Knitting Your Way to Happiness

October 15, 2013

Knitting is not everyone’s cup of tea, but this skill is way easier to pick up than you may think and it has tons of benefits too! Don’t pass judgment too quickly–knitting is not only your grandmother’s domain. You can create clothes, accessories, decorations, gifts, and useful items for your home when you learn how to knit. Knitting can also be super relaxing and therapeutic. The repetitive motions can be soothing to the soul. Imagine click-clacking away as you watch Hocus Pocus in your living room with a nice cocktail on a rainy evening. You can see your project grow as you work and you feel satisfied knowing that this object came from your hands! You’re not creating more demand for some factory-made substitute and the only resources used were those to make the yarn and supplies as well as some good old-fashioned loving care (not to mention your new, badass skill set).

Yarn fibers

Wool and other animal fibers are not considered vegan and they can also irritate the skin. There are many other fibers that are vegan- and eco-friendly that will yield beautiful knits. Generally the least expensive, acrylic yarns would be considered vegan. However, acrylics are plastics and the environmental issues surrounding plastics may mean that you would prefer not to use acrylics. Other, more eco-friendly options include bamboo and cotton. Cotton is great for washcloths and other items which will get wet often because it’s heavy duty and can stand up to the washing machine.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

Knitting is a craft which is strongly aligned with the reduce, reuse, recycle philosophy. To take it to another level, you can even recycle the yarn in old or thrifted sweaters to make new things! If you have large needles you could also rip up old t-shirts and knit them into a rug. Furthermore, anything you knit will feel so special that you’ll never want to throw it out–nor will anybody who receives one of your handmade gifts. These hand-made items will hold way more intrinsic value than a 99 cent washcloth from a big box store. You will wash them and use them again and again and every time you use them you’ll think, I made this. (Or maybe that’s just me because I’m just a weirdo.)

Get started!

Here’s a super basic washcloth project you can do right away even if you’ve never knitted before–just follow the steps! This project only requires you to learn how to cast on, make a knit stitch, and bind off.

1. Select your yarn and needles. You’ll need:

  • Worsted weight cotton yarn (or acrylic if you want to exfoliate a bit!). I’m using Lily Sugar ‘n Cream in Psychedelic Ombre.
  • Size 8 knitting needles (I am using aluminum ones, but I love bamboo ones too!)

2. Cast on! You will need to cast on 50 stitches. You could cast on fewer if you want a smaller cloth.

  • Here’s an image tutorial from Knitty–Scroll down to the long-tail cast on (it’s the easiest!).
  • Check out this video tutorial from KnitPicks as well.

3. Knit! There are two different approaches you can take here: English or Continental. In the English style you take your hand off the needle in your dominant hand to loop the yarn around the left. In the Continental style you do all the looping work with your non-dominant hand, which allows you to keep the other needle stable. I’m going to show you the Continental style because I think it’s more efficient. Note: I’m a righty so my instructions will reflect that, but if you’re a southpaw you can just switch hands if you want to.

therapeutic knitting

First, take the needle with the cast-on stitches in your left hand. Make sure the stitches point to the right.


Bring the working yarn (connected to the skein) behind the needle and loop it over and behind your index finger. (See next photo.)

knitting tutorial 2 by samantha lester

Loop the working yarn around your left pinky to help keep the tension steady and use your thumb and the rest of the fingers on your left hand to hold the needle steady. (Yarn looped around pinky and over index finger to hold tension).

knitting tutorial

(Yarn looped as in previous photo, fingers now holding the left needle steady.)

knitting tutorial 4 by samantha lester

Take the empty needle in your right hand and push it up underneath and behind the top stitch on the needle.

Move the tip of the right needle above and behind the working yarn. Use your fingers to keep the yarn taught.

knitting tutorial

Bring the tip behind and up underneath the working needle so you’ve “grabbed” the working yarn with the right needle. Pull the working yarn through the bottom of the top stitch on the left needle.

knitting tutorial

Now that the working yarn is looped around the right needle, pull the top stitch off the left needle, leaving the new stitch on the right needle. This is your first knit stitch!

Repeat to end of row.

KnitPicks also has a video tutorial for the knit stitch which may give you a better idea of how to do this.

4. Keep on keepin’ on. Keep knitting until the washcloth is square (or rectangular if you prefer).

5. Bind off. This will take the work off the needles–you’ll be done soon!

  • Knit two stitches.
  • Use your left needle to pull the first stitch/the stitch closer to the bottom of the needle over the top of the second stitch and off the right needle entirely.
  • Knit one and repeat the previous step.
  • Keep knitting one and pulling the previous stitch off over the last stitch until you reach the end of the row with just a loop around your needle.

KnitPicks has a video tutorial to show you how to bind off, too!

6. Finish!

  • Pull the remaining loop, allowing more working yarn to come through the stitch, making the loop larger.
  • Cut the loop when it is a few inches long.
  • Pull only the detached yarn out, leaving a little yarn tail hanging off the corner of your wash cloth.
  • Use a crochet hook or a yarn needle to sew in the dangling ends.

Voilà! Washcloth!

Knitting resources

  • is a quarterly publication which includes patterns, tutorials, and articles.
  • is a community and database of thousands of knitting and crochet patterns. Need inspiration for your next project? Check them out!
  • has not only the tutorials included above but is also a great place to buy yarn if you don’t have a yarn store near you.

More from Samantha: Tea. Earl Grey. Hot: Different Types of Tea and Their Benefits

Autumn Cocktails You’ll Love


Photo: Samantha Lester


Samantha is a vegan professional in the tech industry living in Austin, Texas with her boyfriend. Her background is in library & information science and classical studies. She loves cooking, biking, movies, reading, the science fiction & horror genres, crafting, thrifting, and the occasional video game. Check her out on Pinterest and Google+. You can also reach her at lestersn [at] gmail [dot] com.


always stay inspired!