When you first begin to read knitting patterns, they may seem a little daunting. It’s like a recipe – you eventually learn that separate two eggs means extracting the yolk from the whites, not putting them in separate corners of the bowl. Just like with recipes, knitting patterns become easier to understand as you read more and become familiar with the terms. After you get familiar with the written word, there’s one more hurdle to jump over to make life even easier still – reading charts. Charts are a picture representation for a particular pattern that is easier to depict through symbols than words. Originally, knitting charts were used to represent color changes, but over the years, symbols have been created to represent specific stitch textures that are used when making cables, lace, and other complex patterns. They are also used to represent no so complex patterns as well. Let’s jump right into reading charts …
If you think of the chart as a piece of fabric that you are going to knit it might be a little easier to understand. Imagine yourself looking at it from the right side of the knitting (the side facing outward) and think about how you would create it. You would start at the bottom right hand corner and work the stitches from right to left. When you get to the end of a row in knitting you turn your work and do the same thing again. If you look at the chart you’ll notice that instead of turning it, all you have to do is read the next row from left to right. When you get to the end of that row, you start over again with going from right to left. You continue in this back and forth manner to read a chart correctly. When you are reading a chart, the first row (Row 1) and all alternate or odd rows, represent the right side of your work. The second row (Row 2), and all alternate or even rows, represent the reverse side of your work. This is true on all charts unless otherwise stated.
Charts represent your pattern stitch for stitch. That means that each square on a chart represents one stitch on your knitted fabric. This also means that you can count the number of stitches on a chart to know how many stitches you have (or should have) in your knitting. Charts also come with a key, or legend. The key tells you what each symbol on the chart represents. The chart is practically useless without a key as there is not yet a universally accepted key for making charts. That being said, there are a few commonly used symbols that you will see repeatedly in the future. The knit stitch for one is usually represented by a blank square. When you see it it means to knit that stitch on the right side of the work, and purl it on the reverse. You will recognize right away that this will produce a stocking stitch texture. It is also sometime depicted as a vertical line, but the blank square is more common. A purl stitch on the right side (and knit on the reverse) is usually shown as a dot or a horizontal line, with the dot being more common. Here is a chart for a cable pattern, with a picture of what the knit fabric looks like.
Here is the same pattern written out …
T3F: Twist 3 Front. Take 2 stitches and place on your cable needle, hold at the front of work. Purl 1 stitch from your left needle, and then knit 2 stitches from your cable needle.
T3B: Twist 3 Back. Take 1 stitch and place on your cable needle, hold at the back of work. Knit 2 stitches from your left needle, and then purl 1 stitch from your cable needle.
T4F: Twist 4 Front. Take 2 stitches and place on your cable needle, hold at the front of work. Purl 2 stitches from your left needle, and then knit 2 stitches from your cable needle.
T4B: Twist 4 Back. Take 2 stitches and place on your cable needle, hold at the back of work. Knit 2 stitches from your left needle, and then purl 2 stitches from your cable needle.
Row 1: p2, C4B, p4, C4B, p2
Row 3: p1, T3B, T3F, p2, T3B, T3F p1
Row 5: (T3B, p2, T3F) twice
Row 7: k2, p4, C4F, p4, k2
Row 9: (T3F, p2, T3B) twice
Row 11: p1, T3F, T3B, p2, T3F, T3B, p1
As you can see, the chart takes up much less space than the written word. It is also easier to follow along than reading, knitting, and counting all at the same time. This chart (and pattern), don’t show the even rows, which is quite common when dealing with some textures. In this instance (and/or when told), you would work the stitches as they appear – you knit the knit stitches and purl the purl stitches. Here is the chart pattern we worked on yesterday showing all the rows. Notice that there are “dots” on the even rows. These dots represent purl stitches when on the right side (or odd rows), BUT, on the even rows they are knit stitches. I know you’ve already figured out that this will give you a garter stitch texture! If you missed us yesterday, see if you can knit this 8×8 square for the blankets we’re making …
The blank squares – knit on the right side/purl on the reverse
The dots – purl on the right side/knit on the reverse
Did you also notice how the charts give you a better idea of how what you are knitting is going to turn out? If you create your chart n a grid that is equal to your gauge, it will give you an excellent idea of how your work will look – especially when dealing with pictures!
Yarn over and out!