Knit Bit: There's something about Charts!

Knit Bit: There's something about Charts!

Published by Michelle on 24th Oct 2016

Charts snuck up on me. I'm not sure when they became so common or if it was just because I found new and different designers & patterns, but in the last few years I have seen them more and more and until quite recently, my brain would just freeze up and refuse to process them!  

I would start a pattern, try to read from the chart but my memory just would not remember which chart bit was which so I always had to check the chart key.  My brain couldn't flick between the chart and the key fast enough for it to be efficient so it was back to the written instructions!  Now, knitting from written instructions is great for most things but on a 16 line lace repeat that has over 100 stitches and you need to do 25 times, it just didn't feel efficient.  I gave up a number of patterns as lost causes.  

I think it's a bit like when you see those very detailed math equations. I am sure they are fine if you learn the different elements over time but when you see them all together, it's like having your brain sand blasted!

My brain on charts

My brain when it sees charts "Just no"

Then one day, a revelation! I cannot remember exactly what pattern book or magazine I was looking at but whichever it was, there was a chart but it was in colour!  Each chart symbol was in a colour and the matching chart key of the symbol was in the same colour.   My brain was able to remember which colour meant which stitches in a way that it couldn't remember which chart symbol meant which stitches. It was also much easier to flick back and forth to the key as my brain didn't need to match symbols, just colours.  It was an epiphany!  And it was the start of a bit of a love affair with charts and the only reason I can lace or cable in any kind of efficient way.  Now, I'd like to share what I always do with charts, in case it helps anyone get to grips with charts a little better. 

1. Make the charts bigger and print a version to write on

There are times when charts are tiny, particularly in magazines where space can be quite limited.  And the smaller the chart, the more my brain says 'No, I'm just not having anything to do with this!'.

Small Chart

This is only a sample chart & was quite large to start but it could be bigger!

So I either take a picture or take a screenshot (love digital patterns).  I import the image to a word processing tool (I use MS Word but others are available!) and make the image as big as I can on a single page.  I then print it out so I have a copy that is big enough for read and also mark up in a way that I can work from efficiently.

Much bigger chart

Much bigger, much better!

Now, it is right to be concerned with copying elements of patterns but I think as long as you aren't up to anything nefarious and are just reformatting the pattern to allow you to knit the item in the pattern, there isn't a problem but I am open to chatting about it!

The chart in this post is entirely made up & won't knit into anything.  Taking a photo from a book for this purpose would not have been right as I would have been sharing someone else's work in a way that it could have been copied and used in a way not intended.  

2. Colour it in!

Once I have my printed chart, I like to colour it in so it makes sense to my brain.  Honestly, even as I was colouring in the demo one for this post, my brain went from 'Ugh' to 'Oh good'.  

Coloured in Chart

In the example above, I have coloured in the symbols in the chart to match the key (legend).  I don't colour the knits or the knit three together because I find those clear but SSK & K2Tog I colour in in every chart I knit from because they are my nemesis symbols! : )  Once I have done this, I can knit away, contented.  Such a small thing but it makes a huge difference.

We do not all see colour in the same way, so it may be worth experimenting with different shading or patterns that work for you.

3.  Attach a marker to track the rows

I use a hair grip to move along the side of the page so I know which row I am on.  This is really just an add on at the end as many people have their own ways of doing this or are much better at reading their knitting than I am but I find it useful sometimes.  I tend to do this on charts with a large number of rows or stitches or, truthfully, if I am having a little glass of wine and need a concentration aid ; ).  

There are chart holders available from different companies specifically for this and I have also seen some great home made ones that highlight just the row you are on, but I just use a hair grip!  It means I don't lose track of myself.

Hair grip row marker

Every house has stray hair grips, even if no one has ever bought any!

And that's it really!  These won't work for everyone and not everyone will need them but it has definitely helped me use charts and therefore be able to tackle patterns I would have found too challenging in the past.

Now, I have a lace sample to knit so best I put this into practice!  Colouring pens & hair grips are go!  

Happy Knitting,


Knit Bits are our new series of short pieces on very simple things that we have found makes knitting easier for us.  I am not an expert, just a knitter, so if there are any other tips and ideas you think would be useful to others, I'd love you to get in touch so we can share them here - full credit given, of course! : )

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