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Choosing a Knitting Pattern – A Guide for New Knitters

by Roz Andrews

If knitting is a new hobby for you, it can be tempting to start knitting the first item that catches your eye, only to find that you run into difficulty after a while. To ensure that your first knitting project is successful, here are a few points to consider before choosing an appropriate knitting pattern.

1. Select a design that can be completed quickly and easily, such as a striped scarf or a cushion cover that is knitted in one piece. Patterns using larger needles and thicker yarn will take less time to knit than patterns that utilize smaller needles and thinner yarn. Many patterns are graded according to the degree of difficulty with such words as “easy”, “intermediate” or “advanced”, so be sure to choose an easy pattern first.

2. Ensure that you are able to buy the exact yarn named in the pattern or at least an equivalent yarn. Using the yarn suggested in the pattern will guarantee that you get the best results from the pattern and it is recommended that you do this for your first few projects at least. As you become a more experienced knitter, you will find that you can substitute similar yarns and still achieve good results.

3. Make certain that you have all of the materials listed in the knitting pattern before starting the project. This includes yarn, knitting needles, a tapestry needle for sewing up the finished article and possibly other items, such as a crochet hook.

Buy an extra ball or skein of yarn in each color to ensure that you will not run out of yarn before you complete the project. Don’t be tempted to think that you can buy more yarn later if you need it, because the yarn that you buy at a later date will almost certainly be from a different dye batch and therefore a slightly different shade. Also, yarns are often withdrawn from the market, so you may not even be able to purchase the same yarn in the future.

4. Before casting on, read through the whole pattern and make sure that you understand all of the instructions. Knitting patterns can be daunting for new knitters as they appear to be written in an obscure code that is difficult to decipher. Below are some of the most commonly used abbreviations, together with their meanings. They are arranged in alphabetical order for easy reference.

alt = alternate
beg = beginning (or begin)
cont = continue (or continuing)
dec = decrease (by knitting two stitches together)
foll = following
garter st = garter stitch – knit every row
inc = increase (by knitting twice into one stitch)
k = knit
k2tog = knit two stitches together
MC = main color
p = purl
p2tog = purl two stitches together
patt = pattern
psso = pass slipped stitch over
rib = knit one, purl one all the way along the first row, ending with a knit stitch. Then purl one, knit one along the second row, ending with a purl stitch. Repeat these two rows to form the rib pattern. This pattern is often used on cuffs to give a firm edge.
rem = remain (or remaining)
rep = repeat (or repeating)
RS = right side
sl = slip – simply slip the stitch onto the other needle without knitting it.
st(s) = stitch(es)
st st = stocking stitch (knit the first row, purl the second row, and repeat). This stitch is often used in the body of garments, after the rib stitch has been completed.
WS = wrong side
yfwd or yf – yarn forward – bring the yarn to the front of your work.
yon = yarn over needle – pass the yarn over the top of the needle
yrn = yarn round needle – wind the yarn around the needle

5. Check your tension before starting. Most knitting patterns specify the required tension for the pattern. Do a test piece of knitting, as instructed on the pattern under the heading “tension”, to determine whether or not you are knitting to the required tension.

If your test piece is smaller than stipulated in the pattern, your tension is too tight, so you need to use a thicker needle. If your test piece is larger, your tension is too slack, so you need to use a thinner needle. Repeat the test piece with different sized needles until you knit a piece with the required tension.

It can be tempting to skip this step in your eagerness to start the project but this is a mistake. If your tension is incorrect, you will end up with a finished item that is either too large or too small.

You are now ready to start knitting. For the short time you have spent on the preparations, you will be rewarded with favorable results that will inspire you to continue knitting.

This post was written by a guest contributor for Knitting Women. Do you love to knit, and would like to share your tips and patterns on Knitting Women? If so, we'd love to hear from you! Get in touch with us easily by clicking here.

(3) Comments

  1. I used to knit for my children when they were small I suppose thinking about that time we had more time on our hands – everyone enjoyed knitting for all the family.I now have a great grandson and think I could take up knitting again.I have arthritis quite badly but manage to do a few items – it doesn’t matter how long it takes me I’m now retired

  2. need help start kniting use to knit with one needle but i can.t rember how to start off got needle with hook at the end.please help

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