How To Read Knitting Patterns: Your Easy Guide To Pattern Reading

By Jodie Morgan

| Updated:

Here’s a quick tutorial on reading knitting patterns. You’ll have this essential skill in your knitting toolbox in no time!

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Essential Information

A good knitting pattern should have a legend, instructions, gauge, size, materials, visuals, and skill level. It should also include finishing instructions, notions, and special terms. They also sometimes have a knitting chart to represent the stitches.


A knitting pattern lists the materials required, such as yarn, knitting needles, stitch markers, and stitch holders.

Reading Knitting Abbreviations

Knitting patterns use abbreviations for compactness and readability. Some common knitting abbreviations include:

  • K: Knit stitch
  • P: Purl stitch
  • RS: Right side
  • WS: Wrong side
  • CO: Cast on
  • BO: Bind off
  • St(s): Stitch(es)

Familiarize yourself with these abbreviations and terms for correct pattern-following and design creation. For more, and the way to read them, see here.

How To Read The Instructions

Knitting instructions use numbered rows. Brackets, asterisks, and parentheses group instructions and highlight repeats or special notes.

For example, if a pattern says “K2, *P2, K2; repeat from * to end” it means you’re going to knit two stitches, then alternate between purling two stitches and knitting two stitches until you reach the end of the row.

Bold or italic text emphasizes instructions or denotes sides. “Work even in patt” means to continue without altering the stitch pattern.


The gauge section of a knitting pattern informs you about the number of stitches and rows that should be created within a specific measurement (4 inches / 10 cm) using the specified yarn and needles.

Matching the gauge ensures that your knitted piece will have the intended dimensions and fit.


In knitting patterns, sizing is crucial, especially for items like sweaters, mittens, and scarves that need to have accurate dimensions.

Sizing information will include measurements for different sizes, and it may also include a schematic that displays these dimensions.

To ensure your knitted piece fits, follow the size measurements and make adjustments as needed based on your body measurements or desired fit.

Remember that some patterns may include “positive ease,” which means the garment is larger than the body measurements for a comfortable fit.


As a knitter, I’ve encountered a few issues when trying to follow a knitting pattern. In this section, I’ll share some friendly tips on how to troubleshoot and overcome these common challenges.

First, sometimes the problem lies in not reading the pattern at the beginning or making mistakes.

Dropping or adding a stitch can disrupt the stitch pattern. In these cases, it’s essential to review your knitting to find where you made the mistake and fix it.

Next, understanding a knitting pattern can be tricky, especially for beginners.

I recommend following a step-by-step tutorial which can help in making sense of written instructions. I like to highlight or underline the specific instructions for my chosen garment size, making it much easier to follow along.

Another common issue is gauge, which can lead to incorrect sizing if not done correctly. Using a swatch to determine the gauge will help me adjust my knitting tension and ensure my project fits.

In case the size of my project isn’t quite right, I might consider trying different sized needles to get the correct measurements.

I find it helpful when the patterns offer information on yarn type and needle size, as well as any other special tools I might need.

Don’t shy away from seeking help on knitting forums or asking fellow knitters for advice.

How do you interpret knitting pattern repeats?

When I read knitting patterns, I often come across sections that are repeated. To interpret these repeats, I first look at the asterisks (*) or other symbols used.

These show the start and end of the pattern repeat. For example, if I see something like “knit 1, purl 1, repeat from * to *,” I understand I need to knit one stitch, purl one stitch and keep alternating between these two stitches for the shown number of times or until the end of the row or round.

It’s essential to pay close attention to the pattern’s instructions, as some repeats might cover several rows or rounds.

In these cases, I note where the repeat begins and ends, and follow the instructions for each row or round, ensuring I repeat the specified section as shown.

What do parentheses and brackets mean in knitting patterns?

When I come across parentheses or brackets in a knitting pattern, I know they are showing pattern repeats. Parentheses () show a group of stitches to be worked a specific number of times. For example, (knit 1, purl 1) 3 times means I have to alternate knitting one stitch and purling one stitch for three sets.

Once I’ve completed the stitches within the parentheses, I proceed with the rest of the instructions as written.

Brackets [] serve a similar purpose, but they often contain more complex stitch groups or even multiple rows or rounds.

When I see brackets, I follow the instructions within them, repeating the entire set of directions the showed number of times, before moving on in the pattern. For example, [purl 2 rows, knit 2 rows] 4 times means I have to purl two rows, knit two rows, and repeat this sequence four times in total.

About The Author

Jodie Morgan From Knit Like Granny

Jodie Morgan (Author & Founder) | Lives In: Regional Australia

Author: Jodie Morgan is a passionate knitter and blogger with 40+ years of experience currently living in regional Australia. Taught by her mother and wonderful grandmother “Mama”, she fell in love with crafting from a young age. When she’s not knitting, you’ll find her enjoying a cup of coffee with cream, or sharing helpful resources and tips with the online knitting community. Get to know Jodie and the team on our meet the team page.

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Frustrated Teacher Quits In Disgust, Sells The Farm, Moves The Family Halfway Across The World And… Starts Knitting

See what I did next...

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