Subtle: a lace knitting stitch pattern

The second word I drew from the words suggested on Patreon last month is Subtle, suggested by Kate, a Patreon supporter. I’ve been on a bit of a lace panel kick lately. The next time I find a stitch pattern suitable for a panel, I’m going to see if I can make it a horizontal one, for a change. (This will depend on the positions of the yarnovers, however.)

Each month, my Patreon backers have the chance to suggest words for me to encode as knitting stitches. I make three of these into knitting stitches each month: the second and third (posted on the first day of the next month) are drawn from the collection of new words; the first is drawn from the collection of unused words. A random number generator helps me choose these, and then I get to work, first turning the letters into numbers, then charting the numbers onto grids in various ways. Finally, when I make the chart into lace, I turn the marked squares into yarnovers and work out where to place the corresponding decreases. (I usually make lace; occasionally I make cables instead.) I also make a chart for any craft that uses a square grid for designing; this goes in a separate post.

The stitch patterns are not meant in any way to look like the original words; the words are the seeds of my creativity.

Knitted sample of Subtle lace
chart using symbols to explain how to knit Subtle lace.
click chart to enlarge


  • This is a stitch pattern such as might be found in a stitch dictionary. It is not a pattern for a finished object. You will need to add selvedges or some other form of knitted stitches to either side.
  • Subtle is 16 stitches and 12 rows.
  • I’ve made a stitch map for Subtle.
  • Designers, please feel free to use this in your patterns. I’d like credit but won’t be offended if people don’t give it.
  • My blog posts and free stitch patterns are supported by subscriptions on Patreon or donations to my Paypal tip jar in the sidebar. If you appreciate my work, please consider helping out. Thanks!


  • k: knit.
  • k2tog: knit 2 stitches together as if they were 1. (Right-leaning decrease)
  • k3tog: knit 3 stitches together as if they were 1. (Right-leaning double decrease)
  • p: purl.
  • ssk: slip each of the next 2 stitches as if to knit, then knit them together through the back loop. (Or substitute your favorite left-leaning decrease)
  • sssk: slip each of the next 3 stitches as if to knit, then knit them together through the back loop. (Left-leaning double decrease; substitute sk2p if desired.)
  • yo: yarnover. Bring the yarn forward between the needles so that it will make a loop over the needle when the next stitch is worked. When there are two in a row, bring the yarn forward, wrap it once around the needle, and leave the yarn in front so it makes a second loop.

Row 1 (RS): (k1, ssk, yo) × 2, (k2, k2tog, yo) × 2, k2. (16 sts)

Row 2 (WS): purl.

Row 3: k3, k2tog, yo, k1, k3tog, yo × 2, k2, k2tog, yo, k3.

Row 4: p7, (k1, p1) in double yo, p7.

Row 5: k2, k2tog, yo, k1, yo, k2tog, k3, yo, k2tog, k4.

Row 6: purl.

Row 7: (k2, yo, ssk) × 2, k2, (yo, k2tog, k1) × 2.

Row 8: purl.

Row 9: k3, yo, ssk, k2, yo × 2, sssk, k1, yo, ssk, k3.

Row 10: p7, (k1, p1) in double yo, p7.

Row 11: k4, ssk, yo, k3, ssk, yo, k1, yo, ssk, k2.

Row 12: purl.