Accessories · How To Knit · Knitting Patterns

How To Follow A Knitting Pattern

Once you have decided on a knitting pattern, here is some advice on how to follow a knitting pattern, and also how to read it for the best results.

Before You Start To Knit

Before you start, and most importantly.  Make sure you buy a yarn closest to the one recommended in the pattern for the best results.  If you cannot get the same name, then you need to make sure that the yarn is the same thickness.

Very important, always buy two extra balls of yarn, as there is nothing worse than running out of yarn, and then you can’t get exactly the same colour.  The next dye lot could be a shade lighter or darker.

You can shop for yarn online conveniently by clicking on the yarn picture to your left.

Next make sure you get the proper sized knitting needles.  This could be anything from a skinny 000 to a very thick 50.  If it is your first project then I recommend you go with something you can make with thicker needles as it will go faster.

The old knitting needle sizes go from thickest 1 to thinest 12 or 13, but if you have an old pair you can purchase a ruler like gauge that will enable you to measure the needle size.

To the right I have found some good quality bamboo knitting needles which are very popular at the moment, because they are lightweight, durable, mildew proof and easy to knit with.

The entire set above is selling for $8.49 at the time of writing this post.  Click on the pic to find out more.

The knitting needle gauge on the left is the cheapest one that I managed to find at $ 2.49 at the time of writing this post.

It is imperative that you use the correct yarn and correct sized knitting needle that the pattern states, or your garment will either be to big or too small for you.

It is a good idea to knit a gauge swatch quickly before you begin to knit your pattern.  This will ensure that you have chosen the correct needle size and yarn, and that you are knitting to the correct tension for the pattern you are following.

How to Make A Gauge Swatch

Start by casting on the number of stitches that the pattern designer intends you to have within four inches, and then add six more stitches so that you have a three stitch garter stitch border on each side to frame the area you want to to follow a knitting pattern

Knit a four inch square in the same pattern that you will be knitting your garment.

See if the gauge measurement on the pattern is intended for pre-washed or post-washed fabric.  Some yarns will shrink when washed so wash your swatch the same way you will wash your finished item.

Next you will have to pin your square swatch down without stretching it to measure it.  The area between the garter stitch border should measure 4 x 4 inches.  Count the v’s in the stocking stitch across for the stitches and down for the rows.

If the size of the swatch doesn’t match what the pattern recommends, then you will need to experiment with a bigger or smaller needle size.  If you need more stitches or rows per inch, use smaller needles and if you use less use bigger needles.

Keep testing until your work matches up.  This is a bit time consuming, but if your are using the correct needles and yarn then your work should match up first time around.

You obviously don’t need to do the above if you are knitting a simple scarf or a blanket.

Lets Start Knitting

If you are knitting a pattern, it helps to use a ruler on your pattern to help you follow the rows that you are knitting, and not get confused with the one above or below.  Tick off with a pencil as you go along, so that you know what you have done.

How To Follow a Knitting Pattern

At first, a knitting pattern will look very strange to you, as you will see lots of symbols and abbreviations that will confuse you, but once you get used to it, it is a piece of cake.

Click here to see a knitting dictionary of the most popular abbreviations that are used in knitting patterns.

In most cases, the pattern will have a list of the abbreviated terms relating to the pattern included at the beginning or the end of the pattern, which makes how to follow a knitting pattern a lot easier.

Here is an example of reading a knitting pattern.

If your pattern says says:

Row 1: K5, P5, then you need to knit five stitches and then purl five stitches on your first row.

Knit and purl stitches are the most commonly used knitting stitches, and are used in most patterns.

Here is an example of a fun and easy book to get your started with your knitting.

It will also give you loads of practice on how to follow a knitting pattern.


6 thoughts on “How To Follow A Knitting Pattern

  1. Michel,

    I wish I’d read your article before signing up for a local knitting class! You just de-mystified a lot about how to get started knitting, as well as those crazy abbreviations that intimidate me as a beginner. There’s so much practical advice that I would not have thought of, like buying extra yarn of the same color and knitting a swatch. It’s common sense, but probably not until you learn the hard way 🙂 Personally, as a beginner, I like the bigger knitting needles because they are easier for my clumsy hands to manage. Great advice on this page – thanks!

    1. Glad to help you with advice on how to follow a knitting pattern Alyssa. Starting with bigger needles is a great idea.

      Good luck with your knitting classes.

  2. What a wonderful post. I am definitely saving this for later use. Great tip about buying extra yarn. I never thought about the color being slightly off with the next dye lot.

    I just learned how to crochet and have been trying to learn how to knit. I have been having difficulty transitioning to the 2nd row. I think everything is great, then it all falls apart. I’m left handed so I made a list of some left-handed tutorial guides to watch. Hopefully I’ll get the hang of it.

    Like I said, I’m saving this page as I know i’ll need some help with the patterns. Thanks so much!

    1. Best of luck with your knitting. The second row is the most difficult, but maybe you are casting on too tighly, which makes it worse.

  3. This is a really helpful guide. I was needing this as I’m willing to start to knit my first sweater.

    I always saw my grandmother knitting every single cloth all the family wore. Socks, sweaters, gloves, etc. So now that my grandma is not here anymore, I will like to continue with the family tradition.

    I might be reaching you out with some questions, do you have any personal email?

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