Reading a Lace Knitting Chart

Lace patterns are much easier to knit with a good chart to follow

Jane Austen Silhouette Chart
The original Jane Austen silhouette and my chart sketched on graph paper. © Sarah E. White, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Many lace knitting patterns (and cable patterns, for that matter) are much more easily expressed in chart form than they are in words. It can take a lot of words or abbreviations to explain what can be shown in one small chart.

Why Use a Knitting Chart

Don't be ashamed or embarrassed if the item you want to knit requires you to use a chart; they're really necessary for almost all knitting projects (besides the most basic ones).

And don't worry if you feel a little uncertain the first time you see a knitting chart; they're not all that intuitive. Once you understand them, however, charts will make your knitting much easier.

Lace knitting charts can be intimidating to people who've never used them before. The good news is that just like everything else with knitting, a little practice will make it a lot easier to work from a lace chart.

Getting Started with a Lace Knitting Chart

First, you'll want to make a copy of the chart you're working with if it's in a book or a pattern online, so you can carry the instructions around with you and make your own notes and changes as you go along. 

Understanding a Lace Knitting Chart

You read a knitting chart from bottom to top, and from right to left on right-side rows and left to right on wrong side rows. This makes sense when you consider that the chart is always showing you the right side of the work, so you have to work backward to make the pattern line up properly on the right side.

The other key to understanding knitting lace from a chart is knowing what the symbols in the chart stand for. There are many common symbols used in lace charts, but most charts will have a key published along with them that will allow you to interpret the pattern accurately. 

In the sample chart pictured here, blank squares are knit on the right side and purled on the wrong side.

Circles stand for yarn overs, and the left-leaning slashes are slip, slip, knits. Once you understand it, the chart begins to make sense: Knit stitches are a smooth, blank canvas, yarn overs make holes and slip, slip knits slant to the left.

Following a Lace Knitting Chart

To begin knitting, you start on row one and work from right to left. In this example, that means you'll knit one, then work a yarn over followed by a slip, slip knit (SSK) all the way across until you knit the last stitch.

On the second row, you're on the wrong side of the work, so you'd read this row from left to right. In this case, it doesn't matter because all the squares are blank, which on the wrong side means purl every stitch.

This is about as basic as chart knitting gets, but it illustrates that all lace knitting from charts is just a series of symbols that show you what to do instead of telling you in words. Once you're comfortable with this basic chart, you can move on to more complex ones.