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How to Follow Written Stitch Patterns in Knitting

2 of 12 in Series: The Essentials of Knitting

In knitting, written stitch patterns include punctuation such as commas, asterisks, and brackets (or parentheses). The punctuation in knitting instructions mean more than you may think, however.

Here’s a punctuation translation for written stitch patterns:

  • Commas (,) separate single steps. The instruction “Sl 1 wyif, k5” tells you to slip a stitch with the yarn on the front side of the work, and then to knit 5 stitches as normal (meaning you have to move the yarn to the back before knitting, even though the instructions don’t tell you to).

  • An asterisk (*) indicates that whatever follows gets repeated (rep). For example, the instruction “K1, * sl 1, k3; rep from * to last st, k1” means that you knit 1 stitch, then you work the stitches between the asterisks (slip 1 stitch and knit 3 stitches) over and over until you reach the last stitch of the row, which you knit.

  • Brackets [ ] or parentheses ( ) function much like the asterisks, except that you’re repeating a series of stitches a specified number of times. For example, the instruction “* K5, (p1, k1) twice, p1; repeat from * to end of row” means that, after you knit 5, you purl 1/knit 1 two times, followed by another purl 1, and then you repeat this entire sequence across the entire row.

Written instructions give you row-by-row directions for a single repeat (rep). Here’s an example of a stitch pattern in written form:

Row 1 (RS): * K2, p2; rep from * to end of row.

Row 2 (WS): * P2, k2; rep from * to end of row.

Translation: On the first row (the right side is facing you on the first row in this pattern), you knit 2 stitches, purl 2 stitches, knit 2 stitches, purl 2 stitches, and so on to the end of the row. On the next row (wrong side facing now), you begin by purling 2 stitches, then knitting 2 stitches, purling 2 stitches, knitting 2 stitches, and so on to the end of the row.

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