Say, for example, you're interested in making this stole from Lion Brand.
It's a ripple stitch that repeats the pattern every 18 stitches, with 3 stitches on each edge (that would be 6 more stitches). The shawl is done over 132 stitches, which leaves a lot of room to mess things up.
But since we know the repeat is 18, plus 6 for the border, we can cast on 24 (18+6) stitches. I suggest Lion Cotton, since they're so sweet as to provide the free pattern.
Then just follow the pattern.
Knit the first row.
Row 2 says, "K3, purl to last 3 sts, k3"
- That means knit the first 3 stitches.
- Purl the next 18.
- Then knit the last 3.
Basically, this is going to give you a garter stitch border, theoretically keeping the stole or dishcloth from curling.
Row 3 looks more complicated: "K3, *[k2tog] 3 times, [yo, k1] 6 times, [k2tog] 3 times; repeat from * to last 3 sts, k3."
- The * are like a musical repeat, and the  are like a math equation.
- So, knit 3 for your border.
- Knit 2 together. Do this three times (taking 6 stitches down to 3).
- Then do an increase with a yarn over (wrap the yarn around the needle; it will make a lacy hole on the next row) and a knit stitch. Repeat this yarn over/knit for a total of 6 times (making 6 stitches into 12).
- Knit 2 together three times (taking 6 stitches down to 3).
- Finish with your knit 3 border.
Basically, you take away 3 stitches, add 6, take away another 3. The end result should still be a total of 24 stitches, which is much easier to count than 132.
For row 4, just knit.
Then repeat rows 1-4 until you have enough of a dishcloth to foist off on some unsuspecting recipient.