How to Read Knitting Explanations

How to Read Knitting Explanations

How to Read Knitting Explanations


    – Step 1: Read the general explanations of a knit

    – Step 2: Deciphering the step of making a knit

    – Step 3: More information about knitting explanations

Do you want to knit a sweater but need to know how to decipher the pattern? Indeed, it is mandatory to understand how to read the written explanations of a book or a knitting magazine to follow the steps. In general, knitting explanations are always presented in the same way and are well-detailed. But at the beginning, the explanations can seem complicated for beginners, and some technical terms are to be known before launching into the realization of the model. Here are the steps to follow to learn how to read knitting explanations.

1. Read the general explanations of a knitting pattern

How to Read Knitting Explanations

Before you start knitting, there are general explanations for each pattern. This information is essential to obtain a knitted piece that fits our size. It is advisable to follow them well to obtain a knit that is neither too tight nor too loose.

The general information of a knitting pattern

    – The size of the pattern: S, M, L or (34/36), (38/40), (40/42). The sizes are sometimes indicated in different colors. If this is not the case, circle your size and all the corresponding indications in pencil to find your way more easily. 

    – The supplies, knitting needles, quantity and quality of wool used, and all the material necessary for the successful completion of the knitting.

Note: The number of balls needed to complete the pattern is indicated for each size. Sometimes it is indicated in grams (e.g., 650 g) counting for example that a ball is 50 g. 

    – The stitches used to make the pattern. Some fancy stitches are explained in the same way, using the symbol *, which means that the stitches indicated between the * are to be repeated several times until the end of the row.

Example: 1 st. Right * 1 st. approx., 2 sts. Left. * repeat from * to * end with 1 st. End. 

    – Fancy or openwork stitches are sometimes explained with technical terms, and it is important to know their meaning. Sometimes the explanations to knitting indicate a divisible number of stitches, but the meaning of these two terms is the same. Indeed, the number of stitches is calculated with the pattern you want to obtain. The number of stitches in a pattern is multiple because it must be repeated twice in a row. 

        ◦ An example of this is the rice stitch. It is knitted on a number of stitches multiple of 2 + 1 + 1 st. Selvedge at each end. This means that an even number of stitches (a multiple of 2) should be used, and then one stitch should be added to this number to achieve the symmetry of the pattern.

        ◦ Edge stitches are to be added afterward as they are not counted in the stitch. They create a regular border and help assemble the knitted pieces.

Example: 32 sts. (multiple of 2 : 2 x 16 sts.) add 1 st. 33 sts + 1 st edge on each row side, which gives 35 sts.

Note: The right side row always corresponds to the odd row or row 1, 3, 5 etc. The purl row corresponds to the even row, i.e. row 2, 4, 6 etc. The row of stitches does not count.

    – The sample corresponds to the number of stitches to be knitted and the number of rows to obtain a 10 cm square. It allows knowing if the way of knitting the sample corresponds to the one indicated in the model. The way of knitting is specific to each person and is called the tension of the yarn. When the sample matches the one in the pattern, then the yarn tension is perfect. 

        ◦ If you knit too loosely, you get a smaller number of stitches than the sample in the pattern, then knit with smaller needles. For example, 4 mm instead of 4.5 mm and knit the sample again.

        ◦ If you knit too tightly, you will get a larger stitch count than the pattern sample when knitting. Get slightly larger needles and repeat until you get the same sample as the pattern you want to knit. 

Example: a 10 cm square in stockinette: 18 sts and 25 rows, 4.5 mm high.

Knit a sample

    1. Knit a square of at least 15 cm by adding about 10 stitches to the number of stitches indicated in the sample pattern.

    2. Lay the sample flat after ironing it if the wool allows it, then measure a 10 cm square on this sample with a graduated ruler.

    3. Place pins in the four corners of the square if you feel it is necessary.

    4. Count the number of stitches and rows between the 10 cm square you have outlined to compare to the sample pattern.   

        ◦ A stitch or row forms a V on right side up stockinette.

        ◦ A stitch forms a small wave on moss stitch. A row corresponds to one row of waves. 

Note: To count rows on moss stitch, there is a trick to counting two rows for a visible wave. The right side row forms a visible wave, and the wrong side row forms a hidden V. 

2. Deciphering the knitting process

How to Read Knitting Explanations

In the explanations of knitting, the step of the realization of the model is divided into several parts depending on the garment to knit. For a sweater that is knitted with straight needles, different parts are knitted separately:

    1. The back

    2. The armholes

    3. The neckline and the shoulders

    4. The front, which also includes the shoulders and the neckline

    5. The sleeves

    6. The finishing touches (seams)

Understand the technical terms of the knitting explanations

When knitting, it is often indicated to fold down, increase or decrease a certain number of stitches at a specific height. This information concerns the realization of armholes and sleeves and is always specified for each size in the knitting explanations. Several dimensions are specified, and it is advisable to highlight the one that corresponds to the right size to find your way. 

Example: “At 29-31-33 cm total height, fold over 2 x 2 sts, then 3 x 3 sts on each side every 2 rgs.” Translation: on each side means fold over to the right side of the work, right and left, two stitches. So there are 4 stitches turned down on the first row, none on the purl row, and then 6 stitches turned down on the next right side row, i.e., 3 sts turned down on each side. 

    – To decrease every other row, decrease two or three stitches from the edge by knitting two stitches together on each side of the work and knitting the purl row without decreasing. The next decrease is done on the right side of the work, every other row. 

    – To decrease every four rows, first decrease to the first row on each side at the height indicated in the explanations, then decrease to the next fifth row, always on the right side of the work. 

    – To decrease every two rows, knit two stitches in a single stitch two rows back for a nicer look. Knit the stitch right side up without dropping it from the left needle and knit the back strand right side up again. Proceed as for the decreases, increasing only on the right side of the work. 

Note: To turn down a stitch, knit two stitches right side up and slip the first stitch over the second. To decrease a stitch, knit two stitches together right side up.

3. Additional information on knitting explanations

Understanding knitting abbreviations

Once the general steps are understood and completed, the next step is to make a knit. At this stage, the knitting explanations are often written in abbreviations to avoid loading the page with too long and unreadable explanations. The lexicon used is sometimes detailed in the pattern, but it is not always the case. Here are the general abbreviations used in knitting books:

    – aig. needles

    – m. stitches

    – tric. : to knit

    – rg(s) : rows

    – end. : right side

    – env. : reverse side

    – set. : set

    – increase : to increase

    – dim: to decrease

    – rab. : to fold down

    – pt: point

    – cont: to continue

Read the pattern diagram

To get an idea of the shape of the garment to be knitted, a diagram corresponding to the pattern shows the different parts of the garment and the measurements corresponding to each size. This diagram can help in the finishing stage of knitting when it is time to assemble.

The knitting pattern diagram includes:

    1. The different parts of the garment to be knitted (back, front, sleeves)

    2. The dimensions of each piece for each size (length, height).

    3. Lettered markers to indicate where each piece is to be assembled.

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