Learn How to Read a Knitting Pattern

Learn How to Read a Knitting Pattern

Knitting patterns can sometimes be overwhelming for beginners, with their mix of abbreviations, charts, and symbols. But with a little practice and understanding, you can read a knitting pattern like a pro and take on any project with confidence.

One of the first things to familiarize yourself with is the abbreviations used in knitting patterns. These abbreviations are shorthand for different types of stitches and techniques. For example, “k” stands for knit, “p” stands for purl, and “yo” stands for yarn over. It’s important to understand what each abbreviation means so you can follow the instructions accurately.

In addition to abbreviations, knitting patterns often include charts or diagrams to visually represent the pattern. These charts show the pattern stitch by stitch, making it easier to understand and keep track of your progress. Take the time to study these charts and understand how they correspond to the written instructions.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help or clarify any instructions that you’re unsure of. Knitting communities and forums are great resources for getting guidance from experienced knitters. Reading knitting patterns like a pro takes practice, but with time and patience, you’ll be able to take on any knitting project with confidence and creativity.

Understanding the Basics of a Knitting Pattern

A knitting pattern is a set of instructions that tells you how to create a specific knitted item. It includes all the necessary information, such as the type of yarn to use, the size of the needles, and the stitches and techniques required.

Here are the key components of a knitting pattern:

  1. Yarn: The pattern will specify the type of yarn to use. This could be a specific brand and color or general suggestions such as the weight and fiber content. Make sure to choose a yarn that matches the pattern’s recommendations to achieve the desired result.
  2. Needle size: The pattern will indicate the size of the knitting needles required. This is crucial as using the wrong size can result in a different gauge and alter the size and fit of the finished item. Always check your needle size before starting a project.
  3. Gauge: Gauge refers to the number of stitches and rows per inch that you should aim for to match the pattern. It’s essential to knit a gauge swatch to ensure your tension matches that of the pattern. If your gauge is different, you may need to adjust your needle size to achieve the correct gauge.
  4. Abbreviations and stitches: Knitting patterns use abbreviations to represent different stitches and techniques. These can vary between patterns, but common ones include knit (K), purl (P), yarn over (YO), and decrease (K2tog). The pattern should provide a key or explanation for any less common abbreviations used. Familiarize yourself with these abbreviations before starting the project.
  5. Pattern instructions: The pattern will then provide step-by-step instructions on how to create the knitted item. It will specify the number of stitches to cast on, the order of the stitches, and any shaping techniques such as increases or decreases. The pattern may also include charts or diagrams to illustrate specific stitch patterns or colorwork.
  6. Finishing instructions: After completing the main knitting instructions, the pattern will often include details on how to finish the project. This could involve seaming, blocking, or adding any necessary closures or embellishments.

It’s important to read the pattern thoroughly before starting to ensure you understand the instructions and have all the necessary materials. Take note of any abbreviations or techniques you’re unfamiliar with and look them up in a knitting reference guide or online tutorial. Following a knitting pattern can be challenging at first, but with practice, you’ll become more comfortable and confident in deciphering and executing the instructions.

Decoding Abbreviations and Symbols

When reading a knitting pattern, it’s important to understand the abbreviations and symbols used. These shorthand notations help make patterns more compact and easier to read. Here are some common abbreviations and symbols you might come across:


  • K: Knit
  • P: Purl
  • YO: Yarn over
  • SSK: Slip, slip, knit
  • K2tog: Knit two stitches together
  • P2tog: Purl two stitches together
  • Pm: Place marker
  • Sm: Slip marker
  • Rep: Repeat

These abbreviations are typically followed by a number, indicating how many times to perform the specified stitch or action. For example, “K3” means to knit three stitches in a row.


In addition to abbreviations, knitting patterns often use symbols to represent different stitches or actions. Here are some commonly used symbols:

Symbol Description
Knit stitch
Purl stitch
Increase stitch
Decrease stitch
+ Make one stitch
Yarn over
[ ] Repeat the instructions within the brackets

Make sure to refer to the key provided by the pattern designer to understand the specific meaning of each symbol used in the pattern.

By familiarizing yourself with these abbreviations and symbols, you’ll be able to confidently read and follow any knitting pattern like a pro!

Interpreting Stitch Instructions

When reading a knitting pattern, it’s important to understand how to interpret the stitch instructions. This section will guide you through the process, helping you decipher the abbreviations and symbols commonly used in patterns.

1. Abbreviations:

Knitting patterns often use abbreviations to represent different stitches and techniques. Refer to the pattern’s key or a separate list of abbreviations to understand their meanings. Some common abbreviations include:

  • k: knit
  • p: purl
  • yo: yarn over
  • ssk: slip, slip, knit
  • k2tog: knit two stitches together

2. Stitch Symbols:

In addition to abbreviations, knitting patterns may also include stitch symbols. These symbols provide visual representations of stitches, making it easier to follow the instructions. Some common stitch symbols include:

  • O: yarn over
  • /: knit
  • \: purl
  • K: knit stitch on the right side, purl stitch on the wrong side
  • P: purl stitch on the right side, knit stitch on the wrong side

3. Repeat Instructions:

Many knitting patterns include repeat instructions, indicated by specific symbols or phrases. This indicates that a particular set of stitches should be repeated a certain number of times. Common repeat symbols include asterisks (*) and parentheses (). For example, a pattern might say “Repeat from * to end of row” or “Repeat (K2, P2) until end of row.”

4. Row and Round Instructions:

Knitting patterns will specify whether the instructions are for rows (flat knitting) or rounds (circular knitting). Pay attention to these instructions to ensure you’re following the pattern correctly. Common row instructions include “Row 1: Knit” or “Row 2: Purl.” For rounds, it might say “Round 1: Knit” or “Round 2: *K2, P2*.”

5. Additional Notes:

Some patterns may include additional notes or instructions to help clarify the pattern. These notes may provide tips or suggestions for certain sections, or explain any modifications made to the traditional stitch patterns. Read these notes carefully to ensure you’re fully understanding the pattern.


Understanding how to interpret stitch instructions is crucial for following knitting patterns accurately. By familiarizing yourself with common abbreviations, stitch symbols, repeat instructions, row/round instructions, and additional notes, you’ll be able to confidently read and understand any knitting pattern.

Mastering Pattern Charts

Pattern charts are visual representations of knitting patterns that use symbols and colors to represent different stitches and techniques. They are often used in more complex knitting patterns, such as lace or colorwork designs. Mastering pattern charts is essential for advanced knitters who want to tackle more intricate projects and expand their knitting skills.

Understanding the Symbols

When working with pattern charts, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the symbols used to represent different stitches and techniques. The chart legend will provide a key that explains the meaning of each symbol used in the chart. Some common symbols you may come across include:

  • K: Knit stitch
  • P: Purl stitch
  • YO: Yarn over
  • SSK: Slip, slip, knit
  • K2tog: Knit 2 stitches together
  • Sl: Slip stitch

Reading the Chart

When reading a pattern chart, start from the bottom right corner and read from right to left for the right side rows (RS) and from left to right for the wrong side rows (WS). Each square on the chart represents one stitch or combination of stitches, depending on the symbol used. Follow the chart row by row, repeating the pattern as indicated.

Keeping Track of Rows and Repeats

To keep track of which row you are on, use a row counter or a pencil to mark off each row as you complete it. Additionally, pattern charts often indicate when to repeat a certain section or stitch pattern. This is usually indicated by a bracket or a set of asterisks (*) at the beginning and end of the repeat section. Pay close attention to these symbols to avoid mistakes and ensure that your pattern turns out correctly.

Using a Highlighter or Marker

To make it easier to read and follow the chart, you can use a highlighter or marker to mark the current row or the row you’re about to work on. This can help prevent confusion, especially in more intricate chart designs with multiple stitch patterns or color changes.

References and Resources

When working with pattern charts, it’s helpful to have additional references and resources on hand. These can include stitch dictionaries, knitting books, or online tutorials that provide explanations and demonstrations of different knitting stitches and techniques. Having these resources readily available can assist you in understanding and executing the stitches and techniques represented in the chart.

Mastering pattern charts takes practice and patience. Start with simpler charts and gradually work your way up to more complex designs. As you gain experience, you’ll become more comfortable and confident in your ability to read and work with pattern charts, opening up a whole new world of knitting possibilities.

Identifying Pattern Repeats

When reading a knitting pattern, it’s important to understand the concept of pattern repeats. A pattern repeat is a specific sequence of stitches that is repeated throughout a section of the pattern. By identifying pattern repeats, you can easily follow a pattern and keep track of your stitches.

To identify a pattern repeat, look for a section of stitches that is enclosed in brackets or parentheses. The number of stitches within the brackets or parentheses indicates the repeat. For example, if you see [K2, P2] 4 times, it means you need to knit 2 stitches, purl 2 stitches, and repeat that sequence 4 times.

Another way to identify pattern repeats is by following the instructions. The pattern may explicitly mention that a certain set of stitches should be repeated. For example, the pattern may say, “Repeat Rows 2-6 for pattern repeat.” This means that you need to repeat Rows 2-6 of the pattern multiple times.

It’s important to understand pattern repeats because they help you maintain the structure and design of the knitted piece. By following the pattern repeats correctly, you can ensure that your finished product looks like the intended design.

Keeping Track of Pattern Repeats

When working with pattern repeats, it’s helpful to keep track of your progress. Here are a few methods you can use to keep track of pattern repeats:

  • Stitch markers: Place stitch markers at the beginning and end of each pattern repeat. This will help you visually identify the boundaries of each repeat.
  • Highlighter tape: Use highlighter tape to mark the lines of the pattern that contain the repeat. This will make it easier for you to visually locate the repeat as you work.
  • Row counters: Use a row counter to keep track of how many times you have completed the pattern repeat. This can be especially helpful if the pattern requires you to repeat a certain number of rows.

By using these methods, you can easily keep track of your progress and avoid making mistakes in the pattern repeat.

Understanding Multiple pattern repeats

Sometimes, a knitting pattern may require you to work multiple pattern repeats in a single row or round. To understand this concept, it’s important to know how to read the pattern instructions closely.

Look for phrases like “rep from * to *,” “work across all pattern repeats,” or “work pattern repeat X times.” These phrases indicate that you need to repeat the entire pattern repeat multiple times in a single row or round.

When working multiple pattern repeats, it’s important to stay organized and keep track of your progress. You can use the same methods mentioned earlier, such as stitch markers, highlighter tape, and row counters, to keep track of your stitches.


Identifying pattern repeats is an essential skill for reading knitting patterns. By understanding pattern repeats and using techniques to keep track of them, you can confidently follow a pattern and create beautiful knitted pieces.

Reading Knitting Pattern Measurements

Knitting patterns often include specific measurements that are essential for creating a well-fitting garment. Learning how to read and interpret these measurements is crucial for successfully completing a project. Here are some common knitting pattern measurements and tips on how to understand them:

1. Bust Size

The bust size measurement indicates the circumference around the fullest part of the bust. It is important to take accurate measurements to ensure the garment fits correctly. To measure your bust size, wrap a measuring tape around your chest, under your armpits, and across the fullest part of your bust.

2. Waist Size

The waist size measurement refers to the circumference around the narrowest part of the waist. This measurement is typically taken above the belly button and below the ribcage. It helps determine the shaping and fit of the garment around the waist area.

3. Hip Size

3. Hip Size

The hip size measurement indicates the circumference around the fullest part of the hips. It is important for garments that fit around the hip area, such as skirts or dresses. Measure around the widest part of your hips to get an accurate hip size measurement.

4. Finished Measurements

The finished measurements in a knitting pattern refer to the dimensions of the completed garment. These measurements are often provided for different sizes and help you choose the correct size to knit. Make sure to pay attention to the ease included in the pattern, which refers to the difference between the actual body measurement and the finished measurement of the garment.

5. Length

The length measurement refers to the distance from a specific point on the garment to another point. It could be the length from the shoulder to the hem, the length of sleeves, or the length of a scarf. Pay attention to the knitting pattern to determine which specific points are being referenced for the length measurement.

6. Gauge

Gauge is a crucial measurement in knitting as it determines the number of stitches and rows per inch. It helps ensure that the finished garment matches the measurements provided in the pattern. Always swatch and check your gauge before starting a project, and adjust your needle size if necessary to obtain the correct gauge.

By understanding and correctly interpreting knitting pattern measurements, you can confidently choose the right size, create a well-fitting garment, and enhance your knitting skills.

Following Pattern Instructions for Different Sizes

When working with knitting patterns, it’s important to know how to follow the instructions for different sizes. The pattern will usually provide a list of sizes available, along with the measurements for each size. Here’s how you can navigate through the instructions:

1. Choose the Right Size:

Start by measuring yourself or the intended recipient to determine the appropriate size. Pay attention to the bust/chest, waist, and hip measurements. Compare these measurements to the size chart provided in the pattern. Select the size that most closely matches the measurements.

2. Read the Instructions:

Once you have chosen the size, locate the corresponding instructions in the pattern. The pattern may use different font styles or symbols to differentiate between sizes. Pay close attention to these indicators to make sure you are following the correct instructions.

3. Use the Abbreviations and Measurements Key:

Knitting patterns often use abbreviations to save space and make the instructions easier to read. Familiarize yourself with the pattern’s abbreviation key to understand the shorthand used. Additionally, patterns may include measurements for various parts of the garment, such as sleeve length or body length. Refer to the measurement key provided to understand the specific instructions for your size.

4. Adjust Stitch Counts:

In some cases, the pattern may require adjusting stitch counts to accommodate different sizes. Look for instructions indicating how many stitches to cast on, increase, or decrease for each size. Make sure to follow these instructions carefully to achieve the desired fit.

5. Modify Lengths and Shaping:

In addition to stitch counts, patterns may also include instructions for modifying lengths and shaping for different sizes. For example, the pattern might instruct you to work a certain number of rows or inches before starting a shaping decrease. Take note of these instructions and make the necessary adjustments to ensure the garment fits properly.

6. Check the Gauge:

Remember to always check your gauge before starting a project, as it can greatly affect the final size of the garment. The pattern will provide a suggested gauge, typically given in stitches and rows per inch. Use the recommended needle size and yarn to create a gauge swatch and compare it to the gauge specified in the pattern. If your gauge differs, adjust your needle size accordingly to achieve the correct gauge and size.

By following these steps and paying close attention to the pattern instructions, you’ll be able to successfully knit a garment that fits perfectly, regardless of the size.

Troubleshooting Common Pattern Mistakes

Reading a knitting pattern can be intimidating, especially for beginners. Mistakes can happen, but don’t worry! Here are some common mistakes that people make when reading knitting patterns and how to troubleshoot them:

  1. Misunderstanding abbreviations: Knitting patterns often use abbreviations to save space. However, these abbreviations can be confusing if you are not familiar with them. Always refer to the pattern’s key or a knitting abbreviation dictionary to understand what each abbreviation means.
  2. Ignoring gauge measurements: Gauge refers to the number of stitches and rows per inch in a knitting pattern. Ignoring gauge measurements can result in a project that is too big or too small. Always take the time to check your gauge before starting a project to ensure that it matches the gauge specified in the pattern.
  3. Skipping the pattern repeat: Some patterns have a repeat section that you need to repeat multiple times within a row or round. Skipping this repeat can throw off the entire pattern and result in a mismatched design. Make sure to carefully read the pattern instructions and mark any repeat sections to avoid skipping them.
  4. Not counting stitches: Counting stitches is crucial in knitting patterns. Missing or adding stitches can alter the final outcome of your project. Take the time to count your stitches regularly, especially after completing a row or round, to ensure accuracy.
  5. Forgetting to check for updates: Knitting patterns may be updated or corrected by the designer after they are released. Always check for any pattern updates or errata on the designer’s website or Ravelry, a popular knitting community, to avoid following outdated or incorrect instructions.

By being aware of these common mistakes and taking the time to troubleshoot them, you can confidently read and follow knitting patterns like a pro. Remember to always double-check your work and trust your instincts. Happy knitting!


What is a knitting pattern?

A knitting pattern is a set of instructions written in a standardized format that tells you how to create a specific knitted item or stitch pattern.

How do I choose the right knitting pattern?

When choosing a knitting pattern, consider your skill level, the type of project you want to make, and the difficulty level of the pattern.

What do the abbreviations mean in a knitting pattern?

In a knitting pattern, abbreviations are used to make the written instructions more concise. They represent specific stitches or techniques.

How do I read a knitting pattern chart?

To read a knitting pattern chart, start at the bottom-right corner and read each row from right to left. Each square on the chart represents a stitch, and the symbols or colors indicate the type of stitch to be made.


How to Read a Knitting Pattern Lesson 2: understanding repeats within a row

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