Improving your pattern following
For successful garment knitting, I recommend putting a little time into the pattern before you start knitting.
Firstly, before purchasing/starting a pattern skim through to understand the techniques used in the pattern and how complicated it is. A challenging pattern can be very satisfying and can be an opportunity to practice new techniques, but if you know you are wanting to knit whilst following a film, a conversation to relax or even when tired, a simple knit can be a wise choice. Many knitters (including myself) have two projects on the go- a simple project and a challenging one.
When I am helping knitters who have come unstuck on a pattern, the most common obstacle is following two consecutive instructions, such as increasing/ decreasing whilst following a pattern repeat or a second set of decreases. The most effective way to prevent mistakes is to plan those complicated parts of your pattern by writing out row by row, this only needs to be in your own shorthand version, so it makes sense to yourself.
This is the way I plan my pattern: If I have two sets of consecutive instructions, start with inserting the first set into the pattern plan, then the second set, therefore ”Dec 1 st on next row and 8 following 4th rows for armhole ”, would mean that I would mark Row 1, and Rows 5, 9, 13, 17, 21, 25, 29 and 33 as decrease one under the armhole heading. I could then add other instructions such as neck decrease or pattern in the same way. This means I have a quick reference as to what I should be doing on each row as I knit, without deciphering the pattern each time.
I also add other notes - such as how many stitches the pattern states you should have at certain points, so you can check that you are on track. Then as you are knitting tick off each row as you go and then you will always know where you are. Once done I find mistakes are rare (tip: I write out when I am not tired otherwise I am asking for trouble!) and knitting enjoyment is even greater and smoother!
Below is a pattern plan as an example, showing how you would plot the pattern on a plan before you start knitting.