Understanding Common Pattern Terms, Part 1

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Understanding Common Pattern Terms, Part 1

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Throughout this season, we’re reposting some of our favorite columns by Barbara Breiterauthor of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, previously featured in our Weekly Stitch newsletter.

A pattern is a blueprint for a project. A well-written pattern doesn’t intentionally confuse you. If you find something confusing, keep in mind that sometimes the pattern is simply trying to convey information to help you. The term might be an industry standard, but one that you’ve never come across before.

Here are some terms and concepts, commonly used but also commonly confusing to many knitters and crocheters.

Work even

Work even means to work in the pattern stitch over the number of stitches you have at the present time. It often follows a sequence where you have just completed increasing or decreasing.


Although crocheting often uses this term at the end of every row (for example, chain 1, turn), it’s also used in places that, at first glance, don’t appear to make sense. When working short rows, or partial rows of knitting or crocheting, you will see an instruction to turn while not at the end of the row. Simply complete the instructions for that row, and when the pattern states turn, prepare to work in the other direction and the next row by turning your work around just as if you were at the end of the row. It may seem wrong to do so, but sometimes you have to have faith that a pattern works out in the end!

At the same time

At the same time means you are doing two things at once. It could be shaping both the neck and the armhole of a front, changing to a different color at a specific point while decreasing, or any number of other possibilities. When you see the term, look for two separate sets of instructions, as this is what you are being asked to do “at the same time”.

Dash and numbers at the end of a row

Particularly when increasing or decreasing, you may see a dash and then some numbers following row instructions.

For example:

Next Row: *K2tog, (p1, k1) to 2 sts before marker, p2tog – 54 (60, 66) sts.


Row 4: Ch 3, turn, 2 dc in next dc, (ch 2, sk 2 dc, 3 dc in next dc) across – 6 ch-2 sp.

After the dash, the pattern is giving you information, not an instruction. It’s telling you the number of stitches (and in the crochet example, the type of stitch as well) that you will have after completing the row.

Deciphering patterns can be a bit of a challenge at times but designers and editors do their best to make them as clear as possible by using these standard terms.

Join us next week for another installment of “Understanding Common Pattern Terms.”

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  • That’s very interesting about the dash. I have never seen that before in a pattern. Perhaps it is used primarily for crocheting. I use parenthesis around the number of stitches. So many people do say that they can’t read knitting patterns, I figure it is like me trying to read computer directions, so I always empathy with a beginner knitter.

    • I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the dash in knitting patterns. You’ll see it in hat patterns and clothing patterns.

      • I like it when they give the expected number of stitches at the end of the row. Keeps you on track. Very helpful

  • I knit and crochet never seen the dash in any pattern

  • […] Understanding Common Pattern Terms, Part 1 […]

  • Hello, I’m crocheting a childs cardigan and have come unstuck at this
    Row 24: (Inc) 1ch, *- (15, 15, 17, 17)dc, 2dc in next dc**; rep from *
    across ending final rep at **, 1dc in each st to end working last dc in
    t-ch, turn – – (122, 123, 139, 138)dc.

    I’m making the smallest size and I don’t understand the – before the
    (15, 15, 17, 17). Does it mean I am to make 2dc in very dc all the way

    Would appreciate any advice. Thanks.

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