Got a question about a pattern? The info below answers about 95% of the pattern questions I get. There’s a very good chance your answer is right here!
What needle size should I use?
The short answer is ‘whatever size you need to get gauge.’ The longer answer gets a little philosophical, but read on if you want all the gory details…
Many knitting patterns include a suggested needle size. And I used to do that, too. But I quickly discovered that an awful lot of knitters would just use the suggested needle size and not swatch. I’d get email from people saying ‘the pattern said to use size 2 needles…and I did…and my project is the wrong size.’ I’d ask what gauge they got, and pretty much every time they’d tell me they didn’t actually check their gauge, they just used the needles the pattern called for because ‘they always get gauge’. That’s no fun for anyone.
And, no matter how strongly I suggested that you really do need to check your gauge, not use a particular needle size, folks would still skip swatching. So eventually, I stopped including a needle size. Instead, I tell you what gauge you need to get.
And yes, that means you’ll probably need to swatch. And I know, sometimes you want to dive right in and get started, and swatching seems like a waste of time. But I promise taking the time to swatch is so much better than getting to the end of your knitting and realizing the piece you spent hours making is the wrong size!
So, as much as it’s probably not what you want to hear, I really have absolutely no idea what needle size you should use (really…even if you email me and ask, I’ll tell you I don’t know). Only your swatch can tell you that!
How do I use charts?
So first up, knitting charts are awesome. They’re seriously one of my favorite things in the whole world…they’re a beautifully efficient way to convey a lot of information in a little bit of space. I suspect you’re going to love them too. But I know if you’ve not used them before, they can look a bit daunting.
Luckily, there are some fabulous guides to using them out there. I especially like this one at Tin Can Knits. There’s another good one over here at Knotions, and another here at North Coast Knittery. Reading through one or two of those will get you about 95% of the way to being a chart pro (and jumping in and trying a charted pattern or two will get you the rest of the way)!
Ok, I’m sold on charts, but why do different designers/publishers use different chart symbols?
Oh you’re in luck…I have a giant post with more than you could ever want to know about that.
So I’m trying to use the chart, but it’s not a rectangle/there are stitches missing/there are funny blank squares…what now?
This is actually super easy. Sometimes one of your rows will have more or fewer stitches than the row before it. When that happens, the charts can take on some funny shapes. Sometimes there are even blank spaces on the chart. It’s nothing to worry about, just work each symbol as you see it. If there’s a blank space on the chart (it’s just there to keep the chart lined up and looking tidy), just move to the next symbol and keep going.
There is a lovely example over here if you want to read a bit more about it. But really, all you need to do is let your eye skip right over the blank space and move on to the next symbol. It’s that simple!
How do I do a particular stitch?
Pretty much every stitch except knit, purl, ktbl, ptbl, and yarn over are defined in the notes of the pattern. If it’s an individual pattern, look on the right-hand side of the third page of the pattern, that’s almost always where the definitions are (it’s full of other useful info that you probably want to read). If it’s a book, look for the section that says stitch guide (often with the pattern, occasionally at the front of the book).
If you like videos better, there are an amazing number of them out there if you want to look around (though be warned, it’s an easy way to get distracted and spend an hour or two!). Purl Soho has lots of great ones, and Knitting Help does too. You can also type the name of the stitch you’re looking for into the search bar on youtube, and you’ll probably find lots and lots (and lots) of possibilities.
And remember, there’s often more than one way to work a particular stitch. That’s why I’ll generally refer to a stitch by what it does (left-leaning knit decrease) rather than by how you make it (slip slip knit). Because depending on how you knit, you may not make a left-leaning knit decrease by slipping, slipping, and knitting. Feel free to try various methods to see what feels best to you. But if you know what you’re trying to accomplish (decrease away one stitch, have it slant off to the left), you know if you’re doing it right!
Heel flaps…they’re giving me fits…what’s going on?
Questions about heel flaps are almost always one of three things.
First, make sure you’re working the heel flap over the correct stitches. The pattern will say something like the heel flap is worked over stitches 30-56 [34-64, 38-72]. It uses a total of 27 [31, 35] stitches (of course the specific numbers will vary by pattern and you should use the ones in your pattern, not the ones here). If your heel flap isn’t lining up with the leg, make sure you’re working it over the right set of stitches, that will almost always take care of it.
Second, you can make the heel flap taller or shorter depending on your foot and how you like your socks to fit. There will be a guideline in the pattern that says something like work the Heel Chart 14 [16, 18] times or until heel flap reaches desired length. Stop after completing row 2 of the Heel Chart (again, the numbers will vary by pattern and you should use the ones in your pattern, not the ones listed here). Working the Heel Chart the number of times it calls for will work for most people, but you can absolutely make it taller (especially if you have a high instep) or shorter (if that’s more comfortable for you).
Finally, when it tells you to pick up stitches along the side of the heel flap, you should pick up one stitch in each of the elongated stitches on the side of the heel flap (and one more at the top if you want). I can’t tell you exactly how many stitches that will be (because I don’t know if you’ve made your heel flap taller or shorter than the pattern calls for). But if you’re picking up one stitch in each of the stitches up the side of the heel flap, you’ll be golden!
I still have a question, what now?
If you’ve still got a question, you can email me (hunter at pantsville press dot com will find me). I’ll try to help. I usually answer email within three business days (meaning if the answer is above, you’re going to be up and knitting much faster by reading it here than by waiting for me to email you).
And please know that email is really the best way to reach me. Every now and then someone asks a question on twitter or on a post on instagram or pinterest or in a comment on an old blog post. I often don’t see those (or at least don’t see them quickly). Email is a much better choice.