6 Tips for Overcoming a Challenging Knitting Pattern

Seeing a challenging knitting pattern that, from the outset, looks really complicated can be very intimidating.  For example, it may be several pages long, have two charts, each with a different number of rows, to be knit at the same time, as well as increases to be knit at certain intervals.

Makes you want to run the other way right?  But you don’t have to. These challenges don’t have to stop you from knitting it!  Here are a few tips to help you through.  I also have an example of what I did with a complicated pattern.

Tip #1:  Breathe.  A few deep breaths before reading through the pattern will help calm your brain down which is probably shouting, “Danger! Too hard! Don’t do it! RUN!”

Tip #2:  Read through the whole pattern to get an idea of what will be entailed.  Jumping right in without reading through the whole pattern may set you up for failure.  There is often a direction “at the same time” which occurs further along in the pattern, but is something you are supposed to already be doing by the time you read it!

Tip #3:  Map out your rows.  When a pattern has several charts as well as instructions for increasing, it helps to map out how you will accomplish your rows. Writing down each row, along with the corresponding chart rows, in a chart format or just in rows on your scrap paper will help tease out the confusion (see my example below).

Tip #4:  Cross off each row on your map as it is completed so there is no question as to what row you are on if you put your project down for a while.

Tip #5:  Keep breathing! One row at a time and you will get there.

Tip #6:  If you are still confused about how to organize your rows/charts, stop in at your local yarn shop and ask for a little help!  Most shops are happy to take a few minutes to help walk you through what to do and get you on your way.  [If it is a particularly complicated pattern that will take more than 10 minutes or so, they may suggest you schedule a private lesson.  Private lessons are great for quality one-on-one instruction and well worth the cost.]

I recently found a challenging knitting pattern – an adorable baby sweater pattern which was 7 pages long, had two different charts, that had two different repeat lengths, that needed to be knit at the same time (at different parts of the same row) while knitting from the top down and increasing at four locations on my needle.  Whew!  The challenge was:  How do I keep track of all this?

Once I had worked out a system for keeping track of two charts and increases, it went quickly.  To work out the system, first I took a deep breath!  I read through the whole pattern to understand what would be happening throughout the project. For example, in this pattern the back chart is only knit once but the front chart is knitted throughout.  That bit of information would help me get organized.

Next, I made a little map/chart for the rows I would need to knit. I lined up the two rows I needed to repeat for the increases with the rows of each of the knitting charts like so:


Look at the first number for the increase row, then follow the numbers vertically down for what you will need to do on the rest of that row.  You will see that after row 14 of each of the charts it gets interesting.  You are still working on the first (and only) repeat of the back chart but you need to start over at the beginning of the front chart.  Making a little chart like this to keep track made the process soooooo much easier to complete.

*The “EVEN” means to work even (no more increases).

Challenge accepted and challenging knitting pattern overcome! I finished the Misty Blue baby (and child) sweater yesterday and I can’t say enough how cute it is.  See for yourself:

See? So cute right???  I just love the back lace detail.  It’s something a little unexpected.

This Misty Blue pattern goes from 0-6 mos up to 9-10yrs in sizing.  You can make it with long or short sleeves.  The cute butterfly buttons are a little too big for my buttonholes so I’ll be searching for another set.

For those who are local, this will be a class offered at The Spinning Room yarn shop in June and I’ll teach you all these tips in person.

I did also overcome another knitting challenge — the one where I couldn’t knit for a long time because of my elbow tendinitis. HOORAY! After much rest and heat and stretches and REST, I’m able to knit for some pretty good lengths of time.  I still need to stop before I want to, in order to rest, but the elbows are much better!  I am using this FUTURO Tennis Elbow Support which really helps.  I also use this FUTURO Energising Support Glove. I have used the glove for several years already as it just gives some nice support to your hand when you are knitting for a long time. (click on those links to get them on Amazon)

Boy does it feel good to actually be making some progress on knitting projects!

What do you do when you find a challenging knitting pattern?  Ignore it and find a different pattern? Run? Try it?

4 thoughts on “6 Tips for Overcoming a Challenging Knitting Pattern

  1. Ignore it and run! I’m not the knitter you are!! But the Misty Blue sweater is really cute. Glad you can knit for longer now.

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