What can you do with 365 different stitch patterns? We’ve had many creative customers make wonderful projects using the patterns in the 365 Knitting Stitches a Year perpetual calendar. But the most often-asked question about the calendar is, how can I use the stitch patterns to make an afghan sampler?
If you like to knit afghan-square patterns, 365 Knitting Stitches a Year is a great resource. But first things first—you need to know how to translate the stitch patterns into simple squares. Then you simply choose patterns that work well together, stitch them up, and join them.
Technical editor Ursula Reikes is here to tell you all about knitting squares and how swatch knitting helps you determine gauge. Plus, because Ursula’s a well-known overachiever, she’s also included a free knit dishcloth pattern using one of the stitch patterns from 365 Knitting Stitches a Year. Once you’re done knitting a dishcloth, get ambitious and start squares for an afghan. What a fun way to learn new stitches!
Making squares from the patterns in the 365 Knitting Stitches a Year calendar is fun and requires just a little prep work. If you’re a relatively new knitter, the first thing you need to do is learn about gauge.
What is gauge?
Gauge is the number of stitches and rows that are worked in one inch of knitting. To determine your gauge:
1. Select the yarn and the needles you intend to use.
2. Make a sample swatch at least 4″ x 4″ (5″ or 6″ square is even better) in stockinette stitch (knit on the right side, purl on the wrong side).
3. Count the number of stitches across the width of the 4″ square.
As an example, let’s say you knit 16 stitches within a 4″ square. Divide the 16 stitches by 4″ to get a gauge of four stitches per inch. (The number of rows in 1″ of knitting isn’t really important when making squares—you simply knit until the piece is square.) A stockinette-stitch gauge will give you a gauge that you can use for most of the stitch patterns in the calendar.
What are multiples?
The next thing to learn about is “multiples.” The multiple of a stitch pattern is how many stitches are used in making one repeat of the pattern. If a pattern says “multiple of 6,” it means you need any number of stitches divisible by 6 to make the given pattern, such as 18, 24, 36, 42, etc.
In some stitch patterns you’ll see things like “multiple of 6 + 2.” That means you not only need a number divisible by 6 for the pattern repeat, but you also need 2 additional stitches to work the pattern. The number of stitches to cast on might be 18 + 2 or 36 + 2—always a multiple of 6 stitches plus 2 more.
Knitting squares using gauge and multiples
So how do you apply the gauge and the multiple of a stitch pattern to make a square? If your gauge swatch tells you that you knit 4 stitches per inch, and you want to end up with a 10″ square, multiply the 4 stitches by 10 to get 40 stitches. That will be the number of stitches to cast on for a 10″ square.
To make it easy, you can look for patterns that are multiples of 2, 4, 5, or 8 stitches, which will divide evenly into 40 stitches. Do the math, cast on the required number of stitches, and knit until your square is 10″ x 10″. Of course, not all pattern multiples will divide evenly into 40 stitches. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use them! You can use patterns with other multiples, but you need to add or subtract a few stitches.
Let’s say you want to use a pattern with a multiple of 7 stitches. The closest number to 40 that can be evenly divided by 7 is 42. So add 2 more stitches and cast on. Adding a couple of stitches will not alter the size that much. And remember, if a pattern has a multiple plus a number, you’ll need to add additional stitches to your cast on as well. Casting on a few more or a few less than 40 stitches will get you close to a 10″ square, and with careful blocking, you should be able to make all of your blocks the same size.
When making items other than garments, many knitters add a border around a stitch pattern to create tidy edges. For example, you might add a border around each square in an afghan to make joining the squares easier (see example at left). The simplest border is done in garter stitch over 3, 4, or 5 stitches on each side, and rows of garter stitch at the bottom and top in the same width as the side borders. On larger projects, you might want to add a wider border.
So how do you add a border?
Say you want to make a dishcloth with a border. First make a gauge swatch as explained above. Determine your gauge and decide what size you want the dishcloth to be. So, for example, if your gauge is 4 stitches per inch and you want a 10″ dishcloth, you’ll need to cast on 40 stitches. Just multiply the gauge per inch by the desired inches, 4 x 10 = 40 stitches.
At a gauge of 4 stitches per inch, 4 stitches on each side will give you a 1″ border. Now, subtract 8 stitches (4 for each side border) from the 40 stitches to get 32. You need a pattern that’s a multiple of 2, 4, or 8 stitches. Now you can cast on 40 stitches, use 4 stitches on each side for borders, and work the stitch pattern over 32 stitches. See how simple that is?
You can alter the width of your border on the sides, as well as on the top and bottom; just work more or fewer stitches before starting the pattern stitch. Be sure to work enough rows at the bottom and the top to match your side borders. To do that, measure the stitches you’ve worked for the side borders and work the bottom to approximately the same width. Write down how many rows you worked for the bottom border. When the dishcloth measures the desired length minus the width of the top border, begin the top border on a right side and work one less row than you worked for the bottom border. Bind off the next row. The top and bottom borders will be the same width.
Below is a free dishcloth pattern using the ZigZag Stitch, which is the October 4th pattern in the calendar. It’s a multiple of 6, and I’ve added a 1″ garter-stitch border all around. The 11″ size is based on a gauge of 4 stitches per inch.
Finished size: 11″ x 11″
1 ball of Sugar ‘n Cream by Lily Cotton
Size 7 (4.5 mm) needles
Two stitch markers
Gauge: 4 sts = 1″
(Multiple of 6)
Row 1 (right side): *K3, P3; rep from * to end.
Row 2 and every even row: Purl.
Row 3: P1, *K3, P3; rep from * to last 5 sts, K3, P2.
Row 5: P2, *K3, P3; rep from * to last 4 sts, K3, P1.
Row 7: *P3, K3; rep from * to end.
Row 9: Rep Row 5.
Row 11: Rep Row 3.
Row 12: Purl.
Rep these 12 rows.
CO 44 stitches.
Knit 8 rows. (This will create an approximate 1″ border before you begin the pattern. For a border other than garter stitch, try a simple knit 1, purl 1 seed stitch or moss stitch.)
Next row: K4, place marker, work the next 36 stitches in pattern, place marker, K4.
Repeat this row, keeping the first and last four stitches in garter stitch, until the dishcloth measures 10″ from the cast on, ending with a completed wrong side row.
Knit 7 rows.
BO knitwise on the wrong side. Fasten off.
There are endless possibilities for using the stitch patterns in 365 Knitting Stitches a Year. In the slideshow below, you’ll see just a few of the projects that Ravelry knitters have made using the stitch patterns, including:
- Washcloths and dishcloths
- Scarves and cowls
- Shawls and wraps
- Table runners
- Gift bags
- Sweaters and vests
What gorgeous work!
Ready to try more of these versatile stitch patterns? This month, save 40% on the 365 Knitting Stitches a Year perpetual calendar. Just think of all the things you can make with these stitch patterns. A simple dishcloth set or scarf can make a great gift. Or you can gift the calendar itself to a knitting friend for a year full of fun stitching!
What other knitting or crochet techniques and tips would you like to read about? Tell us in the comments and you could see your suggestion in a future post!