Another question that is often asked is “how do I read a pattern?” Most times, it’s not even a question. People will flat out say they don’t know how to read a pattern. Or that patterns are too hard to read. Some will even say they don’t care to learn when there are videos to watch. Well I will say this: If you don’t learn at least the basics of reading patterns, then you are limiting yourself to what you can make since not all patterns have videos. So today I would like to address some of those Frequently Asked Questions in regards to reading a pattern.
Where do I start when I am reading a pattern?
I always recommend to start by reading the pattern fully first. See what you need and when you need it. Most times if it’s a pattern that has new skills, it can be overwhelming to read through it first. That is ok. Do not panic. It happens to the best of us. Then you take a deep breath and proceed gathering your supplies. Once that is done, then you start. But before we get into starting, let’s discuss how a pattern is usually written.
Patterns can usually be broken down into 3 parts. I will be using parts of my Paving Rainbows hat pattern for an example. You can find the complete pattern here: https://blog.knittingboard.com/index.php/archives/1363
The first part is the list of items you need to complete the project. This is where you will find which loom is required, yarn recommended, and other notions needed. Patterns will list the yarn needed in number of skeins, yards, or weight. If you are using a different yarn than the one specified and it’s listed by skeins, balls, or yardage, then you will just need to compare the yardage of the yarn you are wanting to use with the one that was used in the pattern to make sure you have enough since not all skeins or balls have the same amount of yarn in them.
The Paving Rainbow Stones Hat pattern
Loom: All-n-One loom set for 72 pegs. Sample made on the All-n-One.
Yarn: 1 skein Bernat Mosaic in Calypso – Color A (or any medium weight yarn color of your choice). 1 skein Red Heart Super Saver in Black – Color B (or any medium weight yarn color of your choice)
Notions: Loom tool, Tapestry needle for weaving in ends
The second part is the abbreviations, gauge, and pattern notes. In stand-alone patterns available on blogs or other sites, this will follow the list of items. If it is a pattern in a book, the abbreviations will most likely be found at the front or back of the book. But the gauge and pattern notes, if any, will still be in this location.
What is gauge?
Gauge tells you how many stitches and rows are in a certain number of inches so you know if your tension is correct when knitting an item that needs to be a certain size. So if it reads,
In stockinette, 20 stitches x 30 rows = 4 inches
you will take a ruler and measure your swatch or work. If you count 20 stitches in 4 inches on a row in all knit stitches and 30 rows in 4 inches, then you have achieved gauge.
Some patterns will not have it listed if gauge is not important. Or sometimes the designer forgot to list it. Oops…
What are pattern notes?
Pattern notes are the special instructions or little helpful tidbits provided by the designer to help clarify how the pattern is to be worked.
· Use only one strand of yarn.
· Carry yarn to the inside of loom when not using. Do not cut.
· K – flat or u-wrap knit
· P – purl
· S – slip (skip)
· Rnd(s) – Round(s)
The third part is the actual instructions. Most times it will be written out by rows or rounds. Some patterns may be written in steps, like I did with my corkscrew tutorial.
E-wrap cast on all pegs.
Rnds 1 – 18 – With color A, K all
Place cast on loops back on pegs, knit over
Rnd 19 – K all
Drop Color A to inside of loom. Add Color B.
Rnd 20 – With color B, K all
Rnds 21-23 – P all
Drop Color B to inside of loom. Pick up Color A.
Rnds 24-29 – With color A, K3, *S2, K6*, repeat from * to * until last 5 pegs, S2, K3
So let’s start at the beginning. First you will cast on.
What cast on and bind off methods do I use if the pattern doesn’t specify?
In this pattern, I specify an e-wrap cast on. But when a particular cast on or bind off isn’t specified, then you just use the one that you like best.
Then you start with the first row or round. In this pattern, rounds 1 – 18 are all the same, so instead of writing out each round, I combined them all into one line. So for those 18 rounds, you will knit all the pegs.
Now let’s skip to after the brim is made. I made a note to drop the first color and add the second. It looks a little out of place here, but there are times where the instructions are needed in the pattern as you go along which is why the instructions for the color change is between the rounds. Sometimes the designer will write those at the end of the row or round so there is not a break like you see here.
What does it mean when it says to “repeat from *”?
Let’s now look at rounds 24 – 29. In this pattern, I put an * at the beginning and end of the part that is to be repeated. Sometimes it will just be at the beginning of the repeat and then say “repeat from * to the end of the row”. But what does that line mean? We have seen rounds that are all knits or all purls. But now we have a mixture of stitches with repeats.
The round reads “With Color A, K3, *S2, K6* repeat from * to * until the last 5 pegs, S2, K3”. If that were written out for all the pegs, it would read like this:
With color A, knit 3 pegs, slip 2 pegs, knit 6 pegs, slip 2 pegs, knit 6 pegs, slip 2 pegs, knit 6 pegs, etc., until only 5 pegs remain in the round. Then slip 2 pegs and knit 3 pegs. Then you start the next round. Or if it was written peg by peg, it would be: knit, knit, knit, slip, slip, knit, knit, knit, knit, knit, knit, slip, slip, knit, knit, knit, knit, knit…
So you can see why the rows or rounds are condensed down into abbreviations and repeats. Otherwise, a simple pattern would be the size of a small book.
The more complicated repeats will often involve parenthesis as well as asterisks.
So to start off when learning to read a pattern, you may want to write each row or round out so you can better understand it.
And to keep from being overwhelmed by the entire pattern, I would recommend you concentrate on one row at a time. Just go stitch by stitch and then row by row. If something doesn’t seem to make sense then look at the previous row and the following row. Sometimes it will make more sense when you see what is just below or just above the row you are working.
What do the abbreviations mean?
Reading patterns is like reading code. The reason for abbreviations is for saving space, especially in books and magazines. Here are some of the more common abbreviations.
BO – bind off
CA – color A
CB – color B
CC – contrasting color
CO – cast on
Dec – decrease
EW – e-wrap
Inc – increase
K – knit
K2tog – knit 2 together
KO – Knit over
M1 – make 1 increase
MC – main color
P – purl
P2tog – purl 2 together
PSSO – pass slipped stitch over
Rep – repeat
Rnd (s) – rounds(s)
S or sl – slip
SSK – slip, slip, knit those 2 stitches together
W&T – wrap and turn
YO – yarn over
What knit stitch do I use if it doesn’t say?
Most times if the pattern just says knit then it is a true or traditional knit stitch. Some people like to call it a reverse purl. You can use the u-wrap, flat knit, or even e-wrap, if you are needing to achieve a certain gauge due to your tension. If the pattern says “no e-wrap”, then it is not recommended to use it since it really is a different stitch entirely. It is taller and looser and will alter the finished size.
Why are patterns not all written the same?
This is a great question. I really don’t have a good answer to that one except to say that, while most designers try to keep uniformity to patterns so that they are easy to read, some people are beginners, want to share their designs, and just don’t know how patterns are most commonly written. And sometimes designers will write a pattern how they like to read them.
Why can I not just use videos?
There usually are not videos for all patterns. And people cannot randomly make videos without the designer’s permission since it violates copyright. But when working a pattern and you come across a technique you are unfamiliar with and the written instructions for that technique are confusing, videos are very helpful, and I would recommend using them.
How do I write a pattern?
If you are writing a pattern for the first time and are unsure of what to do, look at other patterns on blogs or on Ravelry. Then try to follow suit in whatever way makes sense to you. Most times, our first efforts seem to fall short of our expectations. Just take a deep breath and try your best. We all start somewhere and learn.
I really hope this helps get you started on reading patterns. The worst thing that could happen is that you will need to rip the project out and start over. But it is only yarn after all. It is designed to be taken apart and reknit.