Se­crets to Pat­tern Read­ing

Creative Knitting - - CONTENTS - By Ta­betha Hedrick

Knit­ting pat­terns can be in­tim­i­dat­ing for the novice, with their weird ab­bre­vi­a­tions, tech­ni­cal draw­ings and so much in­for­ma­tion seem­ingly crammed into a tiny font.

This ar­ti­cle is go­ing to sim­plify the whole process, from ti­tle to fin­ish­ing. Gain an un­der­stand­ing of skill lev­els, dou­ble-check ma­te­ri­als and gauge, dis­cover the pow­er­ful use of the schemat­ics, and master those quirky phrases like “at the same time.” Grab a pen and high­lighter, and let’s go!

Step 1: Your First Read-Through

Be­fore you do any­thing else, read through the pat­tern. This sim­ple act not only gives you the gen­eral idea about the pat­tern and the lan­guage, but also of­fers up plenty of time to re­search any tech­niques or new stitches that might have caught you un­aware later.

Step 2: Choos­ing the Right Size

Most (though not all) mod­els fea­tured in mag­a­zines are a size small or some­where in the 32–34-inch bust range. Know­ing that de­tail means that you can ex­am­ine the fit of the sweater to de­ter­mine the best size for you. Knitwear is de­signed with pos­i­tive ease (larger than your ac­tual mea­sure­ments), zero ease or neg­a­tive ease (smaller than your ac­tual body mea­sure­ments). In ad­di­tion, knit­ted fab­ric be­haves dif­fer­ently than wo­ven fab­ric, so a fit­ted piece will not be as re­stric­tive as a store-bought shirt.

If the sweater is slightly loose on the model, you know the de­sign is prob­a­bly

Con­fused by all those ti­tles and sym­bols? Ta­betha ex­plains the codes to un­der­stand­ing how to read a knit­ting pat­tern.

meant to have 2–4 inches of pos­i­tive ease. So take a look at the Fin­ished Mea­sure­ment sec­tion; all of the sizes listed there are the fi­nal, blocked mea­sure­ments. If you are look­ing for that 2–4 inches of pos­i­tive ease, choose the size in which the chest cir­cum­fer­ence that is 2–4 inches larger than your ac­tual bust mea­sure­ment.

Fin­ished Mea­sure­ments

Chest: 34 (38, 43, 47, 52, 56) inches Length: 21 (213/4, 231/4, 24, 251/2, 261/4) inches

Now, just to dou­ble-check, turn to the schemat­ics. The schemat­ics are the blue­print of your knit­ting project, giv­ing you the per­fect vis­ual rep­re­sen­ta­tion of what to ex­pect. They are read ac­cord­ing to the di­rec­tion of knit­ting.

The schematic shows an ex­am­ple of a piece worked from the bot­tom up. You can also see that it shows two pieces, in­form­ing you that those pieces will be worked in­di­vid­u­ally be­fore be­ing seamed to­gether. Ex­am­ine the mea­sure­ments for your size; does the hip or sleeve cir­cum­fer­ence look com­fort­able? Would you like some­thing that is more of a tu­nic-length sweater or a deeper arm­hole depth? Don’t be afraid to make changes to the num­bers you see here to ad­just for your own pref­er­ences.

Pat­terns are writ­ten for more than one size, and they sep­a­rate those sizes with com­mas in paren­the­ses. Once you’ve cho­sen your size, grab a high­lighter and high­light ev­ery mea­sure­ment and stitch count for your size through­out the pat­tern, like I did in my ex­am­ple.

Do­ing so now means you aren’t con­fus­ing stitch counts be­tween sizes later.

Fin­ished Mea­sure­ments

Chest: 34 (38, 43, 47, 52, 56) inches Length: 21 (213/4, 231/4, 24, 251/2, 261/4) inches

High­light all of the mea­sure­ments and stitch counts for your size to pre­vent num­ber con­fu­sion while knit­ting.

Step 3: Ma­te­ri­als &, Yes, GAUGE!

If you re­ally want to get the ex­act same look, hunt down the yarn used in the project. Edi­tors and de­sign­ers spend a lot of time col­lab­o­rat­ing on just the right yarn to achieve the de­sired re­sults, so you know it will be a good choice. But should you wish to try some­thing else, get a yarn that is the same weight and sim­i­lar con­tent. Cre­ative Knit­ting fol­lows the Craft Yarn Coun­cil yarn stan­dards, alert­ing you to the weight of the yarn so you can find some­thing com­pa­ra­ble.

Re­gard­less of which yarn you choose, you must swatch. If you want your sweater to fit beau­ti­fully, this one lit­tle chore is your first line of de­fense. This also pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity to prac­tice the pat­tern on a smaller sec­tion of stitches. The big se­cret here is that all of the mea­sure­ments in the pat­tern (that in­cludes length too) are based on your blocked (washed and dried) gauge swatch mea­sure­ments.

Go ahead and gather ev­ery­thing else you need ahead of time: tapestry nee­dle, but­tons, sewing thread, cro­chet hook. Mak­ing sure it is all avail­able saves you the angst of hav­ing to wait when you are ready to wear your fin­ished piece!

Step 4: One Sec­tion to Rule Them All

The “Knit­ting School” sec­tion at the end of the magazine con­tains ev­ery­thing you need to de­ci­pher the pat­tern. Here, you will dis­cover all of the stan­dard ab­bre­vi­a­tions that are used in ev­ery pat­tern, the yarn weight stan­dards, skill lev­els and, most im­por­tantly, how to work many of the tech­niques that are called for.

Be­fore you dive in, here are a few more de­tails:

1. Al­ways dou­ble-check the stitch pat­terns and spe­cial ab­bre­vi­a­tions in the pat­tern. They are “spe­cial” be­cause they aren’t the stan­dard ab­bre­vi­a­tions. Make sure you un­der­stand how to work these stitches.

2. Mag­a­zines re­sort to ab­bre­vi­a­tions be­cause they save so much room and pa­per. Without them, a two-page pat­tern could eas­ily be four–six pages long! Luck­ily, ab­bre­vi­a­tions are easy to grasp.

3. Read the pat­tern notes care­fully. This sec­tion will ex­plain any spe­cial con­struc­tion, how to use your nee­dles, or when to work the trim. It just pre­vents any last-minute sur­prises.

Step 5: The Lit­tle Quirks of Pat­terns

I’m go­ing to high­light some pe­cu­liar phrases you might run into in the pat­tern, and what they mean:

• “Work un­til piece mea­sures X inches.” This phrase, in and of it­self, isn’t par­tic­u­larly odd, but it can wreak havoc later. Length mea­sure­ments in a pat­tern are al­ways based on the fin­ished blocked length. This means that you should cal­cu­late the num­ber of rows needed based on your blocked gauge. To do that, mul­ti­ply the length in­di­cated by your blocked row gauge. For ex­am­ple, if the in­struc­tions say to knit for 10 inches, and your blocked row gauge is five rows per inch, then you will need to work 50 rows.

• “…end­ing with a RS (or WS) row.” This can be con­fus­ing, but it sim­ply means that when you are work­ing along in the pat­tern, you want to end up hav­ing fin­ished a RS (or WS) row.

• “Work­ing both sides at the same once …” Usu­ally worked at the neck­line, this phrase means that you are go­ing to be join­ing a new ball of yarn to main­tain your progress by work­ing two sides just as if they weren’t sep­a­rated. Here’s how it looks writ­ten out: Row 1 (RS): Work X stitches to neck, drop your cur­rent work­ing yarn. Join a new ball of yarn in the very next stitch and con­tinue as in­di­cated to the end of the row. All the stitches are still on the same nee­dle and you are treat­ing both sides as if they are still one piece. Row 2 (WS): Work X stitches to neck, drop your cur­rent yarn. Grab the other work­ing yarn from the other side of the neck and work to the end of the row.

You are us­ing two balls of yarn, and work­ing two shoul­ders, but you are work­ing on the same rows across.

• “Bind off X stitches at be­gin­ning of next X rows.” This one is both­er­some just in the phras­ing, but as soon as you work it, you’ll get it quickly. This phrase is of­ten found at shoul­ders and arm­hole edges and means you will bind off X stitches at the be­gin­ning of Row 1, work to the end of the row, turn, bind off X stitches at be­gin­ning of Row 2, work to end of the row, turn, etc.

• “Bind off X stitches at each neck edge X times.” That looks a lit­tle some­thing like this: Row 1 (RS): On first side, work across shoul­der to neck edge; on se­cond side, bind off X stitches at the be­ginnning of neck edge, work to end of row. Row 2 (WS): Work across first side; on se­cond side, bind off X stitches, work to end of row.

Since bind-off shap­ing is done at the be­gin­ning of the row, Rows 1 and 2 equal ONE time. You will re­peat these two rows un­til you have reached the to­tal num­ber of times in­di­cated.


This was a lot of in­for­ma­tion, but I hope you are now con­fi­dent to move for­ward with your first pat­tern! I prom­ise once you get through your first one, it all be­comes se­cond na­ture. Who knows, you might even find your­self work­ing solely from charts soon!

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