Throughout this season, we’re reposting some of our favorite columns by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, previously featured in our Weekly Stitch newsletter.
You have a throw pattern with a beautiful stitch pattern, but you'd like to make it wider or narrower. Or perhaps you'd like to make it into a scarf. Maybe the converse is true…you'd like to change a scarf into a throw.
It's not as difficult as it may seem, even if you are a beginner!
There are two vital concepts that must be understood to accomplish this.
The first is the stitch multiple, or the number of stitches needed for one repeat of the stitch pattern. A multiple of 5 stitches means you can cast on any number of stitches that is divisible by 5 such as 25, 30, etc. A multiple of 6 + 1 means you need to cast on any number of stitches that is divisible by 6 plus 1 extra stitch; examples include 25, 37, etc.
Sometimes the pattern will tell you the multiple of stitches used which makes it much easier to make adjustments. If the information is not included, you will need to determine this yourself. You do this simply by adding up how many stitches are used.
Here's a stitch pattern called Twin Rib (not pictured):
Row 1: *k3, p3; rep from *
Row 2: *k1, p1; rep from *
Row 1 uses 6 stitches (3 + 3) while Row 2 uses 2 stitches (1 + 1). The pattern is a multiple of 6 because that is the larger number and you need 6 stitches for Row 1 to work correctly. Since 6 is evenly divisible by 2, the 2 stitches in Row 2 are more frequently repeated.
The second concept is gauge. You might hate working a gauge swatch, but it really is important. Work your swatch in the stitch pattern. Measure how many stitches you get over 4 inches. Now divide by 4 to determine stitches per inch.
The "magic formula" is stitches per inch × desired width=number of stitches to cast on.
Keep in mind that given a certain set of parameters, the exact width you wish to make your project may not be possible without making further adjustments to, for example, your gauge by switching either yarn or needle size.
Let's say your gauge is 5 stitches per inch, you are using a stitch pattern that is a multiple of 12 and you wish to make a throw 33" wide. 5 (sts per inch) x 33 (desired width)=165, so you would cast on 165 stitches. However, 165 is not evenly divisible by 12, so that won't work for your stitch multiple of 12. You’ll need to choose the number closest to 165 evenly divisible by 12, which is 168.
Armed with that bit of knowledge, you can now easily adjust any throw or scarf pattern you have, even if it's not written at the size you really wanted!