Understanding Patterns And How To Read Them (Part 1)
3 min read time
Let’s talk patterns. They come in all shapes and sizes, and the style of how they’re written can differ greatly across designers and companies. Reading a pattern can even seem like reading a foreign language to begin with.
To make things simple Stitch & Story knitting and crochet patterns are designed with the complete beginner in mind. We have written and formatted them in a way that allows the novice crafter to work through a pattern in easily digestible chunks while learning the key elements needed to make reading any future pattern easy.
BEGINNER’S GUIDE - HOW TO START YOUR PROJECT: THE PREPARATION
When you start any knitting or crochet project it is important that you read through the whole pattern at least once before picking up any tools or yarn. This will help you get an overall understanding of the different stages required to complete your project; help you identify if there are any new stitches or techniques you may want to practice (we’ve got lots of helpful video tutorials); make note of any tips that may be shared in the pattern; and gives you an opportunity to identify which instructions relate to the size you’re going to make and to highlight them if necessary (more on that later).
Most knitting and crochet patterns follow a similar format and include such information as gauge and materials needed, in addition to the instructions. In a Stitch & Story pattern you will see a combination of materials/you will need, abbreviations, practice makes perfect, tension/knit a swatch/crochet a swatch and measurements, alongside the knitting/crochet instructions themselves.
Materials / You will need
Under this heading you’ll see all the components from yarn to needles/hooks required to finish the project. If you got the pattern as part of a Stitch & Story knitting or crochet kit then these items will be included in the kit unless otherwise indicated.
This is a really important part of your pattern that you may want to refer to throughout the project so it’s good to familiarize yourself with it before you start. Knitting and crochet patterns are written in a sort of code that combines abbreviations with numbers to help you know what stitch and how many of those stitches you’re supposed to do in each row.
The knitting abbreviation k1 means to knit one stitch. If you see k1 in the pattern you knit one stitch, k2 you knit two stitches, k3 you knit three stitches and so on. In crochet dc stands for double crochet, so dc2 in your pattern requires you to double crochet the next two stitches.
Practice makes perfect
It really is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the basic techniques before starting the main pattern, especially if you’re a complete beginner, and our online tutorials for both knitting and crochet are a great place to start.
Tension / Knit a swatch / Crochet a swatch
Often crafters want to skip this stage in their eagerness to get started with the project but this is a really important step in reading any pattern. A simple practice run; the gauge swatch or tension square is an opportunity for you to test stitches and check that your finished item will end up the same size as indicated on the pattern.
Most swatches are 10cm x 10cm and are created by knitting or crocheting a specified amount of stitches and rows. If your completed swatch is smaller than 10cm x 10cm you can switch to a bigger needle/hook size to achieve the desired dimensions. If your swatch is bigger than 10cm x 10cm you may want to switch to a smaller needle/hook size.
TIP: Your tension can fluctuate when first learning to knit or crochet so it’s worth doing a gauge swatch each time you return to a pattern, even if you’ve made the project before.
Some patterns are one size only but others allow you to knit multiple sizes. The different sizes and their measurements are indicated under this heading. The pattern instructions will always be written in the first size with the additional sizes shown afterwards in brackets. For example k1(2) - if you’re knitting the first size you k1 but if you’re knitting the second size you k2.
TIP: If you’re dealing with a pattern with multiple sizes (sometimes you may have k1(2, 3, 4)) then it’s a good idea to use a pencil to highlight or circle the numbers related to the size you’re making, before you start. This helps avoid confusion as you work through the pattern.
Preparation is the key to success with any knitting/crochet project, and the key to preparation is going through your pattern one step at time. In the next blog post we’ll look at reading the knitting/crochet instructions themselves which you’ll find under the start, finishing and sewing up sections of a Stitch & Story pattern.