Throughout this season, we’re reposting some of our favorite columns by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, previously featured in our Weekly Stitch newsletter.
Last week, I wrote about pattern terms and concepts people often find confusing. This week, I am covering a couple more concepts that you will often encounter.
Parentheses, brackets, asterisks, and phrases are commonly found in patterns; they are intended to make it easier to follow, and they also decrease the chances of a typographical error in a pattern. Here’s some help on deciphering what you are being asked to do.
You will find parentheses or () used in two ways:
The first is to indicate you are to repeat everything in parentheses the given number of times. For example:
(k2tog, yo) twice
What it means is that you should work k2tog, yo two times or k2tog, yo, k2tog, yo.
The second way they are used is to show a grouping or sequence of stitches that are related to each other in some way. You might see (2 dc, ch 3, 2 dc) in next ch-1 sp. The pattern is telling you that everything in the parentheses is all worked into the next ch-1 space.
Brackets or  indicate either to repeat something or a sequence of stitches, just as parentheses do; however, a bracket is needed when a set of instructions within the brackets are already in parentheses. Occasionally, you will brackets used instead of parentheses.
In this example, brackets are being used to indicate you are repeating instructions:
[k2, (yo, k2tog) 3 times] twice
The above means that you would repeat everything in the brackets twice while making sure you also repeat yo, k2tog 3 times in the order written.
You, our readers, asked for it and we’re happy to oblige! Designer and teacher Heather Lodinsky joins us for a new article on understanding the fundamentals of your knitting.
Knowing exactly where you are in a knitting project requires knowing where you have been. “Reading” your stitches by identifying a knit versus a purl stitch is helpful in showing you where you are in a stitch pattern. In the last article I wrote, I showed how to identify the stitches already worked to know where you are in your knitting.
Sometimes no matter how hard I try, I can easily lose track of which row I am working in a pattern. Life happens—the phone rings, we get talking or we just have to leave our knitting for some reason. Then I come back to my knitting and…what row was I working? There are various tools out there to help us keep track of our rows. Row counters exist that either attach to your needle, or need to be clicked and there are even “counting boards” where pegs are moved to show what row we are working. Even the simple “hash mark” on a piece of paper works well, but there is still that human element of just plain forgetting to mark the paper, move the peg or click the counter to the next number. As a knitting teacher, one of the most common questions I am asked is: “What row am I on?”
A skill as important as identifying your stitches is the ability to count your rows without a “counter”. The best way to count stitches is by first identifying a stitch and then being able to count stitches up and down, which will tell us how many rows we have done and what row we need to work next.
Lets’s first look at stockinette stitch – which, when we are working a flat piece, is knitted on the right side of the fabric and purled on the wrong side. First, we have to be able to identify a “knit” stitch. Look closely at the right side of stockinette stitch and see that a knit stitch looks like a “V”. This is what we are looking for in order to help us count our rows.