13 Skills That Define The Intermediate Knitter



Intermediate Skills Sampler Swatch

It happens all the time.  So many of our knitters have no idea how to assess their own skill levels or the skill levels required for the patterns they want to knit.  On the one hand, we spend a lot of time teaching skills to people who are struggling with patterns that are beyond them.  On the other we spend a lot of time encouraging people to break out of their comfort zone.  As your friendly, patient, knowledgable LYS professionals, both pursuits are exactly what we’re supposed to be doing.

We’ve always had people opting out of classes or patterns that they are interested in, and are completely ready for, because they don’t understand their own strengths.  We work with them to encourage their sense of empowerment.  We’ve also had people opting in to classes or patterns that are well beyond their present skills.  And that’s a harder situation.  We want everyone to have a positive experience with their knitting and there is nothing relaxing or exciting or satisfying about struggling and frustration.  We also don’t want to slow down a class that’s ready for a technique while we try to teach basic skills to someone who is not ready, but we don’t want to exclude the adventurous from pushing their own limitations.

As we’re looking at our schedule for the first six months of 2016 and subtly tweaking or completely overhauling our recurrent classes, we’re finding ourselves needing to put some parameters or prerequisites in place.  But we don’t want to scare people away!  What to do?

Well, we’ve come up with a list of skills that define the difference between Beginners and Intermediates, and here it is:


Cast On Edge and Stockinette Stitch

#1 – Casting On

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and if you’re going to knit, you have to know how to begin.  There are dozens of ways to get stitches onto the needles.  The method at the left is Long Tail.  It suffices for almost everything and may be the only one you’ll ever need.

#2 – Knit

This one stitch is the basis for everything else.  When you line them up, they look like little V’s nesting inside one another


Purl Stitches on Reverse Stockinette

#3 – Purl

The Purl Stitch is the front-to-back mirror of the knit stitch.  I mean that if I work a Knit stitch while you look at the back of my stitch, it will be a Purl stitch from your perspective.  They look like little bumps.






Knit 2, Purl 2 Ribbing

#4 – Ribbing

When you make Knits and Purls in the same row, and line Knits up on top of Knits and Purls up on top of Purls, you get a stretch fabric known as ribbing.  No new knowledge needed here; still just Knits and Purls.





Left and Right Leaning Decreases

#5 – Left Leaning and Right Leaning Decreases

If you treat two stitches at a time like one stitch, and knit or purl them as one, you have worked a decrease.  Forming the stitch in the front of the loop or the back of the loop makes the resultant decrease lean either left or right.





Knit Front and Back, Make One and Lifted Increaeses

#6 – Knit Front and Back, Make One and Lifted Increases

Some times we want to add more stitches than we started with to make our fabric bigger.  Increasing means making stitches where there were none before.






Yarn Over

#7 – Yarn Over

You’ve heard the old saying that a weed is a plant that grows where you didn’t put it?  Well, the same can be said for Yarn Overs.  This maneuver is a common rookie mistake, but adding an extra loop of yarn that forms a hole in your fabric where and when you want it, means you can create eyelet and lace fabrics.




Short Rows

#8 – Short Rows

Start the row but don’t finish it.  It’s just that simple.  Short rows allow you to add height or diagonal lines where you want them.






Bound Off Edge

#9 – Binding Off

Once you start, you have to know how to stop, right?  Binding Off puts the edge on your work and stabilizes your stitches so they don’t run.  Like Cast On’s, there are dozens.  Learn at least one knit Bind Off and one Sewn Bind off





Picking Up Stitches

#10 – Picking Up Stitches

Some times we want to change directions or add on to an existing piece.  Picking Up Stitches means add ing a new row that’s attached to the old piece.  Think collars, or button bands on a cardigan.






Knitting In The Round

#11 – Knitting in the Round

Double Pointed Needles for small circumferences, and Circular Needles for larger ones is enough to get you started.  You can move on to Magic Loop and Two Circular needles later.






Knitting Chart

#12 – Chart and Pattern Reading

In a knitting chart, special notation marks symbolize specific stitch techniques.  When you you lay them out in a grid, they correspond to the stitches, rows and columns on your needles.  Patterns can also be expressed with word abbreviations in a sentence-line structure, what we typically call a knitting pattern.  Some people prefer charts, some people prefer word patterns.  It pays to understand both for t following reasons:


Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 8.46.05 PM

Knitting Pattern

• Some designers have preferences, and will only give you one or the other to go by.

• Charts can give you an instant view of an entire pattern and how certain elements line up within it

• Written patterns can give you specific explanations of stitch techniques that are not readily apparent from the symbols on a chart.

• Working with both give your brain a chance to use more than one kind of engagement to give you a more comprehensive understanding.


Intermediate Skills Sampler

#13 – Reading Your Knitting

When you can look at the stitches on your needle and all the stitches you’ve already worked, recognize them, and read them as if they were a sentence, you have reached a place where you can find mistakes and correct them before they get you into trouble.  This is without a doubt the most valuable skill you can acquire.  It is the skill that pulls all other skills together and truely makes you the Boss Of Your Knitting.


If you know that you know how to do all these things, you are a solid Intermediate Knitter and the world is your oyster.  You are ready to explore cables and lace.  You are ready to tackle mittens or socks or sweaters.  You’ve hit your stride.  Congratulations!

If there are some things on this list that you’re a little hazy on, you’re a Beginner and we’ve got so many opportunities for you to acquire these skills.  We”ll be offering the Skill Builder series again in 2016.  You can register now for the whole series or drop in for only the session that teach skill you still want to learn.  Look here for registration information.

Written by mim


9 Comments on “13 Skills That Define The Intermediate Knitter

    • That’s a great question. I’ll have to give it some thought, but I think they may revolve around design and ability to apply skills in original creations. I’ll try breaking it down and write another list soon. What do you think they should be?

      • Being able to adjust a pattern so the size is larger or smaller than the pattern or to work a design into a plain stockinette pattern

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  3. Breaking out of newbie knitting and working into beginner knitting, I’d love the instructions to make your sampler to work in some intermediate skills . Thank you!!

    • I’m glad you’re increasing your skills and that you found our sampler inspiring. With this post, I was aiming at helping folks to determine their skill level rather than instructing in the techniques themselves. Where do you live? We’re starting a 6 month series of skill building classes that cover most of these techniques plus a ton of stuff that’s not in the sampler. If you’re anywhere near Rockland, I would encourage you to sign up for the Building Blocks class (http://overtherainbowyarn.com/events/building-blocks-beginner-skill-builder-series/) and acquire the skills a few at a time.

  4. Many patterns say that they are for the “intermediate advanced” knitter. I can do what you have above for intermediate but what else do I need to tackle intermediate advanced? Thank you!

    • That’s a great question, Heidi. I’d have to look at the patterns to see what skills they require that would be more advanced than the ones I listed. Maybe unusual cast on or bind off treatments. Maybe the ways these skills are layered. For example doing regular decreases in lace work with a strong pictorial element. It’s still just yarn overs and decreases, but when you try working them at the same time, it can be a bit of a mind bender. Increasing, decreasing and working traveling stitches in single pass, two color brioche is a little tougher than the things on my intermediate skills list, but not impossible. Send me a link to an example pattern and I’ll try to see what the designer is talking about.

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