I'm not a big fan of pattern difficulty ratings. I feel they are too vague. The only knitters they really work for are the experienced ones. They are the knitters who have the knowledge to understand what descriptions like "Easy: Projects using basic stitches, repetitive stitch patterns, simple color changes, and simple shaping and finishing" really mean. What I think a basic stitch is and what another knitter thinks it is, varies widely based on their previous knitting experience. I list an experience level in my patterns, but only because it's become a standard to do so and Ravelry and Patternfish make me.
I've already had a test knitter suggest I up a difficultly rating on a sample she knit for me. I did because I trust her judgement and she is an amazing knitter. I list the skills required in each pattern so knitters can more easily determine if the pattern is one they want to try. Many of my patterns include the skill: maintaining
a stitch pattern while working shaping.
When knitting your first projects, often a scarf, which has no shaping, you continue knitting on the same number of stitches you cast on. Every row of the stitch
pattern will begin and end as written in your pattern. Once you are ready to move on to other projects you will
increase or decrease stitches to create shaping and patterns will say "while maintaining stitch
Now you have additional stitches outside of the pattern repeat. With some stitches it is very clear, you can look at your
knitting and easily see where you are within the stitch pattern. An example would be cable stitches worked in straight vertical columns. Patterns do try to give specific directions for every detail,
but sometimes the best option is to establish a stitch
pattern and have the knitter keep it going. Often this is impacted by the size range. The more sizes, the more instructions and pattern pages which would be required to detail every size individually.
It's important to learn to understand your stitch pattern and understand by
looking at your knitting what comes next. Most knitters refer to this as reading your knitting. Your first opportunity to do this is on your swatch. When you knit the swatch, pay attention not just to following the stitch instructions but also to how each stitch relates to the ones on either side and below. Chart instructions naturally encourage knitters to understand this relationship, which is why they are so popular.
As you can see in the above photo, it can get much more complicated. Essentially what you are being asked to do is to think ahead of the knitting and understand how future rows relate to the row you are currently knitting and adding or removing stitches from. I'll be continuing this topic in future, so please check back for more.