A hand knit item is an object made by a person or group of people without automated machinery. Items that are knit by hand take longer to produce than items made by machine, and tend to show more individual character in the final state than items made by machine. Almost any item that can be knit by machine can be hand knit, although these different processes require different techniques, instructions, and tools.
When a knitter hand knits an item, a variety of techniques may be used. Typically, these involve the use of knitting needles, although items made on knitting looms are also considered to be knit by hand. Other tools may be required for the project, such as a stitch counter, scissors, or buttons. Additionally, some form of yarn is almost always used as the main material in the project. The versatility of human hands makes possible the use of almost all kinds of yarn, from delicate fibers to unconventional materials such as metal.
Before knitting machines were used to produce items on a large scale, all knit items were knit by hand. Knitting machines having become standard for store-bought items, hand knit items have become rarer and more difficult to purchase. In many locations, local knit crafts are still made by hand. Knitting by hand remains a relatively common craft in many societies, but is rarer as a mode of commercial production.
The time and effort involved in making a hand knit item gives rise to many superstitions about giving hand knit items as gifts. One of the best-known superstitions is the "boyfriend sweater," which is a sweater given to a romantic partner. A sweater takes significant time and effort, and the superstition involves the dissolution of the romantic relationship before the completion of the gift or soon after it has been given. Hand knit items can represent a long-term commitment to the knitter or the recipient, and thus giving such items away to uncertain relations is often given significant thought before large projects are started.
Knitting a gift by hand is often thought of as a meditation on the intended recipient, although some people knit items without a particular person in mind. Recipients of hand knit items should bear in mind the amount of time and devotion required of a knitter to produce such an item. Appropriate etiquette and demonstrations of gratitude should be observed when receiving such a gift because hand knit items are more personal than equivalent machine made gifts. Acknowledgment of the work put into the item is a gracious gesture on the part of a recipient and will usually be highly appreciated by the knitter.