How to Read Patterns & Abbreviations in Knitting

Written by tamela carey
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How to Read Patterns & Abbreviations in Knitting
Reading knitting patterns allows a knitter to create many beautiful accessories. (clew and knitting needles. image by Indigo Fish from

The fashion trend has many knit garments from stylish vogue cashmere sweaters to handsome cardigan sweaters for men. Beginner knitters who know the basic techniques of casting on stitches, the knit and purl stitches, and casting off are ready to enter the world of knitted design fashion. Those who can read patterns and the stitch technique abbreviations have endless garment and accessory opportunities waiting. Knitting patterns are nothing more than the recipes for knitted creations. So grab your knitting needles and let's get started!

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Easy knitting pattern with abbreviations, a symbol key, and glossary
  • Knowledge of how to cast on, cast off, knit, and purl
  • Pen
  • Paper

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  1. 1

    Find the symbol key in the pattern and look up the word meaning for each symbol in the glossary.

  2. 2

    Write them down on the paper.

  3. 3

    Read the pattern as one would read this article; starting at the top left and reading from left to right. Write what you are reading from the pattern on the pape, translating the letters such as "P" to the definition from the glossary, as "P" is "Purl."

  4. 4

    Pay attention to the comma (,) and asterisk (). What is written between commas is a single step, and an asterisk indicates that whatever follows gets repeated. An example:"K6, K2tog; repeat from * to end of row" would be written as "For the first 6 stitches on the needle knit (knit 6), knit the next two stitches on the needle together; repeat from the * to the ; until there are no more stitches left on the needle. The ; shows that starting with the next stitch there will be something different to do.

  5. 5

    Study the glossary for the meaning and the description of each stitch abbreviation. When reading the symbols for a different pattern, be sure to check in the glossary for the meaning and description of the symbols because they may have a different meaning.

Tips and warnings

  • Starting with free knitting patterns that are for beginners is a good way to practice reading patterns without having to write them out.
  • Practicing the stitches in samplers is a way to remember what each symbol means.
  • Use self-stick notes to keep your place.
  • Not all patterns have glossaries. For patterns with only the symbol key, use the meaning from another pattern's glossary.

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