WTF does WYIF mean?

October 16, 2013

Several of the students in my knitting class want to learn how to read a pattern, so I’ve started them off on a delightful cotton washcloth. Washcloths are great first project because (1) there’s a high probability you will finish (unlike a scarf which can be interminable), and (2) they provide ample opportunity for learning new stitches and reading a pattern.

After the first class, Rachel emailed with a question, “I’ve done my 4 rows of seed stitch for the border. Can you tell me what sl5p wyif means?”

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This was the ideal opportunity to reinforce a key rule of following a pattern: read the entire pattern before you begin. And take notes, right on the pattern. Rachel did a lovely job of this. See those four checks next to each of the seed stitch border row instructions?

Don’t be shy. Use a highlighter to mark all instructions related to the size you’re making. Circle, flag, or (my favorite) star those details that you want to be sure not to miss — like “do this and that for 16 rows and, at the same time, bind off two stitches at the beginning of each row.”

In the washcloth pattern, as in most patterns, special stitch combinations are defined at the start of the pattern — a pattern-within-a-pattern, of sorts. There it was:

sl5P wyif = slip the next 5 sts as if to purl with yarn at front of work (this forms a yarn strand on the right side of the fabric).

This is the point at which a knitter must speak aloud, slowly and clearly while following the instructions word for word. It usually takes me two or three talk-throughs before I understand what I’m to do. I find it best to do this while alone or at least at home, where I’m less likely to be interrupted by someone asking “what did you say?” Because then I’d have to stop and explain and then start all over again!

Rachel figured it out — while hanging out at her daughter’s soccer game, no less. She even sent a photo when she got home. Look at those bands stretching across 5 stitches!

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