When you see words like “maintaining the pattern as established”, it really means, “Gee, it would take pages and pages to tell you what you need to continue to do, so would you mind figuring it out for yourself, based on the information we’ve already given you?”.
To make a long story short, maintaining the pattern means keeping the continuity of a stitch pattern, while working on something else, like shaping, for instance. This entails enough of an understanding of what’s going on with your knitted fabric so you can finesse adding or removing stitches simultaneously.
From my many years of teaching knitting, I’ve learned there are two types of knitters: intuitive stitchers who easily tune in to what’s going on with their knitting, and others who are more comfortable being told exactly what to do every step of the way. This is a right-brain/left-brain thing or something to do with middle-age.
IT’S ALL IN HOW YOU LOOK AT IT
A knitter is a blind follower, until they learn to read their own knitting. This includes distinguishing knit from purl stitches, types of stitch manipulations, and how groups of stitches work together in a pattern. Like everything else in life, this will come with experience. As you begin to see how a stitch pattern develops, it will become easier to work without instructions and to spot and rectify mistakes.
The main strategy in understanding the flow of a pattern stitch is to recognize the portion of the pattern that is being repeated across the row. When stitches are added or subtracted, part of the repeat is either added or removed from an edge too. The repeat is part of the instruction between the asterisk(*) and the semicolon (;), for example: K1, *k2, p2; rep from * across row ending k1.
From here on out, stitches are added as you would build a fence, moving outward from the portion you already have in a logical progression. When you increase to the right, you’d add 2 units, one at a time, then 2 purls, and so on. Increasing to the left is a mirror image, adding purls before knits. Fig. 1 shows the original sts in black, in the center. The colored stitches are added in order to the left and right. The decrease will work in the same fashion: remove bits of the repeat gradually.
USING A CHEAT SHEET
It will be advantageous to write the sequence of stitches ahead of time on paper, row-by-row, or shaping unit-by-shaping unit. For example, using a diagonal stitch, a more complicated rib-type stitch, reads:
Rows 1 and 2: *K2, p2; rep from * to
end of row.
Row 3: K1, *p2, k2; rep from * to last 3
sts, p2, k1.
Row 4: P1, *k2, p2; rep from * to last 3
sts, k2, p1.
Rows 5 and 6: *P2, k2; rep from * to end
Row 7: Rep Row 4.
Row 8: Rep Row 3.
On some rows, the repeat begins at the beginning of the row. The pattern will shift by one stitch on every other row and any extra stitches before or after the repeating portion are a continuation of the repeat. This is illustrated in the chart below:
For decreases, simply remove a stitch on the appropriate row. This kind of list or chart will assist you in maintaining most knit/purl patterns. In addition, placing a marker before the beginning of the first pattern repeat and after the last will help you to keep track of your increases and how your pattern is developing. Also, first counting off and marking all the stitches that will be decreased, will help count decreases and maintain the overall pattern. Once again, make sure to identify selvage stitches. If there are any, place shaping units inside these stitches.
CHARTING YOUR COURSE
Stitch charts can help everything snap into focus when the words get confusing. Much clearer than 50 words, charts not only tell you what to do, but clearly show you how the stitches relate to each other. On graph paper, make your own chart. For shaped areas like armholes, necklines, and sleeves – make several (Fig. 2).
AS THINGS GET MORE COMPLICATED
So, what about stitch patterns involving cables, crossed or slipped stitches and so on? Here are some surefire strategies:
1) Work increased stitches in the background stitch until you’ve acquired enough stitches for a half- or full-pattern repeat.
2) Work the stitches destined to be a cable in stockinette stitch until there are enough stitches to work a full of half cable (depending on the pattern).
3) Allow for 1 or 2 selvage stitches before establishing the pattern. For decreases, think in the reverse.
Lace patterns bring with them their own challenges. In a lace pattern stitch, for example, every yarn over is matched by a decrease (Fig. 3). A double-decrease, therefore, requires two yarn overs. To make matters even more complicated, decreases are not necessarily next to their yarn overs and, in lace patterns featuring double decreases, there is usually a half repeat at the beginning and end of the row with a single yarn over decrease pair.
Keeping in mind to avoid placing yarn overs near the very edge of your work, your approach is the same as with other stitch patterns: Work a half or full repeat as soon as you’ve acquired a sufficient number of stitches. Fig. 3 shows exactly how a repeat is added as enough stitches for yarn over/decrease pairs are accumulated. Fig. 4 shows the actual finished piece.
My wish for you is that you become “stitch literate” and hone your ability to read and understand your stitches so all your knitting projects are fun and satisfying.