Befriending a knitting chart

Heather Zoppetti's Lace Sampler Scarf

Lace knitting seems so daunting. When you see a beautiful lace piece, you think, "That's so complicated. I could never do it!"

I hate to be rude, but you're wrong. Most lace is knitted using simple yarnovers paired with decreases. If you know how to work a yarnover and how to knit two (or three) together, you can knit lace. (There are sometimes other types of increases or decreases used, but they're easy, too.)

Something that can help you become an accomplished lace knitter is learning how to read a lace chart.

Think of a knitting chart as a shorthand representation of the knitted fabric. Each square represents one stitch. The shapes and slants of the symbols imitate the shapes and slants of the knitted stitches.

Charts are a visual representation of many, many lines of written out instructions. Although a chart may look scary at first, compared to five pages of uninterrupted text, charts are really much easier to deal with.

Coral Lace Pattern, used as one of the patterns on Heather Zoppetti's Lace Sampler Scarf

Charts are almost always read from the bottom to the top, right to left for right-side rows, and left to right for wrong-side rows. If you're knitting in the round, the chart is read right to left for every row.

The symbols on a chart represent different stitches. Not all patterns use the same symbols, so it's important to study your chart key (shown at right) to see which stitches correspond to which symbols.

Pattern repeats are most often shown bordered in a dark colored or red box. The pattern instructions will specify how many times you work the repeat in each row. Charts usually show at least one pattern repeat; more if a repeat is complicated or if you need to see how repeats work with each other.

In the chart shown above, you can see that the repeat encompasses ten stitches. The stitches on either side of the repeats are the edge stitches. So, you work the edge stitches, and then the repeat for as many times as the pattern specifies, and then, at the end of the row, you work the edge stitches again.

Chart Tips

  • You can photocopy a chart for your own use. I like to make an enlarged copy so my old eyes can see the symbols better.
  • I use a Post-It note to keep track of which row I'm working on. I place the Post-It above the line I'm knitting on so I can see how it works with the row that I previously worked.
  • A magnetic board works really well as a chart keeper. I have one, and I use the magnet in the same way that I use the Post-It note. I have a friend who knits complex lace patterns with multiple charts, and she uses a big sheet pan as her magnetic surface.
  • Use a row counter along with your magnet board or Post-It system. It's a safety back up in case your magnet slips or your Post-It falls off your pattern. Eeek!
  • Some knitters like to place markers between each repeat so they know when a new repeat is coming up.
  • This isn't a chart tip per se, but I always advise new lace knitters to count their stitches after each row to make sure a mistake wasn't made. It's a lot easier to fix a mistake on the row it's made than to try and fix it several rows later!

There's a lot to learn when you first knit lace, but it's so fun and so rewarding. Designer Heather Zoppetti is an accomplished lace knitter, and she has a new workshop all about beginning lace knitting, Start Knitting Lace. She'll teach you more about charts, increases and decreases, lace blocking, and fixing your mistakes.

You can put all of your new-found skills together with Heather's fabulous Lace Sampler Scarf pattern, which is included with the workshop.

Knitted lace is so beautiful, and you can do it! Get Start Knitting Lace today and . . .  start knitting lace!


P.S. Tell us about your first lace project. Mine was a simple lace scarf, and I still wear it today!

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