7 of the Most Difficult Knitting Patterns

I think we’ve all been there, as knitters. Sometimes, you just want to grind away on a project that causes periodic bouts of weeping, hair pulling, and cursing. It may not sound like fun, but having a totally enviable FO is worth it, right?

That’s where these seven patterns come in. They’re difficult in various ways, whether due to intricate lace, persnickety color placement, or cables that require unswerving attention. Some even mix multiple agonizing techniques — you know, for the truly masochistic. But notice that I said they’re difficult, not impossible. Sure, you may have to step back and take a breather now and then, but at the end of the day, it’s all just knits and purls. So — grab a pair of needles and let the torture commence.

Sam the Ram by Rita O’Connell

I started Sam the Ram in 2011…and finished in 2018. To be fair, he was in storage for quite a long time while I was traveling, but I’d be lying if I said some of the foot-dragging wasn’t from the intricacy of the pattern. You’ll need to be good at working multiple cable charts at once, i-cord, shaping, short rows, and finishing techniques.

The Queen Susan Shawl by The Ravelry Heirloom Knitting Forum

Do you enjoy lace? Do you enjoy it enough to work over 6,000 yards of thread-weight yarn on size US 0 (2.0mm) needles? And then block the thing? Me neither! I kid, I kid. The outcome is well worth the hassle, as this cobwebby shawl is delicate, eye-catching, and a shoo-in for a prize at your local fair.

Textured Fair Isle Cardigan by Keiko Okamoto

What do you get when you combine a traditional aran sweater with color work? Other than indigestion, I mean. If you can read Japanese, or are really good with Google Translate and charts, then you’ll get a textured, colorful cardigan like no other, courtesy of designer Keiko Okamoto. And if you want to play on super-hard-mode, you might try knitting it in the round and steeking, instead of working flat as written.

Bex by Cookie A

Confession: I have been intending to knit Bex for years, but something is never quite right. My good sock needles are full, or I don’t like the yarn I have on hand, or I have too many WIPs…something. One day. At any rate, there are many charts to follow here, but if you’re already familiar with Cookie A’s patterns, you’ll know that they’re well written. This particular pattern is taken from Sock Innovation, which is a must-buy if you enjoy sock knitting.

Foolish Virgins Scarf by Kaffe Fassett

Kaffe Fassett’s Foolish Virgins scarf vibrates with color, just as you’d expect from any piece created by the king of colorwork. It’s charted intarsia that requires 23 colors, so not only does it require good bobbin management, but it’s also something of an investment — unless you’ve got a lot of scraps lying around.

Exquisite Mystery by Sarah B. Abram

Exquisite Mystery plays with an idea that isn’t expanded on too often: collaboration between multiple designers resulting in one finished object. It began as a mystery knitalong, but it’s now available for purchase in full PDF form. Sadly, it doesn’t seem too popular as of yet; perhaps that’s due to the huge number of stitches you’ll end up with as well as the brioche (which is nowhere near as tough as it looks).

Labyrinthine by Leslie Comstock

These socks require your full-attention from the get-go, starting as they do with a five-color, scalloped cast on (!), then carrying on in stranded garter stitch, aka garter jacquard. They were the final pattern in Sock Madness 7, and it’s pretty easy to see why. Bold colors really make the pattern pop, though, so the final outcome is worth it.

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