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Loom FAQs: How Do I Read A Chart?






Everybody loves a video.  Lots of people only use videos when making items because they prefer to not read patterns.  But  learning to read patterns is great because it opens up lots more projects to make since not every pattern has a complete video tutorial.

But wait…  There’s more.

Patterns actually come in 3 formats.

The first format is videos.  But like I mentioned, not all patterns are available in video format.

The second format is written patterns.  Patterns in written form are like reading code.  Words are abbreviated and sections are written as repeats so that the pattern itself is not the length of a novel written by Diana Gabaldon or George R. R. Martin…  But putting men from the Scottish Highlands and fear of long winters aside for the moment, it can get rather lengthy when a pattern is written out in full, and it really is like learning to read another language which means you do have to put forth the effort to learn to read the code.  If you are looking for more on reading a pattern, check out Loom FAQs:  How Do I Read A Pattern?

And the last format is charts.  While most patterns are not fully “written” in charts in knitting, the stitch pattern itself is.  Once a person can read both patterns and charts, there is nothing they cannot make.

Why EXACTLY are charts so great?

Charts are wonderful ways of conveying the stitch patterns without words.  It is truly universal.  Like mathematics, knitting charts can be read by anyone no matter what language they speak or read.  But there are other ways that charts are great as well.

For people who loom knit, we need to convert written needle patterns in order to make them on looms unless they are written in the round.  But when reading charts, needle knitters have to convert or change the wrong side rows while loom knitter do not.  Charts can be worked exactly as they appear row for row.  This is why I love stitch pattern books for knitting that contain charts.  And this is why all loom knitters should learn to read charts.  Then we don’t need special loom knitting stitch pattern books.  We can use the same book that the needle knitters use.

So how are charts read?

Before we get into how to read a chart, let’s discuss what the chart is.  A chart is just a grid of boxes where each box represents a stitch on a row or round.  It looks like graph paper.

While most charts for stitch patterns are made of boxes that are square like on regular graph paper, knitting stitches are not square.  Each knit stitch is shorter than it is wide.  Or wider than it is tall.  This is why there are more rows in an inch vertically than there stitches in an inch horizontally.  This is the reason that knitting graph paper for charting pictures or words is not made of squares.  These graphs have cells that are rectangular.  If you chart a picture with graph paper made of squares, the finished knitted picture will be short and fat when compared to the picture desired.  But when using charts to depict stitch patterns and not pictures, square cells are most commonly used.

Now we can discuss how to read a chart…

The following chart is the herringbone stitch pattern from the Stitchology column written by Bethany Daily here on the KB blog.  This stitch was the first in the Stitchology series.  If you haven’t been keeping up with Bethany’s column, then you are missing out on some fabulous stitch patterns.  And guess what?  She even covers reading stitch charts as well in the herringbone stitch post as well.  Maybe between us both, we will get the word out on how to read charts…  Here is the chart:





But the chart alone means nothing without the key.  In books, the key will not be found with every stitch chart.  It will most often be found in one of two places in the book.  Either in the front or the back.  Therefore, if you see a chart but not the key, you will be able to find it elsewhere.  If you cannot find it, then it is like looking for a treasure without a map.


I do need to clarify something here.  While all knitting charts are shown from the right side, some needle stitch pattern books will have 2 keys for the symbols.  They will have a right side key and a wrong side key.  In these books, the wrong side key will be the same symbol as the right side but the opposite stitch for flat panels.  So it will have the symbol for knit on the right side and the same symbol for purl for the wrong side.

Also, when using needle stitch charts that do not have 2 keys, it will indicate the stitch for the right side and the stitch for the wrong side.

Loom knitters will ALWAYS use the right side stitch.  That is the part to remember.  RIGHT SIDE STITCH ONLY!


Here is the Chart Key:







As you can see in the above chart, the rows are numbered from the bottom to the top.

The cast on is not listed on the chart because the cast on is not considered a row.  It is simply the foundation of loops that all the rows sit on top of.

Also you need to remember that this is for the stitch pattern itself.  Not the complete pattern in most cases.  Therefore if there is a border at the bottom or the sides, those will need to be done before working these rows.

But if you are working a pattern that has a chart, you will need to cast on in certain direction ALWAYS when reading charts or patterns.  The reason is you will be working each stitch as it appears on the chart.  Stitch 1 on row 1 will always appear on the bottom right hand corner of the chart so that row 1 is worked from right to left.

This is the reason you will need to cast on from left to right when casting on for a flat panel so that you will be ready to start row 1 from right to left.

When casting on in the round, you will cast on from right to left so that you will be ready to work from right to left when starting round 1.

Now let’s look at the rows themselves on the chart.  On the right you see the odd rows numbered and on the left the even rows are numbers.  This is make the chart easier to read.  Especially for flat panels.  After working row 1 from right to left, you then work row 2 from left to right.  And there is the number 2 for the second row on the left hand side making it easier to find once you have worked you way across row 1.

But what exactly does each square mean?

The key tells us what stitch to use.  Each square represents a stitch.  This stitch pattern only uses knit and purl stitches.  Therefore there are only 2 types of squares.  In other words, this is a simple stitch pattern if you can keep up with which stitch goes where.

The empty squares do not mean that there isn’t a stitch.  It means those are the knit stitches.

The squares with the single dot in the middle are the purl stitches.

When the stitch pattern is more complicated, the symbols and where they are placed become more complex as well.  This is why it is better to start off with a simple stitch pattern when starting to read charts.

For most charts that are included with patterns, the charts only show just a certain number of stitches.  The number of stitches will vary chart to chart since these are the number of stitches that will be repeated.  For the herringbone stitch, the stitch is a repeat of 10 stitches.  If you are making something larger than 10 stitches, you will need to make the item with a multiple of 10 then add the number of stitches for the side borders on a flat panel.  If working in the round, it will just be the multiple of 10.

Now to start reading our chart.  When you start with the first row of the stitch pattern, you should be on the right side of the loom working to the left.  For the herringbone example, you will knit 3 stitches, then purl 2 stitches, then knit 1 stitch, then purl 2 stitches, then knit 2 stitches.  Then you will repeat those for however many repeats you are working.  For 30 stitches total, you will repeat it another 2 times for 3 times total.  For 100 stitches total, you will repeat for 9 times making it a total of 10 times.

Now for a flat panel, you are on the left side of the work getting ready to work from left to right on row 2.  You will follow the stitches on the chart from left to right this time.  Row 2 will be knit 1 stitch, then purl 2 stitches, then 3 stitches, then purl 2 stitches, then knit 2 stitches before repeating.

If you are working in the round, you will just continue working from right to left and follow the chart from right to left as well.  Round 2 would then be knit 2 stitches, then purl 2 stitches, then knit 3 stitches, then purl 2 stitches, then knit 1 stitch before repeating.

Then on to row or round 3…  Hopefully you have the idea now of what will need to be done for row 3.  And also see how long it takes to write out a row stitch for stitch…

What would this chart look like written out?

Well if the herringbone pattern was written out in a pattern without a chart, it would be written as follows for the stitch pattern with the chart on the right side for comparison:

Abbreviations for our little demonstration:

K: knit

P: purl

Rep: repeat

For a flat panel:

Row 1: *K3, P2, K1, P2, K2, rep from *

Row 2: *K1, P2, K3, P2, K2, rep from *

Row 3: *K1, P2, K5, P2, rep from *

Row 4: *P1, K2, P1, K1, P1, K2, P1, K1, rep from *

For in the round:

Round 1:  *K3, P2, K1, P2, K2, rep from *

Round 2:  *K2, P2, K3, P2, K1, rep from *

Round 3:  *K1, P2, K5, P2, rep from *

Round 4:  K1, P1, K2, P1, K1, P1, K2, P1, rep from *


I hope this helps clear up any confusion charts may present.  But something I have learned over the years is the best way to learn something is to just do it.  If you make mistakes, don’t worry!  With yarn, just pull it out and try again.  It is ok to make mistakes.  It is how we learn.

Now it’s time to put the fear of charts aside, grab a ball of yarn, and tackle that pattern you have been wanting to make!  Happy loom knitting!

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