Once you decide exactly what you want to knit, whether it's a sweater for new baby, or a scarf to keep her warm in the winter, the first thing that you must get is a pattern. To a knitter, a pattern is what a map is to an explorer. It is a guide that helps you follow the design, the size, the needles and the stitches needed. But to a beginner, it may seem like a confusing code. By learning what the terms and abbreviations mean, however, you'll soon become comfortable with reading knitting patterns and you'll be able to knit anything you can find a pattern for.
Steps1. Choose a yarn similar to the yarn recommended in the knitting pattern. Always buy enough yarn and an extra ball or two at the same time, so you get all the yarn from the same dye lot. If you end up needing more yarn, the next dye lot could be a slightly different color because of manufacturing variations, even it has the same name and color on the tag.
2. Choose knitting needles based on the pattern's recommendations. Needle sizes vary, from tiny (000) to huge (30), and your pattern will tell you the best size needle to use, but this recommendation should be treated as a guide only. Your knitted gauge swatch will tell you if you need to use a different size needle than the one your pattern recommends. That's why it's always good to save the needles, as they can last a lifetime. Eventually, if you knit long enough, you will end up with a variety of sizes that you will need.
3. Make a gauge swatch before you start knitting your garment to ensure the needle size and the yarn chosen will produce the size and shape garment you need. In the pattern, the gauge is given as the number of stitches and rows that the designer intends you to have, over a 4-inch square. The pattern usually specifies what kind of stitch to use (often it is the same stitch pattern as will be used throughout the project). This is extremely important to assure that the finished product will be the size that the pattern intended it to be.
- For the purposes of this article, you should cast on the number of stitches the designer intends you to have within four inches, plus six stitches extra, so that you can have a three-stitch garter stitch border on each side. This will prevent the swatch from curling, and will nicely frame the area you will want to measure. Some knitters swatch differently.
- Pay attention to whether the gauge measurement is intended for pre-washed or post-washed, post-blocked fabric. Some yarns can change gauge drastically when washed. Wash the swatch the same way you intend to wash the finished item.
- If the size of the swatch does not match what the pattern specifies, you will probably need to experiment with different needle sizes. If you need more stitches or rows per inch, use smaller needles. If you need less, use bigger needles. Every time you try a new set of needles, knit a new gauge swatch to test them. You can also adjust your gauge by changing the type of yarn you use (thinner yarn if you need more stitches or rows, thicker yarn if you need less) but this is usually inconvenient and should not be necessary if you purchased yarn similar to what was recommended.
- This step can be skipped if you're knitting a simple scarf or blanket.
6. Recognize a stitch for each letter, followed by the number indicating how many of that stitch is called for. The letter P stands for purl and the letter K is for knit. If your pattern says Row One: P5, K5, you should purl five stitches and then knit five stitches on your first row. Learning to do the knit and purl stitches will enable you to also do more intricate designs. These two stitches are the basic steps used in many patterns. Read the next section to familiarize yourself with other commonly used abbreviations.
7. Repeat any instructions when you see asterisks, brackets, or when the pattern says "X times".
- Example 1: *P1, K1 tells you to purl one stitch, knit one stitch, and again purl one stitch and knit one stitch. This may also be written as [P1, K1]2x
- Example 2: K2, * p8, k4, rep from * tells you to knit two stitches, purl 8, knit 4, and than keep purling 8 then knitting 4 until you get to the end of the row.
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