Many, though not all, knitting patterns come with a designation of the skill level required to complete the pattern. Skill level is a rating system that provides a quick and easy way for designers to let knitters know how experienced they need to be in order to successfully complete a pattern.
What Does Skill Level Mean?
The skill level system is a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 being the easiest patterns and 4 the ones requiring the most skill. Some books use slightly different terminology for the different scale levels, but generally the standards (as set out by the Craft Yarn Council) are as follows:
- Beginner: these projects are suitable for first-time and newer knitters; they use knit and purl stitches and minimal shaping
- Easy: patterns that use easy, repetitive stitch patterns, basic colorwork and basic shaping and finishing techniques
- Intermediate: more involved patterning and colorwork; here you'll find patterns for basic cables, lace and intarsia knitting, circular knitting, as well as more advanced shaping and more involved finishing requirements
- Advanced: the most involved and skill-heavy projects, here you'll find skills like short rows, more intricate designs, more combinations of stitch patterns and more color changes
Some pattern producers use steps between these four; in particular "advanced beginner" is sometimes used as a step up from easy but not quite intermediate.
As you might imagine these categories are somewhat fluid, and not every pattern you find (including the ones on this site) will have a skill level designation.
Why Do Some Patterns Not List Skill Level?
Including skill levels on patterns is a common but nor universal practice. I imagine most pattern writers who do not include skill levels would say that they don't categorize so that newer knitters won't think they have to stick to patterns "for beginners" and so knitters won't be scared off by patterns rated advanced.
As for this site, the vast majority of patterns are for beginners or would be rated easy (though anything knit in the round automatically counts as intermediate according to the standards, and I don't agree with that); whenever a pattern requires special skills that's noted in the notes before the pattern begins.
How Do I Choose the Right Pattern for Me?
Whether you're completely new to knitting or have some experience, you might wonder how best to choose a pattern that suits your personal skill level. The skill level ratings are helpful when provided, but there are some other things you should do to ensure that you'll have success with a given pattern:
- read through the pattern and make sure you understand what it's asking you to do
- look up any unfamiliar terms or skills and make sure you can do them before you start (you might want to practice on a swatch any stitch patterns, increases or decreases you haven't tried before)
- check to see if the project is on Ravelry and see how other people have rated it in terms of difficulty and if there are any comments that will help you get through any tough spots
- ask for help if there's something in the pattern you don't understand
- make a judgement based on your confidence in your ability to complete the pattern
Remember, too, that it's only knitting, and if you find a pattern is too difficult for you you can always rip it out and knit something different or put a project on hold until you have the skills necessary to complete it.
But the only way you can grow as a knitter is to stretch your skills and try out projects that might feel like they're beyond you; once you've completed a project that tests your skills you'll be more confident to move yourself up a skill level in the rankings.