‘Learn to Knit’ MINI SERIES, Week 6: Reading a Pattern

I have seriously enjoyed having Rebecca Danger (the brilliant knitter behind Danger Crafts)
here with us for the past 6 weeks, teaching us her knitting groove.
I can officially say that I have learned to knit……..and I’m thrilled.

Today is the 6th and final week of the ‘Learn to Knit’ MINI SERIES and I’m a bit bummed.  I wish Rebecca could be a permanent fixture right in my house so I could bug her for knitting help any time I wanted to.  Good thing she is so willing to answer questions in emails and on her own blog.  Love that!

But today, she has created a really helpful post on how to read a pattern.
Not every pattern will have step-by-step pictures and explanations……like Rebecca has shown us here.
So she is sharing her little bits of wisdom on how to decode those tricky little patterns.
So bookmark this page, and reference it when you need it.
And in case you missed the previous 5 posts on How to Knit……..
………..you can click on any of the images below.
(Are some of you old pros at the knit and purl stitch now?)
Thanks again Rebecca for joining us here on Make It and Love It.  You have been a delight.
Hey knitters! Rebecca here, back again for the last week of our learn-to-knit mini series. How has your knitting been going? Are you feeling super confident in your basic knit and purl stitches yet?


This week I am going to go over the basics of reading a pattern. I hope to leave you with the confidence that you can tackle anything you might want to knit in the future.
I have picked a great basic free pattern to go over: it is called the Basic Bottom Up Triangular Shawl (#2) and it was designed by Sandi Luck. You can find the download link for it right here on the Purlescence Yarns website (top pattern).
Here we go, you ready?
Alright, so print out the pattern and look at it. Here’s the deal with knitting patterns: if you follow what they say, you will come out with something that more or less resembles the photo. Just trust the pattern: do what it tells you and 99% of the time you will be right on. It is like a recipe but for knitting: you figure out the abbreviations (just like c., tsp, tbs, etc in recipes) and you can knit anything.
Let’s start by looking at the most important information in the pattern: YARN, NEEDLES, and GAUGE.

Always look first at GAUGE.
“What the heck is gauge?” you might be thinking to yourself.
Gauge is the most important part of the pattern. Though I have picked a pattern where gauge varies, your gauge is going to be what determines whether or not you get a project the same size as the one written in the pattern. This is important on most patterns, but absolutely crucial on any garment that you want to fit you. No knitter likes to gauge (or at least most of them don’t), but YOU MUST. Gauging involves knitting a small test square to see how your personal knitting style compares to that in the pattern. This is a great place to find out more about gauge.
BUT, since I figured we should just get comfortable working with a pattern to start, I picked a pattern where we won’t have to worry about it. Wasn’t that nice of me?
Ok, so let’s get started with the project by picking a yarn. Notice what the pattern says about yarn:

What is important to look at here is the weight. Here’s the deal with yarn weights: yarns are classified into 6 weight groups, from the lightest (Lace Weight) which are good for projects like socks or shawls, to the heaviest (Bulky Weight). Here is a chart to help you understand better what I mean.
To get a project similarly sized to the one in the photo here, we are going to want to pick a yarn in the same weight as what the pattern calls for. It is always nice to use the same yarn as shown in the pattern since the designer will generally try out different yarns to get one that works really well with the particular item you are knitting. But, substituting a similar yarn is pretty much what every one does.
So, to get yarn for this project, go to your Local Yarn Shop and ask for the fingering or sock weight section. You can also find lots of yarn on the internet and websites will make it very easy to sort by weight. (If you are looking for a good yarn shop, I love Webs, found at yarn.com).
Next most important part of the pattern is the needles. So, check out what the pattern says on that, next:
Again, needles come in all kinds of sizes, lengths, and styles. So, to get the right needles for the project, go to your yarn shop and double check that you get the same ones your pattern calls for. If your pattern says circular needles, don’t get straight needles. Remember, do what the pattern tells you!
It can be very helpful to take the pattern with you so you can hand it to someone and asked for help until you begin to understand knitting needles better.
Also, this might seem a little odd, calling for 2 different types of needles. But, doing a quick scan of the pattern can help solve the mystery. If you look at the rest of the directions, you will find out why you need the 2 different types of needles.
Now we understand why we will need the 2 kinds of needles.
So, once you have at least 600 yards of fingering weight yarn, your 32” US Size 8 circular needle, and your US Size 10 double pointed needle, you are ready to start.
Look at where it says “Pattern”
So, just follow along and do what it says. Take your needle, cast on one stitch, and work Row 1 by knitting in the front and back of that stitch. Do the terms seem confusing? This pattern is great in that it puts its abbreviations right up front.
Whenever you come to a term you don’t understand, check the pattern for help. If you don’t find the term there, the internet and Youtube.com are your friends. Terms often vary slightly, depending on where you are looking. For instance, I use the abbreviation KFB (as this pattern does), but when I wrote my book, my publisher uses K1F&B for the same thing. So, when in doubt, check with your pattern. Terms for books of knitting patterns are generally found in the back of the book. Most of the time terms are close enough it is pretty easy to figure out what the pattern is saying, especially once you have knit through a few patterns. Here is a good list of terms to get you started.
After Row 1, keep moving on to Row 2, Row 3 and so on. Remember, if you get stumped, hop on the internet and google a term. If you get the term and still need it explained more, hit Youtube.com. You can figure it out!
It is important to mention too, shopping at your Local Yarn Shop is beneficial in lots of ways, but one of the big things is if you buy your materials and supplies at a yarn shop, most of the time the yarn shop staff will be willing and able to answer any questions you might encounter. The internet is wonderful, but I always say it is best to have someone right there in person to help you out.
Let’s walk through one of the more complicated sections you might have a question about:
Ack! Cable CO! What does that mean?
Look at the terms, see there is an explanation for Cable CO? Cool, huh? (If it is too confusing, hop on Youtube and pull up a video for yourself) The rest of the instructions might seem a little confusing at first, but this is a good spot to trust the pattern and follow what it says. Just relax, take it slow, and remember you can always back up and re-do it if it isn’t working. I bet it will make sense as you work through it. And remember also, knitting is suppose to be fun! Don’t stress. So, your job is to find out what blocking means….(here’s a little help)
See! Reading a pattern is fairly straightforward, and if you get stumped there are tons of places to turn for help. And of course, the more patterns you knit through, the more you’ll get it.
Let me know if you have questions from this post! I will be checking the comments.

I wanted to leave you also with some good knitting resources before I am done, too:
First of all, drop everything you are doing right now and go join Ravelry.com! It is the most amazing knitting website on the internet. There are tons of patterns, and groups, and fellow knitters, and help on there. Seriously, go now (and friend me on there, I’m RebeccaDanger). The knitting community is an amazing group of folks that I am honored to be a part of, and I think Ravelry is one of the central hubs of that great community.
Second, go find a local yarn shop and make a point of going to one or more of their open knit nights. I have met some of my best friends by joining in with local knit nights, and there is nothing quite like hanging out with a knitting group (plus it means built-in knitting help!).

Third, get some books. I have a couple good beginning knitting books I like to recommend to get you moving out into the amazing knitting world. I love the book Purls of Wisdom by Jenny Lord. Not only does it have one of my patterns in it, it has a whole history of knitting and more information (laid out amazingly well and easy to follow). I don’t just recommend it because I am a part of it, I honestly wish this book had been around when I started knitting.
Another book I recommend for beginning knitters is the original Stitch and Bitch by Debbie Stoller. The whole Stitch and Bitch series are just great books, and they are full of really basic, great, easy to understand information (and fun patterns).
Venture on, knitters! Get out there, get your sticks clicking, and warm the world one project at a time!

Thank you so much Ashley for letting me be a part of your amazing blog! I have had a wonderful time with this mini-series, it has been a blast. I hope every one has gotten something great out of it. I would love to see the projects you start coming up with too! Be sure to stop by my blog and feel free to email me.


Related posts:

Filed under Knitting, Mini Series


8 Responses to “‘Learn to Knit’ MINI SERIES, Week 6: Reading a Pattern”
  1. 1
    Shore Girl says:

    Oh wow — a picture tutorial on how to knit! Just what I need!! Thanks so much for sharing this — I'm bookmarking it for future reference!!!

  2. 2
    Brianne says:

    Thanks for the great series! I was excited when I realized you (Rebecca) are from my home town! I've already started knitting a new washcloth from a pattern and it's going great. Thanks!!!

  3. 3
    Brooke Elyse says:

    Thank you so much for this series! I can't wait to get started- I also wanted my grandma to teach me but unfortunately she can't remember due to her alzheimers. Thanks again for these, it means so much.

  4. 4
    Laura Zellers says:

    I've printed out all the tutorials. My 9 year old daughter and I are going to do this on your summer vacation. We would so LOVE the book. They are to die for! I just shared with all my FB friends. Maybe they'll become knitters too.

  5. 5
    Jason and Michelle says:

    This is great. I was kind of hoping for tutorial pictures or link to favorite youtube video of what it looks like to do the knit back and front of stitch and using a cable needle and such. Excite to expand out from knit and purl soon!
    Thanks for doing this series!

  6. 6
    Shore Girl says:

    Featured this today on my "Walk Around Blog Land."

  7. 7
    Anonymous says:

    Thank you both for this FABULOUS series. I'm a crochet girl but I've been wanting to broaden my horizons to knitting… I am so excited that you guys gave me such a great start!!
    -K. Morton

  8. 8
    Jennifer says:

    Thank you soooo much for this. I have completed all of the wash cloths, but in looking at your final post I have one question. Are we supposed to know what knitting into the front and back of the same stitch means? Also, do you knit with circular needles the same as with strait ones? Thanks!

Notes and Comments