Reading Knitting Patterns: Asterisks, Brackets, and Parentheses

Knitting abbreviations and terminology is a language or special vocabulary used in pattern instructions to save space and provide clear direction. Asterisks, brackets, and parentheses are used in pattern instructions to indicate repetition of a sequence of stitches. Parentheses also have an additional purpose in pattern instructions.

Asterisks * 

Repeat the directions or sequence of stitches following the asterisk or those between 2 asterisks as many times as indicated. *K3, p1; repeat from * to end of row. This means knit 3 stitches and purl 1 stitch, in this sequence to the end of the row.

Brackets [ ]

The instructions within the brackets are repeated the number of times indicted outside the brackets. [K2, p4]5 times. Knit 2 stitches, then purl 4 stitches 5 times in all.

Parentheses ( ) 

Encloses instructions which should be worked the exact number of times specified immediately following the parentheses. (K2, p2)twice means knit 2 stitches and purl 2 stitches 2 times in all. I find that parentheses are frequently used to list garment sizes, measurements, yarn quantities, and stitch numbers. The smallest size is given first and appears outside the parentheses, and the larger sizes are within the parentheses in ascending order. The instructions are read with the numbers that apply to a size in the same position throughout the pattern.

eg. Knitting Measurements: 31(33 1/2, 36, 38 1/2). Yarn quantities 2(3, 3, 4): the yarn amounts follow the same sequence as the measurements; 2 balls required for size 31 the smallest size,  3 balls for 33 1/2 and so on.

This explains reading asterisks, brackets, and parentheses in pattern instructions.