Reading Knitting Charts

Knitting from Charts

I love knitting from charts! A Knitting chart takes up much less space than written directions and it is a visual representation of what the pattern looks like.

If you are using a paper pattern, highlighter tape will be very helpful. For charts, I position the highlighter tape right ABOVE the row I’m working on. That way, I can clearly see the current row as well as the rows below it that have been completed.

Knitting charts depict the right (or public) side of the fabric. Therefore, in the key you will see 2 instructions for each symbol: one for the right side (RS) and another for the wrong side (WS).

Reading a knitting chart is slightly different when knitting in the round versus knitting flat.

When knitting in the round, read every line from RIGHT to LEFT. You always use the RS instructions for each symbol because when you are knitting in the round, you are always knitting on the right side.

When knitting flat, read the right side rows RIGHT to LEFT and the wrong side rows LEFT to RIGHT. In addition to remembering which direction to read the chart, you also have to remember whether to do the RS or WS stitch for each symbol.

Many charts have the RS row numbers on the right of the chart, and either omit the WS row numbers or they have the WS row numbers on the left side of the chart. That is a nice visual reminder for which side of the chart to read from.

Color coding makes chart knitting easier

I like to color code my charts. You can use one color to highlight the RS row numbers and RS instructions and another color for the WS row numbers and instructions. You can also highlight stitches to help you see them better.

This graphic shows how I might color my chart:

  • Red for RS rows and instructions
  • Blue for WS rows and instructions
  • Yellow for cable 4 left
  • Purple for cable 4 right

Reading charts can be intimidating at first, but with a little practice you will get the hang of it and be whizzing through them with no problems.

Using charts with in combination with written instructions

Sometimes a pattern will have instructions such as:

Rnd 1: Work 18 stitches from chart A, p4, k6, p4, work 18 stitches from chart B
Rnds 2-5: Repeat row 1
Rnd 6: Work 18 stitches from chart A, p4, cable 6 left, p4, work 18 stitches from chart B

In this example, every round is the same except round 6. In cases such as this, I recommend you:

  1. Mark your chart every 6 rows to remind you to do the cable on those rows/rounds.
  2. Use stitch markers to help keep track of where your’re at. Refer to our Using Stitch Markers blog post for a full explanation of how and why to use them

Conclusion

Reading charts can be intimidating at first, but with a little practice you will get the hang of it and be whizzing through them with no problems.

If you have any questions or comments about knitting from charts, please post them below.

Knit Better. Knit Confidently.

  1. When reading a chart as a left hand knitter…
    You need to read the charts “backwards” from left to right… Correct?

    And do cables opposite. I hold my work in the back when a right hander would hold their work in the front.

    • Brooke, I believe you are correct on both counts. You would read charts in the opposite direction that they were intended to be read by most knitters, and you would do your cables oppositely (as well as doing ssk instead of k2tog and vice versa).

      For the benefit of other readers, I want to clarify that you are referring to a truly left-handed knitter; not someone who knits Continental style holding the yarn in their left hand and “picking” — as opposed to an English knitter who holds the yarn in their right hand and “throws”.

      Both Continental and English style knitters are typically knitting right handed. Left handed knitters (who knit in the same styles as right handed knitters, but with the opposite hand) need to transpose nearly all patterns, as you have alluded to in your comment.

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