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Charting Patterns From Row-by-Row Instructions

The trend in knitting patterns these days seems to be to use charts for stitch patterns whenever possible -- sometimes exclusively, sometimes in addition to written instructions. For many of us, this is a godsend. A written pattern stitch that is worked over, say, 24 stitches and 24 rows is easy to get lost in, especially if there are complicated maneuvers to make and if all the rows are different.

If you've collected knitting books and patterns over the years, you may have many uncharted stitch patterns that are cumbersome to read. With a few symbols at hand, you can convert these instructions to charts and make it easier to use them in your projects. And while our presentation uses computer-generated charts and symbols, graph paper and a pencil work equally well.

Common Symbols

Not all publications use the same symbols to mean the same thing, so it's important that you read the symbol key for all charts. For the purpose of this exercise, we'll use the following symbols.

Click here for larger image. Knit on RS, purl on WS Click here for larger image. Ssk
Click here for larger image. Purl on RS, knit on WS Click here for larger image. SI 1, k2tog, psso
Click here for larger image. Yarn over Click here for larger image. SI 2, k1, p2sso
Click here for larger image. K2tog Click here for larger image. Pattern repeat

Charting Simple Patterns

Simple patterns, such as seed stitch, moss stitch and double seed stitch, are easy enough to read in row-by-row format. But if you put these instructions into a chart, you can get an idea of what the resulting fabric will look like. Here is double seed stitch presented in both forms:

Double Seed Stitch (multiple of 4 sts)

Rows 1 and 2: *K2, p2; repeat from * to end of row.
Rows 3 and 4: *P2, k2; repeat from * to end of row.
Repeat Rows 1-4 for pattern.

Double Seed Stitch

Click here for larger image.
Click here for larger image. Knit on RS, purl on WS
Click here for larger image. Purl on RS, knit on WS

Because this is a simple four-row repeat over a multiple of stitches, you need a chart that's four squares wide and four squares tall. Most of us already know what this stitch looks like, but this gives you an idea of the visual difference between written instructions and charts. But with lace patterns, charts can make a world of difference.

Charting Lace Patterns

With lace patterns, row-by-row instructions give no clue about what the pattern will look like. But when you put those yarn overs and decreases onto a chart, you can get an idea of the design. Here's an example:

Parachutes (multiple of 14 sts plus 2)

Row 1: K1, *yo, k2, sl 2, k1, p2sso, k2, yo, k7; repeat from * to last st, k1.
Row 2: P1, *p8, yo, p1, sl 2, p1, p2sso, p1; repeat from * to last st, p1.
Row 3: K1, * k2, yo, sl 2, k1, p2sso, yo, k9; repeat from * to last st, k1.
Row 4: P1, *yo, p2, sl 2, p1, p2sso, p2, yo, p7; repeat from * to last st, p1.
Row 5: K1, *k8, yo, k1, sl 2, k1, p2sso, k1, yo, k1; repeat from * to last st, k1.
Row 6: P1, *p2, yo, sl 2, p1, p2sso, p9; repeat from * to last st, p1.
Repeat Rows 1-6 for pattern.

The pattern is worked over a multiple of 14 plus two stitches and six rows. Make a grid that is 16 squares wide and six squares tall. Mark the repeat on the 14 center stitches (shown in red on the chart) -- this is where you'll chart the instructions between the asterisk (*), which marks the beginning of the pattern, and the semicolon (;), which marks the end of the repeat. Then you simply start filling in the symbols accordingly.

Parachutes

Click here for larger image.

Again, this is a fairly simple pattern. Things become more interesting when a pattern does not repeat the exact same sequence from beginning to end, and there is an addition of only 1 stitch instead of 1 at each end of the row. Here's a pattern from A Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara G. Walker.

Trellis Framed Leaf (multiple of 12 sts plus 1)

Row 1 and all other wrong-side rows: Purl.
Rows 2, 4 and 6: K2tog, *k2, yo, ssk, yo, k1, yo, k2tog, yo, k2, (sl 1, k2tog, psso); repeat from *, ending last repeat with ssk instead of (sl 1, k2tog, psso).
Row 8: K2tog, *k1, yo, k2tog, yo, k3, yo, ssk, yo, k1, (sl 1, k2tog, psso); repeat from *, ending last repeat with ssk instead of (sl 1, k2tog, psso).
Row 10: K2tog, *yo, k2tog, yo, k5, yo, ssk, yo, (sl 1, k2tog, psso); repeat from *, ending last repeat with ssk instead of (sl 1, k2tog, psso).
Rows 12, 14 and 16: K1, *yo, k2tog, yo, k2, (sl 1, k2tog, psso), k2, yo, ssk, yo, k1; repeat from * to end of row.
Row 18: K2, *yo, ssk, yo, k1, (sl 1, k2tog, psso), k1, yo, k2tog, yo, k3; repeat from *, ending last repeat with k2.
Row 20: K3, *yo, ssk, yo, (sl 1, k2tog, psso), yo, k2, yo, k5; repeat from * to end of row, ending last repeat with k3.
Repeat Rows 1-20 for pattern.

This looks a little confusing at first because the number of stitches before the asterisk varies: On Rows 2-10 there's a k2tog before the repeat, on Rows 2-16 there's one stitch before the repeat, on Row 18 there are two stitches before the repeat, and on Row 20 there are three stitches.

Because the last repeat ends differently than the others, you'll need to plot out two repeats. Begin with a chart that is 27 squares wide (2 x 13 + 1) and 10 rows tall. Since the wrong-side rows are all plain purl, there's no need to plot them. Enter the symbols for Rows 2-20, beginning each row in the rightmost square.

Click here for larger image.

Once you have the symbols in place, you need to find the repeat box. Place the ending repeat line where the semicolon appears in the written instructions for Rows 2-16. Draw the line all the way through Row 20.

Click here for larger image.

Note that on Row 18 the semicolon appears after two knit symbols, but the written instruction says that the repeat ends after a k3. The same type of discrepancy appears in Row 20. However, if you draw the line for the beginning of the pattern repeat 12 stitches to the right of the ending line, you'll see that the repeat on these two rows works fine.

Click here for larger image.

On Row 18 the ending line is after two knit stitches, but when you go back to repeat the pattern, the third knit stitch is at the beginning of the repeat box. It's the same thing for Row 20. The repeat "shifts" compared to the written instructions, but if you compare the text square for square with the chart, you'll see that they work the same way.

Things can get a lot more complicated when you have lace patterns with a changing stitch count from row to row. Unfortunately, we don't have the space to show that here. But if there's enough interest, we'll consider covering this in a future issue. For now, we hope we've taken some of the mystery out of lace charts with these examples.

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