Saturday, January 03, 2009

free pattern FAQ


I decided it was time to make a help page for knitters who have questions about my free patterns. Of course, you can still email me with your specific questions - and I'll be as timely as I can in responding. But chances are, you'll find what you need to know on this page. I hope that some of you find this help page useful! If there's anything else you'd like to see here, please let me know in the comments.

Table of contents

What does this abbreviation mean??
I use standard abbreviations in all my patterns, but this may be one you haven't run across before. Check the Yarn Standards abbreviations guide, or the Knitty abbreviations guide (scroll down).

How do you do a [insert name of technique here]?
My favorite resource for learning a new technique is The video illustrations are wonderful - the next best thing to having a friend show you how to do it.

Also, if you've been knitting a little while and you know you're going to stick with it, I'd recommend investing in a big, handy book full of knitting techniques. These are easy to find used on the web and in bookstores. There are plenty to choose from, but two I have at my house are the Big Book of Knitting by Katharina Buss, and the Knitter's Handbook, by Montse Stanley. They really come in handy when you're adapting a pattern to your own liking, or when a designer is skimpy on the directions.

Sizing: How do I know which size will fit?

All my designs use standard sizing from the American Craft Yarn Council (sounds very official, doesn't it?). Unless they state otherwise, most designers in the U.S. follow these guidelines, so you should find some consistency among different patterns. To see what the standards are based on, check out this sizing guide.

Which size should I knit for my child who is __ months/years old?

The age-related sizes that I provide are a little bit misleading, since every kid is different and grows at a different rate. Your two year-old might be wearing a 4, while someone else's 4 year-old might swim in a size 3. The sizes are based on standard sizing from the American Craft Yarn Council. The best way to know what size to knit for a baby or child is to measure his or her chest circumference. Add two inches for ease, and that chest size tells you which size sweater to knit. I usually provide the chest measurement in the pattern, but if I've overlooked it (sorry!), check the Craft Yarn Council's sizing guide for babies & children. When in doubt, go up a size! In the mean time, I'm going to go make sure there are chest measurements on all my patterns...

Check out this tutorial I wrote on adapting top-down patterns to fit other sizes.

What size should I knit for me? I am between the sizes you provided.

No body conforms to a standard size. If you happen to be a perfect size medium, count yourself lucky. No matter what the garment, you will most likely need to adapt a knitting pattern to fit you well. The American Craft Yarn Council's sizing guide shows you how to measure yourself to determine your sizing. There are lots of instructions out there about how to adapt patterns to fit you - making the chest larger or smaller, adding darts, shortening or lengthening the sleeves or the sweater length. Check out the instructions in Stitch & Bitch Nation by Debbie Stoller, or Jenna Wilson's wonderful column in Knitty, Thinking Beyond the Pattern. As your knitting progresses, it's important to learn how to adapt patterns to fit well. Nothing's worse than spending months knitting a project that turns out looking like a muu-muu when you put it on.

A related question: Will this style of sweater look good on me?

This is a critically important question that is not so much about knitting, as it is about understanding your body shape and what will flatter it (and what will look awful). I always get depressed when I see someone's project on Ravelry, and they write about all the fun they had knitting a garment, only to find that the style didn't exactly flatter their figure. You can avoid this tragic and all-too-common problem by spending a little time with some fashionistas. The best in the business (I.M.H.O.) are Stacy and Clinton at What Not to Wear. There are some helpful tips on their website, but I adore their book, Dress Your Best: The Complete Guide to Finding the Style that's Right for Your Body. Never knit another clunker!

Quickie Cowl FAQ
The directions for the Modified Lace Rib show only Row 1, Row 2 and Row 4. What the heck do I do on Row 3? How do I "repeat these 4 rows" when there are only three given??Check it out: Row 1 is more than it seems. Row 1 and all WS rows: *K2, P3. Repeat from * to end. K2. "Row 1 and all WS rows" means that on every wrong-side row (in this case, all odd rows), you do the same thing. Row 3 is one of those WS rows.

Which set of directions do I follow? Do I dig right into the Lace directions or follow the second set, ie., First row: K3…. Or do I start with the directions after the CO and then follow the lace pattern? What am I overlooking?

I can't figure out the pattern either. Could you please write it out as Row 1, Row 2, etc. without the separate directions for "modified lace rib" and "knit the Cowl"?

I'm so sorry to torture you. This cowl is so simple, and I had to go and complicate the directions. Here's the quickie answer: You do both at the same time.

This is a standard convention in knitting directions when you're doing a fancy stitch pattern, particularly lace: the fancy stitch pattern is spelled out at the start of the directions. Part of the thinking there is to let you knit a swatch of it and see how it goes, maybe even check your gauge in the stitch pattern, before you try knitting the garment itself. Then, you get to the part of the directions where it says "Cast on..." and you actually start the body of the garment. The directions tell you to "Knit in patt" when it's time to use that fancy stitch pattern. No matter which row of the garment you happen to be knitting when that stitch pattern starts, you start with Row 1 of the stitch pattern and go from there. In this case, you just so happen to start row 1 on row 1.

I know this seems unnecessarily complicated, but it builds character. Also, it's good preparation for making a sweater or some other item with a fancy stitch pattern, when you'll have to use directions like this again. I promise it gets easier.

Organic Guernsey FAQ
These directions are confusing! It says to knit stockinette stitch in the sleeve sections, and seed stitch in the front & back sections. What does this refer to?
The front and back sections of the sweater are knit in seed stitch, and the sleeves are knit in stockinette. When you knit from the top down, your knitting is divided (by markers) into sections that correspond to:
front left panel, left sleeve, back, right sleeve, front right panel
So for this sweater, the stitch pattern through these sections corresponds:
seed stitch, stockinette, seed stitch, stockinette, seed stitch
Just make sure that on the individual stitches before and after each stitch marker (ie, the stitches you are increasing on), always knit them (don’t ever purl them) - even when you're working that section in seed stitch. That will keep everything looking tidy.

Common questions for top-down knitting

(Including the Mossy Jacket, Organic Guernsey and Super-Natural Stripes)
At first, the directions say that on an increase row, 10 st will be increased (9 st if you're knitting the Mossy Jacket). Later it says only 8 st increased. What's up with that?
At first, you are knitting into the front and back of the first stitch, then into the front and back of the stitches before AND after each stitch marker, and knit into the front and back of the last stitch. You do this on every right-side row. This makes the neckline grow to the correct proportions.
Once the sweater is big enough, with the given number of stitches in the back section, you will not increase into the first and last stitch anymore. you’ll just knit them as usual, but continue increasing before and after every stitch marker. At this point your neckline has met in the middle, so you don't need to be increasing there anymore.
Top-down knitting is the greatest! Why isn't every sweater pattern written this way?

I know, right? Sadly, most patterns are written for flat knitting that needs to be sewn up afterwards. Yawn. If you want to try your hand at transforming such patterns to top-down, or if you want to make up your own top-down designs, check out the final word on the matter, Barbara Walker's wonderful book, Knitting from the Top. I just love it! Also, there are some other designers out there who like to work top-down. Check out patterns for grown-ups and kids by Wendy Bernard, and women's garments from the lovely ladies at Zephyr Style.

How-to's and tutorials
Tutorial for top-down knitters: fancy stitch patterns
How to maintain a fancy stitch pattern across the raglan seams while knitting a sweater from the top down.

How to cast on a bazillion stitches
Keeping track when you have a whole lotta stitches to cast on.

Sewing a button very, very securely
The title pretty much says it all. Required reading if you're knitting a baby sweater with buttons.

Tutorial: Never weave in ends again!!
Yes, this is for real. Never. Again.

Sizing up: You can do it!
In which I address how you can go beyond the directions and adapt any top-down pattern to fit.

Looking for more pattern help? Let me know in the comments below.


  1. You are incredibly patient and a dear for doing this. I think your advice to invest in a good basic knitting book is an excellent suggestion for new knitters.

    Have made the organic gansey and supernatural stripes as gifts. *I* had no problems with the patterns. But then, I've been knitting since dirt was new.

  2. Thanks for the link to the standard abbreviations! (and also the remark about building character =D)

  3. directions are not printing.. any suggestions?

  4. Hi there,

    I'm very new to knitting. I think I understand how the 2 parts of the cowl pattern fit together but my lack of experience leaves me feeling uncertain.

    So below I've written out how I think it works (pattern stitch in brackets). Is this right?

    Row 1 K3. (*K2, P3. Repeat from * to end. K2). K3.
    Row 2 (RS): Slip one wyif, K2. (P2. *K1, YO, K2tog, P2. Repeat from * to end). K3.
    Row 3: Slip one wyif, K2. (*K2, P3. Repeat from * to end. K2). K3
    Row 4: Slip one wyif, K2. (P2. *K3, P2. Repeat from * to end). K3

    1. Sarah, thanks for clarifying--this helps alot!

    2. Thank you so much, Sarah! Without your clear instruction, I would have given up this project and started searching for another pattern. Appreciate it!!

    3. Thanks Sarah! I am also a beginning knitter and I really appreciate directions that are clear and designed to make knitting more fun. Even though you are new to knitting, maybe you should start rewriting directions! Maybe then I could knit for fun and find other ways to build my character.

  5. Thanks Sarah. I didn't understand the directions until your interpretation came along.

  6. Hi,
    Brilliant patterns! One question I have is how do you know what weight wool to use eg. organic guernsey when you don't use the wool suggested? Is it DK or 4ply...

    Many thanks

  7. Anonymous: I'd look for a 100% cotton that knits up in the same gauge - 14 st and 22 rows / 4 inches.

  8. I have a question about the Mossy Jacket pattern. I can only figure that the increases in the beginning are 8 increased stitches, not 9. I've started the pattern over and over again, and I"m not sure I understand. Please help me figure out where I might be going wrong. I'm not very good at this blog stuff, so if at all possible, please PM me at
    Thank you so much
    My name is Elaine

  9. I have a question on your organic baby wrapper.
    In row three, in order to keep 17 stitches, should there be a few more YOs? When I followed the pattern on row 3, I then wound up with 13 stitches per section instead of 17. So how do I get those other 4 stitches back?
    Thank you,

  10. I'm Looking for a knitted Baby Boy Layette set thats not to Fancy But Attractive.Can Anyone HELP ME with that....
    I'm LOVING this SITE !!!

  11. On the lace cowl: when it says to knit the fancy stitch do you do all four rows and then the next row in the cowl pattern, then back to knit all four rows.... etc???


  12. Hey Eunice: You knit the whole thing in the fancy stitch. Hope this helps.

  13. I am trying to make the sundrop hat and there seems to be 4 markers that should be there for the brim but are not in the instructions - can you please tell me where to put the markers

  14. Hello, I came across your Scrappy Socky Stripey Cardi just by mistake and it is just what I am looking for. I have never knitted top down and now love it but I have a couple of questions. When I have divided for the sleeves how many rows should I knit in garter st. before starting stocking stitch. Also is the measurement for the body from the shoulders of from the start of the St. St? I am sure the answer is staring me in the face.... Thank you. Susan

  15. I have been knitting for years, but I'm either missing something altogether, or there's some error in the pattern. I'm making the Bumpy Jacket and Hat in the 0-6 month size. I've done my first row of 10 increases. I now have 4, 8, 22, 8 and 4 sts. between markers. The directions say that the next row is *Slip 1 wyib, K1. Repeat from *, which tells me my row should end with a K1. I have knit the 1st stitch on each side of the markers, but on the last 4 stitches I knit the first one after the marker, then I slip 1 wyib, then K1, and then the last stitch is a slip 1 wyib, but shouldn't that be a K1? Am I doing something wrong?

    1. Hi there! The very last stitch of the row should be an increase stitch, not a slip 1 wyib.
      Knit into the front and back of the stitch on every right side row, until you have 32 stitches between the back markers, then you stop the increases of the first and last stitch of the row. I hope that helps!

  16. Sorry, but this didn't help. Maybe I wasn't clear enough. So...according to the instructions, I cast on and place markers after 2,6,20,6,2 ending with 36 stitches on my needle. On the next row (wrong side), I do 10 increases. There are just 2 stitches before the first marker and according to the instructions I kfb the first stitch, the next stitch is just before the marker and it's another kfb (gives me 4 stitches to the first marker). I continue across the row and get to the last 2 stitches, so I kfb the stitch right after the last marker, and then again kfb the last stitch. I now have my 10 increases across the row. Now I turn to the right side and follow the directions for row 3 which are *Slip 1 wyib, K1*, repeat to end. The instructions say to knit the stitch before and after each marker, so when I get to the 4 stitches after the last marker I knit the 1 stitch, next I slip 1 wyib, next is K1, and now I'm at the last stitch which is a slip 1 wyib, but the pattern says it should end with a K1. If I knit that last stitch, then my last 2 stitches are both knit. Am I doing something wrong?

  17. is it possible to knit the ankle sock pattern on a round needle?


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