I am a very visual person. This means that when it comes to knitting patterns – be it lace or a knit/purl pattern – I prefer looking at charts to the written out pattern. The next person might insist on having a written out pattern (I have known knitters who would sit down and write out the chart if the pattern wouldn’t provide that) because the chart just isn’t what they need.
When I look at a chart, I can actually see how my knitting is supposed to look, where as a ‘k2, ssk, yo, k4, yo, k2tog’ etc. etc. and many rows more look convoluted and if not confusing, at least laborious. As with a lot of things in knitting, there is no ‘better’ way for all of us, there is only preference. I am ok if you prefer the written pattern to a chart, however given the choice I will always choose the chart to follow myself.
Having said all this, you need to have some vital information before diving into the exciting world of knitting charts and, as usual, I hope to provide just that!
Spoiled as we are in this day and age, a lot of patterns actually provide both – a chart and written out pattern. And for both you need the information what the abbreviations (the very own lingo of knitters) mean. So check the pattern for the Legend. What is interesting in this regard, is that the same or similar symbols are used internationally. This means that if you stumble upon an Italian/German etc. pattern with a chart you are probably able to work out the chart even though you do not understand anything else.
As you can see, there is an explanation for the Right Side and the Wrong Side – which can be helpful when the pattern is knit flat.
Here is only the information what to do on the Right Side given – you have to figure out yourself that a knit stitch on the RS needs to be purled on the WS, etc. etc. A bit more thinking involved in this one, but if you consider the consequences for a bit not difficult to grasp. Unless there is no WS, meaning you knit in the round. Then you do exactly as described.
For all the knitters who prefer the written word, here is the pattern for the little lace pattern I have chosen as an example.
Both of them are easy to follow if you just do what it says. However, if you do not follow a chart it is necessary to check the pattern about the number of repeats worked across how many stitches. In this case the repeats are not included in the written pattern, you are going to have to work that out yourself with help of the rest of the pattern.
Now comes my favourite part. CHARTS!
What you need to know first, is that you begin to read a chart on the lower right. It does make sense if you imagine looking at your knitting – you begin to knit on the right edge, so imagine looking at the RS of your knitting when looking at a chart.
See where the it says 1? That is where you begin to knit. Using the information you gathered from the legend you just follow it box by little box. Now check out where the 2 is located. On the left, exactly. So when you knit the WS, you begin from there. You will know after checking out the legend, that you are going to have to knit the first two stitches to make them look like purl on the RS.
Knitting in the round changes this order. Stockinette Stitch in the round you achieve by only knitting. This in return means there is no WS to speak of. Which again means for the chart you always begin reading the rows on the right side of the chart. Like so:
Sometimes it is not enough to work the chart once, that’s when you find repeats. How do you know what the repeat is? Take a look at either the legend, or in this case the notes:
This provides the information that the seven stitches inside the box form the repeat. The pattern is going to tell you how often to work it. Either by providing the number of repeats or saying ‘repeat until there are two stitches left’ which would mean the two last stitches to complete the pattern according to the chart.
Now put it together and you get this:
This is of course only an example of how a chart can look like. There are a lot of subtle variations in all of the patterns available. What I always recommend, read the pattern carefully, have a good look at the chart, check for repeats and if there is patterning only on the RS or maybe also on the WS. And then, off you go.
Happy knitting, as ever!