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7 Tips for Confidently Knitting From a Chart

When you’re knitting lace, color work, or even cables, one thing’s for sure: working from a chart for the first time can be really scary!

Knitting from a Chart

Photo via Bluprint instructor Amy Detjen

While charts might look confusing at first, most knitters find reading a chart much easier than reading written instructions.

Plus, some patterns include only a chart without corresponding written instructions, so it’s important to know how to read one. Otherwise you might not be able to stitch some of those gorgeous patterns out there!

The most important part of chart knitting, believe it or not, happens before you even start stitching. Before you pick up your yarn and needles, take a breath and remember these tips to get you through chart knitting without ripping out any stitches. 

1. Know where to begin.

Not sure where to begin stitching? Check out the row or round numbers on the side of the chart. This will let you know where to begin. Typically charts are read from the bottom up.

Each square represents one stitch. For decreases and increases, there’s a special symbol. (We’ll get to that later!)

2. Put your stitch counter to use. 

Speaking of row or round numbers, reset your stitch counter so that the chart numbers correspond with your stitch counter. If you need to keep track of repeats or alternate row/round numbers, do that on a separate sheet of paper or on a fancy digital stitch counter app that allows you to keep up with multiple counts.

3. Understand flat knitting vs. in-the-round knitting

Flat Knitting Chart

The direction you work the chart depends on whether your knitting is flat or in the round:

  • For an in-the-round chart, every row on the chart is a right side row, so each row is typically read from right to left.
  • For flat knitting, right side rows are every other row. To read a chart for flat knitting, read right side rows right to left, and read wrong side rows left to right.

You can tell if a chart is knit flat if there are numbers on both sides of the chart, like the image above. If the numbers are just on one side, it’s probably knit in the round.

4. Look for missing rows.

Some charts include only right side rows. For example, if your chart’s row numbers are not consecutive — maybe the chart only shows Rows 1, 3, 5 and 7 — it could be because you’re just purling all the wrong side rows. Check the pattern instructions for more information before you begin the chart.

5. Look for repeats.

Maybe the chart is only 8 stitches wide, for instance, when your round is 64 stitches. That’s because the chart might ask you to work repeats.

Often repeats are marked by two bold, heavy lines that mark the part of the chart that should be repeated. There’s also often text below the chart that reads something like “8-stitch repeat.” Once you’ve worked those 8 stitches of the chart, you’ll go back again and repeat them. The pattern’s instructions should fill you in on how many times to repeat.

6. Get familiar with symbols.

Symbols for Knitting a Chart

Most charts use the same standard symbols, so if you become familiar with them you can read your chart much more easily. Check out the chart key before you get started so that you’ll know what to expect. (You can see an example of chart symbols in the photo above.)

7. Mark your place.

Marking Your Place on a Knitting Chart

Sometimes just looking at a knitting chart makes my eyes feel tired. To make it easier to read the chart, place washi tape or a sticky note (handy for taking notes, too!) just above the row or round you’re working on. As you move through the chart, move the marker tape along with it.

We recommend placing your marker above the row you’re on so that you can see what you’ve already worked — just like on your knitting.

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I wonder how you cope with a pattern that has decreasings. Do you miss the one square afterwards. It is the only problem I have ever had with charts Invariably in these patterns there is an increase in the same row but often not the next stitch.

Sandra Squires

Judith – I know this was posted a couple weeks ago and you may have already figured this out but….As long as the total number of stitches in the row remains the same, there’s nothing to worry about. Just follow the symbols as written. It all evens out at the end of the repeat or row. The exception would be rows where the stitch totals change. Generally a stitch square(s) filled with black is used. They are just used as “space holders” and you skip them and continue with the next symbol that comes up in that row. Hope that helps. 🙂


Very helpful information! Thanks!

Diane Cooper

Charts were very intimidating to me and I always avoided them. Finally ended up on a patten that was only charted and was forced to learn- much easier than I thought!

Lorene Frischknecht

These pattern knitting tips were very insightful and made the symbols much easier to understand. thanks so much for posting them!


I love this hat pattern. Is it available on your website? Thanks


I am working on a sleeve with increases at each end every 8 rows,15times. I am a little confused on how to work increases into the chart pattern. I am following a chart has 11 spaces, but show at bottom repeat 8 stitches. Very confusing.


I am working a pattern with a chart. I usually haven’t had problems with a chart, but this one has “no stitch” blocks. Very confusing for me. Everything that I have read says to “ignore” them. That isn’t helping me. I can’t get the stitch count to work out. Any suggestions?


Hello there! I read through this blog post, but I am still have a little trouble deciphering some knitting instructions from my book. This is how it looks in the book:

“Next Row (crown shaping) : K1*K3tog, K18, rep from *to last St, K1. 116 sts.
Work 3 rows.”

What I’ve done so far is I had 128 sts. I knit 1 St then knit 3 together and then knitted 18 sts and kept doing this until the last stitch which I knit. What I an confused about is the last line – work 3 rows. Does it mean work 3 more rows in the same manner? Or 2 more in the same manner to add up to 3 or work 3 more new rows just normally??

Please let me know if you know how to read this 🙂


I am so hoping you or someone here can help . I am starting on my first chart pattern which is a lace top. I think I have the pattern down, I have read through it several times and seem to understand it except for one thing at the beginning. There is a CO row (counts as first row) then there is knit 3 rows and the lace pattern starts on row 5. My questing is: Do I start the chart on row 5 or does row 5 in the knitting instructions count as row 1 of lace pattern. I can’t start till I can figure this out. Please help. Thank you for your time.


Begin the lace pattern with row 1 on row 5 of your knitting.


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