Sunday, July 1, 2012

Reading Knitting Charts

I am not sure when I started reading charts. It may have been when I took a class on Fair Isle knitting from Alice Starmore. Charts are so perfect for Fair Isle - so much easier than writing out color descritiptions. Then I stumbled across charted lace patterns and I was hooked. The chart is a visual representation of what the knitting will look like. You can see what row you are on and how to knit the row – much faster than reading written instructions.

I am such a fan of charts that I think everyone should use them. I certainly wish all designers and pattern writers would. I now chart any written lace patterns I use. Here are a few tips on reading knitting charts. I hope this encourages you to try them if you haven’t tried them yet.

There is a learning curve to understanding charts. If you have never read written instructions then reading charts will be no problem. If all of your experience is with written patterns there will be some adjustment time – a bit like learning a new, very easy language. Once you have learned the “language”, charts will be a great knitting tool for you before, during and after knitting. Charts help with designing and color choices. When knitting, referring to a chart is quick and instantly lets you know if you are off the pattern – or not. Charts are a great reference if you need to repair something you have knit before or wish to knit again.

Stitch Pattern Chart: Brocade Diamonds:          Key: Blank square: Knit on Right side, Purl on Wrong side
                                                                                             Square with dash : Purl on RS, Knit on WS      

To read this chart, first notice the numbers in the grey columns on either side – There are odd numbers on the right and even numbers on the left.

1.       The odd numbers refer to the right side rows of the knit; the even numbers to the wrong side rows of the knit.

2.       Each square is a stitch. The key tells you what the stitch is. A blank square is a knit stitch on right side rows and a purl on the wrong side row. The minus sign inside the square is the reverse- purl on the right side and knit on the wrong side.

3.       To knit, you start on row one, stitch one in column one and work across from right to left as you normally knit - knitting the blank squares and purling the minus sign squares.

4.       The only tricky part is when you turn to the wrong side of the knitting you have to read the chart from left to right. Think of this as the back side of the row you just knit. You are actually still working right to left on the needles but you have to follow the chart from left to right starting at stitch 25, row two. You just finished that stitch on row one by purling it. Now on row two you will knit it and continue across the row purling the blank squares and knitting the squares with a minus sign-just the opposite of what you did on the right side.

5.       The bracket tells you what a repeat would be. There are six stitches and six rows inside the dark square. For a wider piece you would repeat this sequence (multiple) of stitches as many times as needed for the desired width and length.

Color Chart for Fair Isle Knitting in the Round

This is a chart for knitting in the round. Notice the grey column on the right is numbered 1,2, 3, etc. Since you are knitting in the round all the numbers are on the right side as you will be knitting right to left on all rounds. In this case the chart tells you what colors to use as all the stitches are knit stitches.

Imagine trying to knit this with written instructions. First you would have to remember that Dark Orange is Color A, Dark Blue is Color B, Light Blue is Color C, and Light Orange is Color D.

The first round would read:

Rnd 1: *1 A, 2 B*, repeat between * to last stitch, 1A

Rnd 2: *1B, 1A, 3B, 1A*, repeat between * last stitch 1B

Rnd 3. 2C *1D, 1C, 1D, 3C*, repeat between* end 1D,1C,1D,2C …and so on
(A note of interest: this chart is the same pattern as the Brocade diamond pattern but using colors rather than different stitches.)

Lace Knitting Pattern: Trellis Diamond

This is a relatively simple, typical lace knitting pattern. One important thing to notice is the numbered rows are only odd numbers. There are no even numbered rows. In many lace patterns every other row is just purled. Since there is no patterning on the purl row it is omitted from the chart. These are nice lace patterns to knit as the plain purl row is like a rest row.  In more complicated lace patterns there is patterning on the wrong side rows. In that case they would be included in the chart and would require reading from left to right as in the case of the stitch chart at the beginning.

One of the wonderful things about charts is the symbols often look like the stitch you are to knit. The O is a yarn over that creates a hole in the knitting. The forward slash looks like a knit two together, a right slanting decrease, while the backward slash looks like a slip-slip-knit decrease, a left slanting decrease. Our brains make this translation in a micro-second so you can read, that is “see”, the stitch and knit it almost simultaneously.

The chart looks much like the knitting looks as you are knitting. In row three the knit two together lines up with the one below for a diagonal line to the right. The yarn over in row two is to the right of the yarn over below and so on. Now you can read the knitting and see where you are and where you need to go –no counting (unless you want to) and far fewer errors.

Tools for Using Charts

There are stand up magnetic boards that hold the chart with magnetic strips. You line the strips up so that the row you are working on is just below the strip. This way you can see the row below and that you are knitting the current row correctly. In other words you are reading your knitting in rhythm to the pattern.

Sometimes magnetic boards do not work such as in a car. In that case there is a transparent colored tape that can be removed without damaging paper called highlighter tape. You can use this in the same manner, placing it just above the row you are knitting.
Once you are accustomed to charts and don’t want to go back to written directions or if you want to design your own patterns you will want graph pattern and a pencil. Decide on the symbols you wish to use and you can graph out any pattern. There are software programs for charting knitting also. Some people modify Microsoft Excel for this. The software used here is by Intwined Pattern Studio.

Happy Knitting with Charts! 

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