So you want to knit 3: How to follow a pattern

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Now that you have been practicing your knit and purl stitches, it’s a good time to learn how to read a pattern. There are lots of patterns out there. And by lots, I mean LOTS. You can find them at places like Ravelry or Lovecrafts. The beauty of these sites is that you can search all the patterns that people have listed based on what you want. You want a dishcloth made with size 6 needles, on cotton yarn? Sure! How about a scarf that uses bulky yarn, and size 10 needles, but it’s free? Sure! And yes, there are quite a few free patterns out there for everything. If you don’t know what you want, other than perhaps a scarf pattern that is easy, and can be purchased online? Well, you can search for that too. It can really help you to narrow down your options, and get rid of perhaps some of the more complicated projects that you do not feel comfortable with yet. Once you have your pattern, though, what do you do with it? How do you follow a pattern that someone has written? Thankfully many patterns follow a very similar scheme, and will mostly only vary for a designers stylistic choices. For example, every pattern should have a glossary that tells you what their abbreviations mean. This glossary can be nearly anywhere in the pattern. So, before you begin, it’s a great idea to read the entire pattern. Look for the glossary, where the actual pattern directions start, and look for the details on gauge. I’ll get to the definition of gauge as we read through this simple dishcloth pattern that I have created for you.

This dishcloth is made using a pattern of stitches that is called “Waffle Stitch”. It’s a series of knits and purls that will give you raised and sunken areas to give your dishcloth some texture. But, it uses no techniques that you have not been introduced to you. It’s all knits and purls. πŸ™‚ Okay, so here is the pattern:

Beginner Dishcloth

Yarn: Knit Picks Preciosa Tonal Worsted, 100% Merino Wool (273 yds/100 g): 30 yards, colorway β€œPluot”.

Needles: US 8 / 5.00mm straight or circular needles.

Notions: Tapestry needle (for sewing in ends)
Stitch marker (to mark Right Side of work)

Size: 6″ x 6″ square

Gauge: 18 stitches / 26 rows per 4” in stockinette after wet blocking.

Stitch Glossary:

K – Knit

P – Purl

RS – Right side of your work.

WS – Wrong side of your work.

Using the Long-tail cast on, cast on 36 stitches.

Knit 4 rows.


Row 1 (RS): K4, *k4, p4; to the last 8 stitches, k8.
Row 2 (WS): K4, *p4, k4; to the end.
Row 3: K4, *k4, p4; to the last 8 stitches, k8.
Row 4: K4, *p4, k4; to the end.
Row 5: K4, *p4, k4; to the end.
Row 6: K4, *k4, p4; to the last 8 stitches, k8.
Row 7: K4, *p4, k4; to the end.
Row 8: K4, *k4, p4; to the last 8 stitches, k8.

Repeat Row 1-8 3 more times.


Knit 4 rows.


Bind off. Weave in your ends, and block as desired.

Phew, that’s a lot of weird stuff in there. Okay, let’s start at the top. I start all my patterns with a list of materials. You will see lines for Yarn, Needles and Notions, but also Size and Gauge. The yarn listed is what I used to create this dishcloth. This yarn is a worsted weight, and I used 30 yards of it in the Pluot colorway. You don’t have to use this exact yarn, but it does give you a starting point. You will want to find a yarn that is listed as a medium weight, it might have a symbol on it with the number 4, and you will want to have at least 30 yards of yarn. How much you need will vary a bit, so you will want to have more than that, just in case. Next is the Needle section. I used size US 8 / 5.00 mm needles for this project. This directly correlates to the section title Gauge. Gauge is how many stitches or rows you have worked to get to 4″ in length or height. This isn’t as important in a dishcloth, but it is great to understand, because if you ever want to advance to garments, then it will be extremely important. When you are measuring your piece for gauge, you place a tape measure, or a gauge tool (picture 2) on your work. You can then count how many stitches are in that 4″ measurement. Now, when I am making something smaller, like socks, I will actually only measure the stitches in a single inch and then multiply it by 4 to get an approximate 4″ measure. The 1″ method is not as exact, but when you have a sock that is barely 4″ across, it can get very cumbersome. When you get to the skill level of making a piece that is going to require you to measure gauge, I highly recommend the gauge tool. It allows you to place the gauge and measure both stitches and rows at the same time.

As I said, for the dishcloth, and for starting out gauge is not going to impact what you are doing. But, it is still good to know what it means if you don’t match the number of stitches or rows. For this pattern, I have 18 stitches per 4″. What happens if you have 15 stitches? If you fit fewer stitches in your 4″ block, that means your stitches are actually bigger than mine. In order to shrink your stitches, you will need to decrease your needle size until you get 18 stitches per 4″, perhaps only needing to go down a single size, such as a US 7. If you have more stitches, let’s say 22 per 4″, you have too tight of a stitch, and will need to increase your needle size, perhaps only to a US 9, or perhaps more. You will hear people talking about swatching, and this is where the gauge will be measured before you even start your piece. This is to see how your fabric turns out with the yarn you chose. You will knit a 4″ x 4″ square and measure your rows and stitches. And honestly, it’s like you just made a mini dishcloth! A swatch is very important to do for every single project where size is important, because your knitting can change based on the yarn you are using, and even your mood, or if you are like me and have a painful condition, my pain levels will dramatically change how tight or loose my knitting is.

Okay, so shove that bit of information into the back of your brain for later. When you go to something more advanced, hopefully your brain will remind you that you need to come back and look at how to get gauge. πŸ˜€

The next part of this pattern is the Stitch Glossary. As I mentioned before, this can appear in various locations on patterns, and is purely the stylistic preference of the designer. I tend to have mine on page 2 of my patterns, so that you get to it faster. This will give you the definitely of every abbreviation I have used that is important for you to know. As you can see, this one is pretty short, but some can be pages long, depending on the complexity of the pattern. Some of the stitches, if they are specialized, may also include instructions on how to work the stitch. Be sure that you are familiar with everything in the glossary, and have ready through anything with instructions.

Then you get to the body of the pattern. This can be broken down in many ways, but this one is simply the edge, body, edge and finishing. Simply start at the top and work your way through line by line. Step one is to cast on the number of stitches in the method you are told. Some patterns will say specific kind of cast ons, and some will just say something like “using your favorite stretchy cast on”. After your cast on has been completed, move on to the Edge section, and Knit 4 rows. This means Knit every stitch across the entire left needle. Then turn your work, and knit across all the left stitches again. Each time you go across all the stitches is one row. So, you will knit across, turn, knit across, turn, knit across, turn, knit across, and turn, ready to move to the next section.

The body section has instructions for 8 rows. Since you already have your piece ready to work the next row, you will follow the instructions as written. You knit 4, and then that little asterisk there? That tells you that you have stitches that will be repeated between that asterisk and the semi colon. So, knit 4, then purl 4, until you have only 8 stitches remaining on the left needle. You will actually be repeating this twice for this pattern, so Knit 4, purl 4, knit 4, purl 4, and then go to the next part, which says to knit 8. That uses up all your stitches, and you can now turn your work. I have also specified that Row 1 is a RS (right side) row. In order to keep track of whether you are on the right side or wrong side, I recommend placing a piece of yarn or a stitch marker on to the right side of your work. That is a great visual reminder. Continue on to Row 2, working it as written, doing the repeat again between the asterisk and semi colon until it tells you to stop, which in the case of Row 2 isn’t finished until you have completed the entire row. Work until you have completed Row 8. You will see after Row 8 there is instructions to “Repeat Row 1-8 3 more times”. This means that you are going to go back to Row 1 and knit those 8 rows all over again, 3 more times. After this, you are back at the Edge, and will do the same as you did for the first Edge section, and you will knit 4 rows.

Next is your bind off. You can use the same bind off that I mentioned in the last section, and it will work totally fine for this. So, you now have a finished dishcloth, but you have 2 ends that are dangling off. You will need to use a tapestry needle, and weave them through the stitches on the back of your work. I usually will sew them in through about 4 stitches, going down the work, then 4 up and then 4 down.

You may have noticed that I used some rather fluffy yarn for my sample. One reason is I don’t have any cotton yarn right now, and I had this hanging around as a leftover. The other reason, is that you can actually make these squares and stitch them together later for a blanket. You can also do this with all your swatches that you will eventually have. They can be sewn together for a patchwork type of blanket. That way nothing goes to waste. πŸ˜€

Here is how your finished dishcloth should look:

Okay, now that you know how to read a pattern, I’m going to pause here, before this post is super crazy long, and in the next post I will go into how to count your stitches. Because, inevitably you will get distracted and lose count. It happens to everyone…a lot. lol It’s important to know how to count your stitches of what you have done, so you can figure out where you left off. I’ll see you then! Thanks for reading!

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