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A Fresh Take on Knitting Charts

Feb 7, 2014

Many people are intimidated by knitting charts, but learning to read them is a really important skill.

Charts put line after line of written instructions into one graphic set of instructions. Once you learn how to read a chart, you'll be able to tackle the most intricate of knitting instructions without flipping through pages of written instructions.

Designer JC Briar has a new video workshop, called Knitting Charts, that will help you learn how to read charts. A self-confessed technique freak and skill junkie, JC has a special fondness for textured knitting and inventive construction techniques. She teaches from her book, Charts Made Simple, and her new project, stitch maps, presents an exciting new way of charting knitwear. Here's JC to talk a little about stitch maps, which I think are a revolutionary new way to present charts in knitting.

Stitch Maps: A Fresh Take on Charts

Stitch maps are a new form of knitting chart that use traditional symbols in a novel way: without a grid.

Feather and Fan stitch pattern
The symbols within a stitch map clearly show what stitches to work. And—not being confined within grid squares—they also show which stitches of the previous row should be worked. The end result? Charts with unparalleled fluidity, authenticity, and beauty.

Knitting progresses in rows of stitches. So it's no surprise that charts often consist of rows of symbols, each contained in a grid square. The symbols represent stitches, and the grid squares keep everything aligned in a neat, tidy, and orderly fashion. But is this tidy alignment really a good thing?

Consider Feather and Fan (at left), a classic stitch pattern with a lovely undulation to its rows. That undulation isn't apparent in a typical, grid-based chart.
Traditional knitting chart for Feather and Fan
But if you toss the grid aside, something magical happens. Freed from the constraints of a grid, the symbols can be arranged into a new kind of chart, called a stitch map. A stitch map clearly shows how the stitches knit together (pun intended!) to form fabric. You can see how the rows bend. You can see how each yarn over snuggles between two stitches. You can see which two stitches each k2tog joins together.
Stitch map for Feather and Fan
What stitch maps let you do

Stitch maps let you see how the parts of a stitch pattern fit together—not just the sequence of stitches along a given row, but also how those stitches interact from row to row. As with a crochet chart, each symbol both describes a stitch and shows you into which stitches of the previous row it needs to be worked.
Following the vertical pathways in a stitch map—connecting the dots between its symbols—lets you visualize the stitch columns of knitted fabric. You can trace a stitch column from its start in a cast-on stitch or increase, to its end in a bind-off or decrease.
Why is this helpful? Consider this: the spaces between stitch columns are excellent places to put stitch markers - you'll never get a marker stuck in a lace decrease again! They're also places where stitch patterns can be modified easily. But if you toss the grid aside, something magical happens—say, by adding columns of purls to create a novel rib pattern for a special sock design.
And, yes, you can knit from stitch maps. As with a traditional grid-based chart, you'll read a stitch map in rows, from the bottom up. When working a right-side row or when working in the round, read from right to left; when working a wrong-side row, read from left to right. (That's assuming, of course, that you knit conventionally, creating new stitches on your right needle. If you knit "lefty," creating new stitches on your left needle, read in the opposite direction: left to right on right-side rows and on rounds, right to left on wrong-side rows.) Not sure what a symbol is telling you to do? Check out our symbol key.

—JC Briar, and Knitting Charts: Follow the Symbols for Successful Knitting

Here's a preview of Knitting Charts:

Find out more about JC Briar and stitch maps on her website, and get Knitting Charts, JC's new DVD and video download.


P.S. Do you have tips for reading knitting charts? Leave a comment and share them with us!

Featured Product

Knitting Charts Video Download

Availability: In Stock
Price: $19.95

Standard Definition Video

Learn to confidently read simple to complex knitting charts and become a master knitter with JC Briar in this knitting workshop.


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wendygoerl wrote
on Feb 12, 2014 3:03 PM

There's another advantage to charts and maps they're (more) ambidextrous than written instructions. It's more ambidextrous to have a mark for  "decrease leaning this way" than trying to figure out if you should follow the written directions and do a K2t or flop them and do a K1pssoS1.

on Feb 9, 2014 2:30 PM

This is NOT  Feather and Fan pattern it is Old Shael (Shell) Please correct this and do not perpetuate this often made error.


katj67 wrote
on Feb 9, 2014 2:23 PM

To CHIcarla:  Thank you for the help.  I had tried the You Tube before without success.  Clicking on allow popups seemed to fix my problem.  I can finally view the video and hopefully any others that Knitting Daily sends out.

RobinC@6 wrote
on Feb 8, 2014 5:48 PM

I discovered Stitch-Maps ( a couple of months ago.  One thing I learned very soon is that the concept is in so many ways different from what we are used to with traditional grid charts that it is very difficult to offer a "quick and easy" explanation.  You really need to spend some time poking around the web site and exploring the options.

In response to some of the previous comments:  The maps can be viewed with row guides, column guides, or both that track the stitches and rows.  I especially like the column guides since they clarify where two stitch columns become one or a new column begins.  It is also possible to show multiple repeats -- horizontal or vertical.  There is a complete symbol key and abbreviations list on the website.

A Basic membership in the site is free for 30 days and, if you decide to continue, only $15 for a full year.  With the membership, will keep track of your current row with highlighting making it even easier to follow.

Ms. Briar has re-released her "Sidewinder" sock pattern ( in order to include stitch-maps.  These are displayed side-by-side with the original grid charts.  Clicking on the stitch-map links you to the website where you can take advantage of the guides and repeat options.  If you have a basic membership, you can also highlight your current row.  I

I expect that we will see many more patterns in the future that include stitch-maps.  In the meantime, are tons of stitch maps already on the website or you can have your original written instructions translated.

swciaccio wrote
on Feb 8, 2014 1:29 PM

I use to make a chart on a piece of cardboard. then I notched each area where the information was and used a bobby pin in the notch that corresponding  with the row I was knitting. it worked but the charts do all the work for me.

NoraB@2 wrote
on Feb 8, 2014 12:22 PM

I  find following a chart which is 'free form'  difficult to follow as my brain needs the limits created by lines as well as symbols, so I will have to continue following the written instructions of K2tog, etc.

MargieP wrote
on Feb 8, 2014 10:48 AM

I really connected to this new idea for charting patterns!  I have been drawing schematics for my own knitting projects in much the same way in order to have a visual of what is happening in the pattern. Please let us know where we can find some patterns with these types of charts. Thanks.

HeyUdebi wrote
on Feb 8, 2014 10:01 AM

Does anyone know where I can find a glossary of symbols for the graphs or knitting maps?

HeyUdebi wrote
on Feb 8, 2014 9:56 AM

Does anyone know of a place that contains a glossary of knitting chart symbols?  

poppy@7 wrote
on Feb 8, 2014 6:32 AM

I like seeing both charts together. The straight grid is useful for counting and knowing what you need to do next. The wavy chart reminds me of crochet charts. It is a lovely way to read your knitting and understand the pattern.

I knit to relax and I suspect this is the main reason that many people knit. Thus out of habit I would choose the same style of pattern that I was brought up with, which is daft when I have no problem using the others. Many of my friends see the words 'chart' and 'grid' and they associate this with 'maths' and their brains close. They do not see a lovely picture of what they are making. How can rows of K1 P1 K2 P2 etc be  a really be a satisfactory knitting chart? Surely it is nothing more than a memory trigger of techniques and stitch blocks previously learnt?

The stitch map is a good link between knitting and crochet. It would be a really neat way of seeing the transition between knitting and crochet when a project uses both, say for an edging.

daigled wrote
on Feb 8, 2014 1:27 AM

I see this as being very useful as a design tool. A great wAy to see if what's in your head will match on paper. Or if your struggling to see what's happening with a pattern . Like all new things there probably is a learning curve but it's also cool seeing people trying new wat to advance knitting :)

CHIcarla wrote
on Feb 7, 2014 9:41 PM

To katj67:  Try clicking on the "YouTube" symbol, then you can watch the video on youtube.  Make sure you click on "Allow popups" if youtube doesn't come up.

on Feb 7, 2014 3:52 PM

For those of us who use sticky notes to highlight a row the Stitch Map is not at all helpful. How does one block out a row when it isn't straight? I don't find it easier to follow the waves since you have to keep looking at the map to figure out where you are.

katj67 wrote
on Feb 7, 2014 3:39 PM

I cannot view the video.  I get the audio portion but no picture.  I have had this problem in the past and found out that I needed a new or updated program to run the video. So far, I have not been able to find what I need this time.  Can anyone help with this problem.   Thanks

molly malone wrote
on Feb 7, 2014 2:34 PM

i use 2 sticky notes to keep track of the rows ,this may help sande francis,

leti-ann wrote
on Feb 7, 2014 1:42 PM

I can see where a stitch map can be helpful, seeing the shape the pattern will take.  However, after learning to do so many different charts, I can see it being confusing.  I have learned to read symbols "/" as ssk, and "\" as K2tog, that rows previous to the upside down "y"s would lead me to believe to a ssk or K2tog, without realizing it was just a knit stitch.  It has also taken me a while to come up with a way to effeciently learn to read what row I'm on with charts, that I don't know if I could ever find a way to do it with the stitch map....but then again I remember when I didn't think I could ever learn to read a chart :)

mtb001 wrote
on Feb 7, 2014 1:39 PM

I LIKE it!

CathyFulton wrote
on Feb 7, 2014 1:35 PM

Thank you, Kathleen. As a new lace knitting designer, this intrigues me to no end. One thing I do to make gridded charts easier to use is to photocopy them and enlarge them to a reasonable size for reading. Another thing, when I am travelling, I often do not want to bring my nifty chart keeper with the accompanying magnets. So, I throw a highlighter in my bag to mark off the knitted rows. For stitch maps, the chart keeper with its straight magnets would be useless. But I think highlighters would solve the problem of keeping track of the stitch map rows.

And cudos to JC! Your website AND the work involved to create it is an amazing and revolutionary gift to lace knitters!

russalky wrote
on Feb 7, 2014 1:11 PM

This looks very much like a blend of knitting and crocheting charts.  While it is helpful to see the chart in this format for purposes of undulations and  lining up decreases with the stitches below them,  etc.,  I don't think this can be used exclusive of the traditional gridded chart simply because it is extremely difficult to follow a row across the chart.  I'd love to see this presented alongside the traditional chart - - it would no doubt make correcting errors in previous rows much easier.   Simply for showing undulation and such,  well I can't remember the last pattern I saw that didn't include a photo (vintage patterns aside).  And those that don't have a photo (vintage included)  typically don't have charts to begin with.

grace@44 wrote
on Feb 7, 2014 12:53 PM

And still we learn new things!  This is a very beneficial way of seeing what is ahead.  By using a  map approach you can see the drape of the fabric that a particular stitch will produce.  For me that is the winning ticket!  I see myself using both chart and map.  The map to get a really clear idea of the curve potential of the fabric created and the traditional chart to knit  from.  Or I might just consider using a highlighter to trace the rows of the map version making it easier to follow the row.  Thanks JC!  You too Kathleen:)

on Feb 7, 2014 12:27 PM

I'm also visually impaired and have a hard enough time following the straight lines of charts.  Trying to follow a wavy line of marks in a stitch map would be impossible for me.  While I can recognize the F&F pattern in the stitch map, I cannot follow one row across the pattern without the grid to help me.

leslief150 wrote
on Feb 7, 2014 12:16 PM

I think the stitch maps are really interesting and show the texture of the finished fabric.  However, I have astigmatism and find it very difficult to keep up with the "row" I'm on.  Charts are hard enough for me to see and follow along the line...the maps would be virtually impossible.

leslief150 wrote
on Feb 7, 2014 12:16 PM

I think the stitch maps are really interesting and show the texture of the finished fabric.  However, I have astigmatism and find it very difficult to keep up with the "row" I'm on.  Charts are hard enough for me to see and follow along the line...the maps would be virtually impossible.