How to Read Knitting Charts

It is simpler than you think

Updated 04-15-2021

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.

Knitting chartsHorse Shoes 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.  Here is  a classical pattern "Horseshoes". Lets look at its graphical chart .

Reading Knitting Charts

Knitting-chart with legend
  • Each cell/box of the knitting chart represents a stitch. Horizontal rows of boxes are the rows of stitches.

  • A stitch key or a legend tells you what each graphical symbol/box in the chart means. As I already mentioned above, knitting symbols are not standardized. Nevertheless, a stitch key will always make knitting symbols clear for you. Here is a good set of knitting symbols with detailed illustrations for each knitting stitch.

  • The right vertical column of the numbers shows odd rows of the Right Side (RS) of knitting. Facing the Right Side of your knitting, follow the chart reading it from right to left. Exactly the way you knit your stitches.

  • The left vertical column of the numbers shows even rows of the Wrong Side (WS) of knitting. Direction of knitting on the Wrong Side is the same: from right to left. Facing the Wrong Side follow the chart, reading the symbols from left to right.

Here is a written description for the same pattern. Compare it to the chart above. (For the list of knitting abbreviations consult the Craft Yarn Council).

knitting chart with explanations below
  • Row 1: K1, *yo, k3, sk2p, k3, yo, k1*, from * to* repeat to end of row.
  • Row 2 and all even rows: Purl
  • Row 3: K1, *k1, yo, k2, sk2p, k2, yo, k2* from * to* repeat to end of row.
  • Row 5: K1, *k2, yo, k1, sk2p, k1, yo, k3* from * to* repeat to end of row.
  • Row 7: K1, *k3, yo, sk2p, yo, k4* from * to* repeat to end of row.
  • Row 8: Purl.

You can see that all even rows of the CHART A) above have to be purled.

To make knitting charts more compact, very often charts are printed with Wrong Side rows left off the chart. (see chart B).

In this case the pattern tell you what should be done on those "missing" rows.

For our example, it would be written: "Purl all even rows." For other patterns it could be written: "Knit the knits and purl the purls", for example.

Reading Charts Summary and Additional Hints:

  • Each symbol presents certain kind of stitch.

  • For Right Side Rows, follow pattern reading chart from right to left.

  • For Wrong Side Rows, follow pattern reading chart from left to right.

  • For circular knitting every row should be read in the same direction.

  • Be sure to read the chart before you start to knit. Very often Wrong Side Rows are not shown on the chart. Remember to work them!

  • Watch for the pattern repeats. They usually are shown in a box and help you to follow the knitting chart.

  • Don't be confused if in some knitting charts you will see a "No Stitch" box. They are there for a good reason to show you how the pattern lines up. How should you treat them? Just DON'T PAY ATTENTION following the pattern chart. DO NOTHING. "No Stitch" means no stitch should be knitted there.

Knitting Charts