June 12th, 2013

Pattern Reading Basics

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Customers often ask us what they need to know when looking at a pattern for the first time. If you keep in mind a few key things, you should be able to tell if the pattern is something you want to make, or if it is something that will work for you.

Notes/description
Many patterns have an introduction that tells you about the pattern. They can be short and sweet, or they can tell you about the construction, inspiration, and more. You’ll want to check this out to see if you can pick up any hints about the pattern.

Sizing
Patterns will list the finished sizes, and sometimes the “to fit” size. You can also find the finished measurements in the schematic (which we will get to later). Often, patterns list the first size followed by the rest in parenthesis like this: 36 (40, 44, 48, 52).”

How much yarn
You need to know how much yarn you will need to complete the project and you can find this in the information section of the pattern. It is generally set up the same way as the sizing, so you can match your size with the corresponding location. For example, if your pattern calls for 6 (7, 8, 9, 10) skeins and you’re working on the 48” size, you’ll need 9 skeins. Sometimes the pattern also includes the information on the required yarn, like yardage amounts, so if you want to substitute, you can just do a little math and figure out how much you would need of a yarn.
So, if the yarn called for has 109 yards per skein, you’ll need 981 yards. If the yarn you want to use has 247 yards per skein, you divide 981 by 247 and discover you’ll need 4 skeins (you want to round up when you get a decimal answer so that you’re sure to have enough).

Needles
Patterns list out the needle size and type of needle you’ll use to complete the pattern. Sometimes you need a combination of single point and circular, or double point needles. It will recommend the length of circular needle you need. You probably don’t want to go longer on the circular needle if you’re knitting in the round because all of your stitches may not fit.

Notions
Will you need stitch markers? A cable needle? You’ll also be able to find this in the information section of the pattern. If it’s not obvious by looking at the pattern image, this will also give you an idea of how the pattern is constructed.

Key
Not sure what one of the abbreviations in the pattern mean? Check out the key and it will give you an explanation. Can’t quite remember what ssk means? You should be able to find this in your pattern. If it’s not listed there, a quick search on the internet should also be able to help you out.

Schematic
The schematic can often be overlooked, but it’s a very important part of the pattern. It gives you not only information on the finished measurements of the pieces of your pattern, but also information on the construction and how many pieces your project is created in.

Read through of the entire pattern – is there something you don’t understand?
It seems simple enough, but you want to read through your whole pattern and make sure that you understand everything it is asking you. If you don’t, there are lots of resources – the store you purchased the pattern from, the designer, or you could check Ravelry to see if someone else had a similar question. Reading through the pattern before you being means that you won’t have any surprises halfway through your project.

Do you have any pattern reading tips to share?

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Mary

Marketing Manager at WEBS - America's Yarn Store
Mary has worked at WEBS since 2005. She has been knitting since 2000 and also knows how to crochet, spin, and use a rigid heddle loom.
Her favorite color: bright pink
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  • pdxknitterati

    Just wanted to reiterate: Yes, read through the whole pattern first! Generally, all will be revealed…

  • Lindy Lou

    Lindy Lou-If the pattern is in a publication check for corrections before you start. It is not uncommon to find corrections posted after publication,even though they have test knitters and editors. I made that mistake ONCE and the project needed twice as much yarn and cost twice as much.

  • BlueLoom

    Look at the photograph of the model wearing the garment. Is he/she posed in what you would consider an unnatural or distorted position? If so, the pose may be hiding a flaw in the overall design

  • Candace M Madera

    I always go through and circle the pattern instructions based on the size I am knitting eg decreases, increases, number if rows etc. That way I don’t knit a med front and a large back. I use the goodreader app too that allows you to add/remove notations on the pattern.