I promised a post that I’m not sure very many of you actually need, but I thought it would be helpful just in case (and since I know how online knit-alongs go, it might prove useful for someone in the future who plans to knit Briar Rose).
I’m going to talk a little bit about reading our knitting pattern. I know sometimes for newer knitters, when you look at a knitting pattern it might as well be written in Chinese, for all the sense it makes to you.
Reading our pattern
Knitting patterns usually follow a standard format and use standard abbreviations. There are sometimes a bit of variety in terms among English-speaking countries, but so far I’ve never encountered a knitting term I couldn’t look up online and find the answer to. Briar Rose happens to be an Australian pattern, but every term used in the original pattern was a very familiar term in American patterns, too. Let’s look at the abbreviations used in Briar Rose.
|Abbreviation||What it means||Example from pattern|
|st / sts||stitch / stitches||Cast on 6 sts|
|K||knit||K. 40 stitches|
|P||purl||P. to end of row|
|st. st.||stockinette stitch||work in st. st.|
|k2tog / k. 2 tog||knit 2 sts together||k. 2 tog each end of next 2 rows|
|k3tog /k. 3 tog||knit 3 sts together||k. 3 tog, K. 9|
|D.C.||double crochet (video)||hey, we’re supposed to be knitting here!|
Not very many, is it? Some patterns use a lot more appreviations, though still standard ones like CO for casting on, BO for binding off, incr. for increases, decr. for decreases, etc. But Briar Rose is actually writes most of these out, making it a pretty nice pattern to follow for beginners and advanced knitters alike.
You know how I said most knitting patterns follow a standard format? This works nicely when you’re knitting a sweater, because you already have some sense of how it’s going to be put together when you go into it. This is especially true of most vintage knitting patterns (though there are always exceptions for different construction or other techniques, like a top down raglan or round yoke pullover). They usually start at the bottom hem as the cast on edge, work the back and front separately (or in the case of a cardigan, two front pieces are worked), then the sleeves, then anything else like shoulder pads, collars or button bands, then sew it all together. And Briar Rose follows exactly this same format. You can think of it as a familiar formula. And once you’re used to the formula, that’s when you can really start putting in your own knitterly tweaks.
Just take your time and read through the pattern ahead of time (which in this case, we’ve all done if we had to resize it). Try and work out what each line individually is trying to tell you. Breaking it down into bits is much easier and much less daunting than trying to look at the pattern as a whole! Go section by section, line by line, and if it helps you, write out little notes on your pattern to make it clear, or write out the pattern entirely in a way that makes sense to you! When I print out a pattern it’s always full of notes, things I’ve highlighted, math calculations, you name it.
Now here’s something the pattern doesn’t cover, that I thought it might be nice to touch on.
Mirrored increases / decreases
Many patterns (and certainly not vintage patterns) do not specify how to work increases on a row. They simply say something like “increase 1 st each end of every 6th row” or “k2tog 1 st each end next 4 rows”. That’s fine and dandy, but do you necessarily want to work the same type of increase or decrease on both sides? You certainly can, and it doesn’t make all that much of a difference. However there’s a nice technique where you can ‘mirror’ or ‘pair’ the increases or decreases, meaning that they slant in opposite directions according to which side of the garment you’re on. Each type of increase and decrease either slants to the left or to the right, so if you have one slanting each way on the opposite sides of the garment, you can add a nice, professional touch to your garment.
I have always loved this visual example from KnittingHelp.com of all the types of increases you can work on either side of a garment and this visual example of all the types of decreases you can work on either side of a garment to match them up. It’s been hugely helpful to me over the years.
I recently read about an interesting technique for decreasing (which you’ll need to do up by the armholes) which I haven’t tried out yet. Apparently you can acheive less visible decreases by switching the usual slant direction of the decrease you work. Now, how would I normally pair my decreases?
At the beginning of a right-side (RS) row I normally work a ssk (slip, slip, knit) and at the end of the row I work a k2tog. I put 2 stitches between the edge and the decrease. This is considered full-fashioned decreases. But with this other technique you only leave 1 stitch at each edge, and you swap out the decreases—so a k2tog one stitch in from the beginning of the row, and a ssk one stitch in from the end of the row. I’m definitely curious what this looks like, so I’ll be giving it a shot with my Briar Rose.
I hope everyone has cast on or will be soon. How’s it going so far? I’m still working through my ribbing (which I hate doing, by the way). Well, when my knitting cheerleader isn’t using it as a pillow!
Resources for this post:
- The Craft Yarn Council has a nice primer on how to read a knitting pattern. It covers basic abbreviations and the Knitting Garments section towards the bottom might be useful for you.
- Cat Bordhi video on paired increases, presenting the technique she uses to pair up increases. (Even if you know how to do them, watch it just to hear her talk about a knit zit, it’s too funny.)
- KnittingHelp.com has pages on decreases and increases that include written instructions as well as links to video tutorials on each version.