1) Start with good quality ingredients

If you want to produce good quality knits, you need to start with good quality ingredients. Yarn is at the heart of your knitting, and not all yarn is created equally. So, it’s vital that you put some careful thought into your yarn choice for a project.

Sure, good quality yarn bought from your local yarn store (LYS) is more expensive than the dollar store variety, but believe me when I say that cheap, shoddy yarn will result in cheap, shoddy knits – no matter how good a knitter you are.

Once you start investing in better yarn, you will start producing better products – irresistible knits that you’re excited to wear and proud to gift.
So, buy the best you can afford. It is absolutely worth it!

2) Choose the right yarn for your project

Beyond investing in better quality yarn, it’s important to buy yarn that is suitable for your project. There is a vast amount of yarns available, dyed in an array of spectacular colours. But colour isn’t the only aspect of choosing yarn that you need to think about. When choosing yarn, you’ll also want to consider:

1) Function

Think about how your knits will be used or worn, who they are for, and what properties are necessary for your knits to function effectively. Here’s some ideas to get you started:

Soft ~ Durable ~ Elastic ~ Breathable ~ Warm ~ Cool ~ Machine washable ~ Natural ~ Biodegradable ~ Renewable ~ Smooth ~ Textured ~ Light coloured ~ Dark coloured ~ Variegated ~ Light ~ Drapey ~ Heavy ~ Absorbent ~ Repellant

Knowing these things, you can make more informed decisions about fiber content, thickness, texture, and colour.

2) Fiber Content

What is the yarn made from? Where and how was it produced?  Is it suitable for the project?

In general, animal fibers (wool, cashmere, mohair,  angora, alpaca, etc.) are a good choice for cold-weather accessories and clothes because they are warm, cozy and light weight.  They are more elastic than plant fibers, so they will hold their shape better.

Plant-based fibers (cotton, flax, hemp etc.) are typically less elastic than animal fibers, so they are better for garments that are straight, have more drape and don’t depend on rib for “fit.” They retain less heat and are breathable, making them a great choice for spring/summer garments.

Plant fibers are usually stronger and more durable than animal fibers, making them ideal for home accessories.

3) Thickness

Yarn comes in a variety of weights (thicknesses), ranging from very thin (lace) to very thick (jumbo). The thickness of the yarn you choose will affect the drape and feel of the finished fabric.

4) Texture

When knitting complex stitch patterns, cables or lace, you want the stitch-work to speak for itself. You need good stitch definition, so a smooth yarn is the best choice. Fussy, novelty yarns will distract from the beauty of the stitches.

Yarn ply also affects stitch definition. In general, the greater the number of plies, the greater the stitch definition.

5) Colour

Choosing colours can be fun. It’s an opportunity to be creative and express your own personal style. But if you’ve been in a yarn store lately, and stood there awe-struck by the overwhelming choice available, you know it can be stressful too!

Simple stitch patterns are best for colourful, self-striping and variegated yarns. So, if you find yourself drawn to a beautiful hand-painted or sparkly novelty yarn, then stick to a simple stockinette pattern, and let the yarn really shine.

If working complicated stitch patterns, stick to plainer yarn and lighter, solid colours to let the stitches stand out. Very dark yarn (like navy blue and black) will hide your stitches.

Once you have chosen your colour, you must make sure that there are enough balls or skeins from the same dye lot to finish your project. You should get into the habit of buying an extra ball in the same dye lot (just in case) that you can return to the store if you don’t need it. Buying a skein later from a different dye lot might result in slight (but noticeable) colour variations in your work.

3) Use the right tools for the job

Knitting needles come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and materials. To get better results with your knitting, you need to know how to choose the right needles for the job. For example, for each weight category of yarn, there is a recommended needle size (or a range of needle sizes):

Yarn Weight



Type of yarns in category


Wraps per inch Ply (AUS,


Knit Gauge*/ needle size Crochet Gauge**/ hook size

Lace weight,


Bedspread weight, #10 thread

20-23 2  ply

3  ply

33-40 sts 1.5 – 2.25mm 32-42 sts 1.6-1.44mm



19-20 4 ply 27-32 sts 2.25-3.25mm 21-32 sts 2.25-3.5mm


15-18 5 ply 23-26 sts 3.25-3.75mm 16-20 sts 3.5-4.5mm

Light Worsted

12-14 8 ply 21-24 sts 3.75-4.5mm 12-17 sts 4.5-5.5mm

Afghan, Aran

9-11 10 ply 16-20 sts 4.5-5.5mm 11-14 sts 5.5-6.5mm

Craft, Rug

7-8 12 ply 12-15 sts


8-11 sts 6.5-9mm
  Super Bulky,


5-6 Over 12 ply 7-11 sts 8-12.75mm 6-9 sts




5 or less Over 20 ply 6 and fewer sts

12.75mm plus

5 and fewer sts

16mm plus

Source: Crochet Australia

If the needle size is too small for the yarn, you will get a stiff fabric with tight stitches. If the needle size is too big for the yarn, you’ll end up with a looser, floppier fabric.

These are just guidelines, not hard and fast rules. They are meant to help you decide what needles to start with, but you’ll need to knit a gauge swatch (see tip #4), using your yarn and needles before you can know if they will be the winning combo.

Tip: Keep your ball band!  That handy-dandy piece of paper wrapped around the yarn is chock-full of essential information (fiber content, color, dye lot, yardage/meters per grams/oz), including the recommended needle size and gauge.

The material your needles are made from can also impact your knitting. For example, if you’re using metal needles and you find it hard to control the stitches or they are slipping off the needles too easily, try knitting with bamboo or wood needles – they tend to be a little “stickier.”

On the other hand,  if you’re using wooden or bamboo needles and you’re finding the stitches don’t slip off your needles easily enough, then try metal needles.

As with most things, it’s a matter of personal preference, so experiment until you find the right fit for you.

4) Knit a gauge swatch

If you are following a pattern and/or you want your finished knits to come out a certain size, then you must knit a gauge swatch. It’s the only way to know, with any accuracy, how big or small your project will turn out to be.

Every pattern will tell you what the recommended gauge is. This is how many stitches there are in one inch of fabric. Your goal is to match that gauge exactly. If you are off (even by 1/2 a stitch per inch) it can make all the difference.

Seriously, do not skip this step! (Yes, I know you want to get started with your project, but make this the very first thing you do!)

Even if you use the recommended yarn and needle size, your tension may be different – your gauge is unique to you. The only way to make sure you have the right gauge is to do this step!

5) Hold and tension the yarn consistently

If your knitting looks “messy” or bumpy, it is because you have uneven stitches across a row (some stitches are bigger than others). To knit a nice, smooth fabric, you need to keep your yarn at the same tension as you create each stitch.

You can do this by tensioning the yarn between your fingers and easing out yarn as you need it. Again, there is no “right” way to tension your yarn.

It will become a matter of personal preference and comfort. And you will get better with practice.

6) Get in the mood

Your mood can have a surprising impact on your knitting tension. If you’re stressed and wound up when you start knitting, your tension may also be tight and wound up.

As the soothing and repetitive motions of knitting work their magic, you’ll (hopefully) start to relax a little. But, unfortunately, your tension may also ease up, and you’ll notice the change over the length of your fabric. That, you don’t want.

So, if you’re feeling stressed or tense (and know that this will negatively impact your project), spend some time getting in the mood and relaxing before you start your project. A few things you could try:

  • Listen to relaxing music
  • Make some soothing tea
  • Meditate for a few minutes
  • Spritz the room with some of your favourite essential oils, use a diffuser, or burn incense
  • Practice deep breathing exercises.

Alternatively, you could have a “warm-up” project that you work on to release tension, before working on your important project.

7) Make all your stitches the same size

To get a nice even fabric, you need each stitch to be the same size. The combination of having an even tension on the yarn, and the needle size determine the size of each stitch.

As you knit, try to make sure that you are wrapping the yarn about the fattest part of the needle and not the narrower tips.

Also, avoid the urge to pull on the working yarn to tighten the stitch after you have created it. Your stitches should fit snugly around the needle but also slide easily along it.

8) Read the pattern all the way through

Before you cast on your stitches, take the time to read the pattern all the way through. As you do so, make sure you understand the instructions and imagine yourself knitting each step.

Does it make sense? Do you understand how the garment is being constructed?

If not, take the time to think it through. Ask yourself, why the pattern says to do this or that. Doing this will make you a better knitter.

Don’t believe me?

Think of it as deciphering a secret code. Once you crack the code, you can use that knowledge to make more informed choices. For example, you’ll know which bits of “code” are essential and which ones can be altered (or ignored). You can start making changes within patterns to better suit your personal preferences.

Heck, you can even start writing your own patterns!

9) Practice new techniques before you start your project

If, after reading the pattern through, you realize there are some new techniques you are unfamiliar with, take some time to practice them with scrap yarn before you start your project.

For example, if you’re trying a new cast on method, try it out a few times with some old yarn so that you don’t waste your “good” yarn (you know, the stuff we talked about in tip #1!).

It’s also a good idea to practice a new stitch pattern before you start knitting your project, so you can get all of your mistakes out of your system.

To do this, grab some old yarn and  cast on enough stitches to equal at least 4” of stitch pattern, plus two or three stitches on each edge. Some stitch patterns occur over a certain number of stitches, so you might want to fudge the number of stitches to allow for full repeats.

For example, if you’re practicing a 6 stitch cable pattern, make sure that you cast on a number of stitches that is divisible by 6, and then add a couple of extra stitches for each edge.

10) “Read” your knitting

Making sense of how knitted fabric is constructed will allow you to “read” your knitting and anticipate the pattern. You’ll be able to know what stitch you need to knit next just by looking at it.

This will free you up to “just knit” without having to stop to look at the written instructions every two seconds.

For example, when knitting a rib stitch pattern, you knit the knits, and purl the purls. With seed stitch, it’s the opposite – you purl the knits and knit the purls. So, once you have set up your stitch pattern you should know what comes next just by looking at your stitches.

With experience (and deliberate practice), you’ll be able to use this technique for more complicated patterns.

Reading your knitting can help you to identify mistakes soon after you’ve made them, (rather than 2 inches of knitting later). Which leads me to my next tip…

11) Check your work regularly

As you knit across a row, check your work for mistakes. Checking your work regularly is the best way to identify mistakes as soon as they happen.

Every now and then, I stop to look at my fabric and inspect it for weird-looking stitches or something that just doesn’t look right.

Do this often and you’ll start noticing mistakes sooner rather than later. This can literally save you hours of time!

12) Keep detailed notes

It’s a good idea to keep a little notebook in your knitting bag at all times. Whenever you start a new project, write down all the important information.

What important information?

I’m glad you asked! Here are a few things you could note:

  • The name of the pattern and the designer
  • The yarn name and brand)you are using
  • Fiber content
  • Colour
  • Dye lot
  • Yardage
  • Washing instructions
  • The needle size you are using (remember that gauge swatch we talked about? What size needle are you using to achieve the pattern gauge)
  • Your gauge (before and after blocking)
  • The date you started and finished the project
  • Any alterations or modifications you make to the pattern
  • What you like or don’t like about the pattern (or other thoughts that come up as you knit).
  • Things you might do differently next time?
  • Keep track of rows worked by using a tally system.
  • Where you left off, and where you need to start from the next time you pick up your knitting

You’ll be grateful that you kept these detailed notes when you come back to a half-done project that you put aside six months ago. Believe me!

Tip: You can keep a record of your projects (including photos), yarn stash and notes in Ravelry.

Ravelry is a free online community for knitters (and other yarn crafters), and includes forums, and a database of patterns, for ideas and inspiration. If you haven’t already, check it out!

13) Finish your row

This is a quick tip. Whenever possible, finish the row you’re working on before you put your knitting down.

If you leave your knitting in the middle of a row, you may find that when you pick up your knitting again, your tension is different, and it could be visible in your fabric.

(My kids are certainly used to hearing me say “let me just finish this row…” Ha!)

14) Keep the stitches moving along

If you’re noticing random loose stitches scattered throughout your stockinette fabric, you have a tension problem. But this time, it’s related to how you manage the stitches on the needles before and after you knit them.

The goal is to keep the stitches on the left needle moving smoothly up close to the tip of the needle, and then after they are knit to the right needle, moved along smoothly to make room for new stitches. This way, each stitch is being created with the same amount of yarn.

It’s a good idea to have your stitches bunched up close to the tip of the left needle for easy knitting and flow. With the stitches nice and close to the tips, you can feed them out one at a time and they don’t have to be stretched or tugged to get them off the needle.<

But you must keep moving new stitches into place. If you just keep knitting without readjusting, you’ll be giving out more yarn for the stitches that are further from the tips, resulting in different sized stitches.

Once the new stitches are on the right-hand needle, you need to move those along to make room for new stitches.

You’ll want to do this every four or five stitches or so.

If you try to knit too many stitches before adjusting, you’ll end up with bunches of stitches and a tension problem.

I use my lower three fingers (my pinkie, ring finger and middle finger) that clutch the needle to do this. Others use their thumb. Use whatever method works for you, just keep practicing. It will become automatic in no time.