Keeping Track of a Complicated Pattern

November 15, 2007 at 8:02 am Leave a comment

“Dear SweaterBabe, I have never knit a ‘fitted’ sweater that requires increasing and decreasing stitches in a bodice that has a pattern.  What is the easiest way to keep track of the increases and decreases, so that the pattern is maintained? 

Also, do you know of a computer program that would help do this, e.g. a computer program that would “graph out” a pattern??  Thanks for your help.” — Ilona

Dear Ilona,

The main thing I do with any pattern that has multiple sizes, stitch patterns, shaping, or other complexity is to map it out by rows using paper and pencil.

Before that, I do recommend photocopying the pattern and then circling ALL of the instructions that apply for the size you are making.  For example, if you are making size Small and the instructions include Small (Medium, Large), then you will be finding all of the parts of the pattern that say things like: “K23 (25, 27)” or “For Size Small ONLY” and circling or highlighting the “23” part (since you would ignore the “(25, 27) which are for the Medium and Large sizes) and the whole section under “For Size Small ONLY”.

Then, as I am beginning to follow the pattern, I write down EVERY Row number, starting from Row 1, and note what happens on Rows that have any increasing or decreasing or a change in stitch pattern.  I also note the number of stitches that I should have at the end of an increasing or decreasing Row. 

If there is a stitch pattern (cable, lace, intarsia, etc.) involved or multiple, I will note which Row of the stitch pattern(s) I am following for each project Row.  That way, I will always keep track of the total Rows for a piece, as well as which stitch pattern Row I am.

It seems tedious, but I do it for any pattern that is the least bit complicated.  It helps a lot too when you keep good track of the Back piece of a sweater because the Front piece(s) most likely will follow the same Rows and you can then be sure that your Back and Front(s) are the same length, i.e. number of Rows to the underarm, shoulder, etc.  Same with making sure the 1st sleeve matches the 2nd sleeve.

Now, if your question is also how to handle increases and decreases for shaping when the stitch pattern has increases and decreases (most lace stitch patterns do), then the answer is a bit more complicated. 

You basically do what you can of the stitch pattern, up to the point that you have to do the shaping increases or decreases.  For instance, if you are binding off stitches and doing decreases along a neck edge to shape the neckline, you may do an initial bind off that cuts right into your lace stitch pattern.  Do the bind off, as instructed, then resume the lace stitch pattern with the remaining stitches.  Double check how many stitches you are supposed to have after this bind off row. 

Sometimes, you may have to “adjust” the lace stitch and omit a decrease or increase to end up with the right number of stitches.  Hopefully, by the time you get to the neck shaping, you will have done the lace stitch pattern enough for the body of the piece that you are familiar with which decreases and increases within the structure of the lace stitch pattern are paired up to maintain the stitch count from row to row.  That way, when you can only do part of the lace stitch pattern, you can see which increase or decreases to skip or add to keep the stitch count correct through any shaping.

I’m afraid I can’t be much more specific about this last issue, as each stitch pattern can be so different.  The most important thing is to make sure the stitch count is correct.  A little weird increasing or decreasing (otherwise known as “fudging” at the edges is usually ok since there will be some finishing (like a picked up and knitted collar or edging) that will hide unsightly edges.

And lastly, I’m not aware of any programs that can map or graph out a pattern as you are suggesting.  There are definitely programs that can generate schmatics and graphs of patterns, but I imagine that by the time you learn these programs and enter in all the project information, you would have been just as well off writing out Rows as I do for projects.

Hope that helps!  Intermediate and Expert level projects are challenging in this way, but with a little extra attention to where you are in the pattern, the finished results will be very rewarding!



Have any other suggestions for Ilana, please post your comments!

If you have questions about OTHER topics, please don’t post them here.  Please email them to  Questions are selected and answered here on the blog.


Entry filed under: Ask SweaterBabe, Crochet Questions and How to, Knitting Questions and How to.

Flower Striped Crochet Scarf Pattern Coming! 2sctog versus 2 sc in next st.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

%d bloggers like this: