Knit without a pattern
| | |

Introduction for how to knit without a pattern

I find it ironic that a pattern designer would be writing a series of blog posts about how to knit without a pattern. But actually, this is something that I do quite often. Previously, I had written a blog post “Learn how to knit without a pattern”, you can view that one here. To date, it has been one of my most popular blog posts. But I did think it was time for a revamp. And perhaps more clear instruction.

Disclaimer: This blog post is not affiliated or sponsored by any of the websites or products that are mentioned.

Knitting without a pattern is not just for the rebel rogues who are willing to frog all day and don’t mind throwing away a ball of wasted yarn. The careful knitter can also enjoy knitting without a pattern.

In the coming year, I will be writing more specific blog posts on how to knit certain items without a pattern. This post is going to focus on basic principles for knitting without a pattern.

Can I really knit without a pattern? (or who can knit without a pattern?)


One reason I believe people pick up crochet so much easier than knitting is simply practice. In knitting it seems we are teaching to knit by “making” something. When that something comes out wonky, the knitter becomes discouraged and thinks that they “don’t get it”.

In crochet, often times you will see people just crocheting for practice. Maybe they are making something, but there seems to be a recognition that it is “just for practice” and the stress removed. We need to have this same ideology for knitting. It is more than OK, it is absolutely wonderful to “practice knitting”.

Who can knit without a pattern? Everyone!

With that idea in mind, can you knit without a pattern? Absolutely! I think the only real criteria for being able to knit without a pattern is that you have yarn and knitting needles. You can learn to cast-on, knit and bind-off while knitting without a pattern. And it’s ok if you are not fabulous at it! More than ok, honestly. Knitting without a pattern is perfect for beginners!

Of course, if you have any level of skills, then you absolutely can and should enjoy some knitting without a pattern. And instead of thinking of it as practice, you can think of it as expanding your creativity! Sometimes when I get yarn, there isn’t a pattern to be found that matches what the yarn feels like to me. This is when I often go on my own, trying to see what stitches would best compliment the yarn.

Who can knit without a pattern?

  • Beginners
  • Advanced beginners
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced

What can I knit without a pattern?

In a word? Everything. Anything that can be knit, can be knit without a pattern. New patterns come out every single day. New ideas, innovations, this is what spurs our craft forward. Perhaps you want a knit cozy for your metronome? Can’t find a pattern for that – you should knit one!

You can start off slow and easy. There are many rectangular knits that can be knit without a pattern and be successful. But there is also no reason why you can’t try to knit something more complex such as a sweater without a pattern.

A word of caution: it is better to knit items that require gauge and fit without a pattern, if you have knit that item previously from a pattern. Specifically, I am thinking of things like, hats, sweaters, socks. Things that require some shaping and gauge knowledge.

I also advise (even myself) that working with techniques and skills that I am mostly familiar with and adding in some new ones is best. I don’t want to be doing everything new as it may cause a bit of stress and anxiety.

What items can be knit without a pattern?

Really any item that you wish. But here is some basic examples of what can be knit without a pattern listed in order from most simple to more difficult.

  • Dishcloths/towels
  • Scarves
  • Blankets
  • Shawls
  • Cowls
  • Hats
  • Socks
  • Sweaters

What tools do I need to knit without a pattern?

You will need some basic tools in order to knit without a pattern. Of course, knitting needles and yarn, scissors and tapestry needle. If you are knitting just for practice and aren’t worried about the end result, you may skip to “Other tools” section. Of course, knitting without a pattern can be practice, it can also be so that you have an item that you designed and love! If that is what you are hoping to accomplish continue reading.

Yarn (of course!)

First, let’s start with yarn. Perhaps you have some yarn that you want to use already. But, maybe you don’t have the original label and aren’t sure what weight it is. It’s ok, but we do need to solve that mystery first.

If you do have your label – hooray! You have all the information, direct from the label, that you are going to need. You may proceed down to “Knitting Needles.

Without a label it is important that we determine what weight your yarn is. Here is a link to Love Crafts blog post which tells you how to determine the weight of your yarn using wraps per inch. This information is necessary so that we can learn what weight yarn you have to knit with, and what size needles you should use.

If you don’t have your label, determining how much yarn you have can be challenging. And, it’s not an exact science. I recommend using the method that Avery Lane Creations uses in their blog post, click here. You will need to scroll down to the “What if you no longer have your yarn label AND have no clue what brand the yarn is?” section.

Be sure that you write all of this information down. The yarn weight, the yards or meters and keep it with the yarn. You may get distracted or busy and you do not want to have to repeat all the work you have done.

Knitting needles

Again, if you have a label, this part is easy. Most labels include either an “exact” size of knitting needle to use, or a range of knitting needles you can use. See the example in the image below.

Sample yarn label with knitting needle sizes

For those of you without a yarn label, do not worry – we will be able to get a knitting needle in the right size. The Craft Yarn Council has us covered with their blog post, click here.

Whether or not you have an “exact size” from your label, or a range of knitting needles to select from, you can still choose your own knitting needle size. If you want to have more tight knitting, simply use the smaller size from the range. Or, select a smaller size knitting needle (if no range is given) and you want to go even smaller. If you are wanting a more open gauge choose the needle on the larger size of the range. Or, select a larger size knitting needle (if no range is given) and you want to go bigger.

Open your phone notes, or write on that label from the yarn what size knitting needle you are planning to use. Also, it may come in helpful to make a note that you are choosing smaller needles or larger needles.

Stitch Dictionary

Stitch dictionaries are absolutely optional. It does not have to be a physical book, there are many stitch patterns available for you to use online. You also do not need to invest in a stitch dictionary, unless you want to. Your local library may have one or two on the shelves!

Knitting book with yarn balls and knitting needles

All that being said, if you are going to knit without a pattern, having a stitch dictionary is the best. I LOVE my stitch dictionary. I love to just look at it honestly, and it is so beautiful. It makes a lovely “coffee table” book. That actually gets looked at and read! haha!

A great online resource for stitch patterns is New Stitch A Day (click here). This is a fabulous blog, all the stitch patterns have video tutorials (I think). And there are so many different stitch patterns available through this website. It’s truly an excellent resource.

Other Tools

Of course, knitting requires additional tools depending on what you are knitting. Here is a short list of items that you can have on hand to make knitting without a pattern easier.

  • Scissors
  • Tapestry needle
  • Stitch markers
  • Measurement device (ruler or measuring tape)

Final list of all the tools you need

Tools needed to knit without a pattern

Here’s the final run down of all the tools you will want to gather before starting to knit without a pattern.

  • Yarn (with brand label or your label)
  • Knitting needles
  • Scissors
  • Tapestry needle
  • Stitch markers
  • Measurement device (ruler or measuring tape)

Is there anything else I need to know before I start knitting without a pattern?

It depends?

Here’s the thing, if you are knitting just to practice knitting, you are basically good to go. Cast-on a number of stitches and then begin knitting.

If you are making a thing to love and cherish, we have a bit more work to do. Grab your phone to make a note, or a cute little notebook. We’re about to write some things down!

If you are making your own stitch pattern, write out the instructions for your stitches. You should be able to determine how many stitches and rows/rounds are required to repeat your stitch pattern. This information is vital for determining how many stitches need to be cast-on.

Otherwise, you will want to select a stitch pattern. Again, you can use the online New Stitch A Day, pick up a stitch dictionary from your local library, or buy one to have on hand. The stitch dictionary will provide you with the number of stitches and rows/rounds in each repeat. It will also include if there are additional stitches required.

Please note if this is a flat stitch pattern or in-the-round. Most stitch dictionaries are written for flat knitting. There are some stitch dictionaries that include flat and in-the-round instructions. You can check those out on Amazon here.

Whichever method you choose, you will want to make note of the number of stitches, rows/rounds in the repeat as well as any additional stitches.

Finally, you need to decide if you will want any stitches as a selvedge edge. It is not necessary, but if you do want to have an edge that is outside of the stitch pattern you selected, you will need to write down how many stitches you will need for that.

Here’s what you should have written down:

  • Number of stitches in a repeat
  • Number of rows/rounds in a repeat
  • Number of additional stitches needed for the stitch pattern
  • Number of selvedge stitches (or edge stitches) you will want

How many stitches do you cast-on?

In future blog posts, we will go into more details about specific items. For today, we are just going to do a surface view.

First, you will want to figure out how wide you want your knit item to be. Or if you are knitting in the round, what the circumference should be. Write this number down.

And now it’s time for some math. Or you can use my calculator. The calculator is easy because you can just plug in all the numbers and bam – it spits out a cast-on number. You can find the instructions for how to calculate your cast-on number as well as the link to the free calculator here.

Knit without a pattern checklist

  • What you are making
  • Yarn (with brand label or your label)
  • Knitting needles
  • Scissors
  • Tapestry needle
  • Stitch markers
  • Measurement device (ruler or measuring tape)
  • Stitch pattern numbers
  • Number of stitches to cast-on

You may also enjoy….

Fingerless Gloves knit my way

Fingerless Gloves Knit My Way!

If you want a tutorial for how to knit a pair of fingerless mitts without a pattern, you should check out this blog post!

Hopefully this post has helped you begin thinking of what you need in order to knit without a pattern. Stay tuned for Part One, where we will do a deeper look at each of the steps needed.

Have questions? Leave me a comment below! Or send me an email

hugs & Happy Knitting
How to knit without a pattern math

Part 1: How to knit without a pattern: math

What can I knit with the yarn I have? Knit without a pattern

Part 2: What can I knit with the yarn I have?

Part 3: Can I make my no pattern knit into a pattern?

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply