Crochet is not just a craft; it is a language. When you first begin to explore the craft, you may take a look at a crochet pattern and feel like you're reading something in a foreign language or cipher of some sort. Once you start to learn all of the different crochet abbreviations, the patterns begin to make more sense. However, as with any language, there are often new turns of phrase that you have to learn to fully understand what someone is trying to convey to you in the language of crochet. "Work even" is one of those phrases.
Luckily, if you speak English fluently, you'll probably already have a good guess at what "work even" means. But, like with so many other things in English, the phrase on its own is a little bit vague and could be interpreted to mean many different types of things. By the phrase alone, you don't really know if it means something about stitch height or length or what. So, you can make a good guess, but to be crochet literate, you'll need a little bit more information.
So, what does it mean to "work even"?
When you see that you are supposed to "work even" in a crochet stitch, what you should keep in mind is that you are going to complete the row without any increase or decrease. You are going to work each stitch of the current row into the same number of stitches that are in the previous row. So, if the previous row had twelve stitches, you are going to work twelve stitches into the current row. You will not increase (add more stitches) or decrease (combine stitches to create fewer across the row).
Another way of saying this is that "work even" means that you continue crocheting the same number of stitches as the previous row or round, without doing any shaping.
When you usually see "work even"
The most common place in a pattern that you will see the term "work even" is when you have recently been increasing or decreasing stitches. The term is used to let you know that you are no longer doing that. So, for example, you might have been increasing one stitch in each row across the previous ten rows. Then you are instructed to "work even". You will no longer be increasing stitches. You will work the same number of stitches in this row as the last completed row.
This is especially common when working in the round. When you crochet circles, you generally need to increase the number of stitches in each round to make them bigger. However, as the circle gets large, you don't actually need to increase every round. You can "work even" for a few rounds and then increase again, which you will sometimes in patterns for crochet mandalas. Or you might want to increase to a certain point and then stop making the circle larger and start growing the sides of it, to make a three dimensional object such as a hat or a basket. You would "work even" to stop the increase and start the growth of the body of the object.
What stitch to use when you work even
In some cases, you will be told which stitch you are using by the pattern itself. For example, it will say, "work even using double crochet" or something along those lines. If the pattern does not specify the type of stitch, then continue using the same stitch that you were using on the previous row. So, let's say from the previous example that you did ten rows of double crochet, increasing one stitch each time; you will continue to use double crochet when you "work even"; you just won't do the increasing any more.
In some cases, the previous row will consist of more than one type of stitch. For example, it might include both single crochet and double crochet stitches. In this case, "work even" means continuing the previous stitch pattern, working with both of these types of stitches in the same pattern as previously.
In these instances, the crochet designer might provide you with further instructions. For example, in the Free Crochet Visor Beanie Pattern, the designer instructs, "Ch 1 (counts as 1st sc), 1 sc tbl in each st to end of rnd, sl st to beg ch to join" to remind you that you are going to single crochet in the back loop only of each stitch in the previous round. You were already doing this, so it would have been sufficient to "work even" but the designer gives you the extra info to be extra clear.
When it says "repeat"
Working even, as you now know, means that you are repeating the previous row, without increases or decreases. However, the pattern may sometimes reiterate this by also saying to repeat. For example, in "how to crochet a baby hat" the pattern instructions read, "Repeat Row 1 to work even in your pattern stitch until your piece is desired length for hat." This could also just read, "work even to desired length". These two things mean the same thing. The additional instructions to "repeat row 1" from the crochet designer are merely for clarification.
Work even in knitting
Many crochet terms are unique to the craft but there are a few terms common to both crochet and knitting. Work even is one of those terms, used the same way in knitting as described here for crochet.
Updated by: Kathryn Vercillo