A knitting chart is a set of knitting instructions which are shown by the use of a graph rather than being written in words.
Charts can be found in many different types of knitting patterns and they give instructions for forming stitch patterns, lace, cables, and colour work such as intarsia and Fair Isle.
While some knitters love to use charts and find them easier to follow than written instructions, for others the idea of following a knitting chart is really daunting.
Read on for some hints and tips that will help you to follow knitting charts properly and efficiently.
Knitting Chart Basics
A knitting chart is a series of squares. Each square represents a stitch. What each stitch actually is (for example, knit, purl, yarn over, etc) will depend upon the key of the chart. The key will be written alongside the chart.
For example, a diagonal line inside a square may mean purl. A triangle symbol may mean K2TOG. A circle may denote a make one increase or yarn around needle, and so on.
In colour work charts, a symbol will tell you what colour, rather than stitch, to use. In colour work, a chart may be a series of coloured squares rather than symbols. It really does depend on the designer and the form of publication of the knitting pattern.
Another (fairly) basic feature of a knitting chart that you need to know about is the use of heavy lines. These are like brackets in a written pattern and denote the beginning and end of a repeat. There will usually be some written instructions alongside the chart to explain how many repeats must be worked.
Studying your chart before you start working on your knitting project is key to reading it properly.
The main reason for this is that while the basics, as written above, apply to all charts, the way that each one is actually drawn up can vary greatly from designer to designer.
Studying your chart before you pick up your needles is key to reading it properly. You should check that you understand it, and are able to see the details on it clearly. Take note of any instructions that make this chart different from others that you have worked with.
It is far better to do this than to dive right into a project, only to realise that you will have to stop in order to get to grips with your chart.
Knowing where to start
There are two elements within the topic of knowing where to start. The first one is where in the PATTERN to start working the chart, and where to start reading the CHART itself.
Because of this, you should read the written pattern itself before you start knitting, and not just the chart. The pattern will say, for example, work 4 rows of rib, 4 rows of stocking stitch and then start working as per the chart.
Once you get to the chart part, you will work from right to left, bottom to top (although in Fair Isle it is common to find that charts work from left to right – hence my constant reminder to make sure that you understand your pattern and chart before starting).
THE RIGHT TO LEFT RULE APPLIES TO THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE WORK ONLY.
If you are knitting in the round, all sides are the right side, and generally speaking you will always work from right to left. If you are knitting flat, you will work wrong sides from left to right. In charts for lace or stitch patterns, it might be that the chart does not show instructions for the wrong sides (because, for example, all wrong sides might be purl stitches).
This will not be the case for colour work. With colour work, you need exact instructions for each and every square, because you are forming colour patterns and pictures. Colour work charts are about colours, and not stitch types. If you are knitting flat, you will work right sides in knit stitch, from right to left, and wrong sides in purl, from left to right.
You need to see a knitting chart as a visual representation of how the picture, or stitch pattern, will appear on the knitted fabric as it faces you. So the first square (stitch) that you knit will appear as the stitch on the far right side of the front of the knitted garment, because it will move along as you wok the stitches that come before it.
Remember that reading a knitting chart is the exact opposite of reading text. You read text from top left, you read charts from bottom right.
But remember the rule of left to right on wrong sides during colour work, and when using stitch pattern charts where the wrong side is also shown.
Additional tips for reading knitting charts
The best additional tip that I can give you to help with properly reading knitting charts is that you should, where possible, work at a table or desk. You can then use a ruler or piece of spare paper to highlight where you are on the chart.
Understandably, you may wish to work on the sofa or on a comfy arm chair. If so, I would recommend using post it notes to keep track of your rows, basically because they won’t fall off.
Row counters and a good old pencil can help immensely when following knitting charts too. Losing your place can be extremely frustrating!
We hope that you enjoyed this article about how to read knitting charts. It really isn’t that complicated as long as you follow the key advice of studying your chart before you begin to knit. I really cannot emphasise how important that is. If you do that, ensuring that you understand how to use the graph, the rest is really quite simple.
Do you have any tips for properly and efficiently reading knitting charts? Please do let us know in the comments.