So You Want to Knit 9 – Cables

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Oh Cables. Those delightful details that look so scary and complicated. I remember as a kid when I was learning to knit that cables were far too complicated for me. It really put me off for a long time, because I really wanted to make those cables and felt very discouraged. When I started knitting again, I was determined to figure them out. I did some looking online for videos, found out that I needed a special needle, which I promptly bought, and set to work. You know what I realized? They really are not that complicated. Honestly. They look difficult, but you don’t even need that special cable needle. Although, for starting out it definitely helps, and I highly recommend having it. I do still use mine when doing larger or more complicated cables. However, if all you have a small double pointed needle, it will work just as well. I was so happy that I was able to conquer cables. I have been improving on them ever since, and for many of my cables, I don’t need a needle at all. What I would like to do in this post is to alleviate any fears you might have for cables, and make them as straight forward as I can make them.

So, before we get started on making cables, you are probably asking what a cable needle is. It’s simply a small double pointed needle, that typically has a little bend in the middle to hold your stitches a little better.

As you can see in this picture, I have a short little double pointed needle with a small bend in it. That allows me to slip the stitches off the left needle, position the cable needle and still have a pointed end to knit/purl the stitches off. If you find that it is a bit fiddly, or the stitches don’t hold, you can stick an end into your piece just to hold it in place.

Now for those cables. 😀 First, what are cables? Cables are created by simply rearranging the stitches on your needle. You will slip some stitches on to your cable needle, then work some stitches, and then work those stitches that are still on your cable needle. This gives you a twist in your work that is your cable. How it is formed changes only by whether those stitches you put on your cable needle are brought to the front or the back of your work. This creates the lean to your cable, which means the stitches that are in front of the other stitches are leaning to the left or the right. Cables create a very pronounced and visible lean.

I want to start out with some simple cables. I’m going to start with 1/1 cables. That means we will only have two stitches involved in the cable. Lets start with the 1/1 RC. This abbreviation means that you are going to make a Right Cross (right leaning). To accomplish this, we will use our cable needle and slip the first stitch of the left needle onto it as if to purl (which means you slip the cable needle into the next stitch in the same direction as you would purl, but just slipping it off the needle instead of working that stitch), and let that cable needle hang at the back of your work (away from you). The cable needle will keep this stitch from unravelling as you then knit the next stitch on your left needle. Once that is worked, pick up the cable needle, and knit the stitch that is on it, as if it were a regular needle. You now have a stitch in front that has moved from the left position on your needle to the right, which makes it lean to the right. Next is the 1/1 LC. This one means we will create a Left Cross (left leaning stitch). This time, slip that first stitch onto the cable needle as if to purl, and this time let the cable needle hang at the front of your work (towards you). Knit the stitch that is on your left needle, and then knit the stitch from your cable needle. You will now have a stitch in the front that has moved from the right to the left.

The other notations you will see that make variations on the cables is when you introduce purls into them. For example, the 1/1 RPC. This means it’s a Right Purl Cross. You will begin the same way as the RC above, but instead of knitting off the cable needle, you will purl the stitch. You will have a knit stitch that cross over to the right, in front, and then your cable stitch will be purled and will now be on the left. In the 1/1 LPC it’s similar. Your cable needle will be hanging in the front, and you will purl the next stitch from your left needle, and knit the cable needle stitch. As you can see, both of these variations keep the knit stitch as the one that is in front and visible. The purl is tucked in the back of your work and hidden just a little.

One of the things that will come with time is the is the tension you need when working cables. You will find that you can get a bit of a gap because of how the yarn is pulled when working those cables. A great way to work on tidying this up as you go, is that when you are on the next row, you can pull your stitches a little bit as you are working them to even them out just a little. Unfortunately, depending on the size yarn you are using, just pulling the yarn tight when you work the cables isn’t always enough to tighten up the cables, and can lead to puckering in other areas of your work. I find that giving the stitches a little pull with your needle as you are working them in the next row helps even them out just enough.

And that’s it for the explanations. Now it’s time for the demonstration. From here it is just variations on how many stitches you have on your cable needle and that you work from your left. To allow you to practice I have created a dish cloth pattern. This will help you learn some larger cables, and on larger needles, but also teach you the way this looks on a chart, not just written directions.

I will include the pattern at the end of this post for you to follow, but I want to give you some visuals on how these cables will look as you work them and when they are finished. I have chosen to use 3/3 LC and 3/3 RC. That means you will be crossing 3 stitches across the front of 3 other stitches, either going right or left. These are also all knit versions. Let’s start with the 3/3 RC.

Your first step is to work your pattern until you get to the symbol in the chart, or the notation of ‘3/3 RC’ in the written directions. Then you will work it as instructed. The 3/3 RC means you are going to slip the next 3 stitches on to your cable needle as if to purl, and hold it at the back of your work.

Next, you will knit 3 stitches from your left needle. Be sure to snug up that first stitch just a bit to close up the gap that is left where those stitches on your cable needle had been. Next, grab your cable needle, and use it like another knitting needle. You will knit 3 stitches off that cable needle as normal. You now have your 3/3 RC. As you can see your front 3 stitches lean to the right, giving you that right cross.

The next cable you will find in this pattern is a 3/3 LC. As with the RC cable, work until you reach this part of your instructions. Slip the next 3 stitches on to your cable needle as if to purl, and hold the cable needle at the front of your work.

Knit the next 3 stitches from your left needle as normal. As you can see from this next picture, you have knit the 3 from the left needle, but still have that cable hanging out in front. This will give you a good idea of what the cable looks like half way through, and how it closes up and twists.

Now we can finish up the cable, and knit 3 stitches from the cable needle. You will now have a completed 3/3 LC. As you can see, the stitches from the cable needle make up the front stitches, and have a visible lean to the left.

As an extra note on this pattern: I have included both written and charted directions. Take a look at the chart and look at the symbols used for the cables as you work them. The image used will actually look like the stitch you are working. So, for the 3/3 RC, you can see that the first 3 stitches of the image end up going behind the second 3 stitches, to create the cross. That gives you the indication that your cable needle will go to the back of your work, and the front stitches should have that right lean. The 3/3 LC has the first 3 stiches being in the front, so your cable needle goes to the front, and they will become your left leaning stitches. It’s a great extra notation of where your stitches are being held.

These are the only cables used in this pattern. You can now go ahead and work through your little dishcloth. It will give you little ripples for scrubbing texture, and give you some visual interest. This also means you can use these skills in any other project you encounter without fear! As I said above, all cables are derived from the same skills. I hope this post has helped! I know that cables can look complicated, but now you will be able to give them a go, and will be able to start making projects that wow your friends and family!

Pattern

Cabled Dishie
Needle: US 7 / 4.5 mm Straight needles.
Notions: Cable needle
Stitch Glossary:
3/3 RC: Slip the next three stitches purl wise on to a cable needle and hold it to the back of your work. Knit three stitches from the left needle. Knit three stitches from the cable needle.
3/3 LC: Slip the next three stitches purl wise on to a cable needle and hold it to the front of your work. Knit three stitches from the left needle. Knit three stitches from the cable needle.

Pattern:
Cast on 40 stitches.
Rows 1 – 4: Knit. (40 sts)
Row 5: K4, 3/3 RC, k7, 3/3 LC, k7, 3/3 RC, k4.
Row 6: K4, p32, k4.
Row 7: Knit.
Row 8: Repeat row 6.
Row 9: Repeat row 5.
Rows 10 – 37: Repeat rows 6 – 9.
Rows 38 – 41: Knit.

Common Beginner Knitting Problems

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I’ve written a number of posts now on how to knit. However, there are some common problems that beginner knitters struggle with that don’t necessarily fit in a how to knit post. They cover a variety of topics, but definitely deserve to be addressed. Many of these problems can be very frustrating, and I would hate for you to quit knitting because of them. Learning to knit is like anything else. It’s learning a new skill. It takes time. It takes some level of muscle memory and some brain memory. If you have to keep looking things up, that is absolutely okay! For example, if you delve into something like socks that require grafting (stitching together), you will come across the Kitchener stitch. I have met so many people that don’t remember how to do it, and they get frustrated. It can be so hard for people to remember, that you can actually buy key chains and other things with the directions on it. Having to repeated look up anything is completely normal, and I would very much encourage it. For the first year or two, depending on how many projects you do, you will probably need to continue to look up how to cast on each time. I know I did. I kept forgetting. And with my brain fog, some days I still get confused and have to go look it up to reassure myself that I’m doing it right. 🙂

One of the initial problems that knitters have, and I covered this briefly in the first how to knit post, is gauge and tension. Gauge is how many stitches or rows/rounds you get for every 4″. This has a huge impact on garments. Tension is how tight you hold your yarn as you work. As a beginner, your knitting is going to be crazy tight. I mean really tight. So tight that as you try to knit, you are going to hear it squeaking. Again, this is normal! This is why I recommend starting out making dish clothes. As you learn to knit your stitches will loosen. If you are making a scarf, this will make for a very wonky scarf that is tight on one end and loose at the other. What you are looking for, are stitches where your knitting needle can be slipped in to knit or purl, with no effort, but not so loose that everything is just dropping off your needles. You want that stitch sitting on your needles to cover the needle, with just a small amount of slack. It’s hard to explain, but when your stitches stop squeaking as you try to knit them, you are there. To get there, you will need to figure out how tight to hold your yarn. When you knit a stitch, you are never going to pull it tight. When you hold your yarn, you are going to have it held just tight enough that it will tighten the stitch for you, but it will still slip through your fingers as you work the stitches. Unfortunately, the only way to learn this is repetition. Some people can figure it out quickly, others take longer. Your speed is just right for you.

When it comes to gauge, this is going to be a lifelong thing that you will need to keep in mind. This is not just for beginners. When a designer writes a pattern, they write it for their own gauge. Gauge is different for every knitter. It depends on so much. Your needles will change your gauge, the temperature in your house, how you are feeling. Everything can loosen or tighten your gauge. Depending on how much pain I am in on any given day can mean that I have to pay attention to my gauge. Especially if I am knitting a sweater. For example, in the sweater I am working on right now, I had to tear out the sleeve. My gauge really tightened up compared to the body. I am re-knitting it looser, and it now matches the body. The important thing is to not lie to yourself. If your gauge has changed, accept it and work to fix it. Don’t do what I do, and think oh it might be okay. It’s never okay. lol Your gut understands more than you do. Take the time early to do the fix.

Another problem that new knitters run in to is the randomly added stitch. You are chugging along just fine, and then realize you have 3 extra stitches on a row. You will do this less and less as you improve, but this is terribly common with beginners. We’ve all done it. But, how did it happen? Well, when you are dealing with stitches that are too tight, you can very easily knit a stitch, and split the yarn that is the stitch of the left needle. That inadvertently makes two stitches. You get two stitches from one thread of yarn. You have bisected the yarn. And 9 times out of 10 you don’t even notice. The number of times you do this, will decrease as your stitches loosen, but it’s good to keep your eyes open. Here is what a split stitch looks like:


As you can see the needle has split the yarn. It can blend in so well that you can keep on going and really not notice. When you split it, you will notice that all your knit stitches make nice lines going up your piece, but then there is this little hole, which you can see to the right of the knit stitch in that second picture. This is the split part of the stitch that should not be there. As you get more comfortable with how your stitches should look, it will get more obvious. Now, this isn’t just a beginner problem either. Some yarns have a very loose twist or are just fluff that makes it super easy to split. You might hear talking about how yarn is ‘splitty’. This is what they are talking about. They get cruising on a project and their needles just keep splitting the yarn. Sometimes they are left with an extra stitch, but something the entire yarn comes off the left needle, and you are left with a stitch to the right with only half of the yarn caught. This can create a weak point, and can be very annoying. Just know that this can happen to even the best of us. If you find a spot like this, check out my post on fixing errors. You can either rip back to fix the stitch, or you can drop down to it to fix it. That post will give you details on how to do that. You can use these methods if you have split your stitch and have extra stitches now. Or, depending on your pattern, if you can find where you split the yarn, you can head over to the post on decreases, and just knit the two stitches that were supposed to be one, together. It will reduce it back to a single stitch. I’ve done this many times, and it’s a super easy “cheat” to get back to the count you need.

This last bit is all about confidence. When you start learning a new skill, it can be a mess. And it can be that way for a while. You will need to learn to embrace the process. Even the ugliest of dish clothes will still clean your dishes. 🙂 And everyone has started somewhere. Never think that you can’t do something. I was told that for a long time, and it caused me to stop knitting for about 15 years. There is nothing you can’t do. Whether you can master it is a different statement, but you can certainly do it. Who cares if it looks a bit messy the first time. Like anything, practice makes improved. Again, that’s why I love small projects when you start. It gives you so many options to learn a multitude of techniques with so little commitment. 😀 But, if you want to branch out into something bigger, do it! Pick a pattern and dive in! Read through the entire thing before you start, and if there are parts you don’t understand, head to the internet to look it up. There are so many people that have blog posts or video’s on how to make a garment, or how to do certain types of stitches that you will quickly have all the information you need to conquer it. Also, ignore the difficulty rating on patterns. All that means is that if it’s harder than a beginner level, there are techniques that you will need to look up and learn. You’ll never grow as a knitter if you don’t dive in to the more difficult patterns. However! If you just want to make simple scarves and that is your happy place, then darnit keep making those! Knitting is all about your happy place. I have friends that feel bad for only ever making garter or stockinette scarves. But they enjoy every second of it! Sometimes it’s because they don’t think they can learn something more difficult, which should never cross your mind. Of course you can, but only if you want to. This is all about your happy place, not mine or any one elses. Rock what you make and have fun!!

So you want to knit 8 – Fixing Mistakes and Life Lines

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Welcome back! It has been a busy few weeks for me, but I am finally sitting down to continue with this series. I debated on what to do next, but I decided that before I move on to other techniques, that I should take time to look at how to fix mistakes in your knitting. I will go through a couple techniques. First up will be the simple, but very time consuming option, which is ripping out your work. Most people will refer to this as frogging because rip it sounds an awful lot like ribbit. hehe A fun word for a pain in the behind task. lol This is very time consuming, but it is also the easiest way to get back to your mistake. I will use this if I find I made a huge mistake, like I completely missed a row in a chart, or there is a larger section of error. Technique two is the scary one, and will require an understanding of the make up of the stitch. However, it is the method I use the most. If I find that I purled a stitch instead of knit, for example, and it’s 3 or 4 rows back, it’s a lot easier to fix that one stitch than it is to rip back those 3 or 4 rows. Now, while this can be a difficult technique that will require some thought on your part, it’s not impossible. And after a few attempts, you will find it gets much much easier. It also gives you a great understand of the structure of your piece. I would not consider this a beginner technique, if I were to rate it on difficulty, but it’s absolutely something a beginner can learn, and it’s something that can really benefit them, skill wise. I will try to take the best pictures possible to explain everything that I am talking about.

Before we get into the fixing of the mistakes, there is a get out of jail free card, so to speak. When you are knitting lace or have a particularly complicated pattern, it can be scary to contemplate frogging all those rows or dropping your stitch down to fix a mistake. My preferred method when knitting lace is to put in a life line. This method uses a spare piece of yarn (waste yarn) to thread through each stitch on your needles, so that if you find a mistake, you can just pull out your needles and pull out the yarn, until you are stopped by that waste yarn. Once you get to that, you have a piece of yarn in each stitch, holding it in place for you to simply slip your needle back into, to begin knitting once again. Also, when you put in a life line, it’s important to mark what row of the chart or written directions you were on, so you can pick up with little thought. To insert the waste yarn, thread the yarn onto a tapestry needle, and then thread the needle through each stitch on your needles. Pull the yarn through all those stitches, but leave them on your needle. Those stitches are now secure in case you need to go back to that spot.

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Now what if you want to just go back a couple stitches in your work. Perhaps you made a mistake on the row you are on, or you don’t have a lifeline and need to keep frogging back to fix a larger mistake? Knowing the construction of your knitting will help you know where to insert the left needle to get the old stitch back. First, we’ll look at knit stitches, since they are easier to see. Looking at the right needle, where your new stitches are, you want the loop that is below the needle.

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Insert your left needle into that loop, so that your new stitch falls off the right needle, and you can pull the yarn out from the stitch. You will now how the old stitch back on your left needle.

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If you are purling, you will be looking for the bump under the needle.

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Insert your left needle into that bump to pick it up, and then let it drop off the right needle and pull your yarn free. You now have the old stitch on your left needle.

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One of the more difficult fixes is when you have one stitch that is wrong, but it’s a few rows down. You don’t want to spend hours frogging stitch after stitch to fix just that one stitch. The fastest way, but for many the scariest, is to drop the stitch down to where the mistake is and pick up all the little threads of yarn to get back to where you were. In the picture you can see a little purl bump where a knit stitch should be. A crochet hook will make this much easier to do. The first step is to use your crochet hook to catch the stitch that you need to fix, so you don’t pull down too many stitches. In this case, you slip the hook under the purl bump to hold it in place. If you don’t have a crochet hook, many places sell small hooks that are made for fixing stitches. Amazon even has a set of three little hooks to give you a range of sizes to match the yarn you are using.

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Next, pull that stitch off your needle, and gently pull the yarn out of each loop until you get to your crochet hook.

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In this case, the last thread of yarn is sitting in front of your stitch. You will want to adjust it so it sits behind it, like all the other threads.

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Once everything is where you need it to be, and is neat and tidy, you can begin recreating your stitches. All of these stitches need to be knit stitches. Grab the lowest strand of yarn, and pull it through your loop to make a new stitch. Do this for every strand of yarn, working from the lowest to the highest.

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Once you have worked every strand, place the loop back on to your needle.

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If you are trying to fix purled stitches, you will want to have all your strands in front of your loop.

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Just like the knit stitches, you will grab the lowest strand of yarn first, and pull it through the loop, working from lowest to highest until they are all used.

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As you are fixing your stitches like this, you may find that you get a line of stitches that is looser than the stitches around it. You can fix this a bit, by pulling on your knitting both lengthwise and knitwise. This will pull the yarn a bit to even it out among some of the stitches. The other thing to be careful of, is that when you are pulling the yarn out of the stitches to get to the one needing to be fixed, make sure you don’t pull too hard on that yarn. Same as when you are pulling it back through the loop. If you pull on it too much, it will tighten the stitches beside it, and give you too much slack when making your new stitch.

I hope these tips help you as you increase your knitting skills. Fixing a mistake can be daunting, but it can be done easily. If you are knitting lace and want to use the lifeline method, don’t be afraid to put a lifeline after every 10 rows, or every repeat of the chart, or however often you want to put in a new one. You want to be able to rip back a few rows, and not have to redo too much of your work. I prefer to go no more than 10 rows between lifelines, but that is just my personal preference.

Thanks for reading and happy knitting!!

So you want to knit 7: Reading a chart

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As you progress in your knitting, you will inevitably come to a pattern that contains a chart. The chart is simply a pictorial depiction of how the pattern is to be worked. Many patterns will also come with written directions that you can use instead of the chart, but this is not always the case. Either way, it’s a very good skill to learn, and it’s not as intuitive as many people think. We’ll go through a simple chart that I have created, and I’ll try to answer many of the basic questions I see. Also, a chart is read differently depending on if you are knitting flat, or in the round, so I will be sure to give the proper instruction for both.

First of all, here is your sample chart (this is just a simple triangle shape, but I wanted to show how decreases and yarn over’s work in a chart).

Sample Chart Blog

To start, lets look at the numbers on the side and bottom. Every time you begin a chart, you will begin at the lowest number, in this case 1. You may find if you are working a large shawl, this will not always be a 1, because there could be multiple charts and the shawl progresses. The number on the right (and left) sides of the chart are your row numbers. The numbers on the bottom are the stitch numbers. In this case, you begin by working stitch row of row 1 on the chart, on the first stitch of the row on your needles. You also have a key with your chart, which in this case appears to the right of the chart. It will tell you what each symbol and box means. For the very first stitch of the first row, the box is empty and white. The key explains that this is a knit stitch on the right side of your work, and a purl on the wrong side of your work. Since row 1 is our beginning, that is our right side, and will be a knit stitch for us.

Box 2 of row 1 is a circle, which the key tells us means we are to do a yarn over. This takes up a box, even though it creates and extra stitch. That is because somewhere in our pattern we have an offsetting decrease that will bring us back down to the correct number of stitches we need. So, move your yarn to the front of your work, to create your yarn over, and get ready for box 3 of row 1.

Box 3 is an SSK. There is our offsetting decrease. As you can see this only takes up one box, even though we are working two stitches. Again, this is because that yarn over is the other part of that stitch count.

Box 4 through 8 are all empty boxes, so knit each of these.

Box 9 is another decrease. This time it’s a k2tog (knit two together). Like the SSK, this only takes up one box even though we are working two stitches. That is because we have a yarn over coming up that will balance it out.

Box 10 is our next yarn over.

Box 11 is the last stitch of our pattern, and it’s another empty white box, so knit this stitch.

This first row, is worked on the right side of our work, and will be worked exactly the same for in the round and flat. The differences begin on the even numbered rows. That is because when we are working flat, these even numbered rows are going to on the wrong side of the work, but if we are working in the round, we never have a wrong side row.

In this pattern, I have kept it pretty simple, and left all of the even numbered rows as blank white boxes. As you can see from the key, it has each item labeled as to how it is worked based on whether you are on a right side (RS) row or a wrong side (WS) row. Another difference between working in the round, or working flat is how you read the even numbered rows. Picture this chart as being how you are looking at your knitted piece. If all the odd numbered rows are the right side, then as the chart sits, you are looking at the right side. When working in the round, that means that you are always going to be reading your chart from right to left. However, if you are knitting flat, you turn your knitting piece. That means, you need to mentally turn your chart. So, when you start row 2 (and all even numbered rows), you are actually reading your chart from left to right. Then Row 3 you go back to right to left, etc. This is one area that can really throw people off. But, if you think of it as if it’s a piece of knitted work, and you turn put your finger on the last stitch of your right side row, and then turn your work, you will see that it’s like you are looking at the back of your chart. You are still working your knitted piece right to left, but it’s as if you now have to work the mirror image of your chart to get the pattern to line up. I hope that makes sense. 🙂 That means that if you are working a flat piece, you will purl all of your stitches back. If you are working in the round, you will knit.

As you work your chart, you work your rows in order. You begin with row 1, then do row 2, then row 3, etc, until you have completed the final row in that chart. However, if you are not done with your piece yet, you will likely be given instructions that say, “repeat the chart until you reach your desired length”, or “repeat the chart 3 times”, or some variation of those. The first one, which is the length option, means that when you finish the last row of the chart, you begin the chart all over again, back at row 1. And you do the chart over and over again, until you have a piece that is the length you want it to be. This instruction is very common in blankets, sweaters, etc. The second option tells you how many times to repeat the chart. That means you work through the entire chart once, then go back to row 1 and work the entire chart a second time, then go back to row 1 and work the entire chart a third time. Then you can move on to the next instructions in the pattern.

Another part of the chart that you will see quite often is that red border that I have around the chart. This is called a repeat. It can become very confusing, because you will hear the word repeat thrown around a lot. Repeating the chart until x length or x times, refers to how many times you repeat all the rows of the chart. However, what happens if you piece is 33 stitches wide, but this chart is only 11 stitches. You will be given instructions that say “repeat the chart across the row 3 times”, or some variation of that. This repeat means that those first 11 boxes of the chart will be done again and again, until you have finished 3 repeats. So, in the case of our chart, after you have finished stitch number 11, you go back to row 1 box 1 and work all 11 stitches again. There are a few reasons for it be done like this. One reason is because you want to save space on your page. When a designer is working on something large, like a shawl, you don’t want to list all 300 something stitches in the chart. So, you showing all the ones that have this exact same section as a repeat, you can significantly reduce the number of stitches in your chart. You will very often see that they outline box (in this case the red box), will not be all the stitches, as I have it here. You will very often work a number of stitches, then see the outline box show up with instructions on how many times to repeat it, and then work more stitches afterwards. Again, this is very common in shawls because they have so many stitches, but they also have increases on the ends that need to be shown separately from the repeat chart.

Something else that you will see that can be very confusing is a grey box in the chart. They key will usually just label this as “no stitch”. Most people look at it and go okay, but then what. The reason this shows up is because stitches were decreased in the work somewhere. When you come across this grey no stitch box, you simply pretend it doesn’t exist, because that stitch no longer exists. It was decreased away in a previous row.

I really hope that this helps with chart knitting. If I have not answered a question you have, please let me know. Another great way to double check that you are reading the chart properly, is to compare it to the written directions. They should be identical.