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Guide to Understanding Knitting Pattern Charts

Knitting patterns and charts are instructions for making a knitting project. They are the “map” that your knitting needles will follow. Many times a pattern designer uses written instructions and charts to explain the pattern. The written instruction are steps that you follow row by row or round by round. Charts are a pictorial idea of how your knitting project will look. Each stitch will be represented with a box. In time, you will become familiar with the abbreviations and diagrams are seen in the average pattern. Remember, everyone is a beginner at the start. Do not be overwhelmed and take it one step at a time. 

Knitting Abbreviations

Knitting has its own language. A language of abbreviations that tells the knitter what to do. Be it an advanced knitter or one just starting out, it is best to have this ultimate sheet of knitting vocabulary at your side.

Knitting Materials

Every pattern has instructions on yarn, materials and accessories. Make sure you have the right knitting needles and yarn. If the pattern instructs you to knit flat, you can either choose single-pointed or circular needles. If you are told to knit in the round, be sure to choose the right length of circular needles.

Supplies or accessories, often include scissors, stitch markers, a wool needle and others.  Some of them will not be needed until the project is knitted – but it’s good to know where they are and have them on hand.

Stainless Steel Circular Needles

Get the Gauge Right

Most patterns mention knitting a gauge swatch. For instance, a pattern will say something like 14 sts = 4″ (10 cm); 7 rows = 4″ (10 cm ) in stockinette stitch using size US 6 (4.00mm). To make a gauge swatch, use a needle of the same size as you will use for the project. Cast on enough stitches to make a swatch with about 10 stitches more than you will need to measure the indicated 4” piece  (Example: If you are told the gauge is  14 sts for 4”, cast on 24 sts.  That way you have a margin on either side.  It’s easier to measure the center 14 sts. that way.  Knit about 20 rows so you have margins at both ends as well.

Wash and block this swatch before you measure it. Check how many stitches across fit into 4″ (you should have 14 or whatever the pattern states. Then, check how many rows fit into 4″ (This should be 7 according to the example shown above.) If you have the correct numbers, you have the correct gauge. If your gauge is off, you can adjust by using different needle sizes: If you have more stitches and rows than the gauge, go up a needle size and if you have fewer stitches, go down a needle size.

Knitting a Gauge Swatch

Knitting Charts

Many knitters find charts intimidating, especially beginners, but once you learn the language, you may discover that reading a chart is easier than following written instructions. Many knitting patterns for lace, colorwork, and cable stitch patterns, in general, include a chart or two. So, reading a chart is a valuable skill and well worth learning.

Reading the Chart for Knitting Flat Patterns

When you knit back and forth, you turn the work each time you finish a row whether you use straight needles or circular knitting needles. In these charts, the numbered rows alternate between the left and right-hand sides of the chart. You begin with row 1, on the “right” side of your work, and you read from right to left. After you finish row 1 and turn your knitting project, you begin reading the chart from the left side, where the number “2” is shown.  For row 2, work from the opposite side of the chart as you will be making stitches on the “wrong” side of your project.

Reading the Chart for Knitting Round Patterns

The chart will be read from right to left on every round. If you are using double-pointed needles the instructions will be followed from the first needle where you cast on the stitches. In the case of circular knitting needles, you will follow the pattern with fixed or interchangeable cords. For example, the chart might show all the rounds are marked with numbers on the right-hand side so you must start knitting each round on the right-handed side.

Reading Lace Knitting Charts

Lace knitting patterns and charts generally have a few abbreviations and techniques that are not common in other types of knitting charts. Many lace patterns will instruct decreases to eliminate stitches and yarnovers. However, there may be rows where you have fewer stitches than previous rows and in the chart, these boxes are blacked out. This means you don’t need to do anything special when you see this blank.  Just knit the number of stitches designated for that row.

Lace Knitting Patterns

Reading Colorwork Knitting Charts

Most colorwork knitting patterns is knit in stockinette stitch, so the chart defines which colors to work with, not the stitch type. Sometimes the designer indicates a suggested color, but because part of the fun of colorwork is selecting your own colors, designers don’t always assign a specific yarn color in the legend. Instead, the colors on the chart are designated as the main color (MC), which is usually the background color and the one used most in the project, and contrasting colors are marked (CC)

For multi-color projects, like Fair Isle or intarsia, you will have multiple contrasting colors. The colors are usually assigned a corresponding number, like C1 (Color 1), C2, and so on, usually in the order of appearance in the pattern.

Whatever your style, technique or project, knitting is satisfying with the Mindful Collection. The range has stainless-steel tips that work well with all types of yarn. Each needle tip has an inspirational word that assists knitting with the practice of mindfulness. With a knitting needle set from the collection, you can easily tackle multiple projects.

For mindful knitting, tips, techniques and everything to do with knitting follow our blog.

knitting accessories