What does “keeping pattern correct” mean?

working increases into complex stitch pattern
Working sleeve increases and maintaining established stitch pattern.

Knitting instructions that consist of complex pattern stitches use this phrase “keeping pattern correct or maintaining pattern” when the stitch count changes. Shaping a sleeve is done by working increases along the sides from the cuff to armhole, or decreasing stitches to shape the armhole to the shoulder. This phrase is a reminder to continue working in the established pattern, and to ensure it remains aligned. But how do you accomplish this?

Multiple 

Firstly, it’s important to understand the term “multiple”. A multiple is the number of stitches required to form one complete pattern stitch, like a cable, lace motif, or rib sequence. The number of stitches on the needle must be divisible by this number to be able to fully complete groups of multiples. A rib sequence (k3, p3) requires 6, 12, 18, 24….stitches for the pattern to work out. Some pattern stitches may read “multiple of …stitches plus…”. This means the total number of stitches must by divisible by the multiple (number of stitches in one repeat), plus the additional stitches (these extra stitches are added only once). For example, a multiple of 4 + 2 means: if you cast on 20 stitches (20 ÷ 4 = 5, evenly divisible by 4); you need to add 2 extra stitches on your needle for a total of 22 stitches to maintain the pattern.

Shaping Knit Fabric

When shaping, it’s easy to maintain simple stitch patterns like stockinette stitch or a rib sequence. But increasing stitches or working extra stitches into a complex stitch pattern like lace or cables, may require some planning. There has to be enough stitches to work a complete multiple in order to maintain the pattern sequence. The added stitches are often worked in stockinette stitch or a specified stitch until there are enough stitches to continue in the established pattern. To keep track of increased stitches, place a marker before the first increase. Keep this marker in place until you have enough stitches to continue the pattern. Move the marker back to the edge and repeat this procedure until all the increases have been made.

When increasing stitches at side edges into an allover cable pattern, leave at least one edge stitch before working a full cable repeat, instead of making one right at the edge; doing so leaves a stitch to sew through. With lace patterns, I would also leave an edge stitch before a yarnover (yo) instead of making the yo as the first stitch in a row.

The same principle applies to decreasing stitches; you still need enough stitches to work a repeat. You can make a judgement call as to whether to work a repeat or not, depending on the appearance of your knitting. However, make sure to treat both edges the same, so the work is even.

Keeping the pattern correct or maintaining the pattern are important phrases to understand when shaping knit pieces. To maintain the established stitch pattern, you need to have enough stitches to work a complete multiple.