’s completely normal so don’t be put off!
Cotton dishcloths are quick and simple to knit and really handy. If you make a few mistakes along the way, who cares? It’s only for washing up & still works just as well.
5. Knit a phone cover or glasses case
Knit a square, fold it in half and seam across the bottom and side. Ta-da! You have a phone cover or a simple sleeve case for your glasses.
Now a square is a rough guide here. Measure your phone first for best results. Knit a piece double the width of your phone and slightly taller.
6. Knit simple mitts
Believe it or not, you can even knit basic mitts with a square or rectangle too. Just fold it in half, and seam up the side, leaving a gap for your thumb.
Here’s a free easy garter stitch fingerless mittens pattern by Kelly Meneely on Ravelry that looks ideal for beginner knitters.
7. Knit a headband or ear warmer
You can make a simple headband or ear warmer by knitting a long narrow strip and seaming the top and bottom edges together. It’s just a supersize wristband when you think about it!
8. Knit a garter stitch scarf
Traditionally, a scarf is the classic choice for a first knitting project. So why is it so far down this list? Well, while a garter stitch scarf is just a simple rectangle to knit, it takes a long time to make.
You can speed things up by using thicker chunky yarn and larger needles, but not everyone likes the the feel of a bulky scarf around their neck.
The rule of thumb is to use 3 x 50g balls of dk or aran (worsted weight) yarn to knit a scarf. If you have never knit anything before, it will feel like it is taking FOREVER.
Plus, if you’re a complete beginner, your scarf will likely look like a dog’s dinner and you may be put off ever finishing it. If you do persevere, you’ll likely improve a lot along the way, so one end of the scarf could look quite different to the other.
So I recommend making a couple of the quicker and easier projects higher up this list first. Wait until you are confident knitting a nice even fabric and then you’ll enjoy knitting a scarf a lot more.
9. Knit a simple cowl
A cowl is a nice alternative to a scarf. Cowl knitting patterns tend to be a bit wider than scarves, but shorter too. Do check the yarn requirements and length before you start, because some cowls can still take a lot of knitting.
Chunky or bulky yarn cowl patterns are popular and mean you can knit a cowl in very little time & feel lovely and snug. This free garter stitch cowl pattern on Ravelry by Savla Levi knit with super bulky yarn and 12mm (size 17 US) needles is a great example.
10. Make a knitted squares cushion cover or mini blanket
Don’t like any of the other beginner knitting project ideas? Or maybe you just want to start out knitting test squares instead of making a particular thing. There’s nothing wrong with that!
Instead of just throwing your test patches away, why not join all your knitted squares together? You could make a lovely cushion cover with them, or even a small blanket. It would not take many squares to make a dolly or teddy blanket. If you knit more squares, you could make a small baby or lap blanket.
Simple garter stitch squares knit in assorted colours can look surprisingly chic when combined. Or you could knit squares in different stitch patterns, learning them as you go. Then join the different patterned squares to make what’s called a sampler, in one or more colours. Here’s a free pattern for 8 different basic squares (ravelry) using only knit and purl stitches.
I hope these easy beginner knitting project ideas have given you some inspiration. It’s amazing how much you can make by knitting simple rectangular and square shapes. What will your first knitting project be? I’d love to know. Just leave a comment below.