Knitting Rules – Learn, Use, and Break Them

Filed in Out of Our Head, Skill Building by on July 16, 2015 0 Comments

If you have ever taken a class with either Kellie or me you know that we rarely say that there is only ONE “right way” to accomplish most things in knitting. Even so there are some rules or guidelines that significantly improve your finished results.

knitting rules 2

In most cases, how you get there can take a variety of paths – thus the belief in lots of “right” answers. Even so, understanding the knitting rules and guidelines that govern how knitted fabric is created and its associated techniques makes the whole process much more enjoyable.


One of the ways that Kellie and I are the same is we both find a great deal of joy in the process of learning more about whatever we are working on. Knitting is no exception. Even though we both have a great deal of knowledge, we still continue to discover new information that enhances our enjoyment all the more. Ultimately, that is why we developed EduKnit — for knitters who want to know more than how, but also why.

One of the absolute rules in knitting has to do with stitch mount. I have written about it before, but we have also created a short clip to show you what we mean:

Understanding this rule about stitch mount allows you to begin understanding all about how knitted fabric is created. It is the basis for many stitch patterns, decreases, and many other elements of knitting.

Guidelines are a bit more flexible than rules — they are a good idea and are often applicable, but there can be exceptions. Just like rules, understanding the guidelines, how they apply, why they work, and what are the exceptions will improve your finished results.

For example in traditional entrelac, a unit (a rectangle or triangle) has twice as many rows as stitches. The ratio can be changed, but when you do so it changes the shape of the unit and may have additional consequences on the following tier.

Each little piece of knowledge (rule or guideline) becomes part of your personal knitting toolbox.


As you first learn the “rules”, in most cases it is so you can apply them to a particular project. Unfortunately, unless you are in a class of some sort, often the rule goes unnoticed. In a pattern it is usually provided as an instruction without specific context as to why this choice is made or direction is given.

With time and experience, you are often able to create your own understanding. Occasionally some context is provided, giving additional insight. But in most cases, it is the application of the knowledge, often in a variety of projects and circumstances, that leads to understanding the “why” something is done a particular way. The trick is to pay attention not only when it doesn’t work, but also when it does!

When folks are first learning entrelac, knowing each unit has twice as many rows as stitches can be useful information, but it is rarely truly valuable. Folks are just so focused on reading the instructions and making the motions that any extra knowledge is often lost. However, after a few projects, that simple piece of information can have a much greater impact, especially when trying to understand why the designer might have made a particular decision or given a specific instruction.


Once you have a reasonable understanding of not only how, but also why, it becomes much easier to make choices that are contrary to traditional knitting or the instructions provided. At this point, really, you can begin to make the knitting your own.

Some folks get to this point very early in their knitting life and jump into the world of designing. This can be good, as designers develop new and creative ideas, but it also has drawbacks. Designers who don’t really understand the “why” often make uninformed choices or “reinvent the wheel,” as it were.

One the other hand, folks who do understand the why can develop new (often simpler or better) methods for accomplishing standard techniques like cast-ons and bind-offs. My deep understanding of entrelac allowed me to develop a variety of new concepts including shaping and joining techniques. As I wrote Entree to Entrelac, I discovered even more ways I could bend the rules (some of which I am using in my current project).

Learning the rules is instructional, using the rules is practical and breaking the rules is where it really becomes interesting! What knitting rule or guideline have you broken recently?



Tags: , , , , ,