How to Turn a Stitch Pattern into a Project – the Easy Way

Using the Snuggles Project as an example, learn how you can take a stitch pattern and turn it into a project

I received the following email one day, shortly after I featured the Snuggles Project in a Knitting Nuggets Newsletter issue:

“None of the animal blanket patterns state a size for reference. Hard to know how to knit. Can you advise?”

I took a look at the Snuggles Project’s web page for knitting patterns. After taking a look at the patterns in question, I saw exactly what reader Margaret meant.

Most of the patterns on this page are stitch patterns. Meaning, they give directions for a particular stitch pattern, but the directions don’t include exactly how many stitches you need to cast on in order to make one of the Snuggles the width you want.

That means that you’ll have to do a bit of metaphorical legwork before you start knitting. It’s possible, trust me! You just have to know how.

Today, I’m going to show you how to take one of the Snuggles Project’s stitch patterns and turn it into a Snuggle that’s perfect for any shelter dog or cat!

Start with a Gauge Swatch

What we do first is knit a gauge swatch. That’s essential for any project in which you’re taking a stitch pattern and turning it into a project without specific instructions.

For this example, I used the Comfy Knit Snuggle pattern designed by Rae French.

The pattern says, “Cast on a length equal to desired width in multiples of two (add 2 for base chain).” I admit I have not seen “base chain” used in a knitting pattern before, but I imagine they’re just referring to the cast-on edge. What this means is that the stitches we cast on must be divisible by 2.

First I cast on 32 stitches for my gauge swatch. Why 32? Honestly, it just sounds right to me. I usually find that when I’m knitting gauge swatches, 20 is too narrow and 40 is wider than I need. So I went with 32. (32 is a completely round number — ie, there are no odd numbers that you can multiply with an even number to create it — so that’s another reason.)

The pattern directions then recommend knitting 2 rows at the top and bottom to stabilize and help the Snuggle lay flatter. It does the same for the swatch! So I knitted 2 rows to start.

In this particular stitch pattern, the first two rows are simple stockinette stitch. The real work begins in row 3.

Row 3 asks for a series of yarnovers (YOs) followed by knit-two-together (K2tog) all the way across, aside from the beginning and end stitches, which are knit 1 (K1). That, by the way, is what “add two for base chain” is referring to. All the stitches within the row should be divisible by 2, then you add two more stitches for the outer edge stitches.

After this is 2 rows of plain knitting followed by a row of purling. Row 7 is then the reverse of row 3: K2tog followed by YO, all the way across, aside from the single knit stitch at each edge.

Row 8 is just knitting. And that’s the end of the pattern repeat. Those 8 rows repeat until we get the length we want.

I repeated this pattern twice more just to provide a nice stable amount of fabric on which to measure. Then, I knitted 2 rows of stockinette followed by 2 knit rows.

I don’t always bind off my gauge swatches, but I did this time just to make it easier to measure and block.

(I’m not bothering with weaving in the ends because this is a demonstration swatch only.)

stitch pattern

Measuring the Gauge Swatch for a Stitch Pattern

I don’t always block my gauge swatches (although I probably should!). This time I am, though, because this swatch is being used to make a larger project.

Also, blocking this swatch allowed the lace to stretch out. That makes the actual knit stitches appear more easily, which is essential for measuring.

stitch pattern

Obviously, I did not make the edges perfected when I blocked this swatch. I concentrated solely on getting those stitches stretched out so that I could measure them.

To measure this swatch, you really need a stiff measuring implement. I’ve often made the mistake of measuring my swatches with fabric tape measure. That’s actually a bad idea, because it moves around too easily. It’s better to use something stiff that won’t move around while you’re counting stitches. Rulers, metal tape measures, or an actual gauge checker are all far better tools to use.

stitch pattern

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This article from Knitty has great pointers about how to measure various kinds of swatches.

This swatch has a little bit of stockinette stitch in between its eyelets, so that’s what I’m measuring. In my swatch, I have 16 stitches per 4 inches.

So now that I know this, I can go to the What Sizes Are Needed page on the Snuggles Project website to see the sizes they request.

Applying Stitch Pattern Swatch Measurements to a Project

I see that for cats and other small animals, they want 14” x 14”; small to medium-sized dogs, 24” x 24”; and medium to large-sized dogs, 36” x 36”.

It is important to note here that the Snuggles Project doesn’t demand exact measurements. So if you’re a little off, for them, it isn’t a big deal. Different charities may vary with this, of course.

Now that I have my swatch measurement, I can apply it to the Snuggles Project guidelines.

Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll take the measurement of the desired project width, divide it by 4 (because that’s what I used to measure my gauge), take that result and multiply it by the number of stitches I found in 4 inches, and that will be the number of stitches I cast on.

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Written as a formula:

[number of desired inches of width] ÷ [number of inches used to find gauge] × [number of stitches in the number of inches used to find gauge] = number of stitches to cast on

So for my example: If I wanted to knit for cats, I would take 14 and divide it by 4 to get 3.5. Then I’ll take 3.5 and multiply it by 16, which is 56. For a cat Snuggle in this stitch pattern, I’ll cast on 56 stitches.

If I want to knit for a small to medium-sized dog, I’d divide 24 by 4, which is 6. I’ll multiply that by 16, which is 96. Voila: I’ll cast on 96 stitches.

Finally, if I want to knit for a medium to large-sized dog, I’d divide 36 by 4, which is 9. Then I’ll multiply that by 16, which is 144. So I’ll cast on 144 stitches.

I’ve used this method to determine the proper cast-on stitches for a Snuggle. But, you can also use this for any kind of project when you begin with a stitch pattern. You can use this for scarves, shawls, wraps, and blankets of nearly any kind.

Another (perhaps easier) way to do this: Find your stitches per inch gauge. So for my example, the stitches per inch would be 4. Then all you have to do is multiply the width wanted by the stitches per inch.

I believe finding stitches over 4 inches is a bit more accurate. But you can always find your stitch count over 4 inches, and then do the math (just take the stitches over 4 inches and divide it by 4!) to get the stitches per inch.

And that’s how you do it! Yes, it does take some time. Yes, it does take some math. (Eek.)

But once you know how to do it, it becomes easier and easier every time. It’s just a matter of trying out the stitch, measuring, and then seeing how those measurements will then relate to your project.

I hope this has helped you! Please comment below if you have any questions or anything that needs clarification.

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