Reading Patterns

I was listening to the Knit Picks Podcast on my way home from work yesterday and an interesting topic came up. Kelley and Kerin were discussing tips for reading patterns (I’m playing catch-up as I’m way behind). As I listened, my mind kept wandering off and comparing how I read patterns to what their suggestions were, which I found fascinating.

I’ve never really given much thought to reading patterns. I typically am drawn to written-out patterns, though for colorwork and cabling I find I need a chart, sometimes for lace too. I don’t read the whole pattern start to finish. That was one of the tips on the podcast. Read it start to finish so you know what’s going to happen, what techniques to look up, and why certain techniques are used so you can decide if you can change anything.

I don’t know that I’ve ever read a pattern start to finish. I’m like that with cooking, too. I pick a recipe and look at all the ingredients before diving in, but I do tend to just dive right in. Same with knitting. I check my ingredients: what needles, tools, and kinds of yarn I’ll need. Lately I’ve added doing a gauge swatch, too. The other thing I double-check is the list of abbreviations/terms. By doing so, I know if I already know basically what to do or if I’m going to need a tutorial. I don’t practice the technique/stitch at this point, though. I won’t even try it until it comes up in a pattern.

Another interesting thing Kelley and Kerin brought up was a general difference they’ve seen between knitters who learned on their own and those who were taught by someone. Online knitters may be more likely to tackle a project that’s above their skill level while someone surrounded by knitters or who was taught by a knitter might get talked out of a more challenging project. This is hardly a hard and fast rule as every knitter is different. The reason this stood out to me, though, was how I learned to knit.

While my grandmother tried to teach me at age 8, I didn’t really get into knitting until 23. My grandma lives about 1000 miles away, so the only knitter in my life isn’t really there to help me or guide me. I taught myself using the Internet, which is a great tool. The plus-side of this is that I’m usually fairly fearless going into a project. I may quit after I realize it’s way above my skill level just yet and that I need to practice certain techniques with other projects first, but usually I just go at it. It’s my learning process, a way to practice. The downside is when I’m really stuck, there’s no one here to say “Ok, let me show you slowly.”

Luckily, as I’ve just learned, there’s a knitting guild in my town! I was actually really excited to hear about that. They meet a couple times a month not terribly far from where I live. Getting there would take a lot of coordination, though, as my husband and I have one car and he needs it to drive to work. (Another good reason for me to be walking distance to my job!) Still, it’s nice to know that if I’m really in a bind, there are people nearby who I might be able to ask for help. This may come in handy particularly when I’m ready to attach the sleeves to my husband’s sweater, which is still a long time off.

Oh and random comment during the podcast, Kerin mentioned that she knits the sleeves first so when she gets to the arm area, things are ready to go. I thought that was a really interesting idea! I’m not terribly far in the pattern, so I might be able to go ahead and knit the sleeves without interrupting my flow too much, but we’ll see. I can definitely see the appeal, and if I don’t do this this time, I’ll certainly try it with my next sweater.

Anyway, it’s finally Friday! Don’t forget to check out the yarn giveaway if you haven’t already. I hope you have a wonderful weekend!


3 thoughts on “Reading Patterns

  1. I remember I taught myself to knit about 3 years ago by reading books, joining ravelry & watching videos online. I’d only been knitting for about a year & had already learned most techniques, circular, cables, lace, basically if I see a pattern I like I try it! There’s a knitting guild that meets at the library down the street & I stopped by for a meeting. There was a woman who had also been knitting for about a year but had never made anything other than plain old scarves!!! My jaw just dropped when she hesitantly said she may want to try cables. Why in god’s name would anyone be afraid to try to knit something, especially something they really love? I totally agree that knitters who were taught by other knitters, as opposed to self-taught, are definitely more inclined to also have picked up the fears of their teachers. Whenever I’ve attempted a difficult project there’s never been anyone to tell me it was too hard or talk me out of it. I now teach my own classes & I always encourage pushing comfort levels, how else can you learn or improve? Plus the more excited you are about your projects the better they will turn out.
    P.S. – Thanks for checking out my blog! I checked out yours & subscribed. 🙂

  2. I read somewhere that in French knitting patterns you knit the sleeves first, I find the differences between patterns from diifferent countries and time periods quite interesting!

    I’m self taught, from books mostly, and I’m kind of glad because seasoned knitters sometimes tell me things like they’re terrified of knitting pullovers in pieces because of the seaming, but the second thing I ever made was a striped hat knit flat so I inadvertently learned carrying colours, decreasing and mattress stitch on a small project, and because it was just a hat it didn’t scare me at all.

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