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How to Knit: Reading a Knitting Pattern

How to Knit: Reading a Knitting Pattern

A Comprehensive Guide to Reading and Following a Knitting Pattern

OK, so you've managed the basics; casting on, casting off, working with both the knit stitch and purl stitch (for more help on these basics head over to our Learning & Resources section) but how do you get to grips with reading your first pattern?

Moving on from swatches, blankets and scarfs can be daunting for the first-time knitter, with patterns and instructions appearing to be a medley of complex terms and abbreviations that divide the aspiring knitters from the more experienced. But, don't fret, the team here at Deramores want to help people everywhere enjoy the wonders of working with yarn and have come up with this step-by-step guide on reading (and understanding) a knitting pattern. 

Familiarising yourself with your Pattern 

The first thing you'll see on your chosen pattern is a list the tools you will need to complete your project; this will include the likes of the yarn used, the yarn shades, the size and type of knitting needles that you'll need and any other accessories needed in the process, like darning needles, buttons, embellishments or stuffing.  

Some patterns will also include a size chart, where more than one size can be made, or the pattern may just inform you of the finished size of your project. 

Next, you will see a note on the tension. Tension is the number of stitches (across) and rows that can be knitted in a 10 cm square with the given needle size. This is particularly useful if you are thinking about substituting yarns, as you will want to choose a similar tension, which is worth bearing in mind as you become more experienced. 

You may or may not find more information here, such as what stitches will be used in this pattern, the casting on method used or other considerations but it is common to move onto the abbreviations and definitions at this stage; some of the most common abbreviations you will encounter are:

* Repeat instructions from the single asterisk
** repeat instructions until double asterisk 
[…] Repeat the sequence within the square bracket by the number shown
(..sts) The number within the bracket indicates the number of stitches
alt Alternate
beg Beginning 
cm Centimetre
CO Casting On
K Knit Stitch 
K2tog Knit two together (decrease)
Kfb Knit two into the front and back of the stitch (increase)
mm Millimetre
P Purl Stitch 
rep Repeat
RS Right Side (the side you cast on)
St(s) Stitches
WS Wrong Side (the side of your first row)

Slip next two stitches, one at a time knitwise to the opposite needle without knitting them, then you insert your working needle into the front part of these 2 stitches and knit them together to create a left slanting decrease.


Once you have familiarised yourself with the abbreviations and what they refer to you are ready to prepare all your materials and make a start on your project. 

Knitting patterns can cover projects that are knitted in flat (back and forth in rows) or in the round (with cable needles), such as socks and hats. Given that you are only just starting off with knitting patterns, we'll make the assumption that you are following a flat pattern. 

The first thing that you are going to be directed to do is cast on, use the method you are comfortable with unless the pattern specifies another method. 



Using the Deramores Rattlesnake Draught Excluder as our example, let's walk through the beginning of the pattern together:

1. Cast on 9 sts in Butterscotch on straight 3.75mm needles.

Pick up your needles and the Butterscotch colour yarn and cast on using the long tail cast on method referred to on the first page; cast on 9 stitches in total. 

2. Row 1 (WS): Purl.

Switch side to the 'wrong side' and purl one row.



3. Row 2 (RS): [K1, kfb] 4 times, k1 (13 sts).

Switch to 'right side' knit 1 (one knit stitch) and knit front and back a total of four times, end the row with a thirteen knit stitches. 




4. Follow the pattern until row 39. 

5. Rows 39 to 43: Beg on a WS purl row, work in st st.

On wrong side purl a row, turn to right side on row 40 and knit a row, continue alternating rows, with wrong side purl and right side knit until row 43. 

6. Break Paprika and join Shiraz and follow pattern instructions.

7. Continue following the pattern until row 263.

8. By this point, your rows would have reached quite a few stitches.

Row 264: K14, k2tog, k1, ssk, k27, k2tog, k1, ssk, k14 (61 sts)

Knit 14 stitches, knit two together (to decrease 1 stitch that is right slanting), knit one, slip, slip, knit (to decrease 1 stitch that is left slanting ‚Äď see abbreviations) knit 27 stitches, knit two together, knit one,¬†slip, slip, knit, knit 14 stitches.




9. Continue to Row 288.

10. After completing the body, move on to the Snake eyes.

11. Once the snake eyes are complete, continue on to on the Snake tongue with double pointed needles (DPN)

12.  Note that the cast off end is the front of the head. Follow the instructions to stuff and seam and finally attach the eyes and the tongue.

And that completes our tutorial on following a knitting pattern, we hope you found this helpful and if you have any further questions or queries, be sure to check out our Community Hub for more craft resources or get in touch via Live Chat or by calling 0845 519 4573 or 01733 777 345 between 7.30am and 5.30pm UK standard time. 

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