Intro to Period knitting - Basic class notes

Intro to Knitting Class Notes:

THL Lucia Thaylur

Knitting styles vary by individuals. I've been knitting for more years than I care to count and have seen numerous ways to cast on, hold needles and tension yarn. My personal belief is that there is no "wrong" way to knit if it gets the job done reasonably well. I learned to knit form my Grandmother-she spoke little English and I spoke almost no Finnish but we were able to communicate through head nods and an occasional rap on my knuckles with a knitting needle! Her method has served me well for many projects and I'm happy with the tension on stranded knitted projects. Feel free to explore various methods...this paper is intended to get you started...where you go from here is your personal journey.

Knit on! Lucia


Make loop over index finger.
Hold intersection of loop with thumb and pull end of loop to enlarge.

Hold new larger loop with thumb. Pull ball end of yarn thru loop

Tug gently on new loop

and slip over end of needle. Pull taught by spreading fingers apart.


Casting on

1. Insert right needle into the first loop on left needle. Note: needles cross in back.

2. With yarn in back of the right needle bring the yarn between the needles from left to right. Right needle will be pointed down.

3. Bring the left needle (with the new loop) toward your chest and through the stitch.

4. Pull snug-not tight

5. Put the new stitch on left needle. Position right needle so you can insert left needle from front to back thru the loop on the right needle

6. Bring yarn between the needles and proceed as before!



Follow steps 1-3 for casting on.

1. Thru the loop

2. Around the right needle

3. Pull towards your chest.
Slip off end of left needle and hold stitch on right needle.


1. Keeping yarn if front of work, insert right needle into first stitch on left needle from right to left. Right needle will be pointed up. Note: needles cross in front.

2. Bring the yarn over the right needle to the back, then forward between the two needles. Push the right needle to the back (away from your chest) and through the stitch.

3. Slip from left needle to right needle.


Knit all rows-front and back. Thick and very stretchy. Two rows make one ridge.


Alternating K and P worked over an even number of stitches.

Also frequently seen as K2, P2which is not quite as elastic-work over a group of 4 sts.


Also called Seed Stitch. Alternate K and P over sets of 1 (2, or 3) st(s).

On next row (2nd or 3rd) K the P and P the K st(s). Makes a reversible fabric that does not curl at edges.


Alternate by rows right side knit, wrong side purl. The knit side is smooth and the wrong side is bumpy.


Knit wrong side and purl the right side.



Knit two together or if wrong side, purl two together (abbreviated K2 tog or P2 tog)

Slip 1, Knit 1, Pass Slipped Stitch over (abbreviated slip1,k 1, PSSO or S, K, PSSO).

Slip, Slip, Knit (abbreviated SSK) Slip two stitches knitwise. Insert left needle into front of both slipped stitches and knit them together (makes one stitch).


Bar Increase
A new stitch is made by working into the front and back loops of the same stitch. Knit into the front loop, do not slide stitch off needle and knit into the back loop of the same stitch, slide off needle as two stitches. Canalso be done on purl stitches.

Make One Increase (abbreviated M1)
A new stitch is made by inserting the left needle under the horizontal strand between two stitches and then knitting into the back loop of the strand.

Invisible Increase
Insert the right needle from front to back into the side of the stitch below the next stitch on the left needle. Pull stitch up and place on left needle and knit it.

Stitches can also be added by casting on a single stitch at the beginning of a row. This method tends to leave a visible float.


Basic Cast off

Knit first stitch. Knit second stitch. Lift first stitch over second stitch (one stitch left on needle). Knit third stitch. Left second stitch (now first stitch) over third stitch etc. Leave about a 8" tail and weave into cast edge.

3 needle bind off

Divide stitches onto 2 needles. Hold needles together in a parallel position. Using the 3rd needle, knit into first stitch on both needles as one stitch and slip off. Knit into the next st on both needles (as one stitch) and slip off. You now have 2 stitches on the 3rd needle. Lift the first stitch over the second . Continue until all stitches are off the needles. Run tail thru the last stitch and pull tight.

Origins of Knitting

Early knitted fragments:

The oldest fragments believed to be knitting were found in Dura Europos, Syria, ca A.D.250. The dry climate and sand that covered the items preserved them as if they had been sealed in an "air tight vacuum container" ( Grass, Milton. p 184-185). Later research conducted by Dorothy Burnham indicates the pieces believed to be knitting are, in fact, nalbinding. (Burnham, D. p115).

The first true pieces of knitting come from Islamic Egypt and extant pieces can be dated to the 1000-1200AD (Rutt, R. p 32-34). Several stockings of blue and white cotton are now in Washington, D.C.’s Textile Museum (Bellinger, L., Workshop Notes).

Structures which can be confused with knitting:

NETTING is formed by drawing the yarn through the loops and locked by a knot for each unit or mesh square. It can not be unraveled if you pull the end of the yarn (Rutt, R. p. 8).

NALBINDING ( Looping, needle knitting eyed-needle knitting, knotless netting, vantsom, etc.) the items appear to be knitting, however, on close inspection, the loops are found at the top of the loop rather than the bottom as in knitting (Rutt, R. p. 8).

SPRANG A method of making fabric by manipulating the parallel threads of a warp that is fixed at both ends. (Collinwood, Peter. p31).

Some Early Samples of Knitted Structure:

10-1200 A.D. Fatimid Dynasty, two color cotton knit socks (Rutt, R. p.35).

1270 Las Huelgas cushions-wool-knit at app. 20 stitches per inch (Rutt, R. p 40).

Later Samples of Knitting

1592 Silk stockings of Johan III. Ekstrand, G.( p 166)

16th century Liturgical Gloves (Rutt, R. p 57)

17th century silk waistcoat with gold threads (Thomas, M. p 92)

17th c. knitted jacket (Levy, V and A. Collection p 194)

Felted Cap16thc. (Levy, V and A Collection, p 195)

Pictures of Knitting Madonnas

"Our Lady Knitting" by Tommaso da Modena (1325-?75) Rutt, R. p 47)

"The Knitting Madonna" by Master Bertram 1390. Thomas, M. (frontspiece)

"The Buxtehude Madonna" by Master Bertram of Minden. Rutt. p 49)

Works Cited:

Bellinger, Louisa. " Patterned Stockings: Possibly Indian, Found in Egypt." Paper No.10 December, 1945. The Textile Museum, Washington, D.C.

Collingwood, Peter. The Techniques of Sprang: Plaiting on Stretched Threads. Watson-Guptill Publications, New York. 1974. ISBN 0-8230-5520-6

Grass, Milton "Origins of the art of knitting", Archaeology 8.3 Autumn (1955), p 184-180

Ekstrand, G. "Some Early Silk Stockings in Sweden". Textile History 13:2 (1982)

Levy, S. M. Illustrations of the History of Knitting Selected from the Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Textile History 1:2 (1969)

Rutt, Richard A History of Handknitting. Interweave Press 1987 Loveland, Co., ,ISBN 1-913499-37-3

Thomas, Mary Mary Thomas’s Knitting. Book Dover Publications, Inc. New York. 1972 ISBN 0-486-22817-7

These notes remain the sole property of Susan Lefler AKA THL Lucia Thaylur within the SCA. Please feel free to use them for personal instruction but do not cross post to other websites. THANKS! Lucia

Original 2/13/2004
Last updated: 11/2/2008