Yes, it is all very frustrating, it is like they are speaking a completely different language, and believe me, I know what that is like, I have been there! Try learning a whole new language at the age of 15. Talk about being thrown head first into a pool. Ahh! But I survived and I am pretty sure you will survive the pattern reading too. Let's tackle it!
Think of a pattern like a recipe. A recipe to create a knitted garment rather than a yummy treat.
First, your pattern will most likely have a photograph. The photograph will show you any special stitches or the beauty of the pattern. Sometimes the photo helps you in seeing how the item is constructed/finished/assembled.
After the photograph, there will typically be a block with Materials. In this section, you will find information about the type of knitting loom you will need. The gauge/sett of the loom--meaning how far apart the pegs are from center of peg to center of peg. It should mention how many pegs to use in the gauge specified. It should also mention the type of knitting loom that was used to create the sample. Another important material will be yarn/fiber used. It should say the weight of the yarn, the amount of yarn needed, and the yarn used for the sample is usually provided. Other important tools should be listed here, such as knitting tool, scissors, row counter, etc.
Sizes are usually provided. Some patterns have one size only, others have various. When the pattern provides various sizes, there will be one number outside of paranthesis and then a series of numbers within the parentheses, example: xs (s, m, l, xl).
Gauge, ah gauge, none of us like to do it, yet it is one of the most imporant parts of the pattern. We think of it as wasted time, yet, when the item doesn't turn out the size we want, we want to throw a fit because it is not the right size. However, all this can be avoided if a GAUGE SWATCH is done prior to working the piece. Gauge allows you to find out how many stitches and rows per inch you get with the yarn you want to use and the loom you want to use. Compare this gauge to the gauge provided in the pattern. Gauge is very important when you need an item to fit a specific size person.
Stitches or Patterns Notes or Both: certain patterns have a small block that include Stitches or Pattern notes. These sections contain important information for the completion of the project. I have seen some pattern notes that include "use two strands as one". Ah! Don't miss that one, because if you use onely one strand, your item will be the wrong size and the stitches will probably won't look the same as in the pattern.
Abbreviations this is the section that we need to focus throughout the pattern, especially if you are new to loom knitting or knitting in general. When I first started needle knitting cables, I would make a copy of the abbreviations and cut it and leave it next to my pattern so I could move it along with me as I knitted. At first, all the knitting abbreviations will drive you nuts, however, after awhile, you will see that they save you so much more time and space (especially when printing, hahaha). Think of the abbreviations as a KEY to a map. The map to your pattern. You want to study it, and try to learn the techniques called for in this area to make the "traveling" of your map a little easier.
Instructions/Directions, here is where the designer gives you the information to complete the project. Some patterns include charts only, some patterns include row by row instructions, some include both charts and row by row instructions, some even include schematics (especially those for sweaters). BUT, here is where we enter a big BUMP. How about if you don't know how to read charts, how about if you prefer instructions row by row. Can you change it? Yes, yes, you can. If there is a chart, get your KEY (abbreviations) and you can re-write the pattern, row by row, in long hand writing out exactly what each symbol in that chart means and what each abbreviation means to you. If you prefer charts and only row by row instructions are given, you can create a chart or a graph to represent all the written instructions.
Finishing techniques are typically found at the end of a patern. They will tell you how to assemble or what to do to complete your project. Usually, this includes weaving ends, blocking, seaming, etc.
I hope the above helps you my loomy friends in your quest to conquer the loom knitting world. Don't be afraid to try out the patterns, and to conquer them! Fearless!!!