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!
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
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.
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.
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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