Tips with Trish – Reading Charts

I often hear knitters talk about charts, and more often than not it’s about how they don’t use charts because they think they’re too complicated or that they won’t be able to understand one as easily as they can the written instructions. This month we want to show you just how easy it is to read a knitting chart!

Charts are nothing more than a visual representation of a pattern. While they may be daunting at first, learning to visualize your pattern as you execute it can be extremely helpful and an incredible time saver in so many different ways.

Each block in a chart represents one stitch. In colour knitting, each coloured block will tell you which colour to use for each stitch, and in lace or patterned charts common symbols in each block will tell you which stitch to work. Charts are always worked from bottom to top in both circular and flat knitting. Let’s take a look at the chart from my colleague Robbie’s Guernsey Scarf. Trust me, it looks scarier than it is!

First of all, familiarize yourself with the stitches and symbols. The Stitch Key on the right tells us that each empty block represents a knit stitch when working right side rows, or a purl on the wrong side. The dot inside the block is a purl on the right side and a knit on the wrong side. There are two cables, C4F and C4B, as well as common increases and decreases.

Because this pattern is knit flat, both right and wrong side rows are numbered. Beginning in the bottom right-hand corner, work the chart from right to left for right side rows. Wrong side rows are then read from left to right. Continuing back and forth, we will work ten rows before we reach the pattern repeat, which is the twenty-four rows that are framed in the bold red box. To work the repeat, you simply finish row 34 and then begin again at row 11, continuing until you have reached the desired length. Once your scarf is as long as you wish, and you have finished row 34, work the final ten rows according to the chart.

Whether I’m following a chart on paper or on my tablet, I always use a bookmark, sheet of paper, or row-minder to follow each row, and I keep track of every row with a row counter. I also always highlight the different stitches on the chart for easy colour association with the stitch key, this saves a ton of time (and headache)!

When knitting in the round you are always working on the right side and therefore rows are only indicated on the right-hand side and are always read from right to left. I’ve used the chart from our free Fair Isle Fun hat to demonstrate charts and colour knitting below.

In this chart, the coloured blocks indicate which colour to use according to the colour legend in the upper right-hand corner. The thirteen-stitch pattern is repeated across every row of the eleven-row pattern repeat. By using a chart, you can easily identify mistakes in the colourwork as you make them. Try to keep your working colours as close to the charted colours as you can, for example, use the darkest colour for the dark blocks (col A), and lighter colours for the lighter blocks. This will help you see if you have accidentally used a dark colour in place of a light as you follow along the chart. Another trick I find particularly helpful is to place a stitch marker after every pattern repeat, that way if there are any mistakes, they are isolated to one section making them easier to locate.

Like anything new, reading charts takes time and patience so start small. Find an easy pattern, with a simple chart and take the plunge. You might surprise yourself and wonder why you haven’t tried chart knitting before!

Do you have a trick for following charts? Leave us a comment in the comments section below…we are always looking for new ideas!

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