Updated 01-03-22 by Janice Jones
Knitting charts and written instructions are equally useful for gaining your mastery and having more pleasure from knitting. Very many knitting instruction provide both versions of the pattern - graphical charts and written descriptions.
Usually, when you ask "what is BETTER", the truth is located somewhere in between.
Your best tool is that one which you feel confident and comfortable working with.
This page will show you how to read charts for knitting presented in graphic symbols. Needless to say, it is not as difficult as it seems. Let's see how it works.
All designers describing their knit patterns in charts follow the same logic. This logic is based on common sense and a natural way of knitting.
It makes our life much easier if we read graphical charts instead of the word descriptions.
At the same time we have to say that knitting symbols for charts are not standardized.
Different sources of knitting patterns use (slightly) different symbols describing their patterns. Fortunately, each chart has a stitch key, which explains what kind of stitches has to be used, to knit the pattern.
Let's analyze the way we usually knit. 1-st row.
In the flat knitting the first stitch to knit is the very right one on the needle.
Direction of knitting is from right to left.
Once we reached the end of the row, we turn our knitting over and begin the second row facing the back of the work.
At the end of the second row we turn our knitting over once
again and facing the face of the work, and so on.
The boxes of
the knitting charts "behave" just like the stitches do on the
needles. We read the charts from right to left and from the bottom to the top. That probably sounds very odd to anyone in the Western World, but charts are meant to behave the way we knit. So how do we read a knitted chart.
A very basic knit chart will look like a grid system with numbers running across the bottom and on the right side. The numbers at the bottom represent individual stitches and the numbers on the right represent rows. Each small square will contain a symbol.
You normally won't need to memorize all of these symbols because most charts will provide a legend that tells you exactly what you need to know. Well-written modern patterns use the standardized system from the Craft Yarn Council.
For example, here are a few very basic symbols you might encounter.
Here is a written description for the same pattern.
This lace pattern is worked in 9 stitch repeats. For this swatch, I casted on 27 stitches using a long tail cast on method and used a US 7/ 4.5 mm. The swatch was worked in Cascade 220 Superwash Merino Wool.
The written instructions would look like this:
Row 1: (RS) *K2Tog, YO, K5, YO, SSK* Repeat to the end of row
Row 2: (WS) Purl
Row 3: (RS) * K2Tog, YO, K2Tog, YO, K, YO, SSK, YO SSK* rep to end of row.
Below is an example of a knitted pattern chart for the Moss Stitch
Here's another knit chart for the Seed Stitch, which is very similar to the Moss stitch.
There's really no good answer here. Both are common ways the designer communicates the instructions for making the project. It's entirely up to you as to whether you feel most comfortable with a chart or would prefer to follow the written directions.
As your projects become more elaborate, you might find that charts are easier to follow. Written instructions are used almost entirely for easier patterns so as you progress in your knitting skills, your thoughts might change over time. It is also likely that you will find some projects easier to do with a chart, while others are much easier to understand with written directions.