How to Read a Knitting Pattern

Knitting patterns can seem daunting the first time you look at them, they are written in a code with lots of commas and brackets and look like gobbeldygook. How could you possibly make that lovely toy from something that doesn’t make any sense?

A little knowledge can go a long way and at Knitting by Post we try to make our toy knitting patterns as easy to read as possible. Here is some advice for the best ways to read a Knitting by Post knitting pattern.

It’s all about Abbreviations

All knitting patterns are shortened, it is a way of saving paper so that you don’t have reems and reems of it for one small toy. If you can substitute the shortened words for the longer ones, you will soon understand the pattern better. There are lots of common abbreviations such as “k” which means knit a stitch. This is used on most knitting patterns.

Here are the most common abbriviations we use

  • k – knit
  • p – purl
  • sts – stitches
  • tog – together
  • inc – increase

Let’s have an example. A row on a pattern may say …
Next: (k1, inc1) to end (12 sts)

There are lots of abbreviations on just this one line, let’s explain further.
The word “Next” is literally that. It means complete this bit after the bit that comes before it on the row above.

We will come back to the bracket. Next is the “k” or knit. This means knit one stitch. Usually there will be a number after the letter k. So for example, if the pattern says k4 it means to knit 4 stitches.

After the knit stitch is the “inc1” instruction. The abbreviation “inc” is short for increase. This means that you begin with one stitch on the left needle and when you have completed the stitch, you have two stitches on the right needle. You do this by knitting into the front of the stitch as normal, but don’t remove the stitch from the left needle as you would normally do. Next take the right needle and knit again into the back of the same stitch. Then let the left stitch fall off the needle as normal. You will have made one extra stitch on the right needle (Assumption :You are a right handed knitter)

Back to the brackets “(“. The opening bracket will always have a closing bracket “)”, they come as a pair and if you look further along the example row it is the case here. The closing bracket is after the phrase “inc1”.


Brackets with instructions inside them are repeating sections. In this example, it means repeat the k1, inc1 repeatedly to the end of the row. The words immediately after the brackets will tell you how many times to repeat the stitches. In the example, it says “to end”, so continue repeating the instruction inside the bracket to the end. If you were to write this out in long hand, easy to understand English then it would look like this.

knit1, knit into the front and back of the stitch, knit1, knit into the front and back of the stitch knit1, knit into the front and back of the stitch knit1, knit into the front and back of the stitch”

Can you see how a knitting pattern would be huge if it was written like this? It would also be really difficult to follow too.

Next on the row is “(12 sts)”. The number of stitches (sts) at the end of a row show you how many stitches there should be on your needle after you have completed the row. It helps you to check your work as you go and make sure you haven’t gone wrong somewhere.

Watch out though! There is no universal abbreviation dictionary so something like “kfb” (knit into the front and back of the stitch) is the same as inc1 (increase 1 by knitting into the front and back of the stitch) It may change from designer to designer and pattern to pattern. Always check the abbreviations before you begin so you have a good understanding as you go.

If you can understand the basic knitting abbreviations then you will be able to read any knitting pattern and knit anything you want to. Good Luck.

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