I’m knitting Pam Allen’s Sheep Sorrel hat using Falkland Aran by Debbie Bliss in Claret. This is a soft, shiny organic wool, from a farming community in the Falklands. It’s a three-ply, with a good amount of twist, stitch definition, and has a good amount of loft (ie very springy and squishy) and elasticity.
The pattern is clearly and efficiently written, even including instructions on how to do the cables with and without a cable needle.
You can knit faster. You know when sections change, and know what comes next. You can find (and correct) errors faster. With a recurring pattern, you reading your knitting means you understand what the designer intended, and you can actually let go of the pattern (which means portability). Many people often praise patterns for being easy to memorize. Reading your knitting means you don’t need to memorize at all.
Read the general description in the pattern introduction first. This will not click at first. But we’ll come back to that later.
Then look at the pattern section. Make a rough stitch chart if there isn’t one. (If there is, then skip to the next step). It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be good enough for you to understand. The Sheep Sorrel hat has a 15 stitch repeat over 4 rounds.
Do a mini-swatch
If you are a learning-by-doing knitter like me, making a swatch to learn a pattern isn’t such a hardship. Cast on the required stitch number plus 6 extra for a 3 stitch border on each side. Place stitch markers, so you don’t forget where your border sits. Knit three rows (for a garter stitch/ non rolling edge) and then get going. Once you’ve done two or three repeat, finish off with with three knit rows and bind off.
I wouldn’t bother cutting my yarn. This swatch isn’t to be blocked, so it is perfectly fine to rip it out after, and knit it into the hat.
I definitely am not a big fan of swatching in the round, however I wanted to see how quickly it would take me to learn the pattern on the fly. I took me four repeats, dear Readers. In my defense, a glass of red wine was involved.
On the fly
Once you’ve gotten into knitting the pattern, exactly as written (a stitch marker after each repeat will help you keep your place), stop and have a good look at what’s on the needles.
Now is the time to revisit that general description and compare it to what you have before you. Sheep Sorrel seems to be about panels and mini-cables (actually twisted stitches, but hey, let’s not quibble). We can see that the garter and patterned panels alternate and are separated by columns of cable. We also see that each column of cable has a p1 before and after it.
Once I realized this, I realized that one type of twist was used per column. Some columns twisted to the right and others to the left. That meant I could undo and repair any twist that was incorrect (if something looks like an S, then it’s wrong). I left one S, because nothing in this world is perfect.
At this point, I knit another round, without peeking, to see if I understood the pattern. Once I had done that, checked, then made my corrections, I knew I could let go the pattern and continue the required length of knitting. I wouldn’t say that I’ve memorized the pattern, but I’ve understood the logic behind it: I want to keep my panels going, and the cables twisting the right way round.