reading knitting stitch chart

An Ultimate Guide on Reading Knitting Stitch Charts for Absolute Beginners

Knitting charts are essential when it comes to keeping track of stitches, especially in patterns with cables, lace, or even fair isle. You can see from our series, ‘Knit with Aabhar,’ that each knitting pattern includes text instructions as well as charts. This way, you can choose which one you prefer or are more comfortable with while knitting. And once you get the hang of reading knitting stitch charts, you’ll be knitting complex patterns in no time!

Knitting stitch charts can seem daunting to beginners, but once you understand the basics, reading them will be as easy as ABC!

What is A Knitting Stitch Chart?

Stitch charts are essentially visual representations of the words written in any knitting pattern. You can understand the instructions from the chart and learn to work from a stitch chart itself. They are a tool to help you understand how to knit a stitch pattern without having to read the text instructions.

Single Lace Rib Stitch Knit Chart
Sample Knitting Chart – Single Lace Rib Pattern
Triple Tweed Stitch Pattern Knit Chart
Sample Knitting Chart – Triple Tweed Pattern

How To Read A Knitting Stitch Chart?

As you can see from the picture, each square represents one stitch. To understand which stitch to work on, you have to refer to the ‘key’ or ‘abbreviations’ listed with the chart. Each stitch of the pattern is illustrated so that you can know which stitch comes after the other. Most stitch charts come with numbered rows and columns, but you can write in the numbers if it’s not mentioned.

reading knitting stitch charts

Knit Chart Numbering and Reading Direction

One important thing to note about reading knit stitch charts is that odd numbers are listed on the right, and even numbers are on the left. The numbering is written at the start of the row in the direction you will be working in.

Essentially, you will start from the bottom right corner and work upwards while starting from right to left. After the first row is done, you will turn the work to the wrong side and start working on the second row while reading the chart from left to right. This continues with reading the odd-numbered rows in the chart from right to left and then turning the work to the wrong side and reading the chart from left to right.

If the pattern is to be worked in the round, all the numbers will be on the right-hand side as there is no turning of the work in this case.

To summarize:

  • Odd numbers on the right side of the knit chart mark the knitting rows of the right side (RS) of your work.
  • Even numbers on the left side of the chart are the knitting rows on the wrong side (WS) of your work.
  • Numbers on the top or bottom are indicative of the stitch count.

Is the First Row of Knitting Always Right Side?

In most knitting patterns, the first stitch in the chart is on the bottom right and you knit from bottom to top. And as you carry on knitting, the first row that you knit is the right side of the work. The first row and all the odd-numbered rows are on the right side and the second and other even-numbered rows are on the wrong side.

Lacy Zigzag Stitch Chart
Knitting Stitch Chart for Lacy Zigzag Pattern (the first row is the right side of the work)
Smocking Stitch Chart
Knitting Stitch Chart for Smocking Stitch Pattern (the first row is the wrong side of the work)

However, in some patterns, you work in the same way as above but the actual pattern is visible on the wrong side. So you end up with the reverse of the actual knitting pattern on the right side of the work.

Knit Chart Symbols

Knit chart symbols are basically small drawings that represent the knitting technique or stitch of the pattern.

You will come across many different symbols as you work through different patterns. You can check out the comprehensive list of most of these knitting symbols on Craft Yarn Council. There is no industry standard but most people follow the same convention or a similar one.

The most important symbols are:

  • ‘a blank square’ representing a knit stitch
  • ‘a square with a small dot in the center’ representing a purl stitch
reading knitting stitch charts

Legend Key or Chart Key

A chart key with the stitch chart will help you understand which stitches are involved in the pattern. It shows each of the symbols used in the chart and the corresponding abbreviation of the symbol. Always refer to the abbreviation list to ensure that you are properly following the instructions as intended for each symbol on the chart.

The chart key can also help in choosing a pattern by giving you an idea about its level of complexity. For example, if you come across a pattern with only knits and purls in the legend, it is clearly a beginner-level pattern and depending on the level of your skill, you can make the decision. On the other hand, if you are looking for an intermediate skill level pattern like Trellis Cable and Bobble Stitch, you can check out the chart legends and understand the complexity of the pattern.

Knitting Chart Repeats

The overall knit chart will give you an understanding of how the pattern works up and what are the repeats. The blue lines in the knit chart indicate the actual repeated stitches within the work and most patterns also mention the number of repeated stitches in the pattern.

For example, in the Rib Checks Stitch Pattern, from a glance, you can see that it is a 10-row repeat of 10 repeating stitches. And the Staghorn Cable Pattern is a panel of a 6-row repeat of 16 repeating stitches.

Rib Checks Stitch Chart aabharcreations
Knitting Stitch Chart for Rib Checks Stitch Pattern (10-row repeat of 10 repeating stitches)
Staghorn Cable Stitch Chart
Knitting Stitch Chart for Staghorn Cable Pattern (6-row repeat of 16 repeating stitches)

Reading Knitting Stitch Charts

Here are the basics of reading knit charts and some tips that will help you out if you are stuck in any case.

  1. Charts are grids of squares where each square represents one stitch.
  2. Charts are read from the bottom to the top.
  3. Stitch charts represent stitches as they would be visible from the right side of the work.
  4. When it comes to reading a stitch chart for any pattern, remember that right side rows are read from right to left and wrong side rows from left to right (for patterns worked in flat).
  5. For patterns worked in the round, each row in the stitch chart is read from right to left as you always work on the right side without turning the work.
  6. Each chart comes with a key that will let you know what each symbol represents.

We hope that this guide was helpful and you feel more confident about reading knitting stitch charts. Check out our entire collection of knitting patterns with instruction in the series, Knit with Aabhar. You can save the instructions or even download and print the stitch charts so that you have easy access to the patterns.

Check out other knitting resources:


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