Making Charts Work For You


Previous Post in This Series: Reading Charts for Scarfs and Shawls


I hope you’ve enjoyed my series on reading and using knit charts. This is the last post in that series and it’s full of my tips and tricks. Even once you understand how charts are written and how to use them they can still be a bit intimidating. But they don’t have to be.

Make them work for you. Kick ’em around a bit. Rough ’em up some. You are the boss of that chart!

The chart at the top of this post might be familiar. It’s a copy of the chart from the Arrow Head Lace pattern… and its all marked up. That’s the work of a student of mine. She took that chart and made it her own. I was so proud I snapped a quick pic in class one day.

I’m slogging through working on my Secret Garden and here is the chart I’m using:

See what I mean about roughing it up? lol

My reasoning is that it’s my chart. It’s my pattern. I paid for it (unless it was a freebie) and I can use it any way I like. You should too. If your pattern is from a book or magazine, make a copy of that page. If its a pdf file, print an extra copy. Then go to work.

You need the symbol key on the same page as the chart

Sometimes the symbol key that you need is right where you want it, next to the chart. That’s great. Sometime’s it’s not. Sometimes it’s at the front of the pattern, sometimes it’s at the back of a book. Sometimes it’s just one page away.

Get a pair of scissors and some scotch tape and cut out that symbol key and tape it where you want it. Or write it out by hand next to the chart (that’s what I did). One of my students always writes it out in long hand and that helps her remember what each symbol means.

Add the information that the designer is assuming you already know

Mark which are right side rows and which are wrong side rows. Draw arrows. If the wrong side rows (or even-numbered rounds) are left off of the chart because they are worked “plain”, make a note of it.

If chart doesn’t number the stitches (mine didn’t) then add that.

If there are border stitches that have been left out of the chart… like “knit the first and last three stitches of each row”… write out those instructions somewhere on the page.

Highlighter tape is awesome

I use highlighter tape to keep track of which row I’m on in a chart. It takes the place of a row counter. Also, it helps visually isolate which line of the chart I need to look at. Without the tape, my eye wanders and I can easily end up accidentally working the wrong row.

Never tried highlighter tape?

It’s just like scotch tape but tinted with color. You can pick it up and move it as you work through a chart. I love it. I decorate all the patterns I’m working on with highlighter tape. I’ve been known to decorate the patterns of people stitching around me too.

Place stitch markers in your knitting to match up with the chart

Stitch markers were invented to save your sanity. Once they are in and in the right places, they will save you oodles of time and aggravation. And counting. And recounting.

Maybe you are the kind of knitter who makes wide and generous use of stitch markers. That’s great. That’s what I do. But I know lots of knitters that don’t put in markers unless specifically directed to do so by the pattern.

If your pattern has a border at the beginning/end of each row… use a stitch marker.

If your chart has a boxed-in repeat section… set a marker at the beginning and end of each repeat. Here is how my Secret Garden looks tonight:

(I’ve put beads in the spacer sections. Pretty right? Ignore them! lol)

My repeat is a 12-stitch block. I have a marker at the beginning/end of each repeat. The most I ever have to count or rip out is 12 stitches. See how that can save your sanity?


You’re a chart knitter now. A knitter who works with charts. You’re so comfortable with charts you can knit them while talking on the phone and fixing dinner and keeping a wary eye out for the Feline Overlord.






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2 Comments on "Making Charts Work For You"

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Jan Babineau

your leaf patterns are just perfect I can only knit small thing now do to health problems. Would sure love to see more washcloths in there sizes and all your work is beautiful. Keep up the nice work


Thank you! I’m so glad you like the leaves.