Knitting Patterns, taking the headaches out of understanding them

It is so disappointing to pick out a knitting pattern, agonize over the yarn choice. And then complete the sometimes long process of swatching for gauge. Only to discover that you are so confused by the pattern that you give up.

handwritten pattern

I’m sure this has happened to many of us for many reasons. Skill level of the knitter, and skill level of the pattern author, may be the foremost. Pattern writing is not easy, nor is understanding patterns.

On the knitters side of things, I’ve found a good resource to help understand what the pattern is telling us to do, take a look at Dummies.com Understanding Knitting Patterns and Techniques. It covers abbreviations and knitting terms, common phrases and how to follow written stitch patterns, and also charts. This and your local yarn store, (along with Ravelry, I like to look there and see if everyone that is knitting the pattern is having any trouble or it is just me), will help you discover your way. Don’t forget to Google and print out the errata page for your pattern!

Many problems come down to basic communication.  The pattern designer knows how to knit it, but communicating that in a written form can be difficult. Understanding the pattern also may come down to difference in language.  Knitting a pattern in a new style of knitting is usually difficult, the next time it gets easier. Blindly following a pattern, I’m especially guilty of this, happily knitting along and then two days later realizing I have to frog back to xxxxx, due to a “what the heck is happening situation”. Not understanding the next step, getting to that point in the pattern that says, knit into the back of the stitch two rows below on the wrong side of every 4th row, beginning 4 inches after reaching the bust. What? This usually results in project hibernation.

Syd says “let’s look at that closer”


For those of us that knitting a pattern that is not well written, the best advice is going to our local yarn store or asking a knitting friend to take a look at it. I’ve found certain knitting designers are easier to follow than others. When I discover someone I have trouble understanding a designer, I usually steer clear of them after the 2nd pattern. Or I get used to the fact that I can get creative and use their pattern as a “suggestion”. Sometimes this is a great learning tool, if you can forge ahead and end up with a wearable item. A creative leap can make an ah ha moment, or a goodwill sweater.

Best tips I can give for patterns are:
1-Gauge, please, please, please, this will eliminate headaches later
2-Pattern or technique you have never tried? Practice this first, Google it, watch some YouTube videos of it.
3-Buy some decent yarn, a sweater that you spent 1000+ hours on but only spent $20.00 on the yarn is still a $20 sweater.
4-Needles, if they are diving you crazy, buy a different pair, your going to have them in your hands for many hours. This has made an impossible knit, pleasant by switching from wood to steel needles or straight to circular. Experiment.
5-Check Ravelry for other knitters experiences, also if the pattern has bad reviews all from one knitter, maybe it is not the pattern. Or if every one that knitted it had problems, it is the pattern.
6-Familiarize yourself with all of the patterns abbreviations, and techniques to be used.  Don’t understand them? Proceed to your local LYS
7-Don’t be afraid to try beyond your knitting experience, it is only yarn. This is how we all grow and get better, or discover we hate entralac or lace knitting. Have fun and don’t take it too seriously.

May your knitting needles fly as fast as Dragonflies….glittery-animated-dragonfly-insects


  1. That is such an adorable picture of Syd!!!! I completely agree with your advice to get to know your LYS. I think that is very important for a new knitter ~ Happy 2013 Vicki :)))

  2. Thanks! Took them both to get baths and toenail trims. OOOO Happy dogs now!
    Take care


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