Knitting Abbreviations and Understanding Knitting Patterns


Knitting patterns are written using abbreviations for different stitches and techniques. While this is great, as it means designers can cram a lot of information into a small space, it also means that when you read a knitting pattern for the first time, all these abbreviations can be a bit daunting. Once you get used to them, it will become second nature. My bird knitting patterns only use a handful of abbreviations:

k = Knit 

p = Purl 

st = Stitch

sts = Stitches

st st = Stocking stitch 

k2tog = Decreasing by knitting two stitches together

inc 1 = Increase (make an extra stitch) by knitting into the front and back of the next stitch 

inc 2 = Increase (make 2 extra stitches) by knitting front and back into the next two stitches

Understanding Knitting Patterns

Work your way through the pattern, line by line, following all instructions that are given. Some of my patterns will ask you to split a ball of yarn into 2 smaller balls of yarn at the start of the pattern. This is so you can easily change colours half way through a row - learn more about changing colours through a row here.

All patterns will start with an instruction to cast on a certain number of stitches, in a certain colour. For example, to start Barry the Puffin:

"Using 4mm needles and Yarn A, cast on 8 sts"

In Barry's pattern, it will tell you that Yarn A = black. In some of my patterns, it will say just "black" rather than Yarn A (just as a side story, when I began writing patterns I started labelling Yarns as A, B, C etc as it's the usual protocol in knitting patterns. Further down the line, I realised that it was much easier for my brain to just process the word "black" rather than keep referring back to see what the letter A refers to. I need to update my earlier patterns to lose the letters!)

So to start knitting Barry, you will take your black yarn, and your pair of 4mm knitting needles and cast on 8 stitches.

The first row of the pattern is:

"Row 1: (A) inc in each st to end (16 sts)"

The (A) at the start tells you what colour to work this row in (A = black). You need to increase (inc) into each stitch (st) until the end of the row. The number in brackets at the end tells you how many stitches you should have on your needle once you have finished the row. It's always a good idea to do a quick stitch count at the end of each row, just to check that you haven't made any mistakes.

* Repeating

When you see a * in the knitting pattern, it means to repeat a sequence of stitches.

So, looking at Barry's pattern again:

"Row 5: *inc 1, k7, repeat from * to end (36 sts)"

This means that you have to increase into 1 stitch (inc 1), then knit 7 stitches (k7), and then repeat this sequence again until you run out of stitches at the end of the row.

So the whole row, written out in full, would be:

Increase into 1 stitch (inc 1), knit 7 stitches (k7), increase into 1 stitch (inc 1), knit 7 stitches (k7), increase into 1 stitch (inc 1), knit 7 stitches (k7), increase into 1 stitch (inc 1), knit 7 stitches (k7).