How to Read Knitting Patterns and Charts
Reading knitting patterns is a little like learning a new language, and knitting charts take som map-reading skills. Here’s a few tips on how to read patterns and charts.
First of all: knitting patterns are written in a logical fashion, from start to finish. No need to doubt that, you will get through eventually. Don’t stray away from the pattern – there’s probably a good reason for the steps to be followed in a certain order.
Some patterns are written row by row, like this
- 1st row: K1, *p3, k3 * Repeat * - * 6 times, K1
- 2nd row: Purl all stitches
Other patterns can cover a great deal more in one single row:
- Work stockinette st for 25 cm.
As you’ve already noticed, knitting patterns are all about abbreviations. There’s a lot of them, some more commonplace, some less used. Abbreviations make the pattern instructions easier to follow and save a lot of space as well. Please see our comprehensive list of knitting abbreviations.
* - * is a repeat, together with instructions on how many times to work the repeat.
Pen and paper are your best friends when working your way through a knitting pattern. It’s virtually impossible to remember all the rows, stitches, increases etc. so make notes and save yourself a lot of trouble.
How to read knitting charts
Knitting patterns often include both written instructions and graphic charts. Sometimes the chart make up only a small piece of the work, sometimes all of it. Here’s a chart and the finished socks based on the pattern.
The chart starts right after the cast on and a few rounds of ribbing. A full row is 54 stitches. The instruction reads: Start the cable pattern according to chart. Start on the 1st row of the chart and repeat the pattern 3 times. Repeat rows 1-12.
Charts are always read from the bottom up. Each square represents one stitch, the first stitch being the far right stitch on the first row. So for the first row, read the chart from right to left.
This is a sock pattern, i.e. it is knit in the round. Since you’re not turning the project at any point, every row is read from right to left. If you’re knitting flat, however, the even rows (or wrong side rows) are read from left to right.
The rows in knitting charts are usually numbered, and usually the number is on the side where the row starts, left or right. Some charts (e.g. for lace patterns) only display every other row (usually the right side rows) along with written instructions to purl all wrong side rows.
The sock is knit over 54 stitches, so the 18 stitch repeat is worked 3 times.
When you’ve worked all the 12 rows of the chart, it’s time to start over from row 1.
In addition to knit and purl stitches, this pattern includes yarn overs and decreases that make up a lace pattern. Once every 12 rows a cable is worked over 8 stitches (row 11). All of these are explained in the symbol key beneath the chart. Before you start any project, go through the symbols used, and make sure you know how to work the required stitches.
Charts are also commonly used for colorwork knitting patterns. Colorwork patterns may include colors as well as symbols.