The Most Misunderstood Thing about Knitting & Crochet Patterns

There’s one thing that can tie a knitter or crocheter in knots: confusing wording in a pattern. And the most misunderstood thing about knitting and crochet patterns is how pattern repeats are described.

There are some commonly accepted ways of describing repeated sections in a pattern. If you don’t understand this conventional “patternspeak”, you might be confused. But even if you understand it, sometimes the pattern writer doesn’t follow the conventions, leaving you to figure out what they mean.

The problem occurs in both knitting and crochet patterns. I’ll show examples of both.

When the Pattern Creates Confusion

Row 1 (RS): *K4, p6; rep from * a total of 5 times, k4.Here’s an instruction you might see in a pattern:

Row 1 (RS): *K4, p6; rep from * a total of 5 times, k4.

Row 1 (RS): Ch 3 (counts as dc), dc in next 4 sts, *sc in next st, dc in next 2 sts; rep from * a total of 5 times, dc in each st to end.

As an experienced crafter, I’ve got to say this wording drives me absolutely crazy. How many times am I supposed to “k4, p6”, or  “sc in next st, dc in next 2 sts”?

From experience, I think the pattern writer intends you to do the sequence of stitches—k4, p6 or sc in next st, dc in next 2 sts—a total of five times. But that’s not what the pattern says.

Using Brackets & Parentheses to Show Repeats

Brackets or parentheses can be used to group a sequence of stitches and to tell how many times to do that sequence, as they do in these examples:

Row 1 (RS): [K4, p6] 5 times, k4.

Row 1 (RS): (K4, p6) 5 times, k4.

Row 1 (RS): Ch 3 (counts as dc), dc in next 4 sts, [sc in next st, dc in next 2 sts] 5 times, dc in each st to end.

Row 1 (RS): Ch 3 (counts as dc), dc in next 4 sts, (sc in next st, dc in next 2 sts) 5 times, dc in each st to end.

Using Asterisks to Show Repeats

Asterisks are used to show a point of repeat, and are usually used together with “rep(eat) from * “to show the full repeat.

Row 1 (RS): *K4, p6; rep from * 4 times, k4.

Row 1 (RS): Ch 3 (counts as dc), dc in next 4 sts, *sc in next st, dc in next 2 sts; rep from * 4 times, dc in each st to end.

Here, the number of times to do that sequence seems to have gone down, but in reality this is the exact same instruction you’ve seen above. How can that be?

In these examples, you do the sequence of stitches once, then you repeat that sequence four more times, for a total of five times. You can’t repeat something you haven’t done before.

Another Point of Confusion

You can't repeat something you haven't done beforeSometimes you’ll see asterisks used this way:

Row 1 (RS): *K4, p6*; rep between * * 4 times, k4.

Row 1 (RS): *K4, p6*; work between * * 5 times, k4.

Row 1 (RS): Ch 3 (counts as dc), dc in next 4 sts, *sc in next st, dc in next 2 sts*; rep between * * 4 times, dc in each st to end.

Row 1 (RS): Ch 3 (counts as dc), dc in next 4 sts, *sc in next st, dc in next 2 sts*; work between * * 5 times, dc in each st to end.

As an experienced pattern writer and a tech editor, I steer clear of this construction. It offers the same opportunity for confusion as previous examples, and it adds more *’s than the eye can easily track.

However, if you do see this “between **s” construction, pay careful attention to the wording used to make sure you are following the repeats correctly.

The “Repeat” Paradox

Let’s go back to our original confusing instruction:

Row 1 (RS): *K4, p6; rep from * a total of 5 times, k4.

Row 1 (RS): Ch 3 (counts as dc), dc in next 4 sts, *sc in next st, dc in next 2 sts; rep from * a total of 5 times, dc in each st to end.

Can you see the contradictions? If you repeat the sequence of stitches a total of five times, you’ve done that sequence a total of six times. But if you do the sequence a total of five times, you’ve only repeated them four times.

You’ll have to use clues to figure out what the designer means to happen.

In the knitting example:

If you have 54 stitches on the needle, you can work the k4, p6 sequence five times, which will use 50 stitches, then knit the last 4 stitches, for a total of 54 stitches.

If you have 64 stitches, you’ll work the k4, p6 sequence once, then repeat it five times, then knit the last 4 stitches, using up all 64 stitches.

In the crochet example:

This one is harder to figure out, because the row ends with “dc in each dc to end”, which leaves the number of total stitches unknown. You will know how many stitches you have in the row. You’ll have a good idea of whether you are supposed to be working all the way across the row. Using this information, you will have to figure out what balances the stitch pattern on the row, and how many total repeats you can fit it, then go with that.

See? It’s not ideal wording.

A Solution

Row 1 (RS): Ch 3 (counts as dc), dc in next 4 sts, *sc in next st, dc in next 2 sts; rep from * 4 more times, dc in each st to end.There’s an easy wording solution that helps clear up all of this confusion, and that is using the word “more”:

Row 1 (RS): *K4, p6; rep from * 4 more times, k4.

Row 1 (RS): Ch 3 (counts as dc), dc in next 4 sts, *sc in next st, dc in next 2 sts; rep from * 4 more times, dc in each st to end.

See how easy that was? It reminds the crafter that they are doing the thing then repeating the thing a certain number of times.

Even if the word “more” is not included, now that you understand repeats you can head forth confident in your knowledge of how many times you’ll do those instructions.

Let’s spread the word that you can’t repeat something you haven’t done yet. It will clear up the confusion for everyone!

Baby Eyelet Cables Knitting Stitch Pattern

Baby Eyelet Cables is a knitting stitch pattern that’s fun to do and easy to memorize. It has a repeat of only four rows, and three of those are “knit the knits and purl the purls”. That means you only have to think on one row!

Despite its name, Baby Eyelet Cables are not true cables. You won’t need a cable needle because the stitches don’t really switch places.

It’s easily converted to knitting in the round, which makes it a versatile stitch pattern for many projects.

This post contains affiliate links, which won’t cost you anything extra but may provide a small income to me.

Chic Sheep yarn ball

The yarn I used for the sample is Red Heart Chic Sheep by Marly Bird. It’s a sqooshy medium weight yarn with excellent stitch definition. However, this stitch pattern looks great in any weight yarn; solid colors are best to show up the patterning.

Clover bamboo knitting needles are a good choice for beginning knitters. I’m using 5 mm (US Size 8) for this yarn.

Baby Eyelet Cables

Baby Eyelet Cables chart
Baby Eyelet Cables chart
Chart stitch key for Baby Eyelet Cables

Cast on a multiple of 6 + 3.

Set-Up Row (WS): K3, [p3, k3] across.

Row 1 (RS): *P3, slip 3 sts purlwise, pass 3rd st on right needle over 2nd and first sts on right needle, slip those 2 sts back to left needle, k1, yo, k1; rep from * to last 3 sts, p3.

Row 2: K3, [p3, k3] across.

Row 3: P3, [k3, p3] across.

Row 4: K3, [p3, k3] across.

Repeat Rows 1-4 for pattern.

Abbreviations
k:
knit
p:
purl
rep: repeat
RS:
right side
st(s): stitch(es)
WS:
wrong side
yo: yarn over

For another fun rib-stitch pattern, see Mistake Stitch Rib. The Broken Rib Hat uses a rib-stitch pattern worked in the round. How many ways can you use Baby Eyelet Cables?

Delving into Double-Knitting with Alasdair Post-Quinn

While I’m more of a generalist in that I love to do a bit of this and bit of that technique in my all fiber arts, I’m in awe of crafters who delve very deeply into one aspect of a craft. Last month I had a chance to see the recent work that double-knitting guru Alasdair Post-Quinn has been doing and to talk with him about his work.

This post contains affiliate links, which may provide a small income to me but do not cost you anything extra.

Alasdair’s designs are both beautiful and mind-boggling. When I heard about a new learning opportunity that Alasdair is offering, I decided you needed to hear from him directly. Here’s an interview:

For those unfamiliar with double knitting, give us a quick explanation of what it is.

Hesperos Scarf from Double or Nothing
Hesperos from Double or Nothing

Alasdair: Double-knitting is a method of knitting a fabric with no “wrong side”. The way I use it involves colorwork motifs that reverse in color on the other layer. There are two separate layers of fabric, worked simultaneously, which are linked together at the color changes (unlike brioche, for example, which is a fully integrated fabric).

This looks difficult. Do I need to be an expert knitter to start double knitting?

Kontinuum Hat from Double or Nothing
Kontinuum from Double or Nothing

Alasdair: Not at all! As with anything, you can start with the basics and build on them as you get more proficient. Basic double-knitting, as I teach it in my intro classes, requires only that you know how to knit and purl. If you’ve done other colorwork before, it may help you follow the chart – but it’s not necessary.

Who does double knitting appeal to?

Sierpinski L5 from Extreme Double-knitting
Sierpinski L5 from Extreme Double-Knitting

Alasdair: I think it appeals to anyone who’s ever looked at the wrong side of a knitted item and wished it was more presentable. It is a double-thick fabric, so it may appeal more to those who live in colder climates (or who have loved ones who do) – but depending on the weight of yarn and how you use it, you can make three-season garments as well.

You have taken double knitting to the “extreme”. Explain what makes your designs unique.

Adenydd Shawl from Extreme Double-knitting
Adenydd from Extreme Double-knitting

Alasdair: Since I started double-knitting in the early 2000s, rather than simply playing with motifs and patterns, I have been striving to find the “limits” to the technique. I have adapted many single-layer techniques to double-knitting (including cables, lace, intarsia, and entrelac, among others). I’ve also developed techniques that are specific to double-knitting. I’ve documented these in my books Extreme Double-knitting and Double or Nothing, and I am continuing to expand on my existing techniques and develop new ones.

What are the benefits of learning this technique in person?

Parallax Scarf Version 3
Parallax Scarf Version 3

Alasdair: In my books, I have done my best to anticipate all kinds of questions (gleaned from thousands of students over more than a decade of teaching the technique) about double-knitting. I try to show the step-by-step instructions as clearly as possible. However, there’s often no substitute for hands-on learning, and being able to get real-time answers to your questions and feedback on your work will help you reach that “A-Ha!” moment even sooner.

Tell us about your special series of workshops coming up soon.

Alasdair: I’m trying something new this year that I’ve never done before. When I go to Stitches or one of the other shows, not to mention smaller workshop weekends at a local yarn shop or retreat, I’m most often running four to six workshops; sometimes one may even be offered twice. To be able to teach all nine of my double-knitting workshops in a single event is an unprecedented opportunity for me as a teacher – and to be able to take any workshop I offer is a huge opportunity for you as a student. That’s what the BuildingBlox Workshop Week, running from April 27 to May 5 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is about.

If you’ve ever wanted to learn to double-knit, I’ve got an intro workshop on April 27 and another on May 5 – but between those two dates, I’m available to take you as far into the technique as you’re interested in going. If you already know how to double-knit, I can teach you how to create letters that read correctly on both layers; how to add a third color to the mix; how to use increases, decreases, textures, cables, lace, and more.

The BuildingBlox Workshop Week isn’t a retreat (nothing outside the workshops is planned, and you can take as many or as few as you like), and all the classes run on evenings or weekends to accommodate those with 9-5 jobs, so for those who may be coming in from afar, you’ll have your weekdays free too. You can get more info and sign up at the BuildingBlox page on my website. Thanks!

A Note from Edie

I’ve done double knitting – and even teach an online class about it– but I’d take Alasdair’s workshops in a heartbeat. If I didn’t live so far away and didn’t already have commitments for the last week of April, I’d vacation in Boston during the day and learn from Alasdair in the evening workshops. If you can’t make it to the workshops but want to learn more about double-knitting, start here:

Double or Nothing by Alasdair Post-Quinn
Adventures in Double-Knitting with Alasdair Post-Quinn
Bluprint Class
Double Knitting Workshop with Edie Eckman
Creativebug Class

Free Knitting Pattern: Broken Rib Hat

Broken Rib Hat by Edie Eckman shown on stand

Here’s a free knitting pattern for a unisex hat that even new knitters can master. The broken rib pattern is an easy-to-memorize 4-round stitch pattern. More skilled knitters will find it a soothing project, with just enough going on to keep you from getting bored. Knit it in the round on circular and double-point needles, or use the Magic Loop method.

This post contains affiliate links. Abbreviations are at end of pattern.

Sizes & Finished Dimensions

Broken Rib Hat on model

Adult Size
Circumference: 16” [41 cm] relaxed. The stitch pattern stretches a lot; the hat fits with negative ease.

Materials

Worsted Weight Yarn (CYC #4): approximately 130 yds /119 m Sample used Manos del Uruguay Maxima (100% extrafine merino wool, 3.5 oz / 100 g, 219 yd / 200 m), 1 skein M8977 Tigerlily

US size 8 [5 mm] 16” [40 cm] circular knitting needle and set of 4 or 5 US size 8 [5 mm] double-pointed knitting needles , or size to obtain correct gauge

OR one US size 8 [5 mm] 36″ [90 cm] or longer circular knitting needle for the Magic Loop method , or size to obtain correct gauge

One stitch marker

Row counter (optional)

Gauge

22 sts and 26 rnds = 4” [10 cm] in Broken Rib pattern, relaxed (not stretched out)

To save time, take time to check gauge.

Broken Rib Pattern (over a multiple of 4 sts)

Rnds 1-3: *K2, p2; rep from * around. 

Rnd 4: Purl.

Rep Rnds 1-4 for pattern.

Instructions

With circular needle, long-tail cast on 88 sts. Place marker and join for working in the round, being careful not to twist sts. (If using Magic Loop, cast on and arrange stitches for working in the round.)

Broken Rib Hat by Edie Eckman close-up image

Work in Broken Rib Pattern until piece measures 6½” [16.5 cm] from beginning, ending with Rnd 4 of pattern.

Crown Shaping

Note: If using 16″ [40 cm] circular needle, change to double-pointed needles when necessary.

Rnd 1: *K2tog, p2, k2, p2; rep from * around—77 sts.

Rnd 2: *K1, p2, k2, k2; rep from * around.

Rnd 3: *K1, p2, k2tog, p2; rep from * around—66 sts.

Rnd 4: Purl.

Rnd 5: *K1, p2tog, k1, p2; rep from * around—55 sts.

Rnd 6: *K1, p1, k1, p2; rep from * around.

Row 7: *K1, p1, k1, p2tog; rep from * around—44 sts.

Rnd 8: Purl.

Rnd 9: *K2tog, k2; rep from * around—33 sts..

Rnd 10: Knit.

Rnd 11: *K2tog, k1; rep from * around—22 sts.

Rnd 12: Purl.

Rnd 13: [K2tog] around—11 sts. 

Rnd 14: K1, [k2tog] around.

Cut yarn, leaving 10″ [25 cm] tail. Thread tail through remaining stitches and tug gently to close. Weave in ends.

Broken Rib Hat by Edie Eckman shown on male model

Abbreviations

  • k: knit
  • k2tog: knit 2 stitches together
  • p: purl
  • p2tog: purl 2 stitches together
  • rep: repeat
  • rnd(s): round(s)
  • st(s): stitch(es)

Looking for more hat patterns from Edie? Click on the images to check out these knitting and crochet patterns. Some are free!

Crafting A New Family Holiday Tradition

crochet lesson on the sofa

This year the Eckman family started a new family holiday tradition: crafting together. Over Christmas week, both my 20-something children were home for a visit at the same time.

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Daughter Meg had brought a variety of left-over yarns to crochet flowers for a Spring Wreath.  Charles, visiting from far-away California, had in mind that he wanted to crochet a Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) dice bag. He asked if I’d teach him to crochet.  How could I possibly refuse?

A Crochet Lesson

Crochet hook in jeans pocket

I grabbed a ball of Meg’s green yarn (conveniently sitting on the coffee table in front of us), a 5 mm crochet hook (conveniently within reach on my rolling cart), and demonstrated holding the hook and yarn.

A bag is a great first project. We covered the skills of slip knot, chain, slip stitch, chain-1 build-up chains, working into a ring, and single crochet in the first five minutes. Charles was a quick study, understanding the concepts right away. It was just a matter of his becoming comfortable manipulating the yarn and hook.

Wreath with crocheted flowers
Meg’s wreath with crocheted flowers

With the basic skills in place, we went back to our respective projects. I worked on my Crochet Skill-Builder Afghan (Crochet Along coming very soon!), Meg grew an entire garden of blooming flowers, and Charles worked out his own way of holding yarn and hook. And husband Bill? He joined in by helping untangle and re-wind a mess of yarn. It really was a family affair!

After a while, I demonstrated double crochet, so the bag-in-progress got a round of taller stitches here and there. When the bag was the right size, he added a drawstring chain in a contrasting color. By the end of the day, the bag was complete, and it was a rousing success!

Outfitting the Newbie

Crocheted Drawstring Bag with Teal accent

Of course, our next step was to go shopping in the Yarn Room (AKA “the attic”) for yarn for the next bag. Mountain Colors Weaver’s Wool Quarters in color Glacier Teal was the winner, with a bit of odd-ball teal of unknown origin for accent. This bag is a bit larger. It’s designated as a project bag, to hold not only a WIP (Work in Progress), but also the small collection of stitch markers, scissors, and other necessities that every crocheter needs.

Over several days, we worked on various projects. Instead of staring at our individual device screens, we worked with nice yarn, created beautiful things and (gasp!) talked to one another.

He’s Hooked

Charles crocheting

We now have a Crochet Convert. Between stitching sessions, Charles polled members of his D&D campaign to ask what two colors would best represent their characters. He headed back to California with enough yarn to make custom dice bags for all the players in the campaign, along with hooks in varying sizes, and a copy of The Crochet Answer Book. (I’m assuming that none of them read this blog, so a spoiler alert wasn’t necessary there.)

Planning for Next Year

Crocheting together was a lovely way to spend time together as a family. I think we’ve crafted a new holiday tradition! This year it was crochet. I wonder what we’ll do next year?

Next week, I’ll share the pattern for the Crochet Bag for Beginners (AKA D&D Dice Bag).

For a bit of perspective, check out Teach a Young Child to Knit. These same two “children” appear with yarn there, too.


Knit Socks For Those You Love - 11 Original Designs By Edie Eckman

Review: Brightech LightView Magnifying Lamp

Brightech Lightview Rolling Base lamp

My mother, the needlepointer, taught me the value of a good lamp for crafters. Recently I was contacted by Brightech, who asked me if I would like to receive one of their lamps in exchange for a review.

This post contains affiliate links. Opinions expressed here are my own.

Brightech has a number of lamps to choose from, from decorative floor lamps to weatherproof solar string lights. Since the winter days are getting shorter, and my eyes aren’t getting any younger, I was especially interested in their magnifying lamps. I chose the Lightview Rolling Base LED Magnifier Lamp to try for myself.

The Assembly

Brightech Lamp in boxThe lamp arrived via UPS in a box inside a box inside another box. And inside the boxed box was a nice amount of custom-fit Styrofoam. It would be hard to imagine this lamp getting damaged in shipment!

There really wasn’t a lot of assembly required. Just stick the upright pole in the heavy rolling base, and screw it in with the hex wrench provided. Insert the top portion of the lamp assembly in the vertical pole, and in less than 10 minutes —including unpacking the box— it’s ready to use.

The Features

Brightech Lightview Rolling Base lampThe Lightview Rolling Base LED Magnifier Lamp is a magnifying floor lamp with a very heavy weighted base and six small casters. It stands about 47″ [114 cm] high when it’s collapsed down. You can adjust the lamp for both intensity and color.

The magnifying glass has a 15″ [38 cm] focal length and 1.75X magnification. There’s a flip-down cover to keep dust out when not in use and to prevent accidental fire. (Ask me sometime to tell you about that time when my mother’s magnifying lamp almost set the house on fire.)

Brightech Lightview LED Roller Base Magnifier LampThe arm extends a long way and it has a 53″ cord so it allows you some flexibility when placing the lamp near your seat. There’s an adjustable knob right next to the lamp which allows you to adjust the angle of the magnifier.

This is a nice, classic-looking magnifying lamp. I chose black, but it also comes in white. It retails for $94.99 with free shipping on the Brightech website. I’ve used the lamp for a couple of weeks now, so here’s my report.

Pros

The Base: The lamp feels really stable, unlike some extending-arm lamps I’ve had in the past. The base is heavy enough to handle a full extension without feeling like it will tip over. It rolls easily on bare floors.

Comparison of different light settings

The Light: What really appealed to me about this particular  lamp was the variable lighting options for both intensity and color. There are three settings for each, which makes it much easier to see those dark purple stitches in the evening! I tried to get good photos to show you just how different the lighting color and intensities look. The photos shown here have not been color adjusted, and you can see the differences somewhat. Take my word for it that they are much more distinct in real life!

The Magnification: Although I sometimes wear reading glasses to work on fine yarn at night, I don’t usually think of using any special magnification. However, when I started testing this lamp, I was amazed at how wonderful it was to be able to see the stitches so clearly. I’ve been crocheting with a fine-weight dark purple yarn, and I’ve had no problem at all. The ergonomic benefit of having magnification was a surprise to me!

The Portability: I have two main places where I sit to craft. I like that I can move the lamp from one spot to the other without a lot of trouble. I have more floor space than I do tabletop space, so the floor model is what works for me. The long cord means that I don’t have to use an extension cord to reach the wall outlet no matter where I situate the lamp.

The Stays-Puttedness: OK, I made that term up. Once I have the lamp set up at my optimal angle, it stays there. I’ve had extended arm lamps in the past that kind of dropped after a while. With this lamp, I’ve done a couple of marathon crochet sessions, and it stays right where I want it. And because it’s an LED, it stays cool during those long hours of crafting.

The Cons

The Base: I know, it was a “pro” also. Because the base is heavy, and the casters fairly small, it doesn’t roll well over carpets. I end up lifting it to move it over several area rugs. This might be a deal-killer if you have deep carpets and plan to move it a lot.

The Limited Swivel: Although the connection at the lamp is quite adjustable, the swivel action of the upright is limited. Sometimes I have to rotate the entire base to get the lamp head in the right spot when I first set it up in a new location.

The Styling: Since the lamp is spending a good portion of its life in my open-plan living area, I wish it were a bit more stylish. It’s not unattractive, and it’s certainly functional, but I’d like to challenge all the industrial designers out there to create a great magnifying lamp with a bit more pizazz!

A Final Word

Brightech Lightview Rolling Base LEDFor the price, the Brightech LightView Rolling Base LED Magnifier Lamp seems to be a great option, combining a reasonable price point with some good features. I’m making it a permanent part of my evening fiber sessions. If you aren’t sure you want or need a magnifying lamp, you might just be surprised at what it can do for you!

Lightview Flex 2-in-1 lampYou may prefer a non-magnifying lamp, a lamp that clamps onto your sewing table or desk, or a tabletop lamp. Brightech has a number of magnifying and non-magnifying lamps to choose from.

Good lighting is an important ergonomic consideration for all crafters. You want to be able to position your body and hands in the ideal way, and to have adequate light and magnification to avoid strain. Do yourself a favor and look into finding the perfect lamp for your needs.

For more on ergonomics, read Knitting Comfortably with Carson Demmers.