Do you use knitting charts?

I consider myself a beginning knitter … Maybe an experienced beginner at best. I taught myself to knit from books and have occasionally searched the web for a video of a technique if the written explanation wasn’t clear. I feel like I need to take the next step and learn to knit from charts … It doesn’t seem like it should be difficult but …. It is.

After all who would write a chart using a symbol that changes whether you’re working on the right or wrong side? The symbol for a knit stitch should be the same symbol in the same chart no matter where the knit stitch occurs… Right? Except it isn’t. And I get that you read the chart from bottom to top and then from right to left …. Except wrong side rows (when charted) are read from left to right …. Oh except when working in the round?? Then all rows are right side rows? Really it’s way more confusing than it has to be and so far has had me avoiding patterns that aren’t written out.

I think I’ll pick a pattern that doesn’t chart the wrong side rows to avoid some confusion for my first attempt!

Do YOU knit from charts? Any tips for me?

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21 Responses to “Do you use knitting charts?”

  • I knit from charts often, and teach my workshop participants to do the same. To make it even more tricky, colour work charts are different to lace charts are different to double knitting charts!

    A knit stitch is not the same on both sides of the fabric because, most times, the fabric is based on stockinette, which is knit on the front and purl on the back — unless you’re working in the round! Like all new skills, charts take practice!

    And my number one knitting tip, whether you’re using charts or not, spend more time reading your knitting rather than the pattern your working from! (This tip comes from Elizabeth Zimmerman, known throughout knitterland as a master, through her daughter Meg Swanson) In a reasonable easy pattern, the knitting wil lately you want comes next once the pattern is established!

    Good luck, and feel free to email me for help anytime!

  • That should be “the knitting will tell you what comes next….” Sorry, stupid self-correction on iPad and stupid me for not proof reading more carefully!

  • Gina:

    I do like chart knitting. Try a shawl where all the even rows are just purl back and the knit rows are on the chart. One tip I use is that the K2tog and SSK symbols are too similar. I understand why they made them that way but it is not easy for me to glance at those symbols and tell what they are. So I use a yellow highlighter and highlight only the SSK symbols so I can tell the two apart.

  • Veronica:

    I am a self-taught knitter from books/videos as well. I recommend “Building Blocks.” I can’t remember the author but it has a really nice explanation of chart-reading. I prefer to knit from words, but I can do a chart if it’s necessary.

  • Ruth:

    I design and knit from charts. I try to avoid any patterning on the wrong side mostly because I like that nice resting row/round.

    As others have said: learn to read your knitting. Knot that k2tog makes a dec that leans to the right, and ssk, leans to the left. It doesn’t sound important, but it is crucial to any pattern. Lace is composed of yarn overs (holes) and decreases, and how you work those decreases makes the pattern.

    Learn a couple of ways of doing double decreases. A double decrease makes 1 stitch out of 3; a regular dec makes one stitch out of 2.

  • I have knitted since I was 4 yrs old (thanks, Grand’mere) and I HATE charts–I also write out –in WORDS– directions for myself as I knit complicated repeating patterns. (I am not a computer that needs to decipher symbols!!) Until they get a charting system that makes sense I will remain a “word” knitter. There are a lot of pattern books out there (a lot of older ones) that are clear and concise. I’ve also found that some of the books from England and overseas use BOTH charts and words for each pattern. Julierose

  • I avoid patterns that are charted only. I want my knitting to be relaxing.

  • The internet is a wonderful place, and people can be so generous and helpful! I’m not an accomplished knitter either, so I found the comments on your post to be quite useful. Thank you everyone!

  • I dislike charts – too much like learning a foreign language. I know they are compact and much easier for those who are used to them, but they are not for me.

  • Cyndi Holguin:

    Thank you for this Molly I learned alot. for when I get to the pattern and charting of my learning ot knit. I had the same problem with crochet there are some that are charted and they used to be confusing to me until they became second nature. Now I use them all the time. I hope the same happens with knitting. I have been collecting all kinds of patterns to try as I progress. I am also self taught. I love the internet lots of places to look for help.

  • Kim Q:

    I love knitting from charts! It’s easier to keep track on a chart (once you get the hang of reading it) than it is reading a paragraph or two to find out what stitches you need to do next. I’ll pass along a couple of things I’ve found that make it much easier to keep track of my progress. First, I slip the chart inside a plastic page protector, making sure the page is all the way down to the bottom of the pocket, and try to position it into one of the bottom corners. Then a small paper clip on each side to keep the page from moving around inside the pocket. To keep track of my rows, I do one of two things…either use an extra-sticky Post-It note, hiding the row(s) above the one I’m working on. Or I cut a length of blue painters tape, folding over a margin lengthwise, and again, hide the row(s) above the row I’m working on. What’s left showing on the chart is the row I’m working on, plus the work I’ve already done, and it’s easily compared to the work in my hands to make sure I’m on track. I’ve also made it a firm habit never to shift my markers until the wrong side row is done, if the wrong side is uncharged. Good luck…I’m sure you’ll do fine!

  • I’ve been knitting since I was a child and I still don’t like knitting from charts. I avoid patterns that give you a chart only, but when I have no choice, I take the chart and write out all the instructions first.

    I’m sure it’s like everything else and a lot is personal preference, but I find them more confusing than helpful.

  • Cindy B.:

    I am so glad other people think the same way I do! I hate charts and skip ANY pattern (knit or crochet) which does not offer the word version.

    Now, I have seen here where some translate the chart to word, I might try that … but not likely.

    Knitting is about mindless enjoyment to me. Charts FEEL like too much work.

    Thanks for the topic, I see a lot of accomplished knitters offering comments.

  • Took me quite awhile to get used to charts, Mollie, but eventually I became a convert. I must say, I always try to find a lace pattern that has only purl on the wrong side, though, because it’s WAY easier than doing lace on both sides.

    I also do what Kim does above, using a strip of removable tape above the row I’m working on, so you can see only the row you’re knitting and the rows that came before it…easier to see if you make a mistake. I also count my stitches on the return row by pattern repeats, to be sure I haven’t missed a yarn over or something. I use Post-It Label Roll tape, which is easily removed and easily replaced when it loses its stickiness.

    Now, when I come across a pattern that DOESN’T have a chart, I take the time to make myself a little chart in pencil on graph paper, so I can just glance down to see where I am. Persevere! It’s worth it!

  • Ann:

    Interesting discussion! I’ve also done quite a bit of knitting and only recently realized charts are easier for me to follow than written instructions. As with everything, the more familiar you become with the symbols used in charts the easier they are to follow.

  • Carolyn in NC:

    My German mother taught me to knit the German way (we pick, not throw our yarn) about 17 years ago and we both only use “word” patterns.

    I’ve learned to read my knitting while it’s on the needles and have never needed to learn how to use a chart. Too many patterns I want to do with words.

  • Tanya:

    I love knitting from charts! I guess I learned to knot using the Japanese charts and it sure was easier than learning Japanese! I really get confused with the western abbreviation system with all the asterisk marks telling me to repeat from somewhere. I’m thinking of sending my son’s girlfriend some Japanese knitting charts because she has trouble knitting from western directions too! I figure it will be easier for her to use the charts…

    Oh, and you’re definitely NOT a beginning knitter!

  • I am going to master a pair of socks FIRST..then I will move on and add another skill! I searched for a toe up sock book I had purchased to no avail. Fast forward to inheriting my DH old IPad. When I downloaded Kindle, I realized I purchased the ebook too! SCORE! Now I just have to find the needles and yarn…its in there somewhere…AVALANCHE! lol

  • Ingy:

    I am knitting from a chart for the first time and it was horrible until (thanks to the internet knitting community) I photocopied the repeats in the pattern and taped them together and put the chart on a cookie tray. I use a long magnet to mark the row I’m knitting (it has a 92 row repeat) and the piece is 70 inches long. Ick. Just a few more inches. At least I’m learning something new and that’s what keeps things interesting. By the way, thank you for your blog. It’s a daily read for me.

  • I know, right? I avoid patterns with charts because while I have a college degree, they make me feel stupid! One of these days….. :)

  • Carol:

    Hi Mollie; I have been knitting for over 50 years and I agree they do make the craft much harder now than before. Years ago the only time a graph was given was in fair-isle or Mary Maxim patterns and they were comparable to cross stitch patterns to follow. ie read right to left for front facing rows (right side) and read rows left to right for wrong side rows (back side)
    To overcome modern patterns which annoy me I first write out the pattern as Row 1 (right side) Row 2 (wrong side)which I call alternate and I use a key for the color yarn to be used BL for blue, Rd for red, Br for brown etc. it makes the task for me simple and most of the time as when its just a pattern (with no different color yarns) after a few written rows I just need to put repeat row?? or repeat alternate row. I have used this method for many years especially with Aran patterns when one I did recently incorporated 4 different style cables across the width. I hope this helps…….

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