How to Read a Knitting Chart

    by Michelle Powell-Smith

    About the Author

    Michelle Powell-Smith has been writing on a variety of subjects from finance to crafts since 2004. Her work appears on various websites. She holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in art history from the University of Missouri-Columbia, which has provided strong research skills and a varied range of interests.


    Being able to comfortably read a knitting chart is one of the critical steps to advancing as a knitter. Cable knitting, colorwork patterns and lace all can rely on charts to lay out the pattern for each row of knitting. If you have been overwhelmed by charted knitting in the past, choose a simple pattern and give it a try.

    Things You'll Need

    • Knitting chart
    • Yarn
    • Knitting needles
    • Pencil or highlighter

    Choose a pattern. Cable knitting, colorwork and lace all often use knitting charts instead of or alongside standard pattern notation. For your first try at knitting from a chart, choose a simple pattern. You should already know how to do various increases and decreases, as well as cables (if applicable to your pattern) before tackling charted knitting.

    Look at your knitting chart. It should look like a graph with symbols noting the various stitches. There should be a key with the chart, explaining what each symbol means. Be sure that you understand each symbol and the stitch abbreviations the designer uses. Knit stitches are often a blank square but may be assigned a symbol or color. Wrong side rows may be charted, but are not always. If a wrong side row is not charted, you can expect that it will simply be purled across the row. Most knitting charts are black and white, but this is not universally true. Fair isle and intarsia patterns often, but not always, use charts printed in color.

    Read your knitting chart right to left on row 1. The first square in the lower right corner represents the first stitch on your left hand needle. Progress across the row. If row 2 is charted, it will be read left to right (unless your project is knit in the round, in which case each row is read right to left). Row 3 is again read right to left. You should keep in mind that knitting charts are a visual representation of the right side of the knitting. For flat knitting, you will need to knit stitches shown as purl and purl stitches shown as knit on the wrong side rows of a chart that notes every row.

    Cast on the stitches suggested by your pattern or knitting chart. Work several rows of the chart, carefully following the stitch notation. If there is a complex stitch repeat, you may wish to use stitch markers to mark off repeats in your pattern. This can be especially helpful for larger project or lace. If using double-point needles to work a project in the round, divide your stitches among the needles in a way that is compatible with the knitting chart.

    Mark off each row on your chart as you correctly complete it. Keeping close track of where you are on the knitting chart will help you successfully complete your project and allow you to avoid ripping out stitches. A highlighter marker or pencil works well, but do choose something transparent in case you do find an error later. If you are working out of a book and would prefer not to mark up your pattern, a sticky note or highlighter tape will work quite well for this purpose.

    Compare your work to the image of the finished project and make certain that the knitting chart and your knitting correspond. If you find that your knitting is substantially different, reread the knitting chart. If the pattern does not provide the chart in written-out form, consider writing it out as a back-up reference while you learn to read knitting charts.