How to read patterns- Part 1

Knitting from a pattern can seem daunting to a beginner knitter, it is a bit like learning a new language. In this series of posts I will cover all the basics of how to read and interpret a pattern, hopefully so you can chose the right pattern for you, and feel confident enough to start something new! If you still have any questions, please feel free to ask me in the comments 🙂


One of the most common problems people seem to encounter when knitting is that it doesn’t turn out the right size. Usually this is due to tension, but picking the right size for you is also very important. Have a look at the section of a pattern below, which lists the chest sizes and the actual measurements (the measurement that the garment will turn out to be.)


Depending on the fit of the pattern, the size of the actual measurement compared to the size (called the ease) can be quite different. If it is a baggy jumper it may be 4 or 5 inches bigger, if it is heavily ribbed, it may have negative ease and be a couple of inches smaller than your chest size. In this example there is a quite a lot of ease as it is a loose fitting cardigan. When I help people chose sizes I will often grab a tape measure and hold it around them at the actual measurement to show them visually how big it will be.

The next thing to consider is the “Full length.” This is the measurement from the top of the shoulder to the bottom edge of the garment. If you are taller or shorter than average you may want to measure on yourself where this length will come to. Lots of patterns will give you the option to change this and say something like “work straight until back measures 33cm or desired length” This is where you would shorten or lengthen it to your measurements. If a pattern has waist shaping or something similar, it is slightly more complicated to adjust this, and if you are not confident in doing this I would maybe have a look for a different pattern that would suit you better.

The sleeve length is the measurement from your underarm to the end of the sleeve. Again this is fairly easy to adjust if you have slightly longer or shorter arms as when the pattern says to work to so many inches, instead work to your own measurement.

2. Yarn

The next thing a pattern will tell you is the yarn that is used, and how many balls you will need for your size. If you have decided to adjust your pattern bear in mind you may need more yarn than the pattern states. If you don’t want to use that particular yarn, you can substitute it for another suitable one. Have a look at  a previous post that goes into much more detail on this here.

3. Notions and Needles

Next you will need to make sure you have everything else that is needed for this pattern, needles, buttons, zips, stitch holders, stitch markers, cable needles… A pattern will give you a list of exactly what you need, and it’s always worth checking so you don’t get stuck by not having the right needle to cast on! I tend to buy my buttons after I’ve knitted something but that is just personal preference.

That’s it for this post so it doesn’t turn out hundreds of pages long :p Next time I will cover abbreviations in patterns, how to interpret brackets and anything else I can think of! Let me know if there’s anything you want to see 🙂





Kitchener’s stitch, grafting and three needle cast off

So with my month of socks well underway I thought I’d write a post about how I finish my toes. For those of you who knit a lot of socks you probably always use Kitchener’s stitch which is great, but I have also included some alternatives for people who don’t like grafting (looking at you, mum!)

Kitcheners stitch

Kitchener’s is the most popular way to graft the remaining stitches on a toe of a sock. You set your stitches up on 2 parallel needles with the yarn at the back needle on the right, and sew as follows:



Step 1: Insert the tapestry needle through the first stitch on the front needle as if to KNIT, pull the yarn through, pulling the stitch off the front needle.


Step 2: Insert the tapestry needle through the first stitch on the front needle as if to PURL, pull the yarn through, leaving the stitch on the front needle.


Step 3: Insert the tapestry needle through the first stitch on the back needle as if to PURL, pull the yarn through, pulling the stitch off the back needle.

Step 4: Insert the tapestry needle through the first stitch on the back needle as if to KNIT, pull the yarn through, leaving the stitch on the back needle.

Repeat steps 1-4 until all stitches have been worked. Every few stitches check the tension of your sewing, it should look like the rest of your knitting, not too baggy, not really tight. have a great photo tutorial of this, and there are many videos on YouTube if watching it done helps you. Not only can you use Kitchener’s for toes on socks, you can use it for any horizontal seams, shoulders, hoods, anything with two sets of live stitches. The instructions I have included here is for stocking stitch but you can also graft in garter stitch.

Knitted Kitchener’s

I can’t remember where I found out how to do this, but as soon as I did I never went back! This way of grafting doesn’t use a sewing needle and gives exactly the same results as Kitchener’s. You will need to set up your stitches as before, with the yarn at the back, and you need an extra knitting needle.

1.  Using a third knitting needle, PURL the first stitch on the front needle, pull the yarn all the way through, pulling the stitch off the needle.
2.  KNIT the next stitch on the front needle, but this time leave the stitch on front needle; pull the yarn all the way through as before.
3.  KNIT the first stitch on the BACK needle, pull the yarn all the way through, pulling the stitch off the needle.
4.  PURL the next stitch on the BACK needle, but this time leave the stitch on the back needle and pull the yarn all the way through.

I am so much faster this way than with a sewing needle and it’s great if you forget to take a needle with you!

Three Needle Cast/Bind off

The three needle cast off leaves a seam, so I don’t tend to use it for socks as the seam can rub, but it it still as useful way of joining two sets of live stitches. Again you need to arrange your stitches on two needles with the yarn at the back.

  1. Knit one stitch from the front needle together with one stitch from the back needle
  2. Repeat step one, and cast off the stitches you have worked as you normally would by lifting the back one over the front one and off the needle.

Keep going knitting the stitches together and casting them off until all stitches have been worked. I tend to use this for shoulders as it gives them a bit of structure as there is a seam which is bulkier than grafting but there is nothing stopping you from using it on toes or hoods or wherever you like!

These methods are all tried and tested and there are hundreds of useful tutorials and videos out there, why not have a go at one of these methods you’ve not tried before, might become your new favourite thing!




Yarn Substituting

There could be many reasons why you don’t want to/can’t use the yarn that is specified on a pattern. It could be too expensive, not in your colour or the worst, discontinued! This guide will lead you through finding a yarn that will work with your pattern.

1. Tension!

Tension (gauge) is vital otherwise you won’t end up with a jumper that fits you or a giant tea cosy or another disaster. If your pattern calls for a yarn in a standard weight i.e. 4 ply, DK, Aran etc then this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. It’s still worth checking the actual tension of a yarn as some that have names that include ‘DK’ or ‘Aran’ sometimes aren’t the standard tension. It’s always worth doing a tension square to make sure your new yarn will work up the same as the one recommended in the pattern.

2. Length

Working in a yarn shop for so long has shown me that this is the biggest mistake people make when swapping yarns. 500 g of one yarn can have a vastly different yardage than 500 g of a yarn in a different fibre or brand. Always check you have enough length to complete your project, a quick google or check on Ravelry can tell you what lengths most yarns have and then multiply by how many balls you need. Divide it by the length of the new yarn and round up if necessary. This might mean you only have to buy 400 g instead of 500 g 🙂 or it could mean you have to buy 600 g… Don’t put too much store in the weight the pattern tells you, length is what is important.

3. Texture/colour

It is also worth thinking about the texture of your yarns. For example if your pattern is in a fluffy yarn it could lose something if you do it in a smooth yarn. Patterns that use fluffy yarns like Rowan Kidsilk Haze often rely on the fluff to ‘fill up the gaps’ meaning that if you use a smooth yarn it might look a bit gappy.

Some stitch patterns can be lost in dark colours or variegated yarns, don’t lose all your hard work by using a yarn that hides it! If you are choosing a whole new palate for a colourwork project try to chose colours that blend/contrast like the original pattern if you are after the same effect. But really colour is entirely personal preference, knit what you enjoy!

4. Fibre content/drape

There is nothing wrong with choosing a different fibre for your project but it may make a difference. For example, using a solid wool for a waterfall style cardigan originally made in cotton will make it fall differently. This might not be relevant for say, a tea cosy, but bear it in mind for garments and blankets.

You may also need to think about the fibre content in terms of what the project is, socks in pure silk would be beautiful but won’t last very long! Most sock yarns have a small amount of nylon in for strength for this reason. Lots of colourwork projects are done in wool as it is easier to make it look neater than using cotton. This won’t matter for a lot of things, but again, something to bear in mind. I tend to use a similar fibre content when I’m substituting yarns, the designer picked it for a reason!