What Does “Work Even” Mean?

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.

 

 

 

How to Block Knitting and Crochet

Knowing how to block knitting and crochet is a crucial skill. Blocking may be the most important step in getting a professional-looking finish for your project. It sets the stitches and can even out irregularities. It makes it easier to work seams and edgings and it can even make minor size adjustments.

While most projects will benefit from blocking, it’s important to do it right. Some crafters are afraid of blocking because they’ve heard blocking horror stories about someone killing a sweater. Blocking doesn’t have to be scary, but it does help to know what you are doing.  

This a big topic. What follows is an overview of blocking basic two-dimensional knitted and crocheted fabric. Projects worked in three dimensions or those with highly textured surfaces may be blocked a bit differently.

This post contains affiliate links, which may provide a small income to support this website but don’t cost you anything extra.

Blocking Supplies

You’ll need a few simple supplies for successful blocking:

In addition, you need a large, flat surface to work on. The ideal blocking surface has these characteristics:

  • Is large enough to hold the entire piece (or all the pieces) you need to block
  • Can withstand heat, moisture, and being stabbed with pins
  • Is colorfast, to avoid transferring color from the blocking service to your fabric
  • Can be left undisturbed while the fabric dries
  • Has a printed grid to aid in getting lines straight and dimensions correct
  • Is flexible in shape and easy to store

I’ve used many types of blocking surfaces successfully:

  • Ironing board – works well for small pieces like swatches.
  • Quilter’s Cut ‘N Press – also for small pieces. It’s more compact and easier to use than the ironing board.
  • Interlocking floor mats – not pretty, but large and inexpensive. These can be used in many different configurations and sizes. A better option might be a set of grid-printed blocking mats, like the ones from Knitters Pride or KnitIQ.
  • Large blocking board – made of three 24″ x 58″ Styrofoam panels in a cotton canvas casing. The panels unfold and create a surface that’s even larger than my dining room table. It’s great for blocking shawls and other large items. As far as I can tell, it’s no longer sold, but it wouldn’t be difficult to make.
  • Spare bed – covered with beach towels. It works surprisingly well. Just be sure to collect all the pins when you are finished!

The Importance of Pins, The Allure of Wires

At some point in the blocking process, you’ll be pinning your pieces to a flat surface. Depending on your blocking method, this will happen before or after the fabric gets wet. Make sure your pins are rustproof. Nothing is guaranteed to ruin a project faster than pins that will leave a permanent stain on your yarn!

Some people swear by the Knit Blockers from KnitPicks. I haven’t used them yet. Let me know in the comments if they work for you.

Blocking wires are not a necessity, but they make it so much easier and faster to block. You’ll use fewer pins, your edges will be straighter and your pointy bits pointier if you use blocking wires. I have two sets!

Whether you are using pins, or a combination of pins and blocking wires, begin by securing the corners (if any) of your fabric. Use a yardstick or tape measure to ensure that the piece is the desired size from edge to edge and corner to corner. I prefer a yardstick because I can measure one-handed, and use the other hand to make adjustments. Make sure right-angle corners really are 90 degrees.

Blocking can be used to make minor corrections to the finished size of a piece, but it’s not a substitute for making the piece the right size to start with. Don’t use blocking for that purpose!

Choose a Blocking Method

Proceed to add pins along each edge every 1 1/2-2″ [4 5 cm]. If you are using blocking wires, use enough pins to keep the wire straight where it should be straight.

If the fabric rolls, gently unroll it and use pins to keep it in place. If there are points or scallops, pin each one out individually. This is where a blocking wire comes in especially handy, as the wire can go through each point.

The blocking method you use will depend on the content of the yarn. Acrylic, cotton, wool, cotton, and other fibers require different care. If your yarn is a blend of fibers, choose the method that is appropriate for the most delicate of the fibers. Wool and many other animal fibers can be steam blocked, cotton is often wet-blocked. With acrylic and other man-made fibers, cold blocking is often the safest method.

Another consideration is the stitch pattern you used, and how aggressively the fabric needs to be blocked. Fabric with lots of openwork, for example, needs to be stretched to allow the holes to open up. If the fiber allows, wet blocking or steam blocking will be your best options for lace.

Highly textured fabric like cables, ribbing and bobbles may not react well to too much steam. There are nuanced ways to deal with these textured stitches, but that will be the focus of a future blog post.

Always practice your blocking method on a swatch or two before trying it on your finished project!

Wet Blocking

Wet blocking is appropriate for cotton, silk, and wool, as well as for any fiber that can get completely wet.

To wet block, fully immerse your fabric in water, either by washing it or simply by putting it in a sink. Allow the water to fully soak the fabric. Gently squeeze out the water – don’t twist or wring – and pin the pieces to shape on the blocking surface.

Wait until it dries completely before removing the pins. Obviously, this is the most time-consuming blocking method. It’s hard to be patient and wait for that yarn to dry, especially in humid climes.

Steam Blocking

Steam blocking works well for wool and most animal fibers. Be careful, however, of using it on fibers that can be damaged by heat.

Begin by pinning your pieces to the blocking surface. Use a steam iron or steamer that’s shooting out plenty of steam. Hover the surface of the iron or steamer over the fabric, about 1.5 – 2″ [4 – 5 cm] from the surface. Never touch the iron to the fabric! You are using the moisture from the warm steam to do its work, not the heat from the iron.

Get the fabric warm and damp with the steam, then allow it to dry completely. When the fabric is cool and dry to the touch, remove the pins.

Cold Blocking

Cold blocking is the safest method to use with acrylic yarns, which can be damaged beyond repair with too much heat.

Pin your pieces to the blocking surface. Use a plant mister to spray water over the fabric, taking care to dampen the entire fabric thoroughly. Allow it to dry completely before removing the pins.

Killing Acrylic Yarn

Did you know that you can kill yarn? Yes, that’s an official term for an actual thing. It happens when you use too much heat on an acrylic fiber — such as when you press a hot iron onto acrylic yarn. This causes the fibers to melt together and changes the characteristics of the fabric permanently. It can’t be undone.

Despite my warnings to you not to steam block acrylic yarn, I confess that often do. I always always always practice on a swatch first. I’m very careful to use as low a heat as possible and to hover the steamer (or iron) above the fabric. I watch carefully to make sure I’m not killing anything. I understand the consequences of failure. So if you decide you want to steam block your acrylic yarns, that’s up to you. Your mileage may vary. You didn’t hear it here.

More About Blocking

I could write another thousand words on blocking. Or teach an entire three-hour class. In other words, there’s a lot to learn! Just remember: tailor your blocking techniques to the project, the fiber, the stitch pattern and the finished use of the project. Some projects (like amigurumi) don’t need to be blocked at all, while others demand it.

Ask your questions about blocking in the comments.

Now that you know how to block knitting and crochet, go forth and practice what you’ve learned. Your projects will thank you!