Once you decide exactly what you want to knit, whether it's a sweater for new baby, or a scarf to keep her warm in the winter, the first thing that you must get is a pattern. To a knitter, a pattern is what a map is to an explorer. It is a guide that helps you follow the design, the size, the needles and the stitches needed. But to a beginner, it may seem like a confusing code. By learning what the terms and abbreviations mean, however, you'll soon become comfortable with reading knitting patterns and you'll be able to knit anything you can find a pattern for.
Choose a yarn similar to the yarn specified. Most knitting patterns recommend the most appropriate yarn to use for the best results. Always buy enough yarn plus an extra ball or two at the same time, so you get all the yarn from the same dye lot. If you end up needing more yarn, the next dye lot will be a slightly different color because of manufacturing variations, even it has the same name and color on the tag. You can always return the skein if it has not been opened.
Choose knitting needles based on the pattern's recommendations. Needle sizes vary and your pattern will tell you the best size needle to use, but this recommendation should be treated as a guide only. Your knitted gauge will tell you if you need to use a different size needle than the one your pattern recommends. That's why it's always good to save the needles, as they last a lifetime. Eventually, if you knit long enough you will end up with a variety of sizes that you will need.
Measure the gauge with a ruler. Hold or pin it down flat--don't stretch it or scrunch it. It should be 4 inches on each side, forming an even square (the corners should make right angles, the square shouldn't be crooked).
Count the stitches and rows per inch. In the gauge shown, there are 8 stitches and 6 rows. It can be difficult at first to count the stitches and rows correctly, depending on the type of stitch your knitting the gauge with, but generally, each bump when counting across is a stitch and each bump counting down is a row. Avoid counting the edges. How many stitches are there per inch? And how many rows per inch?
Follow the row by row instructions. It is helpful to check off a row as you are finished. It is also a good idea to place a ruler under each row, so that your eye follows the exact row, and not one above or below. This is extremely important especially when you start adding colors, or designs that need exact counting.
Recognize a stitch for each letter, followed by the number indicating how many of that stitch is called for. The letter P stands for purl and the letter K is for knit. If your pattern says Row One: P5, K5, you should purl five stitches and then knit five stitches on your first row. Learning to do the knit and purl stitches will enable you to also do more intricate designs. These two stitches are the basic steps used in many patterns. Read the next section to familiarize yourself with other commonly used abbreviations.
Use the corresponding key to interpret chart instructions, in which the rows and stitches are laid out visually. The pattern tells you what each symbol in the chart means. These symbols differ from pattern to pattern but don't worry, as nearly every knitting pattern will provide you with a glossary of symbols and abbreviations to help you read them easily.
The size of the finished item is sometimes stated as the size after blocking which means after you have washed the finished garment for the first time and, in some cases, ironed it.