General, Knitting Know How

How to read a knitting chart

What are Knitting Charts?

Knitting charts are a diagrammatic representation of a stitch pattern. They are presented on a square grid where each square represents a stitch.  The chart below shows a 24 stitch motif worked over 32 rows.

intarsia heart for web
a knitting chart for a heart motif

How to read a knitting chart for colour work (intarsia, fair isle and double knitting)

If you are working on two needles, using stocking stitch, and starting with right side facing, the first stitch to work is the bottom right hand corner. Right side (knit) rows are worked from right to left. Wrong side (purl) rows are worked from left to right.

If you are working in the round on a circular needle for fair isle, then every round is a right side (knit) and is worked from right to left. You might have discovered for yourself that knitting in the round doesn’t work for intarsia as you end up with the yarn at the wrong side of the motif each round!

Keeping your place on the chart

One of the great things about using charts for your colour work adventures is that it becomes relatively easy to see where you are with the work. What you are creating in front of you in the knitting should match what is in front of you on the chart (obviously some motifs are harder than others to keep track of). Additionally, you can immediately see how the row you are working on now should match up with the stitches you have just worked.

reading a knitting chart
using a magnetic board to keep your place

However, it is easy to go a little cross eyed at times and end up merging rows together. There are a couple of ways to keep track of where you are if you are using a printed version of the pattern:

  • You could put a line through each row as you do it.
  • You could balance a ruler across the row you are about to start working (this is OK if you don’t jog it).
  • Personally I am a big fan of using a magnetic board.

The board shown in the image above is created for cross stitch but has become my must have for working with knitting charts. The best thing about it is that you can even pick it up and move it without worrying about losing your place as the magnetic ruler is strong enough to stay put.

An example row 

Using the diagram above, the ruler shows me that I am about to start row 21. As a right side row I will be working in knit and reading from right to left. I would knit 4 stitches in white, 16 stitches in grey, 4 stitches in white.

A note about the double knitting technique

Some charts used for the double knitting technique show a square for every stitch you are working, one for the stitch from the right side fabric, and one from the wrong side fabric. This is necessary if you are creating a different fabric on each side.

For my patterns where the motif is in two colours and the back fabric shows the inverse of the front, I keep my charts simple so it is easier to read the motif, and they can be used for intarsia as well. The charts show the front facing fabric with each square representing a pair of stitches. So for the example on row 21 above: each of the four stitches in white represents a knit in white for the front fabric, and a purl in grey for the back fabric. For the fifth pair of stitches to the 20th pair of stitches, each square represents a knit in grey for the front fabric and a purl in white for the back fabric. For the 21st to the 24th pairs of stitches, each square once again is worked as a knit in white for the front fabric and a purl in grey for the back fabric. When working back on the wrong side fabric, the inverse of the colours is worked.

It sounds complicated written down but once you get the hang of seeing each square as a pair of stitches you can use any two colour intarsia chart for the double knitting technique without having to rewrite it.

I hope that you have found this tutorial on reading knitting charts helpful. I have talked about colour work knitting but of course charts can be used for any stitch pattern as the principle of each square representing a stitch applies whether it is indicating a colour or a stitch type e.g. knit tbl, yo, etc. If you are not used to working from charts I do suggest that you persevere with them. If you get the hang of using them you might find that you get a better idea of how you are creating the effect (rather than just following the instructions). This is especially useful when you need to put right a mistake or if you want to modify stitch patterns. It also gives you access to patterns that aren’t written in your own language.

Happy Charting!

How to read a knitting chart

6 thoughts on “How to read a knitting chart”

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