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How to Read Charts in Knitting The Basics

Lace knitting produces a stunning display of holes within the fabric. This texture can be regular, such as grids or lattices as seen in the Lockdown Hugs shawl, or it can create images within the fabric, such as the lotus flowers in the Midnight Maths shawl.


Either way the written instructions can appear very complex, and this can be off-putting for a beginner. Many of my patterns have accompanying charts which some lace knitters find simpler to follow.


However not everyone is used to reading a chart, and these too can seem intimidating.


To help with this, I have created have included this how-to mini series of articles covering the basics, reading flat and in the round, changing stitch counts and top 5 tips for working with charts.



Let’s begin.


The basic layout of knitting charts

There are several components in a lace charts:

  • There is a grid.

  • There are numbers along the sides.

  • There are numbers along the bottom/top.

  • There are symbols within the grid.

  • There is a key for the symbols.


So that’s the core features of a chart, let’s break it down and see what each of these elements actually means for the sticks and string in our hands with some visual examples.


The grid is normally the smallest size to show all the stitches needed in a repeat for a pattern. Each space represents a stitch.


Numbers along the left-hand or right-hand sides correspond to row/ round numbers.


Numbers along the bottom/ top edge represent the stitch number as well as the total stitch count of that repeat. There are, of course, symbols within the grid showing what the knitter should do with a particular stitch or a set of stitches.


For every chart, there must be a symbol key.


See the section next to the chart above labeled “Key.”


Within the key, there is a copy of each symbol used in the chart and a description/stitch abbreviation. These terms will match those used in the written instructions of the pattern. Most symbols are standard and you will become used to them with experience.


The chart gives a visual representation of how the public side of the finished project should look; therefore, very often, the symbols used within a chart mimic what the stitch looks like in the finished fabric.


For example:

  • The circle is a yarn over replicating the large open stitch this technique creates.

  • The backwards slash of an ssk demonstrates the left leaning stitch produced.

  • The forwards slash of the k2tog indicates the right leaning stitch created.

  • The loop used for knit through the back, represents a twisted knit stitch, which actually looks like the loop image, if you look closely, in the finished piece.