Briar Rose Vintage KAL: Thoughts on reading the pattern

Happy Friday!

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 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.)
  • has pages on decreases and increases that include written instructions as well as links to video tutorials on each version.

Filed: Knit-alongs, Knitting


Golly, 7 Comments!

  • I love that Pia has her tongue sticking out, Moxie does that too and it’s just too adorable!

    I had a full row of ribbing knitted when I realized I was knitting K2, P2!! UGH! My last few projects have been that, so I think my brain just went into autopilot. Started all over, and realized that I forgot to knit into the back of the stitches on the first row (good friggen grief Barbara, LOL!)but decided that probably wasn’t worth starting all over again to fix. So as of now, a mere 2 rows knitted.

    Thank you for the increase/decrease info. I had been contemplating how I was going to approach those, so it’s nice to have all the options and some helpful hints all right here.


  • Pia is cute as a button! I’ve been sick for a couple days so I had nothing to do BUT knit. I finished my ribbing last night and would have made good progress on the stockingette except that I can’t find the paper that had all my scribbled notes from your sizing post.


  • These directions are fantastic (seriously, all of the instructions have been phenomenal)! I had CO on the 1st, and then had to stop until today. Glad that I did or I probably would have repeated Moxie’s oversight of knitting into the front of the first row. Off to play catch up right now!! (back of first row, back of first row…lol)

    Give Pia a nice scratch – she’s too adorable!


  • Oh geez, I should have mentioned– I don’t even bother to knit into the back of the stitches when I cast on! So Barbara, you are not alone. LOL

    I think it really depends upon your type of cast on you do. I always do long-tail and I have never thought it made a difference enough to bother. 🙂


  • cast on yesterday and merrily ribbing along, got a couple rows done on the train to & from work which got a few looks but hey! didn’t knit into the back either, just ploughed ahead, there’s a few loopy bits but not enough to warrant going backwards 🙂


  • Your dog is too cute!

    I never knit tbl, either. I guess it doesn’t really matter?


  • Thank you so much for referring to Cat Bordi’s video on the left and right lifted increases. For some reason I have a hard time remembering how to make those two types of increases, and I always have to pull out my dictionary. With Cat’s daughter-mother-grandmother concept, I don’t think I will ever forget!



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