Thoughts on Reading Lace Charts

Knitted Lace Pattern

Last week I shared some ideas about the Goldfish Memory Shawl.  It is a happy, brightly colored project with different sections.  None of the sections are awfully long by design, so it is easy and interesting to knit.  In fact, the sections are perfect for knitters to practice colorwork and gauge—garter or stockinette stitches.  There are two lace sections, however, just to spice things up.  Both sections are the same basic pattern (see the image of the purple unblocked lace section), so by the time you have knitted the first one, you should be pretty comfortable knitting the second one.  It provides an opportunity for great practice and is a great confidence builder.

Lace Chart Stitch Key

The directions for this particular pattern are presented in both written and chart form.  If you have stuck to written patterns in the past and want to experiment with reading a chart, this is a great pattern to try.  It is simple and you have the written instructions to rely on.  As you can see from the key to the chart (right), the most complicated stitches are yarn overs, knit two together (K2tog) and slip, slip, knit (SSK).  You can find a more extensive list of Knit Chart Symbols on the Craft Yarn Council’s web page.  There are symbols for lace and cables.

Lace Knitting Chart

Since the Goldfish Memory Shawl is knitted flat, the chart (left) has directions for right sides and wrong sides. The chart reads from right to left for the right side and from left to right for the wrong side.

I have found that having a few tools on hand really helps me keep track of where I am in the pattern.  I have tried using my tablet, but find it annoying when it goes to sleep, so I rely on the following tools.

Chart Keeper

Magnetic Chart Keeper
Highlighter Tape

Highlighter Tape
Row Counter

Row Counter
Stitch Markers

Rainbow Stitch Markers

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Charts are usually read from the bottom up.
  • Look at the numbers at the end of each row and start with row 1.
  • Pay attention to where you start. Pieces knitted flat, like the Goldfish Memory Shawl, have a chart that includes right side rows and wrong side rows. These will have numbers on both sides of the chart. Usually, odd numbers are right side rows and even numbers are wrong side rows. Charts for projects that are knit in the round will have numbers on only one side of the chart (each row is a right-side row).
  • Use a stitch counter to help you keep track of rows.
  • Become familiar with the symbols. The Goldfish Memory Shawl only has a few symbols to learn and is a good beginning project.
  • Pay attention to the pattern repeats. This is where stitch markers come in handy. The repeat for the lace pattern that I am currently knitting is eleven stitches. I count my stitches on every row one and three of each repeat to check my work. If I make a mistake, it is easy to find and fix before I get too far along. This is even more important on more complicated patterns, as they can be challenging to rip out. Once I become familiar with the pattern, counting repeat stitches every three or five rows works for me.
  • Mark your place on your chart as you go. I don’t know about you, but I pop up and down a lot when I am knitting, and I don’t like to guess where I left off.

Below is a YouTube tutorial on reading charts.  It is worth a look.

I can still remember my first experiences with reading charts.  I resisted for a long time, wanting to use the written row directions.  They were so familiar.  Then, I fell in love with a pattern that relied only on a chart.  My desire to knit the project outweighed my reluctance to charts. So, I took a leap, and I am so very glad that I did.  With a little practice, I learned that charts became easier and easier to use.  You might too.  Why not give it a try?