In the latest installment of our Foundations series, we walk you through the fundamentals of reading knitting charts — deciphering chart symbols, determining the direction of reading, working simultaneously from charts and written instructions, and more. Today, we're sharing our tips and tricks for keeping track while reading charts so you can have a more manageable, stress-free, and enjoyable experience while knitting.

Keeping Track of Rows or Rounds

Charts are read row by row or round by round, much like how you would work a knitted item. However, as you progress from the bottom to the top of the chart, it may become easier to lose track of which row or round you're working on in between looking at your knitting and looking at your chart! If you've printed out your chart, an easy way to help keep your place is to line up a ruler or other straight-edge above the row or round you're working (shown above), then moving it up as you progress. This way, you know that the row or round directly below your ruler or straight-edge is the one you're working, while still being able to see how your stitches on that row or round are lining up with the stitches below it. You can also use highlighter tape or decorative masking tape to keep your place in a chart (shown above). These tapes peel off easily without damaging paper, making them convenient for moving around as you progress through your rows and rounds. They're also semi-translucent, which is handy because you'll know that the row or round directly below the line of tape is the one you're currently working, but you'll still be able to see through the tape itself and anticipate what will be involved in the upcoming rows or rounds. If you prefer to work from charts on a computer or other device (as opposed to on paper), you can use the menu bar on your PDF-viewing application (e.g. Preview or Adobe Acrobat) as a straight-edge. Simply scroll up across the pattern PDF until the rows or rounds above the one you're working are hidden from view. For example, if you're currently on Row 9 of a 20-row chart, you can scroll up the chart page of the pattern PDF until Rows 10-20 are hidden from view and you can only see Row 9 directly below the grey menu bar (shown above). Then, you can scroll down, revealing the rest of the chart row by row as you progress. Some PDF-viewing applications also allow you to create a colored line that can be moved around on the page as needed.

Keeping Track of Different Types of Stitches

If you're working from a chart involving many different types of stitches (e.g. directional cable crosses or twists), it may become difficult to distinguish their symbols from one another on the chart. Moreover, having to continuously refer back to the chart legend may hinder the flow of your work. One good way to easily separate multiple stitch symbols (that may look similar but involve different techniques) from one another is to code them by color. You can assign different colors to different stitch symbols on your chart legend, and then color them on the chart (either with colored pencils, highlighters, or highlighter tapes) according to the color code you've established. For example, in the chart shown above, we assigned the color green to a 2/2 LC-purl and the color pink to a 2/2 RC-purl on the chart legend, and then applied those colors accordingly to the symbols on the chart itself. The contrast in color then quickly and easily shows us that on Round 3, the 2/2 LC-purl is worked before the 2/2 RC-purl.

Keeping Track of Multiple Charts at Once

If you're working from a pattern involving multiple charts, it may become cumbersome to repeatedly flip through your pattern pages to switch from chart to chart. However, there are a number of ways you can make working from multiple charts more manageable! If you're working different charted motifs section by section up the garment (e.g. Byway, which alternates between a Moss & Garter Block Chart and a Cable Block Chart), you may simply rearrange the pages of your pattern such that the charts are closer to the written instructions in which they are mentioned. If you're working from the pattern on a computer or other device, some PDF-viewing applications like Preview or GoodReader will allow you to move pages around in the document. If you're working multiple charted motifs across the same row (e.g. Ondawa, which involves working from a horizontal sequence of different cabled chart motifs on the body), we suggest printing out your charts, trimming the pages, then taping them together in the order that the pattern instructs you to work from them. Don't forget to print your chart legends, too! Also keep in mind that the direction in which you should read your charts — not necessarily the order in which the charts are mentioned in the written instructions — will determine the order in which you tape them together. For example, if the written instructions tell you to:
For circular knitting: Round 1: Work Chart A over next 10 stitches, slip marker, work Chart B over 20 stitches to next marker, slip marker, work Chart C over 30 stitches to next marker, slip marker, work Chart D over 20 stitches to next marker, slip marker, work Chart E over last 10 stitches. For flat knitting: Row 1 (RS): Work Chart A over next 10 stitches, slip marker, work Chart B over 20 stitches to next marker, slip marker, work Chart C over 30 stitches to next marker, slip marker, work Chart D over 20 stitches to next marker, slip marker, work Chart E over last 10 stitches. Row 2 (WS): Work Chart E over next 10 stitches, slip marker, work Chart D over 20 stitches to next marker, slip marker, work Chart C over 30 stitches to next marker, slip marker, work Chart B over 20 stitches to next marker, slip marker, work Chart A over last 10 stitches.
... you may not want to tape your printed charts together as Chart AChart BChart CChart DChart E, even though they are mentioned in the written instructions in that order. Here's why:
Because charts illustrate the RS of the fabric and RS rows or rounds (flat or circular) are read and worked from Right to Left (←), you should tape your printed charts in that sequence as well, with the first chart (Chart A) starting on the right and the last chart (Chart E) ending on the left: Chart E + Chart D + Chart C + Chart B + Chart A. This way, the direction and flow of your reading won't be interrupted as you move from chart to chart. If you're working the charts circularly (i.e. you're working every round on the RS), they'll already be arranged in a Right to Left Sequence. If you're working the charts flat, they'll already be arranged in a Right to Left sequence for RS rows and a Left to Right sequence for WS rows. The diagram above shows more clearly how you'll read from chart to chart on RS rows in both flat and circular knitting (red arrows) and on WS rows in flat knitting (green arrows). And there you have it — we hope these tips will be a helpful companion to you in your journey to charted knitting territory. Have tips to share from your own chart reading toolbox or have other chart-related questions you'd like us to tackle? Feel free to leave them in the comments or get in touch with us at support@brooklyntweed.com!

18 comments

  • My instructor had software which created charts. Each month she made and printed all the charts for the Great American Aran Afghan for our entire class. We color coded the different stitches and put them in 14-1/2 × 11” sheet protectors.

    I can’t remember the name of the software though. ?

    Susan on

  • VERY useful information! I’ve just begun knitting from chart patterns and am experimenting with a variety of different methods to keep track (many listed in above comments). I especially like the highlighter tape!!

    Jeffrey Jones on

  • I recently ventured into the chart only world with the Bauhin pattern. I found the app Knit Companion very helpful. You can combine charts, switch between charts and it keeps track of rows and repeats. If you purchase a PDF you can add it and work with it from there.
    If I am working from a paper pattern I put two small different colored circular counters on and use one for the rows in a pattern and one for the pattern repeats.

    Georgia on

  • Folks, you might want to look for Washi Tape. It is easily moveable and you can pick up a roll at even a Walmart. I use it all the time for my chart work.

    Thank you Brooklyn Tweed for these great posts!

    Brenda N. on

  • I like to keep it simple, so seeing your ruler tip was a refreshing change. I use a postcard and two paperclips to identify the working row on the chart. This has the advantage that it stays in place but can be moved up easily.

    Shandy on

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