Knitting Patterns 101
Learning how to knit can be a stressful experience for those who are new to the hobby, and with all of the different techniques and terminology to learn, it’s no wonder why so many people quit before they ever finish their first piece. However, if you are one of those who can look past the hard work it will take to master the craft of knitting, you will understand just how addictive, and fun this past time can be.
For all, you beginners out there, learning to cast on, cast off, garter stitch and purl stitch are just the basic techniques you will require in order to begin creating your own quality pieces. In the beginning, you will not have the skill or the experience to go freestyle, so you will have to depend on knitting patterns. Knitting patterns are the official language of the knitting world, and for those who are new to the game, it’s easy to become intimidated when trying to read one. It may read like a foreign language right now, but trust us when we tell you, they are not that hard to learn!
Knitting patterns are simply the instructions you need to follow, to make a particular piece. What could the piece be? Absolutely anything! There are thousands upon thousands of knitting patterns, some are knitting patterns for babies, some are knitting patterns for socks, and some are extremely advanced, and intricate patterns. The possibilities are endless.
The first step to tackling this unfamiliar language is to build up an understanding of all the different abbreviations used in the knitting world. Knitting patterns for beginners are usually straight forward, and short, but that’s purely thanks to the abbreviations and short cuts. If the pattern creator was to write the instructions out word for word, it would take you an hour to read the whole thing, and even longer follow it.
If you have ever researched how to knit in the past, you will probably have already come across a few of these knitting pattern abbreviations. Some of the most common ones are:
K: Knit Stitch
P: Purl Stitch
CO: Cast On
BO: Bind Off (Also known as cast-off)
The sooner you get your head around the main abbreviations, the sooner you can get started making some amazing knitted pieces. While there are possibly hundreds of different abbreviations, as a beginner, there are only a certain few which are crucial for you to know. Luckily for you, we already know them, and we have decided to share them with you today.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common knitting pattern abbreviations, and then we can dive into a few examples of real-life patterns for you to get stuck into!
The Basic Knitting Pattern Abbreviations
Inc: Increase – This is the word used to tell you to add one or more stitches. The most common way to increase is to work from the front, and then again through the back of the same stitch.
Dec: Decrease – The opposite of increase. This simply means to get rid of one or more stitches, and the most common way to decrease is to work two stitches together to make them one.
YO: Yarn Over – The term used for taking the yarn over the needle.
Tog: Together – The simple method of working two or more stitches together, to form a decrease.
Rep: Repeat – Simply repeat the same thing over again. The number of times required to repeat will be present after the abbreviation (Rep 3 rows etc)
Sl: Slip – Slipping a stitch is used to move the stitch from one needle to the other, without working it together.
Work Even – This is the term used to tell you to continue working how you have bee, without any increases or decreases.
M.ST.: Moss Stitch – This is a technique which alternates between one knitted stitch, and one purl stitch on every row.
St. St. : Stocking Stitch – Similar to a Moss Stitch, except the stocking stitch utilizes a pattern created by alternating an entire row of knit, followed by an entire row of purl, throughout the entire piece.
Tbl: Through The Back Of The Loop – This is the act of creating a twisted stitch by knitting or purling into the back of a loop on the left needle.
Yb: Yarn Back – Putting the front sitting yarn to the back, between both of the needles.
Yf: Yarn Front – This is simply leaving the front sitting yarn at the front, instead of moving it to the back, for a back sitting stitch. This will create a loop or a hole instead.
These are just a few of the most important abbreviations for beginners, so make sure you take the time to fully understand each one of them. Now that you know how to understand a knitting pattern, let’s take a look at a few real examples.
Knitting Patterns For Beginners
With your needles and yarn in hand, it’s time to get started on your first knitting piece using a real knitting pattern. Now, if you can remember from our beginner’s guide, the starting point for every single knitting project is to create a slipknot. Knitting patterns won’t ever tell you to create a slipknot, as it is common knowledge in the knitting world, and they expect you to already know it, so before you move on, make sure you know how to create a tight slipknot.
Next, it’s time to cast on. Again, if you have read our beginners guide to knitting, you will already be familiar with a couple of the techniques used to cast on. If you haven’t seen that yet, then we recommend that you check that out before finishing this article.
Now that you have your needles fully equipped and your yarn all cast on, it’s time to break down the instructions you will typically find on a general knitting pattern.
As you can probably imagine, a lot of the steps in knitting are simply repeats of what you have already done. It’s only on certain occasions that you have to switch up your knitting techniques. To make the knitting pattern as simple as possible, the creator will include an asterix (*) to indicate when, and what you should repeat. If several of the same steps are required across a row, the asterix will be placed at the beginning of the repeated steps, and at the end.
Now that you understand how an asterix can be used in a knitting pattern, let’s jump in and take a look at a typical example, and how you would go about following it.
CO 15 sts.
Did you get that? It’s pretty simple, right? This is simply asking you to cast on 15 stitches, as that is the amount required for this row. Remember, your slipknot will count as one stitch, so you will only require 14 more.
Row 1 (WS): Knit
Row 2 (RS): Purl
Did you get this one? Again, it’s pretty simple, but in case you missed it, this pattern simply means that row 1, which is the wrong side, you will knit all of the sticthes, but on the second row, which is the right side, you will purl all of the stitches. The number of stitches per row, is 15, as the instructions clarified previously.
Now that you have a good head start on your piece, the instructions may require you to repeat the entire process until the piece reaches a certain size. This will be indicated by saying:
Rep Rows 1 & 2 until the piece measures 5” from the start. Ending with a RS row.
To repeat these steps, simply stick with the knitting pattern you have previously used (Knit the wrong side, and Purl the right side) until the piece reaches 5” from the cast on row. How do you know when the piece is 5”? Well, you simply measure it! Grab a ruler, or a measuring tape, place the piece on a flat surface, and measure from the needle, down to the very bottom of the cast on row. If it’s not long enough, just keep on repeating the rows until you reach the instructed size, remembering that the instructions asked you to finish with an RS row, which will be a purl row. When measuring your work, remember not to stretch the piece at all, as this will skew the readings, and will result in a smaller finished piece.
Without looking, can you remember the name of the stitching technique that utilizes a knitted row, followed by a purl row, for any given number of rows? Bonus point… Can you remember it’s abbreviation?
If you got it, great! If not, then don’t feel bad – We wouldn’t expect you to know them by heart yet anyway. The answer is a Stocking stitch, and the abbreviation is St. St.
Another common type of stitch which a lot of beginner knitting patterns will use is a garter stitch. This is simply a knitted pattern, row after row. To help reinforce what you have learned today, let us show you an example of a garter stitch:
CO 15 sts.
Row 1: Knit
Rep Row 1 until the piece measures 5” from the start.
The majority of knitting patterns will tell you which stitches to knit from row to row, but if the entire piece is made up of one particular stitch, then it should read ‘Knit To End’ or ‘Purl To End’ etc.
Knitting Patterns Examples
Now that you understand a few knitting abbreviations, and you know how to read the fundamentals of a knitting pattern, it’s about time you tested your newly found skills by reading a real knitting pattern. You won’t get any help on this one – This is all on you! Don’t worry if you can’t understand it all just yet, and feel free to check out the abbreviations if you need to. Let’s get started!
Knitted Scarf Pattern
CO 39 sts.
*P2, K2; Rep from * to last 3 stitches then K2, P1.
Rep row to 21”
BO in stitch pattern
Baby Blanket Knitting Pattern
CO 3 sts.
Row 1: Knit
Row 2: P1, yo, K to end.
Repeat row 2 until 150 stitches
Next Row: P1, K2tog, K across until 5 sts remain, K2tog, P1
Rep last row until 6 sts remain
BO in stitch pattern
Choosing The Correct Yarn For The Knitting Pattern
When looking for beginner knitting patterns, it’s not just the pattern instructions you will be confronted with, You will also be advised what yarn you should use for the piece, and if you want the finished piece to look like the one in the picture, you will need to use the same type. The pattern creator will also instruct how many balls of yarn you will require to finish the entire piece. There is nothing worse, especially for a new knitter, than running out of yarn half way through a piece.
Not only will the knitting pattern provide you with information about the yarn required, it should also let you know which type of needles you should be using. Depending on the complexity of the pattern, you may require more than one pair of needles, as smaller needles are required for the cuffs and the more intricate parts, where as the main body of the piece will require bigger needles. On some occasions, if the piece is very wide, then you may need to use circular needles, but these are not that common in beginners patterns.
Thanks for sticking around to the end of this short tutorial. Hopefully by now, you will feel confident enough to pick up a pair of needles and give one of these patterns a go for yourself. If you don’t feel like you could create one of the pieces in the examples above, don’t worry. Continue practising your stitching techniques, and brushing up on your knitting vocabulary. Before you know it, you will be flying from piece to piece, and this tutorial will seem like child’s play for you. Knitting is not something you will learn overnight. It takes a lot of practice, and a lot of patience to master. However, the rewards are far greater than the time and effort required to achieve them, so keep at it, and don’t give up!