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A few tips on knitting / crocheting pattern reading….

April 6, 2010

Learning to manipulate fibre and letting your creativity flow is something of a mystery to some folks.  Learning a new craft, such as knitting, comes with the ability to overcome challenges.  The learning curve can be steep, especially when it comes to reading patterns.

Each craft has its own set of short forms (abbreviations) and its own unique way of conveying the steps to creating a thing of beauty.  Often patterns are written in what seems like another language.  However, if you take things step-by-step, reading a pattern is a breeze.  Following are some easy pointers to get you going.

Read the gauge information: Gauge is unique to knitting and crocheting.  Understanding gauge is key to reaching a satisfying end.  Gauge is “stitches per inch.”  Every pattern stitch, every yarn, and sometimes every colour will knit to a different gauge.  Several things can affect gauge.  For instance, the needle (size and type are important – don’t switch from aluminum needles to wooden needle mid-project as the gauge will be different), the type and colour of a yarn can produce different gauge results, and even weather can often adjust the gauge at which you are knitting.  Gauge can often change depending on the affecting factors.  It is highly recommended that each project begin with a gauge swatch.  An easy tutorial on creating a gauge swatch can be found here.

Understand all the abbreviations in the pattern: Each pattern normally has a glossary.  At the very least, every pattern will provide you with the resources to understanding the abbreviations used within the instructions.  The glossary or reference will lead you through the meaning of each abbreviation.  For instance, you might come across something that looks like this:  *K2 tog, yo* repeat from *to *.  What does this mean?  You would look to glossary to figure out what each abbreviation stands for:  Knit two together then place yarn over needle and repeat from * to * until you reach the end of the row.  It is worth committing to memory some commonly used abbreviations:

  • cc – contrasting color; if you’re working with several colors, you might see cc1, cc2, etc.
  • m1 – make one stitch; used to make an increase
  • mc – main color
  • rs – right side; the side of the garment that people will see
  • sl – slip a stitch
  • St st – stockinette stitch; you knit one row, purl the next row, and repeat (or, if you are knitting in the round, knit every round)
  • k2tog – knit two together; in other words, put your working needle through two stitches instead of one, and knit them together as though they were one stitch, making a decrease
  • ws – wrong side; the side of the garment that is not intended to be seen
  • yo – yarn over; used to make an increase with a lacy hole

Focus on one stitch at a time: It is easy to read the entire row and get a little overwhelmed by the amount of actions within that line and the often confusing jargon that conveys those actions to you.  Take it one stitch at a time.  Accomplishing each stitch individually allows you to stay focused and makes each row a lot more manageable.  If that row contains a pattern repeat then you can also break it down into sections.  Say each repeat is set of 10 stitches and you have 100 stitches on your needles.  To create a more manageable set of actions, place a stitch marker every 10 stitches.  In this way, you can easily track where you are and should you make a mistake you only have to deal with that specific set of 10 stitches.

With this set of easy tips, you will soon be on your way to mastering the language and art of patterns in whichever craft you choose.  The key is taking small bites and moving through each phase one step at a time.

There are a number of resources, websites, books, etc. that can provide more helpful tips and direction in cracking the knitterly language code.  Do you have a favourite tip or resource?  Why not share it with us in the comments section below?

Happy Stitching.

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