Tips on how to read a knitting chart

I love knitting lace. Mostly because I don’t need to make it fit, but also because it keeps me interested. My big first lace project was my Ballybeg shawl and this meant learning how to read knitting charts. So I thought I’d share with you some of the tips that were shared with me when I started reading lace charts.

1. Colour coding

The first thing I do when faced with a lace chart is colour code it. I even bought a packet of markers that live in my knitting basket just for this purpose. So for example in the knitting chart all YOs might be yellow, K2tog orange. Then I colour code the key that accompanies the chart so it’s easy to quickly identify the stitch the symbol stands for. The image below gives you an idea of what I mean, the photo is blurred on purpose so you can’t see the individual symbols in the lace chart.

Knitting lace chart - colour code2. Count (and note) the stitches

In pretty much every lace chart I’ve ever used the knit stitches are blank squares and the purls stitches are dots, on the right side. (On the wrong side they switch which can be confusing, more on that later). If there are a number of plain stitches between symbols I count these up and write the number onto the knitting chart, so I’ll have all these little numbers all over the chart. I usually do this if there are more than three or four plain stitches, so I can clearly read how many stitches there are before the next symbol.

3. Add arrows

If you’re knitting flat (as opposed to in the round) it can be helpful to add arrows to your knitting charts showing which direction you’re knitting in. This can really help you to read your stitches. Right side (RS) rows run right to left and wrong side (WS) rows run left to right.

4. Use post-its

When you actually start knitting from the chart, I place a wide post-it to just under the row I’m currently working on. This serves two purposes, it reminds you which row you’re on and it also makes it easier to read just the stitches you need to concentrate on.

Knits and purls

One thing that really confused me when I started reading lace charts is that a blank square means knit on the RS and purl on the WS. Similary a square with a black dot means purl on the RS and knit on the WS. At first this made no sense to me. At all. But if you think about it, if you see a chunk of your chart is made up of blank squares you know you have an area of stockinette. I hope that makes sense.

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One thought on “Tips on how to read a knitting chart

  1. Great post. I was trying to convince my sister not to be scared of charts and basically made all of the points you have so clearly set out here. I also enlarge the chart on a photocopier before I colour it in.

    One additional thing which really changed my lace knitting was getting a Knitpicks chart keeper that has a magnetic sheet and a long magnetic strip that you lay along the line – in the way you do with Post-its. I found Post-its tended to get scruffy and fall off after a bit. The magnet strip stays put and when you finish work you fold the cover over and it’s still in the same place next time you open it up.

    I’ll be doing a post about it soon. 🙂

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