Lace Knitting: How do I read a chart?

Learn how to follow a lace knitting chart!

Remember when you were first confronted with a lace knitting chart? I don’t know about you, but I felt like I needed a Ph.D. in hieroglyphics to figure it out. What did all of those symbols mean? Where did I start? Did I work from left to right or right to left? What on Earth does that little black box that says “no stitch” mean?

Have I catapulted you back to those days effectively? I feel a little shaky myself.

What prompted this subject are questions I’m getting in my new knit-along (see the link under my photo at right). There are several chart-reading beginners who have the same questions we all had once.

In Knitted Lace by Anne Merrow, there’s an essay by Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer that includes some great information about reading lace knitting charts.

Here’s an excerpt from that essay for you.

Lace Knitting: How to Follow a Chart

Learn how to follow a lace knitting chart!Instructions for lace knitting are often presented in chart form. Charts offer a graphic representation of the front or right side of the pattern. The chart at right shows a visual picture of the lace-pattern repeat given in the written instructions below.

Simple Lace Pattern
With size 8 needles and fingering yarn (or any yarn and a pair of larger-than-usual needles), loosely cast on 27 stitches (or any multiple of 9 stitches, the stitch repeat). You may find it helpful to place markers between each 9-stitch repeat.

Row 1: (RS) *K2, k2tog, yo, k1, yo, ssk, k2; rep from * to end of row.
Rows 2, 4, 6: (WS) Purl.
Row 3: *K1, k2tog, yo, k3, yo, ssk, k1; rep from * to end of row.
Row 5: *K2tog, yo, k1, yo, sl 2 as if to k2tog, k1, pass sl sts over, yo, k1, yo, ssk; rep from * to end of row.
Repeat Rows 1-6 for pattern.

Each line of the chart at right represents a row of the stitch pattern, and each square represents a stitch.

The chart is read from bottom to top, and RS rows are read from right to left, in the same direction as one normally knits. The first stitch on the left-hand needle as you’re ready to begin a row corresponds to the first square in the bottom right-hand corner of the chart. Notice how wrong-side rows have no patterning; they are “rest rows” (meaning they’re just straight knitting or purling).

The symbol key tells what to do for each stitch; for example, a plain square represents a knitted stitch and a circle represents a yarnover. A right-slanting line represents k2tog and means that you knit the stitch that corresponds to the k2tog square with the stitch to the left of it.

Note that in this lace pattern, the chart shows that the number of stitches stays the same in each row—for every yarnover, there is a corresponding decrease, and vice versa.

On Row 1, the right-slanting k2tog decrease is paired with the yarnover that follows it, and the left-slanting ssk decrease is paired with the yarnover that precedes it. On Row 5, the center double decrease (sl 2 as if to k2tog, k1, pass sl sts over) decreases two stitches, and the yarnovers made on each side of the decrease add two stitches to compensate.

—Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer, from Knitted Lace

The Simple Lace Pattern would make a beautiful scarf, don’t you think? A silk or alpaca lace-weight yarn would really be special. Have fun practicing your chart-reading skills while knitting this lovely pattern, and in the meantime, download Knitted Lace!



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