Most of us like to get things for free if we can, and there are tons of free knitting patterns available online. But you may have downloaded patterns before that end up not making sense, not adding up or not being helpful if you don't have a lot of knitting knowledge.
So where do you turn to find good, free knitting patterns? They are out there, and here are some good places to look.
A Note About Paying for Patterns
Before we begin I want to say of course knitting designers deserve to be paid for their work. Just because there are a lot of patterns out there for free does not mean that designers should never charge for patterns.
I've written knitting books and I would like people to buy them, and I buy knitting patterns for projects that I love as often as I use free knitting patterns.
But buying a pattern doesn't automatically make it better than a free pattern, just as being free doesn't automatically make a pattern bad. I hope by the end of this article you'll be able to evaluate patterns and find the good ones -- free or for sale.
Of course I will begin by saying that About.com Knitting is a good source for patterns. Most of them are pretty easy (teaching knitting is what we do here, after all) and they've all been knit by me, and probably many other people through the years.
If you have a favorite blogger whose patterns you have used before, that's another good place to look. The blogs of publishing companies or craft-related television programs also often offer free patterns, which are usually of good quality and may come from books that have been tech edited.
Online magazines -- which may or may not be free -- that pay their designers usually also pay for technical editing, so they are a great place to look for patterns. Knitty is probably the most famous one that offers free patterns, and they are great.
Some designers consider releasing free patterns as part of their marketing budget, or they may be paid by a yarn company to produce a pattern using a particular yarn. The pattern is free but it may be tech edited or test knit before it is released.
I say Ravelry here because some designers who sell patterns on Ravelry also have free ones available there. Stephen West is an example; most of his patterns cost money, but there are a few, including the classic Boneyard, that are available for free. We'll talk more about evaluating patterns on Ravelry in a minute.
Yarn Company Websites
Yarn companies are in the business of selling their yarn, so they want to offer patterns that make their yarn look great. They have in-house designers or freelancers who design for them, and the patterns should be edited and may be tested before they are released.
And because yarn companies want people to continue using their patterns and their yarn, many are responsive to knitters who have problems and correct mistakes quickly.
You can find anything on Ravelry, from free patterns developed by brand-new knitters to information on patterns from books, free patterns from yarn companies, a rundown of all the patterns ever produced by your favorite designer and more.
There's a lot of great free stuff linked to Ravelry or available for download from Ravelry, and it's actually a great place to evaluate patterns you find there or elsewhere. Here are some things to look for when deciding whether to download a free knitting pattern.
How many other people have knit it? You can see this at the top of the page in the projects tab.
What's the average rating? This is on the right-hand side and appears as a star rating. You can see the average and how many people have voted (a skill-level rating is here, too, which can be handy if you're a newer knitter).
Look at the comments, blog posts and forum posts. These are all linked from the top tabs. Are people raving about how much they loved the pattern, or raving about how awful it was? If people seem to have a lot of problems or questions about that pattern, you might want to skip it.
Read the notes in the middle part of the page, too. Errata are usually listed here. If there are a lot, that may be a good thing in a way because it means any potential problems have been worked out, but too many errors (or errors that have only recently been fixed) might rightly give a knitter pause.
Not every free knitting pattern you download or get from a blog is going to be perfect, just like not every pattern you pay for is. But if you stick to reputable sources and do your homework on Ravelry first, you should be setting yourself up for success before you even cast on.
And if you do find yourself having problems with a pattern, whether one you purchased, downloaded for free or got from a book, here's what to do for help.