Reading Stitch Patterns & Knitting Multiples. What it Means

I love reading stitch patterns, well actually looking at them. I can spend hours flipping through the pages imagining what I could make.

When you first start reading stitch patterns they may seem a little confusing. I know I was and I want to save you some of the frustration by explaining it to you.  That way you can have some fun with the knitting stitch patterns I have shown you.

Some stitch patterns are easy enough to understand.

reading stitch patterns

They may say to work the stitch pattern over an even or odd number of stitches.  Simple enough even numbers will be numbers that divide by 2 like 2, 4, 6, 8 and so on.


reading stitch patterns


Odd numbers will be numbers that cannot be divided by 2 like 3, 5, 7, 9.

Simple right?

Knitting Multiples?  What is it ?

reading stitch patterns

A lot of stitch patterns are worked in multiples of stitches or sets of stitches and while some may be one row in length, there are stitch patterns that involve a few rows or lots of rows. What that means is that a set number of stitches (multiple) is used to create the pattern and it may take a few rows or lots of rows to create it.  When you’re reading stitch patterns it may look something like this: Work on a multiple of 4 stitches over 4 rows

This means that when you cast on your stitches you will cast on in multiples of 4; that is 4, 8, 12, 16, 20 and so on.  That’s what the multiple is.  What about the rows?  Each row will involve the set of stitches (the multiple) but the stitches may be worked a little differently in order to create the pattern.

Are you with me so far? 

Let’s keep going

When Reading Stitch Patterns What Does the Plus (+) Mean?

reading stitch patterns

Say you’ve been reading stitch patterns that say something like:

Pattern is worked over a multiple of 4 sts plus 1 or Worked over a multiple of 4 sts + 1

This just means that extra stitches are needed to keep everything balanced (symmetrical) but the extra stitches are not part of the actual stitch pattern.

Most times the extra stitches are done at the beginning an/or the end of the row and lots of times they help form the selvedge.

How to Calculate the Multiples and Extra Stitches

Now the tricky part to understand is that when you calculate the multiples and the extra stitches (the + 1, 2, 3 or whatever number of stitches)  you only need to add the extra stitches once.  I always got confused here so let me show you.

You’re reading stitch patterns and one of the patterns says to cast on a multiple of 4 sts + 1.  What you will do is cast on the multiple of 4 so 4, 8, 12, 16 or the number of stitches you need in multiples of 4.  Then and only then will you add the extra stitches.  The extra stitches are only included after all the multiples are cast on.  Just once.

In the case of 4 sts + 1 it would be  5, 9, 13, 17 and so on.  If you have really big numbers it’s still worked the same way.

Say it is a multiple of 12 sts + 7.  What you will do is cast on the multiple of 12 so 12, 24, 36, 48, 60 whichever number in the multiple you need.  Then add the 7 extra stitches once only so the total stitches to cast on will be 19, 31, 43, 55, 67.

What Exactly is a Pattern Repeat?

Let’s continue working with the multiple of 4 stitches + 1.

reading stitch patterns

Say you cast on 17 stitches (the multiple of 4 = 16 sts + 1 extra).  You will probably knit the 1st stitch and then you will knit in multiples of 4 stitches all the way across your needle.  You are repeating the stitch pattern of ‘4’ stitches all the way across your needle.  That’s the pattern repeat.

It may look something like this if you are reading a knitting pattern.

K1, *P3, K1, repeat from * to end of row.

The pattern repeat is P3, K1 (the multiple of 4 sts) all the way across your needle and the extra stitch is the K1 at the beginning.  Another pattern variation may look like this:

K1, (P3, K1) 3 times. It means the same thing. You will knit 1 stitch and then work what’s in the brackets 3 times across your row.  (You are knitting the pattern repeat which is the multiple of 4 sts)

Once again the extra stitches (no matter how many there may be) are not part of the actual stitch pattern but are there to keep the pattern balanced or symmetrical.

Reading stitch patterns took me a while to understand. I really hope that this helps you.

Now you can have some fun.

Back to knitting stitch patterns

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8 thoughts on “Reading Stitch Patterns & Knitting Multiples. What it Means

  1. Reading my pattern it will say k6 thats fine then in brackets what I’ve to do but in the brackets if I look at the size I’m doing and it says 0 does that mean I don’t do that bit . Janie

    1. Hi Janie. Usually when it’s in brackets they want you to repeat the pattern sequence for a certain amount of times but when there’s 0 in there you won’t repeat it. But you’ll still work across the pattern once and that’s it. I would need to see the pattern to be sure. I’d like to encourage you to join my free knitting forum Janie. That’s where I answer all knitting questions so I do hope to see you over there. Happy Knitting!

  2. I have a patterns that fit app and I’m not sure what they want me to do as the pattern is 10sts +1=horseshoe knit stitch.
    Now the problem is they want for ex. The front of cardigan 56 stitches which doesn’t really work with 10 + 1;
    It’s says: For left front-
    Set your custom pattern repeat as follows
    K1 (selvedge stitch)
    Work pattern repeat (10 sets) 11 times
    Work first 1 Stitches of pattern repeat.
    K1 (selvedge stitch).
    Continue to work in your custom stitch pattern, with the pattern set as required.

    1. Hello Sue. I don’t answer knitting pattern questions here in the comments section but I have a lovely free knitting forum where we can chat and I can help you with your pattern. Once again it is free so I hope to see you over there. 🙂

  3. Hello,
    I’m trying to knit short rows. The pattern starts at the collar which I completed. Now it says shape yoke and neck simontaneously.
    Short row 1 (RS)*K1, M1L knit to 1 st before m, M1R k1, sl m, rep from*
    Once more, k1, M1, k1, wrap next st, turn work

    I know how to do what is in the asterisks but I don’t understand the Once more. Is that once more in terms of a row, stitches or until next marker

    Then the next short row is (ws) *purl to next m, sl m, rep from * 3 more times, p2, wrap next stitch, turn work

    I can’t figure out the once more and then 3 more times…help

    1. Hello Irma. You can replace the ‘once more’ with ‘then’ and continue on with the row I believe, (I really need to see the pattern to be sure) and the 3 more times means they want you to repeat what’s in the asterisks 3 more times. I’d really like to encourage you to join my knitting forum. It’s totally free to join. I don’t normally answer questions here in the comments as there’s just not enough room to respond properly. Hope to see you over there.

    1. Hello Josie. Hmm that doesn’t make sense. I’d have to see the pattern to figure out what they’re asking. Is that exactly as it’s written?

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