The other day, I was kitting with a friend, drinking coffee and working on my cabled sweater, when I noticed her watching what I was doing with a look of vague concern and puzzlement.
“What’s up?” I asked her.
She responded, “How do you to that?”
“How can you make such a complicated project without making a million notes and keeping track of all your rows and looking at a pattern constantly?”
I replied, “Well, it’s mostly just knitting the knits and purling the purls, and keeping track of my rows.”
She looked at me like I was crazy, and I realized that no one had ever taught her how to read her knitting.
I am here to fix that today, in case anyone else out there in internet-land hasn’t been reading their knitting, either. Because, there is nothing so useful as being able to look at your knitting and figure out where you are in your pattern and what you need to do next (or, to be able to look at your knitting and figure out where you went wrong).
We’ll start with a very simple example, just knits and purls. At minimum, reading your knitting will let you know the stitches you need to work next to remain “in pattern,” and will tell you how many rows you’ve already worked.
To look at your stitches, look at the row directly underneath your needle. There, you’ll see either little V’s (knits), or little bumps (purls). If you want to stay “in pattern” (for example, if you’re doing ribbing), you’ll knit when you come across a knit in the row below, and you’ll purl when you come across a purl in the row below. (This is what people refer to as “knitting the knits and purling the purls.”)
In our example, I’ve highlighted the stitches in the example below:(Note: I’ve worked the first and last 2 sts in garter stitch, which means that you just knit every row, so I don’t have to worry about reading those 4 sts!)
The other basic skill in reading your knitting is figuring out how many rows you’ve worked. Of course, you can use a stitch counter or paper and pencil to keep track of your rows, but you’ll inevitably get caught up in the episode of Law and Order you’re watching and lose track of your count. (What? That’s just me?)
Rows are easiest to count in stockinette. This sample is ribbed, but you can think of the knit portion of ribbing as just a skinny little section of stockinette. You’ll again look for the V-shaped stitches, and then count down the whole column (don’t count the stitch that’s on your needle). Like this:
So, I can tell that this swatch has been worked for 8 rows, because there are 8 little V’s.
See, not so bad! I use these techniques all the time, and I bet they’ll totally help you, too.
Next time, I’ll talk about reading your knitting while making cables!