How to Read a Knitting Chart

Knit by Numbers

America Star Coaster Chart
This simple star chart was made for a color knitting project. (c) Sarah E. White, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Knitting charts are useful for showing knitters what to do without explaining every instruction in words. They are a necessity for all but the most basic multicolored knitting and are often used for knitting with cables or for lace patterns.

Chart knitting can be a little intimidating because it's not intuitive how to read a knitting chart. But once you understand it, it's really easy.

A knitting chart is simply a visual representation of the knitting project shown from the right or front side.

You work it just as you would the knitting project.

It begins at the lower right-hand corner and you work across the row from right to left, just as you do when knitting it.

If the project you are working is knit flat, the second row will be worked reading the second row from the bottom of the chart from left to right. That makes sense because you're working the back but looking at the chart from the front, so you have to do it backwards.

If you're working in the round, every round is worked with the right side showing, so you just move up and work the second round from the bottom from right to left as well.

Usually, charts are numbered along two sides to indicate the stitch and the row that you are on. Typically you'll see numbers only on the right side if the chart is worked in the round and alternating right and left sides if the project is worked flat. You may also see numbers only on the right side, but only every other row will be numbered.

The chart shown here has all the numbers on the left side because it was originally used for a duplicate stitch project so the numbers only matter for keeping track of where you are. I have used this chart for a couple of different projects, including the Star Bib and America Star Coasters.

There are charts for all sorts of knitting purposes, including showing how to knit a simple textured stitch pattern as well as those for working cables, lace or colorwork.

Color knitting charts indicate where the colors change in a pattern, while pattern charts show which stitches are made at which point in the project.

Charts tend to use common symbols that look something like the stitch you are making (for instance, a circle for a yarn over), but if you can't decipher what's happening just by looking -- which is pretty common with cables -- there should be a key with the chart that explains the maneuvers.

If you're having trouble making sense of a knitting chart or keeping track of where you should be, it might help to write out the instructions in words or talk yourself through the chart out loud as you stitch.

Some people are more visual and take to knitting from a chart very easily, while for others it is more difficult and takes some practice, but everyone can learn to knit from a chart. Just be patient, knit slowly and with time it will become easier.