How to read a knitting chart

Written by michelle powell-smith
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Being able to comfortable read a knitting chart is one of the critical steps to advancing as a knitter. Cable knitting, colour patterns and lace all rely on charts to lay out the pattern for each row of knitting. If you have felt overwhelmed by charted knitting, choose a simple pattern and give it a try.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Knitting chart
  • Yarn
  • Knitting needles
  • Pencil or highlighter

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  1. 1

    Choose a pattern. Cable knitting, colorwork and lace all often use knitting charts instead of or alongside standard pattern notation. For your first try at knitting from a chart, choose a simple pattern. You should already know how to do various increases and decreases, as well as cables before tackling charted knitting.

  2. 2

    Look at your knitting chart. It should look like a graph with symbols noting the various stitches. There should be a key at the bottom of the chart, explaining what each symbol means. Be sure that you understand each symbol and the stitch abbreviations the designer uses. Knit stitches are often a blank square but may be assigned a symbol or colour. Wrong side rows may be charted, but are not always. If a wrong side row is not charted, you can expect that it will simply be purled across the row. Most knitting charts are black and white, but this is not universally true. Fair isle and intarsia patterns often, but not always, use charts printed in colour.

  3. 3

    Read your knitting chart right to left on row 1. The first square in the lower right corner equates to the first stitch on your left hand needle. Progress across the row. If row 2 is charted, it will be read left to right. Row 3 is again read right to left. You should keep in mind that knitting charts are a visual representation of the right side of the knitting. As such, you will need to knit stitches shown as purl and purl stitches shown as knit on the wrong side rows of a chart that notes every row. If you are knitting in the round this is, of course, not an issue. Charted knitting is often easier to keep track of than standard notation and the visual image of a knitting chart is more appealing to many knitters.

  4. 4

    Cast on the stitches suggested by your pattern or knitting chart. Work several rows of the chart, carefully following the stitch notation. If there is a complex stitch repeat, you may wish to use stitch markers to mark off repeats in your pattern. This can be especially helpful for larger project or lace. When working in the round, divide your stitches on double point needles in a way that is compatible with the knitting chart.

  5. 5

    Mark off each row on your pattern as you correctly complete it. Keeping close track of where you are on the knitting chart will help you successfully complete your project and allow you to avoid ripping out stitches. A highlighter marker or pencil works well, but do choose something transparent in case you do find an error later. If you are working out of a book and would prefer not to mark up your pattern, a sticky note will often work quite well for this purpose.

  6. 6

    Compare your work to the image of the finished project and make certain that the knitting chart and your knitting correspond. If you find that your knitting is substantially different, reread the knitting chart. If the pattern does not provide the chart in written out form, consider writing it out as a backup reference while you learn to read knitting charts.

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