Image shows a black and white knitting pattern chart, showing increases and decreases for a lace pattern.

How to: Read charts

Where do you stand on using charts? I used to avoid them as they looked like some sort of strange code that I didn’t have the tools to crack. I think the first time I tried using charts was with a lace pattern that also had written instructions. I felt more confident as I was able to use the written instructions to help decipher the chart whenever I was unsure. I think it is this experience that has led me to include both charts and written instructions in my own patterns.

Once you understand how they work, charts aren’t as scary as they appear to be. Simple things to remember are:

  1. Right side (or odd numbered) rows are read from right to left, following the same direction that you knit the stitches.
  2. Wrong side (or even numbered) rows are read from left to right when working flat, or right to left if working in the round.
  3. Each box represents 1 stitch created.
  4. Charts shows how the row will look after you have knit it, so that decrease that uses 2 stitches is shown as one symbol on the chart because that is what you will be left with at the end of the row.
  5. Always read the key. This should explain every symbol shown on the chart. Different designers may give different meanings to symbols so it’s always best to check before you start.
  6. The same symbol may have a different meaning for right side and wrong side rows. This should be shown on the key.
  7. Sets of stitches within a red or sometimes dark grey box are the pattern repeat. In the written instructions these would be written as ‘repeat from * to end’. Keep working from the beginning of the box to the end until you reach the end of the row, or the number of stitches from the end specified in the pattern.

It’s as simple as that! As with everything, practice makes perfect so, the more you use them the more it will start to feel like second nature. Don’t worry if you keep referring back to the written instructions for a while, it’s a resource for you to use and learn from. It is not cheating!

I hope this has given you the confidence to give patterns with charts a go. Not all of my patterns include a chart, but those that do will always have full written instructions for you to use alongside.


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