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How to Knit

Understanding Knitting Instructions

Like most crafts, knitting has its own language. Knitting patterns use abbreviations, special terms, and punctuation. Knitting language may seem strange and a little intimidating at first, but you will quickly master it and be reading patterns like a pro.

At the beginning of a knitting pattern, you'll usually find a list of techniques used in that project. Review the techniques listed, and when you see one you don't know, practice the technique before starting the pattern.

Return to the pattern you plan to make, and read any special notes or instructions. Locate the size you want to make, and circle it throughout the pattern. Or make a copy of the pattern, and highlight the correct size numbers. In most patterns, the size numbers list the smallest size first, with the other sizes listed within brackets, beginning with the next size up, and so on. When one number or set of instructions is given, it applies to all sizes.

When a Finished Size is listed, the numbers given refer to the garment size upon completion (provided you maintain the correct gauge). These measurements include garment ease. Some patterns include both the body size and a finished size. For example:

Bust size: 36" [38", 40"]

Finished size: 40" [42", 44"]

Reading through the entire pattern may be confusing at first, so study small sections. If the pattern begins with the Back, read through those instructions to make sure you understand what will happen, then make the Back. Read through the next section, then knit it, and so on.

Pay attention to punctuation. One sentence usually represents one row; commas and semicolons may mean that something's going to change with the next stitch or row. Instructions inside asterisks, brackets, or parentheses are usually repeated, so look for the directions that explain what to do.


These are line drawings of the basic garment pieces, to which measurements are added. Usually schematics show the basic measurements before neck ribbing, collars, or other embellishments are added. Check the schematic to determine which size will best fit you in width and length.

In the final section, we'll list some of the most common knitting abbreviations and their meanings.

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