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How to Read a Knitting Pattern

Before picking up needles and yarn, sit down and read through the pattern you will be using. Patterns are written in a language of their own, and this will help you become familiar with special stitches and abbreviations. Although not all publications use the same abbreviations, the terminology will become familiar with a read-through.

In the middle of the PDF is the photo of the project, the name of the pattern, and a short description of the pattern. The information starts in the column to the left of the photo, skips over the photo, and continues in the column to the right of the photo.

In the top of the left-hand column, there will be a number identifying the pattern. You can search for these numbers on the website to find patterns, or reference them if you contact Consumer Services with a question.

Under the pattern number is a bar telling the skill level of the project, following a standardized system. Next follows the type of pattern, such as knitting or crochet, and then the designer.

After the introductionary information is the list of the supplies you will need to make the pattern. These supplies include the yarn line, colors used in to make the project in the picture, and amount of each color, as well as the needle size or sizes and any other materials you will need. You can always change the color used in a pattern to another color that works better for you or your recipient.

After the supplies section will be the gauge. You can read our guide to learn more about what gauge is and how to find it. Sometimes the section just says that gauge is not important. Craft projects will not list a gauge, because it does not apply.

Next will be the size of the project. Occasionally the size depends entirely on how you make it, such as for many craft projects, and so will be left off. Projects that have only a single size, such as a throw or a scarf, will just list the dimensions of the finished item. If a project can have multiple sizes and multiple measurements, they will all be listed in order.

If a pattern has multiple sizes, there will be a note with the measurements that tell you how the instructions are written. For example, for the Lattice Look Beanie, there is a note by the instructions that says "Directions are for size Small; changes for sizes Medium/Large are in parentheses." When you look next to the note, you will see that the sizing is listed as "To Fit Head Circumference: 22 (24”) [56 (61) cm]". In this case, the small fits a head that is 22" or 56 cm around, and the medium/large fits a head that is 24" or 61 cm around.

The note next to the measurements also applies to the written pattern itself. The pattern starts with a note to "cast on 100 (120) stitches". This means you will cast on 100 stitches if you are making the small size, or 120 stitches if you are making the large size.

In Red Heart patterns, the common abbreviations used in a particular pattern are listed at the end of that pattern. Less-common abbreviations are explained at the top of the pattern, before you get started making the project. Special stitches are also explained at the top of the pattern, such as a stitch pattern used in the project. Read our guide to learn more about pattern repeats and multiples.

Below: LW4712 Sweet Sideways Dress Free Knitting Pattern

How to Read a Knitting Pattern