An introduction to arm knitting

Published on March 3, 2019 8 min read

Arm knitting is the clever technique of using your arms, instead of needles, to create beautiful knitted fabric that can be sewn into statement accessories and homeware. Laura Strutt from Made Peachy talks us through how to get started in arm knitting and reveals her favorite yarns and patterns. Plus, find bonus insights on the technique from some of the best designers around the arm knitting yarn-block.

What is arm knitting?

Well, as the name suggests, this is knitting with your arms - sans needles! Stitches are cast on to one forearm, using your hands to work through the stitches to grab the working yarn drawing through to create a stitch, which is then placed on your other arm.

The rows of the project are worked in a back and forth manner. There is no turning of the work in arm knitting as you would in regular needle knitting - you are simply working through the stitches from your right arm and passing the new stitches onto the left. When you're finished working the row, you simply work in the other direction, working through the stitches on the left arm to pass them over to the right!

Experienced knitters will soon get into the flow of catching the yarn and creating the stitches, while for knitting newbies, working on such a large scale, is a great introduction to how stitches are created and how they join together in a series to create the fabric of a knitted piece.

For those of us that are a dab hand with the needles, you might be wondering why you would put down your dps, circulars and cable needles in favor of knitting with just your arm alone. Well, there are stacks of reasons why you might like to try this clever and ultra simple technique - primarily speed being one of the main reasons yarn-oholics like to work on arm knitting projects.

"Arm knitting is easier than traditional knitting as there are no needles to deal with," Anne Weil of Flax & Twine and author of Knitting Without Needles

Check Out All of Our Arm Knitting Patterns

How to arm knit

To get started all you need to do is grab some super bulky yarn and follow our simple steps below.

As the tension of the knitted fabric is created by the size your arms, and not needles, the stitches are so much larger and you can create super-sized projects in just a few hours. Now, show me a knitter that doesn't want to work up a luxurious on-trend bulky throw in an afternoon!

How to arm knit step-by-step

1

Cast on. Stitches are cast on to right hand forearm.

2

Create a loop. Grab the working yarn and pull through to create a loop.

3

Create new stitch. Draw yarn through loop to create a new stitch.

4

Completing your stitch. Transfer your completed stitch on your left hand arm.

Is stopping in the middle of arm knitting possible?

Expert Anne Weil says 'yes' and shares her technique of taking a break:

“It is not only possible but also very easy to stop in the middle of arm knitting. Simply, take your stitches off your arm one by one and put them onto a holder, I use a gift wrap roll but anything similar will do! As you put the stitches back on your arm, remember to keep the left leg (side) of the stitch behind your arm and the right leg (side) of the stitch in front of your arm.” 

Beginners arm knitting patterns at LoveKnitting

Arm knitting yarn

If you're new to the wonderful world of arm knitting, choosing a yarn can seem daunting - but once you've read our guide, your only problem will be deciding which gorgeous ball of arm knitting yarn to go for!

Arm knitting yarn is generally much chunkier than standard knitting yarn, due to the stitches being longer and larger than those worked up on needles. Roving yarn is untwisted, unplied and is wound into a ball in one single strand - it's perfect for arm knitting projects, simply because it's ultra thick and super soft. The most common arm knitting yarns are those which are super bulky and extra bulky, and knit up quickly with good stitch definition - you'll find they're available in a huge range of bright colors, neutral shades and variegated tones. For a more budget friendly option you can also use standard bulky yarns for arm knitting, simply by holding several strands together to create one much thicker arm knitting yarn.

How do I choose?

  1. Opt for plump knits with a full bodied yarn like the Wool from We Are Knitters - want to turn up the volume? Work with two or more strands held together as one!
  2. Why not try adding more interest to the individual stitches with this ‘chain’ construction yarn? Debbie Bliss Paloma is created in such a way that rather than the fibers being plyed together they are knitted into a chain - giving you all the volume and impact of a bulky yarn, while maintaining a lightweight finish.
  3. Variegated and multicolored yarns will add pops of bright color while you knit without the need for changing yarns as you work. Rowan Big Wool Color is available in six stunning shades, so you're sure to find the perfect one for your arm knitting project!
  4. Feeling like getting a little fancy? Work with two different weight yarns in complementary tones to create a richer, layered finish to the arm knitted fabric. This striking shrug teams a boucle and a bulky to make a really show stopping garment!

Arm Knit Shrug in Bernat Bargello
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Arm Knit Shrug in Bernat Bargello

By Bernat

“Arm knitting was the first yarn thing I learned to do and I think most people curious about arm-knitting are absolute beginners. So thinking back to when I first started, one of the hardest things was yarn selection. During my first project I had to stop in the middle to go buy more yarn!” Michelle from The Snugglery

How much yarn will I need?

"Don’t worry, the math is simple. 1yd x 1yd = 1 square yard. And you need 4lb of yarn for each square yard. So just multiply length by width and times the result by 4 to get the number of pounds of yarn you need. For example, if you want to knit a blanket that's 1.2yd x 1.5yd you'll need 1.2 x 1.5 x 4 = 7.2lb of yarn. Simple as that!"  Vicky from VS Arm Knitting

Bulky yarns for arm knitting

Shop All Bulky Yarn

Which yarns work best for arm knitting?

Now you know the steps, time to pick your yarn. Whether you want bold color or the softest fiber, we've rounded up some of our favorite yarns. For more inspiration you can also explore our Top 10 Arm Knitting Yarns.

Top arm knitting yarns

Discover Our Top 10 Arm Knitting Yarns

When it comes to giant-knit blankets: To rove or not to rove?

“A lot of the giant-knit blankets that are going viral are knit not out of commercial yarn, but from roving directly.” Laura from Nocturnal Knits

Take a look at her Giganto-blanket pattern that teaches how to prep roving so it's more durable. Laura also recommends Tjockt yarns, which are 100% merino wool.

Giganto-blanket
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Giganto-blanket

By Laura Birek

Our favorite jumbo yarns

Browse Jumbo and Super Bulky Yarns

Five scarves to arm knit

Bulky knits never go out of style and arm knitting is a quick and easy way to whip up some striking accessories - here is a round up of our five favorite arm knit scarves.

Knitted accessories are the perfect items to transition your wardrobe through different seasons, not only that, but they are a simple way to update your look without a huge price tag. Once you've mastered the basics of arm knitting you'll want to work on some projects to build your skills. Why not try your hand at classic scarves, cozy cowls and elegant wraps and shawls, which are the perfect items to try when branching out with arm knitting.

Our top must-make arm knitting scarves, shawls and cowls

1. Elegant Fringed Wrap

Surround yourself in the wonderful softness of this super-sized arm knit wrap. This design is worked with a combination of two textured yarns to create a rich and luxurious finish. Measuring 183cm long, this can be wrapped around you to envelop you in a cozy style.

2. Variegated Bulky Cowl

Add a bright pop of color to your outfit with an arm knit cowl. The unique, yet simple, construction of this cowl creates a continuous loop of arm knitting which translates into a clean and modern shape around the neckline. Variegated yarns, like this one, blend lots of brilliants colors and shades together, and remove the fuss of switching between different yarns when arm knitting.

3. Triangle Kerchief Shawl 

Give the traditional triangular shawl a funky modern update with arm knitting in a bulky textured yarn. This classic shape is created with the simple use of increase stitches to form the neat triangle, which can be looped around the neck to really showcase this statement accessory. This design is worked in a tactile boucle yarn which give the make a wonderful lux finish!

4. Classic Scarf

Play up the preppy style with a classic straight arm knit scarf! This design couldn't be easier - with a small number of stitches required when arm knitting to make up each row, you will be delighted at just how quickly you can work up this wardrobe staple! Selecting a bright and bold multi-colored yarn like this one will really turn up the fun on this quick and easy project!

5. Glamorous Multi Yarn Cowl 

For a more dressed up look why not team together a complementary palette of yarns in a range of finishes? This design works with four different yarn types, which are held together as one and worked to create stitches with lots of interest, that will look striking against simple evening wear and tailored coats.

Picked your pattern? Selected your yarn? What’s next…? Two final tips before you get started!

“Before you start to arm knit a good tip would be to remove any jewelry on your arms, wrists and hands, because it can snag your yarn. Roll up your sleeves as, with bulky yarn especially, you'll need plenty of room along your arms.” 

“Another good tip to remember is to keep stitches nice and loose to make it easier to move from one arm to the other, and try to keep each stitch even. To keep all stitches uniform, especially when creating a blanket, turn each loop in a clockwise position when transferring from one arm to the other. This small movement will make all stitches run in the same direction creating a lovely knitted pattern when finished.” Anna from Made Up Style

Explore more arm knitting scarf and cowl patterns

Discover Arm Knitting Patterns

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