How I Do It!

Source - Debbie Bliss Magazine, Fall/Winter 2014, Design 26
Source – Debbie Bliss Magazine, Fall/Winter 2014, Design 26

If you’ve been reading my posts for a time, you’ll find I take a professional approach to knitting, and I love every step of the process, even finishing.

A pattern catches my eye and I really want to make it. How do I knit it so it looks exactly like the one in the pattern instructions? There are certain steps I follow when I begin a project in which I already have the pattern instructions. Following these steps will help to create a project that looks like the one in the instructions. There is the rare moment when I have found pattern instructions so incomprehensible, that the project doesn’t turn out or happen. This could be for many reasons; pattern errors, so poorly written I just can’t be bothered to figure it out, I feel it won’t work, or I don’t feel like rewriting it.

Steps to Knitting Almost Any Project

Read through the instructions to familiarize yourself. 

Reading will let you know if it suits your skill level. Notice the degree of difficulty, techniques, and stitch patterns. Don’t get too bogged down with reading. Sometimes the pattern makes sense when you are actually knitting. However, if you’re unsure of a technique, practice with some scrap yarn first rather than struggling midway through a project. Choose the size by the finished measurements.

What materials do you need? 

You may be able to buy the brand of yarn and type used in the instructions. If not a substitute is necessary. Check out my e-book “It’s All About The Yarn” for further information on substituting. If you have experience, you’ll be familiar with the classic yarn types; fingering, DK, and worsted. Novelty or highly textured yarns are difficult to substitute. Purchase yarn amounts all at once and it’s a good idea to purchase an extra ball or two. If you are not sure if the substitute will work buy a ball to make the swatch, and then purchase the amount required. 

Needle sizes may change depending on what your gauge is. Make sure you have any other accessories on hand for the project. My absolute essentials are a tape measure, scissors, tapestry needles, paper and pen, calculator, and row counters. Other items that may be necessary include stitch markers and holders.

I usually purchase buttons when the project is complete, when I know the size of the buttonhole.

Knitting Accessories
Knitting Accessories

Gauge Swatch

This is the most important step. Obtaining an accurate gauge ensures achieving the correct measurements and proper fit. Don’t skip it or hours of knitting will be wasted.

Before measuring the swatch, I block it. Pin it out on a blocking board, spray with water and let dry. Now it is easier to measure.

Collect Your Tools and Yarn

I’m a little bit of a basket freak and I use a basket to hold my yarn and work in progress. I also have a pouch holding scissors, tape measure, tins with pins and tapestry needles, stitch holders, markers, row counters, pad of paper and pencil. I find a calculator to be a must. You may want another bag for carrying your projects with you on the go.

I often photocopy instructions so I don’t mess up the book or magazine, then I can mark this copy. I sometimes use a magnetic board to attach the copy, particularly if there are charts. If charts are small, you may want to enlarge them. Definitely keep the original magazine or book handy to refer to the image.

Knitting Time

It is best to knit the pieces in the order given, because there is probably a reason for this. As an example, pocket linings are often made before knitting the front because you will have to knit them into the front. Most sweaters begin with the back, followed by the front, and sleeves.

I’m a precise row counter for projects that require seaming, particularly garments. By keeping track of rows, pieces will line up exactly. For some items, like a scarf it may only be necessary to keep track of chart rows or other complex stitch pattern rows. My routine typically goes like this: I write down the number of rows to knit the border, turn the counter back to zero and count rows for the body of the piece to the armhole, and then repeat from armhole to shoulder. In addition to the row counter for total rows, I may have to use paper and pen to keep track of chart rows or when I need to do decreases or increases. You can quickly calculate the number of rows needed for the length using the gauge. Let’s say you have to knit an  8 inch armhole; the row gauge is 6 rows/inch; so 6 x 8 = 48 rows required to knit armhole. I often quickly calculate the number of rows I need before I knit, and to see if I’m on gauge.


Block each piece as it comes off the needles. With projects like hats, socks, gloves, and scarves, they are pretty much complete off the needles and require minimal seaming and weaving in ends. I then wash these items and lay flat to dry, smoothing into shape to block.

Blocking slipper pieces.
Blocking slipper pieces.


The difference between “homemade” and “handmade” is in the finishing. This is often the point where knitters tuck the pieces away, never to complete their project. I know to some finishing is tedious, but if you follow through with the appropriate seaming method and weaving in yarn ends, you will be pleased.

These are some tips to help complete your projects:

  • Blocked pieces make for easier seaming.
  • Do not machine sew seams because the fabric will stretch and pucker. Hand sew.
  • Use blunt tipped tapestry needles with a large enough eye to accommodate the yarn. Do not use standard straight pins for pinning; you can purchase blunt tipped knitters pins for pinning pieces together. Sharp points will split the yarn or snag the fabric.
  • Sew the item with the same yarn it was knitted with. However, yarns with a very low twist, novelty yarns such as boucle, chenille, mohair, and other textured yarns should not be used for seaming. Instead use a yarn that is firm, compatible in color, fiber content, and requires the same cleaning method as the yarn used to knit the project.
  • Any details such as embroidery and pockets should be added prior to seaming.
  • Most instructions give an assembly order that should be followed. For garments, join one or both shoulders depending on the neckline style, join sleeves to armholes, join sleeve seam from cuff to armhole, and join side seams from hem to armhole.
  • Mattress stitch (invisible weaving) is the best method for the majority of seams. I like the backstitch for attaching the sleeves to the armhole, and the overcast for attaching borders.
  • Check your work as you sew to make sure the seam is even and neat.
  • Weave yarn ends into seams where possible. Colorwork knitting will have yarn ends that need to be worked into the body of the piece.
  • Sew on buttons with thread not yarn.
  • This may seem strange, but I always do a quick wash of completed items. I just feel like wearing something new that is clean or when giving a gift it is nice to receive it clean. There are hand oils on the project, and if it has been sitting around for awhile, washing seems the right thing to do.

Knitting should be a joyful process, but sometimes you have to get down and dirty and complete that project. There is no better reward.