Have you ever been at a party where the conversation just dies? After exchanging pleasantries and thoroughly discussing the weather, you scramble for something to say, until you finally give up and just sit in the awkward silence. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to turn to something in your home and say, “Oh, this? Yes, I made it”? For that perfect conversation starter, look no further than knit coasters. Not only are they practical items that are great projects for a knitting beginner, they’re a great way to say to your friends, “I am a creator! Feast your eyes upon my greatness!” 

And, in the end, isn’t that what we all want in life? Get started today with this handy, step-by-step guide.

Knitting Supplies

Every knitter, from beginner to advanced, needs the following three supplies: a pattern, knitting needles, and some yarn. All of these things can easily be found at your local craft store or online. You also should have a pair of scissors and a measuring tape handy so that you can finish off your knit coasters and make sure they are the correct size.

Knitting Pattern for Coasters

The knitting pattern is essentially the blueprint for your coaster. Patterns can range from super simple to extremely complex, and there are tons of resources online to find them.

When deciding on a knitting pattern for coasters, there are a few things you want to look for. First, if you are a beginner, try sticking to a “beginner” pattern. Most patterns will tell you what skill level you can expect from the project. Next, make sure the final product is something that you like—there’s no sense in picking out a coaster that you wouldn’t be excited to show off in your home. Finally, you’ll want to look at the supply list, which will give you both suggested needle size and yarn weight.

Needles

yarn and needles
Needles and yarn, the bread and butter of knitting, and essential for when you knit coasters.

There are all sorts of knitting needles you can choose, and your pattern will tell you the suggested size for your coaster project. In general, knitting needles in the United States are measured on a 0-15+ scale, with zero being the smallest gauge. This number corresponds to a millimeter gauge for the needle. The needle size, in combination with the yarn gauge, will determine the size of each stitch.

For beginners, the general rule of thumb is the larger the needle, the easier the knitting process will be. As you get small with your needles, your stitches get smaller, making them harder to see and to work. Additionally, wood needles are preferable to plastic or metal needles, since the yarn is less likely to slide up and down your needle as you work.

Yarn

yarn
From left to right, examples of animal fiber, plant fiber, and synthetic fiber yarn.

When choosing your yarn, the possibilities are endless. Whether it’s fiber type, yarn weight, or yarn color, you may suffer from choice paralysis when it comes to the perfect yarn for your knit coasters. Picking the color is simple, but how should you decide those other important specs?

When all else fails, consult your pattern—it should tell you the suggested “weight” or size of the yarn to use. Thicker or bulkier yarn is easier to manipulate, but it may not be the best choice for a smaller project like a coaster. Finding a happy medium size that is both easy to use and serves the piece is the way to go.

In terms of fabric type, cotton yarns are the best choice for coasters. Cotton yarn doesn’t melt, so your coaster can hold both hot and cold beverages. Additionally, cotton is very absorbent and easy to clean, so you have much less to worry about when it comes to the inevitable spills. 

What Stitches to Use

Knitting has a lot of versatility, allowing you to create any number of complex stitches for your project. But you have to learn to walk before you can run, so you really should focus on mastering these two basic stitches first.

The Knit Stitch

knitting
The knit stitch, when done for entire rows, is referred to as the garter stitch.

The knit stitch, also called the plain stitch, is the basis for all knitting. Entire projects can be done using just this stitch over and over again.

Hold the needle with your stitches in your left hand. Insert your right needle into the loop of the stitch from left to right so that your right needle is now behind your left needle. Wrap your working yarn from the back to the front of your right needle. Then, pull your right needle through the newly made loop and slide the stitch off the left needle. You’ve now done the knit stitch and it will be on your right needle. Wash, rinse, and repeat.

The Purl Stitch

knitting
Alternating rows of knit and purl create a stitch called the stockinette. Notice the difference between this and the garter stitch above.

The purl stitch is the yin to the knit stitch’s yang—they are essentially mirror images of each other.

Hold the needle with your stitches in your left hand with your working yarn at the front of your project. Insert your right needle into the loop of the stitch from right to left so that your right needle is on top of your left needle. Wrap your working yarn from back to front around your right needle, then pull the right needle through that loop you just made. Finally, pull the whole stitch off your left needle so that it is now on your right.

The combination of knit and purl stitches let you create many different intricate patterns. However, you won’t get far until you have committed them to muscle memory. So, practice, practice, practice.

How to Knit Coasters

kniting
Skillshare instructor Lisa Browell displays her finished knit coaster.

Now that you have your materials, know some basic knitting terms, and have a few stitches under your belt, you’re ready to start knitting coasters.

Step 1: Read the Pattern

Here’s an example pattern that you can use for your coaster. This pattern generally duplicates what most patterns will look like.

CO: 19 stitches

Row 1: K1 across all stitches

Row 2: P1 across all stitches

Repeat Rows 1+2 until you reach 27 total rows

Row 28: cast off all stitches

So what does this all mean? “CO” stands for cast on, “K” stands for knit stitch, and “P” stands for purl stitch. Each pattern you use will have an abbreviation guide that you’ll have to consult to properly read the pattern.

Step 2: The Slip Knot

knitting
A simple loop through a loop will create a slip knot.

Before casting on, you’ll have to attach your yarn to your needle. The common way to do this is with a slip knot.

Leave a long tail on your yarn, around 15 inches. Fold the yarn to create a loop, then pull the tail through that loop to create a second loop. Insert your needle into the second loop, pulling both yarn ends to tighten the knot around the needle. Don’t pull it too tight, though—a slightly loose yarn on the needle will allow easier access to stitches going forward.

Step 3: Casting On

knitting
Casting on using the long tail method.

In order to get your first row of stitches, you must do a process called casting on. If you are following along with the sample pattern above, you’ll have to cast on 19 stitches.

Holding the needle in your right hand, use your left hand to wrap the tail end of your yarn around your thumb and the working end around your pointer finger. Put your needle point to the outside of your thumb and wrap the yarn around the needle. Then, go to the outside of the pointer finger and wrap that yarn around your needle (see above). Pull that yarn through the loop you made with your thumb, let go of the loop on your thumb and pull to tighten around the needle. The loop that is now on your needle represents the first stitch.

Step 4: Follow the Pattern

Once you’ve finished casting on, you can continue to follow the pattern, stitching along row to row as you go. Remember to always start each row with the needle holding the stitches in your left hand.

If you are following along with the sample above, your first row after casting on will be made entirely of the knit stitch. After you end that row, you “turn your work,” switching the needles in your hands, and you will purl all the way across into each stitch. Alternating between rows of knit stitch and purl stitch creates the stockinette stitch, so now you know three different stitches!

Step 5: Casting Off

knitting
Notice how when casting off, the left needle is being inserted into the first stitch on the right needle.

Much like casting on gets your project started, casting off will finish your project off, securing all the stitches together so that they don’t unravel. When casting off, you always want to use the same stitch as the row before it.

In the example pattern, you’ve just completed your 27th row, which is all purl stitches. So you will cast off using purl stitches. Purl two stitches onto your right needle. Then, take your left needle and insert it into the first purl stitch on your right needle. Slide that first stitch over the second stitch on the right needle. Repeat this process until the final stitch in the row.

Once you have one loop remaining on your right needle, slide the needle out, cut about a 5-6 inch tail on the yarn, and knot off your project. Weave in the remaining tail, and you are all done!

Throw a Party

You’ve completed your coaster, and now it’s time to celebrate! Invite all your friends over so they can bask in the glory of your handiwork and put your new knit coaster to good use. Maybe make a few more, too, so your friends will have somewhere to put your drink.

They’ll be so impressed, they’ll be asking you for their own custom sets. And, since knit coasters are such a simple and customizable project—whether they are seasonal colors or the colors of a favorite sports team—you could even start your own custom knit coaster business!

Start Your Knitting Journey!

Knitting for Complete Beginners: How to Knit a Coaster

Written by:

Luke Field