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How to Read Knitting Patterns

By: Editors of AllFreeKnitting

Learning to read knitting patterns for the first time can be a daunting task; it looks like another language!  In this free article, we'll tackle all basics of reading a knitting pattern.  From sizes to brackets and asterisks, we'll demystify the mystery behind intimidating knitting lingo.


Patterns will either be written to fit one size or fit multiple sizes. If the knitting pattern is written for multiple sizes, it will look something like this: Child’s size: 2 (4-6) or Child’s size: 2 (4, 6)

Here’s what that means:

Let’s say you’re making the child’s size 4. As you work through the instructions, there will come a point where the instructions say something like: With smaller needles, cast on 52 (58-64) sts or With smaller needles, cast on 52 (58, 64) sts.

So here’s what you do. To make the smallest size (2), you would cast on 52 stitches. For the medium size (4), you would cast on 58 stitches. Where there’s no number in parentheses, you do what it says; for instance, if it said Knit 5 rows you would do that for all sizes. If it said Knit 5 (7, 9) rows, you’d knit as many rows as indicated for your size (5 rows for the smallest size, 7 rows for the medium, 9 rows for the large). Where there’s something in parentheses, you stick with the number in the position that correlates to the number in the sizing.


Asterisks are used to indicate repeating parts of patterns. Here’s an example: 1st row: (RS). P2. *K2. P2. Rep from * to end of row.

What that means is that you’re going to work the stitches between the asterisks as many times as indicated. So you’d P 2, then k 2, p 2, k 2, p 2, repeating the k 2, p 2 part until you reach the end of the row.

There are also times when there will be two sets of asterisks, a single, a double, and another single in the same row. If that’s the case you repeat from * to * as many times as indicated, and then work from * to ** for the last repeat, then finish the row as indicated. This is sometimes done to visually balance a pattern. 


Also, it might be that there are pairs of asterisks to tell you what to repeat for a major part of a pattern. For instance, if the back and front of a sweater are knit in the same way except for how you shape the armholes or the neck, the instructions for the front might start with ** and then where the armhole shaping starts, there might be **. Then the back would say Work from ** to **, basically telling you to go back to the instructions for the front and work them to that point for the back.



Sometimes brackets are used instead of parentheses for sizing. Other times they’re used similarly to asterisks to indicate that something’s repeated.  Let’s say you have instructions that read *k 2, p 2+ 6 times. In this case you’d knit 2 and purl 2, then repeat the k 2 and p 2 5 more times. If the brackets weren’t used, you might not know what part of the step you were supposed to repeat 6 times.


For more beginner tutorials, don't miss our free eBook: Knitting for Beginners: 9 Free Tutorials.

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horrible instr. for beginners!

not what I was looking for....


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