Oceanwind Knits – Resources for Knit Design

At our May meeting, Yarn Club enjoyed a great discussion with Lori Law of Oceanwind Knits about the ins & outs of knitwear design and pattern publication.  Here are the resources Lori shared with us after her talk:

Stitch pattern ‘dictionaries’ are the backbone of knitting design.

(One of my first and still favourites – Alexis)

Books I use regularly :

  • Ann Budd’s “Handy Books”
  • Sock books by Cookie A have very good technical information for building sock designs.

  • Shirley Paden’s “Knitwear Design Workshop” (although I have yet to actually publish a sweater pattern, I will one day.  :))

Ravelry has some designer group forums which are always interesting to follow.

I keep multiple spreadsheets of general sizing information which I can transfer into designs.  (I do not know where precisely I retrieved all of this sizing from, I gathered it via Google over many years).

Craft Yarn Council website.

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May Yarn Club Show & Share

So many great projects and patterns this month!

Liz wore her Sunshine Coast sweater by Heidi Kirrmaier, made with Lang Seta Tweed.

Valerie showed off her finished and blocked Croeso, Lace & Cable Shawlette by Camille Coizy Delahaie, made with Viking of Norway Alpaca Silk.

Erin brought in her Cascades pullover by Michele Wang, made with Brooklyn Tweed Shelter

Karen showed her All About That Brioche shawl by Lisa Hannes, made with Paca Peds – Alpaca, Superwash Wool & Nylon.

Terri brought in her tiny Raindrops pullover by Tin Can Knits for a new baby, mad with Knit Picks Kettle Dyed Sock Yarn

Marilyn shared her Stripe It Away test knit for Meiju K-P, made with Ancient Arts & MadelineTosh Light.

Gillian wore her Omena vest by Jill Zielinski, made with Plucky Scholar.

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The Baby Sock Reading Challenge & How to “Read” Your Knitting

If you’re just starting out, or don’t know what I mean by “reading” your knitting, let me first direct you to these two excellent series of blog posts:

“Reading” Your Knitting (Parts 1, 2 & 3) by Talena Winters

The Secret to Becoming a Great Knitter! (Parts 1, 2 & 3) by Felicia of the Craft Sessions

These are great starting points for mastering this skill.  The best way to learn to “read” the stitches you are or have knitting, however, is practice.  Keen observation of what the yarn is doing in your hands as you complete each knitted stitch, decrease, increase, yarn over, cable; what these stitches look like as you progress (what do they look like right after they’ve been made? what do they look like a few rows down?); these are the puzzle pieces that will make this skill come together for you.

I’ve given a lot of thought to how I would teach this in a workshop situation, and although Yarn Club meetings aren’t workshop-length, I thought I might try out my idea amongst our friendly and open minded group.

The Baby Sock Reading Challenge

The idea is simple enough: You make one baby sock without instructions, and without taking notes.  Then you make the matching sock by looking at the first and deciphering what you did from its stitches.  If they don’t end up matching exactly, well, they’re just baby socks and you haven’t wasted much time trying.  And maybe you’ve learned something (such as how to accurately count rows, or how to make a sock without a pattern, or that you CAN read knitting and didn’t realize it, or that you absolutely HATE knitting without precise instructions…).  Obviously my hope is that you learn to recognize that reading knitting in this way is a possibility, and one that can take your knitting to the next level, with time.

To illustrate my challenge, I made a baby sock, and went through how I would go about reading it to make the second.  I also wrote out my Patternless Sock Guidelines, to help start you off.  You’ll find many other great sock “recipes” on Ravelry as well, such as this one from Susan B. Anderson.

Knowing the cuff rib repeat makes counting the stitches easy.  Mark your starting point with a needle (or in my case a thumb – remember, lazy!) and count around by twos for a [K1, P1] rib as here.

I use a very low profile cast-on for my sock cuffs.  The Double Twist Loop Cast-On is quick and stretchy, and doesn’t interfere with row counting.  You can see the red outlining the cast-on in the image above. Count the rows up from your cast-on edge by counting the little Vs that occur above the cast-on and before the beginning of the stitch pattern.

If you choose a stitch pattern with an easy repeat (I used Double Moss Stitch) you can count the leg rows in number of pattern repeats, rather than individual rows, which can make things faster, particularly if you’re working on an adult-size sock.

Slip-stitch patterns can be difficult to learn to recognize, but the trick is to watch for the larger stitches that span the height of two smaller stitches.  These elongated stitches are the ones that have been slipped. In the Eye of Partridge slip stitch pattern, the elongated stitches appear in a checkered pattern with the groups of two smaller stitches in between.

Count the heel flap stitches in the same way you would the cuff stitches – in the case of my Double Moss Stitch, by twos. Alternately you can count the slipped-stitch pattern by single stitches and add the selvage stitches on each side to the count.

I use two or three garter selvage stitches on each side of my heel flaps.  Not only does this make stitches easier to pick up along the edge, it also makes it easier to count how many rows I have worked in the heel flap.

You can see the decreases stitches overlapping in the turned heel which is your clue to it being a short-row decrease heel (as opposed to a straight short-row heel, which would have visible wrapped stitches).

The number of stitches between where decreases begin is your heel’s “turning point.” See my sock guidelines for a heel turning point explanation.

If you make an identical heel flap to your first sock, chances are you’ll be picking up exactly the same number of gusset stitches anyway.  You can count them easily enough, but know that if you have an extra stitch in there, it’s not going to make much of a difference since you’ll be decreasing to the original number of stitches anyway, and if it seems like you NEED that extra stitch in there this time (to avoid a hole for example) it will probably look better with the stitch than without it – stitch counts be d***ed.

You can identify a decrease pattern by looking for the decrease stitches (the ones leaning over a little extra) and also counting the rows in between those dec sts.  Above the dec sts are identified by the red dots, and you can see there’s a regular stitch between them as the rows progress.  So, the decreases are being worked ever other row.

I count the foot length in single rows from the final gusset decrease to the first toe decrease because they line up, and because that final gusset decrease might happen halfway through a pattern repeat on the instep, which makes it more difficult to count.

In order to make a nice round flat toe, the decrease pattern needs to be a little more complicated than the gussett decrease to achieve the gently increasing curve.  Just as with the gusset decreases though, you simply identify those extra-leany stitches, and count the resting rounds between them.  I think of them expressed like this: D, 2, D, 1, D, D, D – wherein the D stands for a decrease row, and the numbers stand for the number of resting rounds between them.

Counting the sts grafted at the tip gives you half the final stitch count.  For instance, if there are 5 grafted stitches forming the toe tip, you know that there were 5 x 2 sts = 10 sts total to form that graft, and therefore 10 sts left on the needles when the knitting stopped.

Et voilà! Now I just need to finish the other one…

Happy reading!

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Alexis’s Patternless Sock Guidelines (for the Baby Sock Reading Challenge)

This is how I make most of my socks: top down, heel-flap, decrease short-row heel, flat round toe – no matter the gauge, needle size or yarn weight.  I use the method described below to make the first sock, then I use the finished first sock as a template to make the second.  In all honesty, this method arose from utter laziness.  I’d much rather crack on with my knitting than stop and take notes (ahem, though of course, not while I’m designing for pattern writing).  So instead of writing anything down, I just look back at the first sock and read what I’ve done from there.

It wasn’t always perfect.  Sometimes my unwillingness to take notes during my leisure knitting resulted in rows ripped back and redone.  But eventually, what was born from laziness has made me a stronger knitter.  It was not too long after I started doing this that I realized I could look at almost any knitted thing and write down instructions for making it.  It was a turning point in how I knit, and I always try to encourage others to seek a similar freedom.  Socks are a great way to do this because you have to make two, and they can be made quickly.  To read more about how I decipher a sock, see the Baby Sock Reading Challenge.

Patternless Sock Guidelines

Gauge:

Using your chosen needle size & yarn weight, CO about 20 sts, and work about 6 – 8 rows in a rib pattern or St st.  When this is done, pull the knitting off the needle and measure your stitch gauge.  Use this measurement to decide how many stitches to cast on, remembering that you’ll want to make your sock with a certain amount of negative ease.

My Gauges: For the kid’s sock in the Baby Sock Reading Challenge, I used 3.5 mm needles, DK weight yarn, and 30 sts. For an adult women’s sock, I usually CO about 60 sts with sock weight yarn and 2.5 mm needles.  For a man’s I increase this to about 66 sts (I like my stitches to be divisible by 2 and 3 if possible).

Cuff:

Pick a rib pattern for the cuff (if you swatched in rib, might as well use that one!), CO your sts, and work until you’ve got the length of cuff you like. Note: take for granted that you should be working in complete rounds.

Leg:

Pick a main stitch pattern for your sock and switch from rib to the new pattern. Work until you are happy with the length of the leg.

My Stitch Pattern: For the kid’s sock I used a Double Moss stitch pattern.

Rnds 1 & 2: [K1, P1], rep to end.

Rnds 3 & 4: [P1, K1], rep to end.

Note: Using a stitch pattern with a set number of rnds can make it easier to count the rows in the leg when you are reading the first sock to make the second.

Heel Flap:

Knit across about half the stitches to form the heel flap.  Heel flap is worked flat.  Choose a slip stitch pattern for the heel, and include 2 or 3 garter stitch selvage stitches on each side.  Work heel flap rows back and forth until the heel flap is about square, ending with a WS row.

My Heel Flaps: I usually use either an “Eye of Partridge” or a plain slip stitch ridged pattern for the heel flap.

Heel flap A (Eye of Partridge)

Rows 1 & 3 (WS): K2 (selvage), P to last 2 sts, K2 (selvage).

Row 2 (RS): K2 (selvage), [Sl 1 pwise, K1], rep to last 2 sts (fits evenly or unevenly depending on # of sts), K2 (selvage)

Row 4 (RS): K2 (selvage), [K1, Sl1 pwise], rep to last 2 sts (evenly or unevenly), K2 (selvage)

Heel flap B (simple slip stitch ridges)

WS: K2 (selvage), P to last 2 sts, K2 (selvage).

RS: K2 (selvage), [Sl 1 pwise, K1], rep to last 2 sts (fits evenly or unevenly depending on # of sts), K2 (selvage)

Turning the Heel:

For a decrease short-row heel turn, find the middle of your heel stitches (either a stitch, or a space between 2 sts), and pick a number of sts on each side to be your heel’s “turning point”.  One stitch will make the angle of turn too acute, and vice versa for too many stitches. Aim for 1/2 – 1 inch width.

Knit across to the far left of your turning point (all turning point sts worked), SSK, K1, TURN.

Next short-row (WS): Sl 1 pwise, purl to far left of turning point (all turning point sts worked), P2tog, P1 turn.

Dec Short-row 1 (RS): Sl 1 pwise, K to slipped st, SSK, K1, TURN.

Dec Short-row 2 (WS): Sl1 pwise, P to slipped st, P2tog, P1, TURN.

Continue these 2 dec short-rows until you’ve worked the last possible RS short-row (if you have a final st that still needs to be dec’d on the WS, you can do that when picking up around the heel flap).

Picking Up Heel Stitches

Pick up and knit stitches along the left selvage edge of the heel flap using the purl bumps from the selvage sts.  If there is too much of a gap between the last purl bump and the beginning of the instep sts, pick up a st or two in between to fill in any potential hole.

Work across instep sts in patt.

Repeat the process for the right selvage edge, remembering about the gap between instep sts and first purl bump.

Rearrange sts on needle if req’d.

Note: At this point in the sock, I generally arrange my stitches on 3 needles – Needle 1 is mid-heel to just before instep, Needle 2 is instep sts, Needle 3 is the other half of heel sts.  I count the mid-heel as the beginning of my round until I reach the toe decreases.

Gusset Decreases

Evenly decrease the extra heel stitches on each side of the instep stitches with decrease ratio of your choice.  Continue decreases until you’ve reached your original stitch count.

My Gusset Decreases: I always decrease every other row, making a nice 45° angle. But you may want to vary this with a steeper incline (dec every row) or a sloping shape (dec every row for first 3 rows, then every other row, then every 3rd row, for example).

Foot

Continue working the foot evenly, keeping instep sts in patt, and sole sts in St st, until the sock is long enough (minus the toe length – about 1 1/2”).  Don’t be afraid to try it on the intended foot with the needles still in it!

Toe Decreases

Decide on a decrease scheme for your toe.  For a flat, rounded toe, you’ll want to gradually increase the rate of dec rows.

My Toe Decreases:  For the kid’s sock I used the following decrease scheme (where D is the decrease round and the numbers represent the # of rnds between dec rnds) –

D, 2, D, 1, D, 1, D, D, D. Leaving 10 sts for grafting.

For adult socks knit with sock weight yarn, my decrease scheme usually looks like this –

D, 3, D, 2, D, 2, D, 1, D, 1, D, 1, D, D, D… until I like the number of stitches left for grafting.  Usually between 16 and 20.

Grafting & Finishing

Use Kitchener Stitch to graft remaining stitches together.  Weave in ends.  Block if you feel like it (I usually don’t bother unless the socks are a gift and I want them to look their best).

Second Sock

Keep the first sock with you when working on the second, and refer to it as a pattern for creating its twin.

See the Baby Sock Reading Challenge for tips on how to use the first sock as a template.

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April Yarn Club Show & Share

Here are most of the lovely and plentiful projects & patterns shared at the April meeting.  If you missed sending in your pictures, and it’s not available on Ravelry, feel free to email me and I will be happy to update!

Marilyn brought in her Ua Shawl test knit in Tosh Merino Light

Marilyn also showed off her colourful Talulah Shawl using a variety of fingering weight yarn including Twinkle Toes by Dye Version

Liz wore her Enchanted Mesa sweater made with The Black Lamb Merino DK

Valerie brought in her Chiara Snood made with Misti Alpaca Handpainted Lace

Laura wore her Aftur sweater made with Lettlopi

Laura also showed her Bousta Beanie, made with her own Twin Oaks Farm DK, and Jamieson & Smith

Kris brought in her extremely colourful Rustic Lodge Christmas stocking made in vibrant shades of Alafoss Lopi.

Victoria brought in her Rockefeller shawl made with Socks that Rock Medium Weight.

Roxann brought in her oval shawlette made by lucet braiding with a chunky alpaca/wool blend.

Enjoy everyone!

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Colour Resources from Katherine Matthews of Purl Diving

In April, Yarn Club welcomed one of its members, Katherine Matthews, the artist and designer behind Purl Diving, the Guelph-based and -inspired yarn line.

For the meeting, Katherine designed and dyed a custom colourway based on Emily Carr’s painting Big Raven, based on a Yarn Club member vote of Canadian paintings.

Big Raven by Emily Carr (1931)

To achieve the colourway that she was satisfied with, Katherine went through many iterations, fine tuning her colours with each new batch:

During her talk, Katherine shared some great online resources for finding your own colour inspirations, and becoming more adept at interpreting and working with colour:

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Understanding Colour Part 2: Perception and influence

In Part 1 I gave a brief overview and resources dealing with colour theory and how to use it effectively in your yarn craft.

When I think about colour, however, the theory of the choices we make only accounts for half of the colour equation.  I believe that, in order to get a fuller picture of colour and how it motivates us, we should also consider how we perceive colour, physically, as well as emotionally and culturally.  Regardless of what the theory tells us is “right” in terms of schemes and contrast balance, colour choice is ultimately subject to an individual’s preferences, and that can have a myriad of influences, beginning with how colour is physically processed by our eyes.

Human eyes contain three types of cone photoreceptors located centrally on the retina in an area called the fovea.  Each cone type is sensitive to different wavelengths of light (i.e. different colours).  The cone cells transduce the light information from our environment into electrical signals which are transmitted to the visual cortex via the optic nerve.  Colour blindness occurs when certain types of cone cells are inactive or missing in the eye. Interestingly, the spread of cone cells in the eye is not even amongst the different types.  The vast majority – 64% – of cones respond most strongly to red light, 33% to green, and 3% to blue.  Also interesting is that this sensitivity corresponds to the order in which most languages have developed words to describe different colours, with red coming first, green following, and blue usually coming last.

Radiolab has a fascinating podcast about colour perception that deals further with cone cells in humans (could you be a tetrachromat?), as well as other species; the development of colour perception in ancient cultures; and why the colour blue is so elusive. (However, be forearmed with a grain of salt: the study they referenced about the Himba tribe of Namibia turns out to be something made up for a BBC documentary.)

So that’s how we see colour physically, but it doesn’t account for how we react to colour personally.  Why do some colours jump out at us more readily than others? How do we arrive at a “favourite” colour, and further, can we direct our colour preferences if we understand them better?

Some other factors to consider:

  • Culture & society – different cultures attach different significance to colours.  Think about pink and blue when a baby is expected. Does a bride wear white, or does she wear red? What does that flashing yellow light mean?
  • Environment – what colours do you see around you most often? In different climates, different colours will be predominant in nature. Blue happens extremely rarely in nature (with the exception of the sky).  In cities, what colours are at play in the buildings, the signs and billboards, the vehicles and roadways?
  • Occupation – people engaged in creative occupations are more likely to be in tune with their colour “sense” than others.  Think artists and designers: those for whom colour choice and awareness is a daily consideration.
  • Experience – our life experience also informs our colour preferences. Anecdotally, as a child a friend told me that pink was too girly, and as a result I refused to wear it in any form until I was in my 20s. When I finally made peace with the colour, I had so much catching up to do that I wore pink for my own wedding.

Now that we have a fuller picture of both sides of the colour experience, here are some ideas for expanding your colour language.  Try one or two, and observe how you respond to the visual:

  • Combine your favourite colour with its complementary from the colour wheel
  • Look through your yarn stash and find the missing colour, then go after it (an excellent yarn acquisition excuse)
  • Plan your next project in colours that oppose those you are currently using
  • Alter the shade or tint of the colour you gravitate towards most
  • Keep a colour journal of items that inspire you & use them to identify and create colour schemes (i.e. project mood boards – for great examples of mood boards see the Twist Collective)
  • Check your colour scheme for contrast by creating a grayscale photo
  • If a colour scheme seems too intense, add a neutral to balance

Happy exploring!

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Understanding Colour Part 1: Theory with yarn-related resources

Colour choice is incredibly important to every fibre crafter I know. When you are working from a pattern, for example, your colour choice is the central most important element of your interpretation of the work.  Will you replicate the scheme exactly? Or choose your own colour adventure?

As yarn-users, unless we are lucky enough to have the skills to dye our own, or know someone who can, we are limited to the palette set out by yarn manufacturers.  It’s a different reality from that enjoyed by painters, and other artists with the freedom to create their own unique colours by mixing.

That said, colour theory still has a place in what we do. Even though our colours are pre-determined, how we combine them is still something that we can practice – because like anything else it does get easier the more you work at it.

This month, I’ve delved into colour theory on one hand, and the perception of colour on the other hand (covered in Part 2), in the hopes of inspiring you to deepen your understanding of colour and its use.

Colour theory always begins here, with the colour wheel:

The basic colour wheel combines Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary colours. Primary colours = Red, Blue, Yellow. Secondary colours are the combinations of Primaries = Violet, Green, Orange.  Tertiary colours are the combinations of Primaries and Secondaries where they meet on the wheel = Yellow-Green, Blue-Green, Blue-Violet, Red-Violet, Red-Orange, Yellow-Orange.

For more in-depth colour wheel info, as well as great examples of colour theory expressed in yarn, see Lacie Lynnae’s The Ultimate Guide to Colour Theory for Sweater Knitters Part 1: The Colour Wheel.

The colour wheel is the basis for all colour possibilities, and combinations.  By varying, the tint (amount of white in a colour) or shade (amount of black) and the proportions of different hues (eg. red and blue) contained in a colour, you can arrive at any colour imaginable.  By understanding how colours interact with each other on the wheel, how they relate in terms of contrast and similarity (i.e. how much they overlap in hue content – for example, red and purple both contain red, and so are related), you can create striking and well-balanced colour schemes.

Knowing some standard colour schemes will set you up with the tools for manipulating them successfully.

Monochromatic: 

  • tints and shades of the same hue
  • simple and easy to create.

Analogous: 

  • colours adjacent to each other on the colour wheel.
  • sharing a common component ensures harmony.

Complementary: 

  • using hues that are directly opposite across colour wheel
  • high contrast
  • each makes the other hue look more intense
  • balance the scheme by using different values (tints and shades) to offset high contrast

 

 

 

 

 

Split Complementary: 

  • colour + the colours adjacent to its complement
  • maintains intense contrast
  • balance with combination of shades & tints

(Kathy K. Wylie Quilts)

Triadic: 

  • uses any three hues equidistant from each other on the colour wheel
  • quite vibrant
  • balance contrast for success

There are even further colour scheme formulas that you can use to ensure that your colour choices are cooperating, but these are a great start.  If you’re struggling with a colour combinations, it helps to fall back on techniques that are proven to work.  If you’re still having trouble within a prescribed scheme, remember to try varying the value (shade) or saturation (tint) of the colours you’ve chosen, to either add or reduce contrast within the scheme.  This can help to calm very loud schemes, or increase the visual interest in schemes where the colours have values that are too similar for good contrast.

Further reading:

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Crochet Diagrams: just to start you off

Big thank you to Alison Ellett, who took us through crochet diagrams (or charts) last week!

As Alison outlined, there are advantages and disadvantages to crocheting from a chart, but we think the awesomeness outweighs the drawbacks:

Awesomeness!

  • Universal – the symbols don’t vary as they do in knitting charts, plus this eliminates the US vs UK terminology disparities.
  • Result actually looks like the chart

Challenges

  • Good charting software is basically non-existent… yet
  • Difficult for some learning styles

Free Japanese hat patterns that you can work from the chart

Simple charted pattern example

Guirlande d’étoiles French pattern

Online crochet diagram tutorials

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Knitting Chart Literacy: reading, writing, befriending

For the visually-inclined, charts can transform the knitting experience and open up new worlds of non-native-tongue pattern collections.  As a designer, I find it a particular boon to be fluent in both written and charted instructions as one set often complements (or calls out issues) in the other.

I am a bit unusual in that charts are my first “knitting language.” I started out knitting from stranded colourwork charts, and then at a used book sale in Melbourne many years ago, I picked up this book, which continues to be one of my favourite jumping off points when I’m playing with stitch patterns:

The stitch patterns in this volume are only charted, but since I already had colourwork under my belt, I was already familiar with the “one square = one stitch” concept.

I did, however, spend a lot of time poring over the stitch key.  Unfortunately, unlike crochet charts, knitting chart symbols are not universal. There are some common stitch symbols that you will see in familiar shapes across different chart sources, but there are variations.  Therefore you always need to start with the key or legend, so that you are sure you know what you’re reading.  You’ll notice that the key above includes instructions for both the Right (RS) and Wrong (WS) sides of the work (this key is automatically generated by my charting software, and doesn’t represent what I use in my patterns, to wit the WS instructions for SSK and K2tog are not correct).

To start out slow, I thought about what would be the very simplest chart to read (though it’s not necessarily the easiest chart to knit), and decided on the above.  It represents 15 rounds of 10 sts of Stockinette stitch, knit in the round.  So essentially a large knit tube.  The chart is read from right to left, in the direction of the knitting, and after the 10th stitch of each round, you simply start back at the beginning of the next round.

The wrong side (WS) rows are where many people get confused, and it does require a perspective shift.  The chart always repesents the RIGHT SIDE of the work, so it can be a bit of a mental cartwheel when you flip your work to do the WS, and the chart doesn’t come along for the ride.  Instead that flip must be performed in your head.  WS rows are read from left to right, and stitch you make must be the opposite of whatever the chart shows – i.e., You are working so that whatever shows up at the BACK of what you’re looking at matches the chart.  So, for example, above on row 2 (WS) although all the stitches are still empty K squares, when you are working that WS row, you’ll be purling, so that on the RS you’ll have knit stitches showing up.

When you introduce patterning, such as the [K2, P2] rib shown above, you can begin to see how charting can be an excellent visual representation of the work.  Of course, no one would ever publish a chart like the one above – it has too many repeats and could be expressed much more simply.  In charts, just as in written instructions, knitters are fond of abbreviation.  So rather than the long-form chart above, the actual chart might look something like this:

All the extraneous repeats have been removed, and repeat lines have been added to show where the knitter should begin again.  In a stitch collection, this stitch pattern might be noted as being a “multiple of 4, plus 2” which means that this pattern can be worked over any number of stitches that is divisible by 4, with an additional 2 stitches added to balance it out (stitches 5 & 6).  In written pattern instructions, an indication would be given as to how many times the pattern was to be repeated, both stitch-wise and length- or row-wise.

My love of colourwork runs deep, and it is one place where you really can’t do without the chart.  Happily colourwork like this is usually done in the round, so not only is the payoff from chart reading amazing, it’s a great way to ease into the whole world of charted patterns.  Some things to note are that some colourwork charts use symbols to represent the colours – you’ll see this in print publications foremost, where colour printing comes at a premium.  Also it’s important to note that when you’re finding your place again after having put your knitting down for a period of time (that’s a thing that normal people do, right?) that you should be guided by the stitches that are actually on your needles, rather than the row below.

In cable charts, the stitch key is once again king.  Here the symbols get more involved and can be difficult to parse for the beginning knitter.  The biggest hurdle I’ve run into teaching this type of chart to others is keeping in mind that cable “stitches” often involve more than one individual stitch:

If I enlarge this cable chart, you can see that symbols like the one outlined in green actually encompass FOUR squares.  Because one square always equals one stitch, the number of stitches involved in this symbol is 4.  From the arrows on the symbol you can surmise that the two stitches on the left are meant to travel over the two stitches on the right, making this a symbol for a 4-stitch right-leaning cable: sl 2 sts to a cable needle (or if you’re me, and you’re lazy, grab them off the needle with your fingers), hold them in back, knit 2 stitches, then knit the 2 sts from the cable needle (or put them back on the left-hand needle and knit them).

Chart from the Aerie Shawlette

Lace charts can either be extremely straightforward to chart (as above) or extremely difficult.  When they are balanced, and the YOs in each row equal the decreases, the stitch count remains the same and they don’t have to end up looking like this:

Now I realize that this is a chart that has the potential to send charting newbies screaming for the hills, and I agree that it is not a thing of beauty and requires a certain amount of faith to begin, but bear with me; because all those blank dark grey spaces aren’t as scary as they look.  I’ll come back to them. First a last word on lace chart variations:

Chart from Boon of Roses Scarf (where it appears with WS rows intact)

Because most lace patterns have identical WS rows (sometimes referred to as resting rows), which are usually entirely purled, some designers prefer to remove the WS rows from lace charts entirely.  The argument is that the foreshortened chart is a closer visual representation of the actual resulting lace.  As a graphic designer however, I appreciate the presence of a little breathing room in my visuals, and I find this type of chart cramped and disorienting, so I don’t omit the WS rows.

Chart excerpt from Eramosa Vest

Now back to those blacked out stitches. When a stitch count alters, the blacked out (or in other charts, simply disappearing) stitches represent that change.  It means, literally, that there is no longer a stitch there.  But while it leaves a gap in your chart, you do not need to replicate this gap in your knitting.  In fact, please, please don’t.  The way to treat these ghosted stitches is to simply pretend they don’t exist (because… they don’t) and skip over them to the next real stitch.

Finally, for those who want to take their charting adventure to the next level and start creating their own, some suggestions.  Obviously the easiest place to start is with graph paper.  I have heard some designers praising Rhodia graph paper for having lines that showed up well with scans or photocopying:

If you’re not yet ready to dive into the world of dedicated software, there are some good tutorials online for using Excel to chart, including this one from local designer AnnieBee.

I use Intwined Pattern Studio to chart.  It has certain limitations, which I overcome with Illustrator, but I know not everyone is lucky enough to have that option.  I like it because it’s inexpensive, it was simple to learn, and over the years I’ve installed it on successive machines without issues (and without paying for it again).  In two words, it is robust and uncomplicated.

I know many other designers use Stitchmastery very happily, and its charts are certainly more attractive than the ones I’m able to generate.  Sadly Stitchmastery hasn’t kept up with the Mac operating system, so unless you’re willing to install several work arounds to get it to run, you’re (I’m) out of luck on that platform.

Happy charting everyone, and if you have anything to add, please do so below!

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