tips tricks and techniques

Good morning … it sounds like it’s going to be a perfect knitting day: snow in the forecast, all are home (incl dh) and I’ve got a cable sweater project I’m working on. What more could I want?

charting graphicToday, I wanted to show you a bit about charting cable knits and why you would want to bother using and/or creating charts. Even if you don’t “do” charts, please read on and see if I can’t persuade you to at least try them. Charts are my favorite type of knitting directions:

  • with charts you can use a pattern from anywhere in the world as charts are non-language specific
  • charts are a visual representation of what your knitting is SUPPOSED to look like so you can catch errors in your knitting quicker
  • in a chart, it is easy to spot an error (a misplaced cable twist, yo, dec or whatever); with written directions, an extra SSK or YO is hard to spot until you’re in the midst of working the error
  • with charts, you can “plunk” a stitch-pattern into any knitting design … fitting it symmetrically (which is my OCD-preferred way) or asymmetrically or repeating it all around or whatever
  • with charts, you can design your own stitch patterns to make the overall knitting easier … I have a great example of this below, so keep reading!
  • you can chart ANY knitting design: cables, colorwork, lace, texture, whatever. Once you get started charting, you’ll never go back to pure row-by-row directions!

But first, some basics:
• what is a chart – a graphic representation of a stitch pattern, colorwork, lace, knit-purl texture; charts are often easier to read than written instructions because you can see at a glance what the item should look like from the RS of the work
• how to read a chart – start at lower right-hand corner (cell 1:1) work across the row; turn and work the reverse (so a knit st on the RS would be purled on the WS); continue up the chart. NOTE: if you are knitting in the round, you always start back at the right hand side of the chart. The chart will tell you the stitch-repeat … so, if the chart is 8 stitches wide x 10 rows/rnds high that means that you would need a multiple of 8 stitches (repeating the chart that number of times across) for 10 rows/rnds to make a complete pattern.
• key: every chart should have a guide to the chart symbols – often these are abbreviations, so check the rest of the pattern for further information, details about what the designer wants you to do. The symbols, altho NOT standardized yet, are usually graphic representations of the stitch itself … so you can usually figure out the SSK vs the K2tog by what the chart looks like (that is, the SSK will lean the decrease to the left and the K2tog will lean the decrease to the right).

general key for cable knitting

general key for cable knitting

As I mentioned above, any knitting pattern can be charted. For purposes of this particular post, I will just be referencing cable knitting (since that’s what I have on the needles at the moment). Let’s talk about charting symbols and how to get started charting.

I use an amazing bit of software, Stitch Mastery’s Knitting Chart Editor, which is the brainchild of a PhD candidate from the UK who loves to knit. Cathy Scott does a phenomenal job with customer service and her software can take written directions and convert to a chart OR take a chart and convert to written directions. There are other software packages out there (including Knit Visualizer from Knitting Foundry, Stitch Painter from Cochenille Studios, and Intwined from Intwined Studio) to name just a few. You can also chart in Excel … Marnie has fabulous tutorials on just how to do so … or, and I resort to this at times, you can always chart with graph paper and pencil.

To the left, I’ve created a graphic of the basic cable symbols used (whether you’re doing it in software or with a pencil, you’ll use something like these symbols as they LOOK like what the stitches do). This graphic shows the basic stitches you would need to chart just about any cable pattern. The stitches you want to knit are left as blank squares, while purl stitches are a line or a dot (like a purl stitch looks when worked). A 2 x 2 right (or left) cable twist (which is the smallest traditional cable) is represented by a diagonal line across the number of stitches used to make the twist — if you decide you want to do a 4 x 4 (8st) right cable twist, the diagonal line would go from the lower left corner to the far left and slant up, 8 sts away, to the upper right corner. [As an aside, to make a right cable, you would slip the number of stitches to the cable needle and hold to the back; work the next sts on the working needle and then work the stitches on the cable needle; for a left twist, you hold the cable needle to the front. An “RPC” or “LPC” adds a purl stitch to the twist to have the cable really pop.]

Now, why would you want to chart your own stitch patterns? As promised, here’s a great example of one I just designed. Here’s a portion of a cabled-sweater chart:
original chart example
This is a great example of why charting is so useful when designing:

  • notice how all the cables are crossing on the same rounds while the alternate rounds are “resting” rounds (that is, you knit the knits and purl the purls)
  • because I charted each stitch grouping (separated by the red lines), I was able to stretch out the plain rounds between the simple 2×2 cables so that the repeat across all the cables is 16rnds
  • I can easily center the cables by inserting or deleting columns/rounds
  • when I go to do the sleeves, I can overlay the sleeve increases and decreases, and re-chart the cable patterning so it fits perfectly on the sleeves … or I can make a matching cap (especially since the finished sweater would make an AWESOME swatch) by editing the chart to fit the number of hat stitches … or I can take this chart, move or add elements or repeats and design a cabled pillow top

… and yes, you can do all this with simple graph paper and pencil (altho it is easier on the computer). Here are two online sources for knitters’ graph paper: Knitters’ Graph and Sweaterscapes’ version. Both can be set to whatever gauge you’d like.

Many knitting cable books have charted stitch patterns and if you’d like to read more about charting, JC Briar’s book, Charts Made Simple is the best resource I’ve found on the subject.

So do you use charts or prefer written? Have I tempted you to at least TRY charting a cable pattern? Let me know in the comments section below … and have a wonderful, fiber-filled day …sig block

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