Knit-A-Long Loveknitting chart - LoveKnitting blog

Published on November 10th, 2014 | by Elizabeth Bagwell


6 things to check before using a knitting chart

Even very experienced knitters make mistakes when charts are involved. Elizabeth Bagwell lists 6 questions to ask before you start a chart to make sure it goes smoothly.

Festive knits often feature seasonal motifs, so it’s a great time to try using a chart. Whether you’re making a snowflake jumper with the LoveKnitting Knit-A-Long or trying to create your own chart for a reindeer, there are a few things to check before you cast on.

1. Does the chart show all rows, or only alternate rows?
In many stitch patterns, every other row is plain, and therefore not marked on the chart. But not always.

2. Does the chart start at the first row after cast on?
How does the chart fit with the cast on? Should you knit a row (or two, or 12) before you start the chart? Is there ribbing?

3. Does the chart start with the first stitch on a row?
If not, what happens to the initial stitches?

3. What happens in the middle?
This is particularly important for patterns like triangular shawls that are supposed to be symmetrical. Often, you’ll repeat a simple pattern (e.g. yo, K1, yo) to increase at the spine, but it may be more complex.

4. Is there any shaping?
And if so, are you expected to integrate it with the chart yourself (common for colourwork) or is it clearly explained?

5. Do the words ‘At the same time’ appear anywhere in the pattern?
They get me every time. I wish publishers would print that phrase in neon, with flashing warning lights!

6. How will you mark your place?
There are lots of good ways – put a piece of paper over the chart, tick off or highlight each row as you knit it, use a post-it to mark your place, use a row counter – just make sure you have at least one method to hand!

Do you have any handy tips for reading charts?  We’d love to hear them!  Please tell us in the comments box below!

About the Author

Elizabeth is a keen knitter, occasional designer, enthusiastic traveler and a professional freelance writer. She spent three years working for British knitting magazine, Simply Knitting, and has also written for The Knitter and other craft titles.

Last updated: November 11th, 2014.

14 Responses to 6 things to check before using a knitting chart

  1. Mary says:

    I always get the charts enlarged. If printed on 81/2 by 11, I enlarge 129%. This makes the chart very easy to read.

  2. Barbara says:

    I photocopy the pattern and colour in the rows I have completed

  3. Thanks for this idea, it’s so easy to lose one’s place.

  4. alison middleton says:

    I number the rows each side of the chart; i.e.:- Evens on right, odds on left.
    It helps me to remember RS from WS, and where to start the row indicated.

  5. RJ Smith says:

    I like to place my chart on a magnet board with a magnetic strip just above my current row, so I can see the previous row; that way I can check as I am knitting, to make sure I am where I should be.

  6. Chris Olczak says:

    It may initially be a bit time consuming but after I have finished designing a chart, I then write out the whole chart e.g. – row 1) K – 53 blue, B, 16 pale blue, B, 52 blue
    Once that is done, I find it much easier to follow than a chart and I use a Post it note to mark my place as I go.

  7. Stacey says:

    I get the charts enlarged and write on them which way the right/reverse sides go as well as where the cast on tail is, mainly because I often have periods when I don’t knit so I need to have as much info to hand as possible.

    Another thing I do which really works for me but may not be possible for everyone is that I pin my chart to my settee arm. I’ve got a fabric settee with high sides, so I pin the enlarged pattern to the arm and I then put a pin in the paper as to what row I’m on or even as I’m going along a row especially if the pattern isn’t that repetitive. I’m currently doing quite a complex cable pattern with 3 cable stitches to the back/front, sometimes it’s 2 and then it’s 4 and you can get a bit lost especially if also watching TV!

  8. Lauren says:

    I’ve started using a pattern reader called JKnit HD on my iPad. It’s fantastic for keeping my place as it has a highlighter bar that moves to the next line with a simple double tap and keeps my place in memory on each page individually.
    All you need is a PDF version of the pattern.
    It also allows me to zoom in and out whenever I need to.

  9. Myriam says:

    My tip isn’t new, and it’s another take your #5 on the list: always read the whole pattern throughout before you begin. Take note of all occurances of “at the same time”, and highlight the right number of stiches, increases and decreases for your size.

    I know, it’s the same advice our moms and grannies gave us when we started cooking: when you’re trying a new recipe, always read the whole thing first, and make sure you know all the steps.

  10. Cynthia Wilbanks says:

    Great tips! Here’s mine – always make sure all symbols on the chart are in the symbol key!

  11. Liz says:

    I do this too, but slip it inside a filing polypocket with the strip I move on the ouside. It stops the pattern being dog-eared in use. With complex lace patterns I can keep the instructions on the other side of the magnetic board holding the chart so both are visible without lots of pages coming loose. If I am shaping a shawl for instance, I also create and print off a table of row numbers, with a calculation of the expected number of stitches at the end of the row, that I can tick off to keep track of a lace pattern. I can then find out exactly where I am just by counting the stitches.

  12. Liz says:

    Sorry, it is not clear that I was adding to RJSmith’s comment above, about using a magnetic board.

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