Thursday, April 19, 2007

Part 1: tips for following a loom (or needle) knit pattern

So I've read many comments on the yahoo loom knitting group message boards and in my own loomknittingdesigns inbox from people that are either:
  1. intimidated to try a more advanced pattern
  2. frustrated at following the more advanced pattern, or
  3. following the pattern is ok but its hard to pick up and put down and still know where the heck you are
So, with this in mind, I thought I'd serve up a little slice of what I've learned about following patterns. I'll be doing this over a three part series of posts. The topic for this first post is "The Tools". So, without further 'splainin...

1. The Tools
Following patterns used to be intimidating when I was a new knitter. Long strings of knitting abbreviations made my brain shutdown and my palms sweat. Until you get a handle on the abbreviations themselves, they look like Greek. And before you get the hang of following pattern repeats it's a lot of looking back and forth between pegs or needles and the printed pattern and trying to read and knit at the same time. Not fun!

Well, an easy trick to help here is writing. The only things you'll need for this tip are a print out or photocopy of the original pattern and a pencil. This is a useful tip from many perspectives. For one, your original pattern doesn't get beat up from being carried around in your knitting bag and two, you can write on the copy and mark it up without worrying about messing up the pattern for later use.

While knitting one of my latest knits "The Bed of Roses" shawl, I had a print out and a pencil. As I knitted I made notes, crossed off rows as I completed them, and made hash marks as I went to count off repeats. This helped me keep track of where I was in the pattern and gave me a visual que as to how far I had to go.
This can also be done using a row counter (pictured on the right), but I find marking on the pattern itself a bit easier when following a complicated stitch pattern. I mostly use row counters to do simple counting of rows or to record what number row I just completed. The latter method helps when you have to start and stop a pattern in the middle of a repeat, for example.

Another useful tool is the row marker (pictured on the left). Row markers are used for many things. I've used them to mark shifts in pattern rows, beginnings or endings in pattern repeats/increases/decreases, and marking length measurements as I knit. Sometimes a pattern will tell you to place a row marker and sometimes they don't. Row markers may take a bit of practice to know when they will be a useful addition and when they'll just get in your way.

That's it for Part 1! Two more to come so stay tuned. If anyone has a specific question on anything here or a tool that I didn't cover, leave me a comment and I'll address it in a future posting.

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