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How to Read Knitting Charts with Stitch Count Changes

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.

Change of stitch counts

Each square in the grid represent 1 stitch in the actual knitting, when we have decreases and increases in our work, the stitch count of the repeat may change.

Look at the example below, it includes grey squares which denotes, ‘no stitch’. Those grey squares are there simply because as the pattern progresses, there are more stitches to the repeat than when it first started.

To maintain the rectangular shape of the grid, grey squares are added. Sometimes, these grey squares may be omitted, and the resulting grid will look irregular. This kind of grid is normally seen when working shaped projects or whenever there is a change to the stitch count of the repeat.

Let’s work our way through the example above and see how the change of stitch counts affects the look of a chart.

Here we have the chart for the first section of the Midnight Maths shawl.

There are 6 rounds and the stitch count increases quickly in the first couple of rounds.

Round 1: There are only 6 CO stitches as you can see on Round 1.

The chart has you knit into the front and back of each of these stitches, increasing the total number of stitch to 12 at the end of the row. Since you have only 6 sts on your needle to begin with, the rest of the row is blocked in grey, which is there to accommodate the extra stitches for the subsequent rows)

Round 2: After knitting into the front and back of each of the 6 CO sts on the previous round, there are altogether 12 stitches on your needles, as presented on row 2. What you need to do on this round is to knit all 12 sts.

Round 3: You will repeat (k1, yo) to the end of the round on this round as shown in the grid, increasing the total number of stitches to 24 sts.

Round 4: Purl to the end on this round, with no increases or decreases made, the stitch count remain the same – 24 sts.

Round 5: You will be working (ssk, yo) to the end on this round. The total number of stitches remain the same – 24 sts. (an ask decrease the stitch count by 1 and a yo increase it by 1)

Round 6: On this round, k to end of round. As simple as that!

You will most frequently see these grey squares for hat shaping, triangle shawls and growing or shrinking width pieces. An inset shoulder would also show many grey squares if described on a chart.

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