Off The Chart
Most knitters have strong opinions about charts; they either love them or hate them. Personally, I prefer charts over written directions because they help me to visualize what my knitting will look like. It is also a lot easier for me to write a pattern by placing symbols on a chart than writing it out row by row. If you have never tried knitting from a chart, or found it too difficult when you did, I hope the following tips will help you to make better use of charts in your knitting. Charts are just another tool, and learning how to use them can make following a pattern easier, and more fun!
Even if you prefer to follow written directions, understanding how to read knitting charts can help you to find and fix your mistakes, to determine which row you are on in the pattern, and to give you an idea of what the pattern should look like. You can think of a knitting chart like a map. It shows all of the stitches in the pattern as viewed from the right side. A written pattern is more like turn-by-turn directions; it will tell you where to go next, but if you get lost, or make a wrong turn, it can be difficult to figure out where you are. Both the chart and the written directions below will create the knitting in the picture, but the chart shows both how to produce the knitting pattern, and what it will look like when it’s done
A knitting chart is a visual representation of a knitting pattern.
Row 1: K5, k2tog, yo, k3, *yo, ssk, k2, yo, ssk, k3, k2tog, yo, k3; rep from * to last 11 sts, yo, ssk, k2, yo, ssk, k5.
Row 2 and all WS rows: Purl.
Row 3: K4, k2tog, yo, k2, k2tog, yo, *k1, yo, ssk, k2, yo, ssk, k1, k2tog, yo, k2, k2tog, yo; rep from * to last 11 sts, k1, yo, ssk, k2, yo, ssk, k4.
Row 5: K3, k2tog, yo, k2, k2tog, yo, k1, *k2, yo, ssk, k2, yo, sl1-k2tog-psso, yo, k2, k2tog, yo, k1; rep from * to last 11 sts, [k2, yo, ssk] twice, k3.
Row 7: K6, k2tog, yo, k2, *k3, yo, ssk, k5, k2tog, yo, k2; rep from * to last 11 sts, k3, yo, ssk, k6.
One of the advantages to working from a chart is being able to see how the stitches on the needle relate to the stitches below it. Don’t cover up the rows that have already been worked! if you need to keep your place in the chart using washi tape, highlighter tape, a ruler, or a magnet, place it above the row you are working on. You can see in the photo below how the decreases line up to create diagonal lines in this pattern. The decreases in your knitting should also line up to create diagonal lines, and you’ll be able to tell that you’ve made a mistake if they don’t.
Markers can also help you to keep track of where you are in a pattern. Place markers to correspond with the repeat section on the chart, then when you reach the marker you know that you’ve reached the end of the repeat. Isolating each repeat section can also help you to find mistakes, just check each repeat section against the chart.
Some things to be aware of when using a knitting chart
- Charts show the knitting as seen from the right side, if they show the wrong side at all, the symbols will mean the opposite of the right side directions. Knit and purl are two sides of the same stitch, so the same symbol is used for knit on the RS, and purl on the WS. You will have to do a little mental conversion when working the WS rows of a chart, but the chart key will tell you what to do if you’re not sure.
- Charts are read from bottom to top, RS Rows are read from right to left, and WS rows are read from left to right. Every row starts with the row number, so RS rows are numbered on the right side, and WS rows are numbered on the left side.
- Chart symbols aren’t standardized. Although most chart symbols are designed to look like the stitches they represent, chart symbols may be different from one pattern to the next. Be sure to check the chart key for the pattern you are using, and read the directions on how to follow the chart.
Further reading and resources
Ravelry Groups Chart Haters Anonymous and SymbolCraft – For folks who love charts
Tin Can Knits – How to read a chart
Knitty – Charts are your friends
Ysolda – Using charts, even if you hate them
YouTube Knit Purl Hunter – How to read a knitting chart
Thank you for knitting!
April 27, 2016 @ 4:49 pm
Very easy to understand.
April 27, 2016 @ 7:24 pm
The problem you mention with the non-standardization is the one thing that bothers me. I first charts I knitted from were Barbara G. Walker’s. They were for cables, and I couldn’t believe how easy they were to see and follow. For some reason, no one seems to use her system–at least not as well as she did.
The other reason I want to see charts standardized is so I can read and understand both Russian and Japanese patterns. Somehow, the explanation of the symbols never makes sense.
April 27, 2016 @ 7:45 pm
I don’t think chart symbols will ever be standard across all knitting patterns, but I suppose anything is possible! It’s just important to be aware of that, and to check the chart key and list of abbreviations.
April 28, 2016 @ 1:07 pm
Thank you for helping me learn to use charts. It is helping me a lot. You will make a real knitter out of me yet!
April 28, 2016 @ 1:10 pm
Brenda, you are a real knitter! I just want you to have more fun and less stress.
April 28, 2016 @ 9:26 pm
I’m all for that!