Reading Knit Contour Patterns

Let’s Knit!

We’ve covered a lot so far. By now you know the functions of the Knit Contour units, both mechanical KR6 and KR7, and the electronic models KR10 and KR11. We are now ready to begin reading Knit Contour patterns

The marks on the Stitch Scale correspond exactly to the numbers on the needle bed. Read the number of stitches at the point where the pattern line crosses the Stitch Scale. If the line crosses between two marks, read it as the larger number. Set pattern paper to beginning line at lower edge. Bring out the number of needles, on both sides of center 0, as indicated by the Stitch Scale.

I usually have my beginning students make a pillow, using the Knit Contour, before attempting to make a garment, or anything that requires shaping. For the KR-6 model, draw a rectangle, 15″ long, and 7 1/2″ wide, using the half scale ruler. Remember that this is only half the width of the actual panel. “0” at the left of the Stitch Scale represents the center 0 on the needle bed. For the KR-7 model, draw a 15″ square on the Knit Contour paper with the half scale ruler. If you use a regular ruler, and draw a 15″ square, you will actually knit a 30″ square.

Be adventurous with pattern stitches. Stockinette stripes, Fairisles, and Weaving patterns work well. Tuck and Slip fabrics sometimes stretch, making the completed pillow get saggy with use. If you really prefer to use these marvelously textured fabrics, knit them at a fairly tight tension, try backing them with lightweight fabric or interfacing, and sew the seams with a sewing machine.

Purchase a 16″ pillow form. Using a form that is slightly larger than the pillow makes a nice, plump finished pillow. This is a good hint even when sewing fabric pillows. Sew up 3 sides, insert the form, and stitch closed. Be sure form is washable for longest pillow life.

Once you have practiced on simple shapes, it is time to move on to knitting garments. Most people are interested in sweaters, so we will begin with a ladies pullover. This tutorial does not include instructions for increasing, decreasing, or binding off; you should already know how to use these techniques.


pullover 1

Step 1, Casting On
The first commercial pattern most people knit is the ladies pullover. The pattern for the KR-7 is shown in the Knit Contour unit, illustrated to the left. If you are using a KR-6 you will see only half a pattern outline, and the centerline will be on the left side. Set the Change Dial to left arrow ◄ to turn off the pattern advance. (Paper should not move.) Look at the pattern outline to see where the left side seam touches the Stitch Scale. This is the number of stitches to cast on each side of center 0. For this lesson it will be 61 stitches each side (a total of 122 stitches.)

Cast on with scrap yarn. I have found that strongly contrasting yarn, of the same weight works best; but do not use red, black, or navy, since
these colors tend to shed fibers into the main yarn, and they are almost impossible to get out later. Knit about 1″, ending with carriage on left. Clip scrap yarn. Knit 1 row ravel cord. The ravel cords supplied with the machine are sometimes too short for knitting a long row, so I use heavy crochet thread, pearl cotton, or a dress yarn with a high nylon content which makes it very strong. This must be a smooth, hard yarn than can be easily pulled out later.


setting change dial

Turn on the Change Dial, setting it to 30–60, or 61–120, as indicated by the Tension Swatch. Thread up with main yarn. Knit straight up to the armholes, following the paper pattern. This line has no shaping. Note that each pass of the carriage advances both the Row Counter and the Knit Contour 1 row.



Shaping the Armhole
Follow the outline to the top of the pattern, using the instructions below as a guideline. At the armhole, the pattern originally shows a width of 61 sts. As the contour line moves down a row, only 55 sts show at the point where the contour line crosses the stitch scale. Bind off 6 stitches on the side next to the carriage, knit 1 row, and do the same thing on the other side. Knit 1 more row. We have found it best to read the Contour pattern every other row only. Check to see how many stitches the pattern has moved inwards, make the required number of decreases, knit 1 row, decrease the same number of stitches on that side, knit 1 more row. Repeat this process until all armhole decreases are completed, then knit even until you reach the neck shaping. (If you are using a KR 6 or KR 10/11 this seems to be easier since you only see half the pattern).

Again, the easiest way to work from the Knit Contour pattern is:
•1. Read the pattern to see how many stitches the line has moved inwards (these are the number of stitches to decrease.)
•2. Make the decreases, knit 1 row.
•3. Make the same number of decreases, knit back to original side.
•4. Continue this process until there are no more decreases


neck shaping
neck shaping 2
shoulder shaping

Shaping The Neck And Shoulder
At the neckline it is necessary to divide the front (or back) into three sections, right shoulder (a), center (b), and left shoulder (c). Each will be worked separately.

Place all the stitches for center section (b) into hold position. Place all the stitches for left shoulder (c) into hold position. Knit the right shoulder and neck, decreasing at the neck edge, until beginning of shoulder.

Partial knit (short row) the shoulder decreases. The illustration below shows a back neck, but the shoulder shaping is worked the same for the front. 45 stitches are shown as the original shoulder width. After knitting across to the left, there are 40 stitches remaining at the point where the Contour line crosses the Stitch Scale. Decrease 5 stitches on the right side by placing them into hold position. Knit across, wrap first holding needle. Knit 1 row back to left. Read the Knit Contour pattern every 2 rows throughout.


How to read Knit Contour patterns
When shoulder is completed, push all of the right shoulder stitches back to upper working position (about halfway back on the needle bed), knit 1 row main color. Change to scrap yarn, knit approximately 1″ and remove from machine.

Return pattern to beginning of neck shaping. Set Change Dial to ◄ and remove section “b” on scrap yarn. Reset Dial to ● . Work left shoulder, section “c”, decreasing at the neck edge, and decreasing the shoulder by short rows, same as for right shoulder. Many people like to jot down all shaping when knitting the right shoulder, then use those notes to knit the left one so that they match exactly.


short rowing waist

One other shaping technique that you will use frequently with Knit Contour patterns is Partial Knit (short row) increasing. The illustration below shows the top edge of a pair of slacks which are knitted from the waist down. The original pattern shows 22 stitches in hold pos. As the paper advances, the Contour shows 9 stitches at the point where the line crosses the Stitch Scale. Carriage should be at right side of bed. Return 13 neeedles to pos C on left side, leaving all remaining stitches in hold. Knit across and back. Check Contour pattern to see how much the line has moved, and return required stitches to pos C. Increase on right side as well, whenever the line moves over 1 mark on the Stitch Scale


Knit Contour Tutorial Links

The individual chapters of this tutorial are listed below.

Knit Contour Index

Determining Gauge

Using Knit Contour Patterns

KR6 and KR7 Knit Contours

KR10 and KR11 Knit Contours

Reading Knit Contour Patterns

Drafting Knit Contour Patterns


This tutorial is from the book, Making Friends With the Knit Contour by Irene Woods, published in 1988, and uploaded to the original Clearwater Knits Website in 1998.