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The basic stitches in knitting are: plain (confusingly just referred to as ‘knit’ in patterns) and purl. Once you have mastered these two, there are an unbelievable number of variations !
Ribbing is the stretchy bit along the edges of garments and around the neckline. Thinner needles are used for this, then you change to thicker for the rest of the knitting.
The most common rib is knit 1, purl 1 (also written as 1x1 rib) where you knit the stitches alternately plain and purl (remember k1 or knit one actually means to do a plain stitch!) Sometimes the rib is k2 p2 - changing stitch type after every two stitches. This gives an attractive but slightly looser result.
IMPORTANT: if you have an odd number of stitches, you will begin your k1 p1 rib rows differently on alternate rows - odd numbered rows will start with a plain stitch, but even numbered rows with purl. With an even number of stitches you will always start with a plain (knit) stitch. You’ll get to recognise what’s underneath.
An alternative to k1 p1 rib might be to knit the edgings in moss stitch (sometimes called seed stitch). The difference is this: whereas to produce k1 p1 rib, in every row you will knit plain stitches on top of each other and purl stitches on top of each other, for moss stitch you will knit the first row exactly the same as k1 p1 rib, but then on the second row you will knit a plain on top of a purl stitch and a purl on top of a plain stitch. You carry on with this alternating pattern for every row. This produces a less stretchy but firmer edging.
Called stockinette in the USA, this produces the most common knitting fabric by simply knitting alternately one row all plain (knit) and one row all purl. The two sides look different which is useful to keep track.
Yet another name for the ‘knit’ or ‘plain’ stitch but usually used when you work several rows of it.
All other stitches are variations of knit and purl - even complicated aran designs.
You need a cable needle to do this kind of work. It involves popping a few stitches on to the cable needle (see needles page) either at the back or front of your work (your knitting pattern will specify ) while you knit a few stitches in the normal way, then knit those on the cable needle. The effect is to introduce a twisted ‘rope’ panel.