What Does “Work Even” Mean?

Knitting and crochet patterns often say work even. What does “work even” mean? What about work even in pattern, or continue in pattern?

What Does "Work Even" Mean?

Learn what work even means and why it’s such a useful term to know.  

 

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Work Even Defined

In a knitting or crochet pattern, work even simply means “keep doing whatever you’ve been doing without increasing or decreasing”.

If you’ve been increasing, for example on a top-down hat, stop increasing and continue working on a constant number of stitches.

In this example of a crocheted top-down hat, the first five rounds have been increase rounds, but in Round 6, you stop increasing and start “working even” on 40 half double crochet stitches.

Rnd 5: Ch 1, hdc in same st and in next 2 sts, 2 hdc in next st, [hdc in next 3 sts, 2 hdc in next st] around, join with slip st to top of first hdc—40 hdc.
Rnd 6: Work even.

crocheted circle with increase rounds followed by a non-increase round

An alternative wording to this Round 6 might be:

Rnd 6: Ch 1, hdc in each hdc around, join with slip st to top of first hdc—40 hdc.

If you’ve been decreasing, stop decreasing and continue working on a constant number of stitches. Here’s a knitting example:

Rows 1, 3 and 5 (RS): K1, ssk, knit to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1—2 sts decreased.
Rows 2, 4 and 6: Purl.
Rows 7-10: Work even.

knitted swatch with a decrease section followed by a non-decreased section

An alternative wording here might be:

Rows 7 and 9: Knit.
Rows 8 and 10: Purl.

OR

Continue working in stockinette stitch without increasing.

Work in Pattern

Whether you’ve been increasing or decreasing, when you begin to work even, continue working in whatever pattern you were doing during the shaping.

    • If you were knitting stockinette stitch, continue knitting stockinette stitch.
    • If you were working double crochet, continue working double crochet.
    • If you were doing a fancy stitch pattern, continue doing that same stitch pattern, adjusting the edge stitches as necessary to maintain the pattern without interruption.

Sometimes patterns will say work even in pattern or continue in pattern. These mean the same thing. If the instructions don’t specify “in pattern”, but simply say “work even”, the “in pattern” is assumed.

Continue in (established) pattern is also used without meaning “work even”. In that case, it means that you should maintain the stitch pattern as established while the shaping takes place.

For example, after describing how to do a decrease, the instructions for the the Right Front armhole shaping on a crocheted sweater might say:

Continuing in pattern, decrease 1 st at armhole edge every row 2 (2, 2, 3, 2, 2, 3, 4) times – 34 (35, 38, 40, 41, 42, 42, 44) sts remain.
Work even until Right Front measures 3½ (4, 4¼, 4¾, 5, 5½, 6, 6½)” [9 (10, 11, 12, 12.5, 14, 15, 16.5) cm] from bottom of armhole, ending with a WS row.

Right Front sweater schematic with straight and decrease sections

After defining the particular stitch pattern used in a sweater, instructions for a sleeve might say:

Cast on 35 (36, 37) sts. Work even in pattern for 2″ [5 cm], ending with a RS row.
Next row (Inc Rnd, RS): K1, m1, work in pattern to 3 sts, m1, k1—2 sts increased.
Continue in pattern for 15 (13, 11) rows.

Repeat these 16 (14, 12) rows 3 (4, 5) more times—43 (46, 49) sts.
Work even until sleeve measures 7.25 (7.75, 8.5)” [18.5 (19.6, 21.5) cm].
Bind off.

sleeve schematic with straight and increase sections

Combined With Shaping

While the examples above show work even used after a shaping section, it can also be used to indicate how often to work shaping.

A crochet pattern might say:

Next Row (Decrease Row:) Ch 1, sc in first st, sc2tog, sc in each st to last 2 sts, sc2tog, sc in last st, turn—2 sts decreased.
Work even 3 rows.
Repeat these 4 rows 5 times.

A knitting pattern might say:

Next Rnd (Increase Rnd:) K1, yo, knit to last st, yo, k1—2 sts increased..
Work even 3 rnds.
Repeat these 4 rnds 5 times.

Work Evenly

Sticklers for grammar (and I am one) might be tempted to write “work evenly”. After all, work is a verb, and evenly is the adverb that would  modify work. Resist that temptation!

Work even is the industry term, or term of art, that we use to mean “keep going without changing stitch count”, while work evenly would mean “keep your stitches the same size”.

Work evenly would always be assumed, don’t you think?

work even definition

Why Do Instructions Use It?

So why do instructions use the term work even, rather than spelling out row-by-row instructions?

The term is a kind of pattern shorthand, in the same way that there are shorthand terms in recipes. The examples above are simple ones, but there are times in more complex patterns where spelling out every row or round would be cumbersome.

If your recipe says “beat eggs”, you understand that means to lightly mix the eggs and eggs yolks together. Unless you are a brand-new cook, you wouldn’t expect the recipe to say “lightly mix eggs and egg yolks together”. If all recipes spelled out instructions that much they would be too long!

In the same way, it can be shorter for pattern designers to write work even than to spell out each row or round.

And now that you know what work even means, you’ll be able to tackle those pattern instructions with confidence!

Want to learn more about knitting and crochet terminology? Check out Knit: Basics & Beyond and Crochet: Basics & Beyond.

 

 

 

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