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. πŸ™‚ 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.

Middleton Pullover

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I have finally launched this sweater. πŸ˜€ It has been a year in the making! After some issues with gauge and then the process of getting sleeves that looked good, it has been quite the process.

This sweater has a lace design on the bottom of the body, as well as the bottom of the sleeves. I wanted to give an airy feel to the sweater, while still leaving the warmth of the upper body in tact. It is knit from the bottom up and will give the opportunity to add extra length as you go, if you find you need it. I know, personally, I do like to lengthen all of my sweaters. The sleeves are knit by picking up stitches in the armhole and knitting down to the cuff. This made for an easier finish, since the sleeves did not need to be sewn in.

The sweater calls for sport weight yarn. I used Miss Babs Killington, in the Dahlia colorway. You will need between 1400 and 2100 yards for this sweater, depending on your size and gauge. You will need US 4 (3.5mm) needles for the bulk of the knitting, and US 3 (3.25mm) for the cuffs of the body and sleeves.

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Sock Basics Part 2: Heel and Gusset

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Now that the leg of our sock is completed, it’s time to consider the construction of the Heel and the Gusset. The Heel part of your pattern will usually form the strip that goes down the last part of your leg to the ground, and then will magically turn into a little triangle for the back of your heel to sit in to. The Gusset will then come off that flap and triangle to create the part that goes along your ankle bone. Both are very important, and may take some trial and error to find the heel and size that works for you. The Gusset also provides the space for your instep, so that the top of your foot has the room it needs, and will also help with the sock being able to slip up over your ankle.

The Heel: Every pattern will give you instructions for the heel. Depending on the type of construction they are using, you will typically get a section for a Heel Flap and a section for Heel. The Heel Flap is that strip going down the back of the leg I was talking about. This is normally knit back and forth over a certain amount of stitches, while the other stitches just sit around doing nothing for a while. So, you will have knits and purls going on here, and you will have both a right side and a wrong side. The right side will be the part of the fabric that will go on the outside. The wrong side will be the part that touches your foot on the inside of the fabric. Many patterns use a variation on knitting, purling and slipping stitches to create a thicker and more durable fabric. But, there are many different ways of doing this. If you are working on a very detailed pattern, you might find that the pattern runs down the heel flap as well. It may help for you to take a measurement to see just how long you want that heel flap. I tend to measure from the top of my ankle bone to the floor, and since my feet are two different sizes, I make sure to measure both. They are both actually 3″. However, the socks do have some stretch, so I typically will take off about 20%. That ends up being 2.4″. Since the patterns tend to suggest 2.5″, I will go with that number. If you have a high instep, you might want to consider making your heel a bit longer. The biggest reason is to allow the sock to not only go over your ankle, but to give you room to have your foot feel comfortable.

As you knit socks, you will start to learn what feels most comfortable for you. This can be a bit of trial and error, because there are different heel constructions. The heel flap and heel tend to be short rows. That means you will be knitting part of the row, and then turning your work and leaving some of the stitches of the heel unworked. However, there are other options. I found a great page with information on all the various heels that are available here. As you will see there are many. You can knit the heel as you work the sock, or you can do an afterthought heel, which means you put in a piece of spare yarn and keep knitting a tube. Then later you come back and pick up the stitches on that spare yarn and make your heel. You can also consider doing the heels and toes a different color, for a contrast heel. There are so many ways to spruce up those heels!

Gusset: When you work the gusset (and I’m going to continue on the assumption that we are going to work a basic short row heel), you will be picking up stitches along the heel flap. You are going to end up with a lot of stitches on your needles at first. In general, you will be picking up about 16 stitches on each side of that heel flap (the exact number will always appear in your pattern). This will make things fiddly and bulky for a bit. If you are knitting on circular needles, then you’ll just have a lot of stitches to work with, and you’ll find your way through. This is how I normally will work. If you are using double pointed needles, then you’ll have just a couple needles stuffed full, but you’ll also just have to work your way through. Make sure that you follow the pattern very closely when arranging your stitches. There is a particular line up of stitches, because you will still have one set that is for the top of your foot (instep), and you will be decreasing stitches in your gusset on either side of that just before and just after those instep stitches. You don’t want to decrease within the instep itself. These decreases all happen on what will become the bottom of your foot (sole). The gusset decreases in the sock will create a little triangle along both sides of your ankle.

The great thing is that once you have completed those gusset decreases, you are in the home stretch! You are now onto the foot! I think one of my first recommendations is to follow the pattern exactly as written for that first sock. The heel is going to seem very strange at first, but I promise that if you follow it exactly it magically turns into a heel. One my first sock I was really nervous. The instructions seemed so strange! And then suddenly…poof heel! It was pretty cool, actually. I felt very accomplished. πŸ˜€ Also, be prepared to not have a well fitting sock at first. All patterns are written for what I will call the average foot, and goes off the sizings written by places like shoe companies and manufacturers. The best place to start for any knitwear sizing is the Craft Yarn Council. They have a great chart here. But, again, these are average sizes.

If you are making socks for someone with a high instep you have a couple options. When you work the heel flap, consider increasing it by a half inch to an inch. For example, if you measure your heel at about 4″ (mine was at 3″), then you subtract 20% from that, you will get 3.2″. I would knit the heel to 3″ instead of the patterns typical 2.5″. This will mean that you will also be picking up more stitches than the pattern suggests. You will pick up every single stitch along the side. So, if you worked 20 right side rows and 20 wrong side rows, you will be picking up 20 stitches on each side of the heel flap. This will also mean that you will do more Gusset decreases. However, this is where you can adjust for a higher arch, as well. If you have a taller foot at the arch, then do not decrease as much as the pattern suggests. Stop with about 4 more stitches remaining than they recommend. And easy way to calculate what you will need in terms of numbers of stitches, is to take the number you are given in the pattern for stitch gauge. It should be written as a number per four inches. Divide that number by 4, and that will give you the number of stitches per inch. If you feel like you need an extra inch, then leave about that many stitches not decreased. If you do not get a whole number, round up or down to the nearest inch. I’ll explain how to deal with that change in number for the toes in the next installment. πŸ˜€

I know this is a lot of information, but this really is the most complicated and adjustable part of the entire sock. Once you get this part figured out, you will be well ahead of the game! Be sure to check out the link above for heel construction options. But, as with anything, there is no number one thing that works for everyone. A lot of people adore the Fish Lips Kiss Heel, but a lot of people also find it doesn’t fit them well. Also, many of these heel variations are their own pattern, and are available for sale by the designers. They will also provide their own instructions on how to blend it into any sock, and how to properly take measurements to create the best fit possible.

I hope you are enjoying working on your new socks! The best thing is that hand knit socks can be worn all year round. If you find the legs too warm, then shorten that cuff down to only 1-2″ before you start the heel flap, and you have a wonderful ankle sock. If you want them to be more airy, then find a nice lace pattern for the leg and top of the foot, and you’ll get a wonderful breeze through those socks.

Hopefully I have given you enough information to work through that first heel. πŸ˜€ Stay tuned for the next edition, which will be all about those toes!

Thanks for reading!!

New Release! Harvey Wallbanger Scarf

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This scarf was inspired by a cake that my family makes. It’s called a Harvey Wallbanger cake. It’s an orange cake with a creamy icing that’s nicely boozed up. :slightly_smiling_face: I designed the scarf to have the nice orange color in the middle, just like the cake with the browned up exterior and the icing sitting on the outside.

The great thing with this scarf is you get this honeycomb effect that makes the scarf come alive, but it doesn’t take very long to memorize the pattern. It makes for great TV knitting, or perhaps when travelling. But, it will start to get long and cumbersome. hehe The texture also makes the scarf feel more full and fluffy, and will give it a nice warmth in the winter.