Learning to Read Knitting Charts

If you haven’t worked with knitting charts before, being confronted with one can feel like trying to decipher a secret message without your decoder ring. We hope today’s post will help you learn to read knitting charts like a pro!

What Are Knitting Charts?
Knitting charts are graphic representations of knitting patterns. They often save time and space as opposed to providing full written directions, and for some they are easier to follow than long rows of text instructions.

Charts are generally organized in a grid format. Here are a few important things to keep in mind when working with charts:

Working Flat vs In The Round
The pattern should tell you whether the chart is worked flat (back and forth) or in the round. Charts are designed to show you the right side of your knitting work. So, if you are working flat, you will read and work the right side rows from right to left and the wrong side rows from left to right. Pay careful attention to whether the chart starts on a right or wrong side row!

If you are working in the round, you will work every row on the right side. That is, you will continue to read and work every row from right to left.

Note: Some charts will omit wrong side rows from the chart entirely. This is common in lace patterns with "rest rows," where most of the wrong side rows are purled. If your chart omits wrong side rows, be sure to check the written instructions for how to work wrong side rows.

Last but not least, when you work a chart, you will always start by working the row at the bottom of the chart first, and then working your way up through the rows of the chart to the top. Most chart rows will be numbered accordingly to direct you.

What Do The Symbols Mean?
Every chart should come with a key or legend. The key will contain the symbols used in the chart and define what stitches those symbols represent. If those definitions are in the form of abbreviations, the pattern should have a glossary of terms as well, particularly in the case of cables or more complicated stitches. So you can always refer to the key when you come to a symbol to determine what stitch you should work.

Some symbols may refer to patterns that require more than one stitch. For example if you are working a 2 by 2 cable, the symbol on the chart should span 4 boxes on the chart to note the 4 individual stitches involved.

Some symbols will refer to patterns that require more than one stitch, but will only take up one box. For instance, in the case of a k2tog, the symbol will only appear in one box. As with written patterns, that k2tog will either be paired with an increase (later in the row) to maintain the current stitch count, or will be worked to decrease the total stitch count.

If you are increasing or decreasing stitch counts, the number of boxes (stitches) on the next row will be more or less as the pattern has directed. As you increase (or decrease) you will encounter boxes that are greyed out and represent “no stitch” to match the pattern.

Charts can also be useful when knitting colorwork. Written instructions indicating frequent color changes can be unwieldy, whereas graphic representations can explain to you easily what your pattern should look like and which colors you should work when. In this case, the chart may or may not have symbols, but instead the grid boxes will be colored according to the pattern, indicating which colors you should work on which stitches. All the previous advice applies, as does our next topic: repeats.

Repeats within charts are often defined by a colored or bolded boundary box around the part of the chart that is to be repeated. You may encounter this in a pattern that is growing (like a triangular shawl) where additional repeats of the stitches within the boundary are knitted each time you repeat the chart, or you may encounter this to save space when knitting a project that is worked over a static number of stitches. In this case, you will work the stitches prior to the boundary box, repeat the stitches within the boundary box until you only have the correct number of stitches remaining to finish working the stitches beyond the boundary box.

Tips For Working With Charts
If you’re just starting to work with charts, we’ve got some tips and tools that will make working from them much easier! Especially if you're new to charts, you may find it helpful to select a pattern that has both charted and written instructions. That way, as you’re reading the chart, you can compare the symbols in the chart against the written instructions (hint: they should match!).

If you’re most comfortable working from a paper pattern, we recommend printing out the chart you'll be working with, making it as large as possible while still fitting on the page.

It can be difficult to keep track of which row you’re on, especially in complex charts - but don't worry, we have a few options to help you here! Our Pattern Holders are magnetic boards that can keep your pattern flat and accessible. Each pattern holder comes with strong magnets to secure your pattern in place, and extra long magnet strip that works as an indicator guide. The pattern holder will lay flat or can stand up when open, allowing you to glance at it easily as you work through your chart. Some knitters also find removable highlighter tape to be a useful guide while working through the rows of a chart.

If you have one of our Ginger interchangeable needle sets, a pattern keeper is built into the case (shown above)! The section opposite the needles is magnetized and a magnet has been included so you can keep your pattern handy along with your favorite needles.

As with written repeats, you may find it helpful to mark where a new chart repeat begins in your knitting using stitch markers; our new row counter rings are another handy tool for keeping track of row counts in your knitting.

For additional resources on how to read charts, check out this tutorial from Tin Can Knits: How to Read a Knitting Chart.

We hope this post inspires you to give knitting from charts a try - we can’t wait to see what you make!

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1 comment:

  1. THANK YOU!!!! I have 3 beautiful patterns I have wanted to knit for a couple years, but I was afraid of the chart. Now I believe I will gladly start one after the May squares are done.