Generating Charts for Knitting Patterns

Generating Charts for Knitting Patterns 

Part 1: Types of Charts. Methods and Chart Fundamentals.
Part 2: Design Integration, Multiples and Repeats,

Part 1: Types of Charts, Methods and Chart Fundamentals
Types of Charts

There are three methods for charting.
  1. The chart shows the RS of the fabric.
  2. The chart is configured to reflect the directions as written
  3. Special stitches and stitch patterns
For most patterns you will be using either method 1 or method 2.

Charts that show the RS of the fabric.

This method has quickly become the most popular method for designers. The advantage to using this method is that it makes it easier for the knitter to read her knitting and follow along the chart.  For this method, symbols use on RS and WS rows will need both a RS and WS designation in the key. (more on this in a moment)

Using this method Chart 1 below shows stockinette stitch. Each blank box should tell the knitter to k on the RS and p on the WS. 

Chart 2 below shows garter stitch. In addition to the blank box written as above, a second dot box would be added stating to p on the RS and k on the WS.

Legend or Key # 1 would be used for these charts if the chart were to show the RS of the fabric.

Charts that are configured to reflect written directions.

This method is not used as often as the above method but some designers still insist on using it. There will be an occasional instance when this method may be the clearer way to chart. The drawback with this chart is the knitter cannot see the end fabric being knit. Many knitters find themselves confused if they are accustomed to using charts showing the RS of the work.

In the example below, Chart 1 now shows garter stitch and chart 2 shows st st. Legend 2 would apply. These charts read similarly to knitting directions. RS rows are still read right to left and wrong side rows, left to right, but the knitter simply follows the direction that the symbol indicates.  In chart 1 each blank box says to knit, so the knitter would knit every stitch, thus creating garter stitch. For chart 2, the knitter would knit the RS rows and purl the WS rows, or work Stockinette stitch. 

Example 1                       

Example 2 

Legend 1

Legend 2

Most knitters will be more familiar with method 1.  The important thing to keep in mind is if you are presenting multiple charts, don't use both methods in the same pattern-- pick one or the other. 

Special Circumstances. 

Some stitch patterns use their own method of charting. Instances include Traveling or Bavarian Twisted Stitches, Mosaic Knitting and some lace charts. 


Generating the chart

The most professional looking charts are generated using a good charting software. Because they are already on your computer, you can easily integrate them into your pattern. No software is perfect, so you must learn how to manipulate and override some of the features.

You can also work a chart by hand, scan to your computer and then add it to your pattern.  And if you are not tied to electronic delivery, you can draw the chart by hand and attach it to your pattern, or use photocopies of the drawing for multiple patterns.

I work with Knit Visualizer but there are many other good softwares available. As you will see in future posts, many of the symbols I use are custom made because the symbol names are not usually stated in the common form. The biggest problem is working the legend to get it where I want it. I want my legend to be clear without conflicting information. I'd like it to move in a logical order, beginning with the blank box, followed by the purl box.  I sometimes want to convert conventional symbols to show a different type of knitting--more on this later.

Other software will have their own issues. You have to do the best you can with what you've got. It took me a long time to overcome issues with mine, but with perseverance the challenge can be met to create good charts for your patterns.  Each pattern provides an opportunity to learn more about your software.

The following is an example of how I work around issues with KV:

Below is an example of a chart I quickly made showing some of the symbols and terminology used by KV:

This is an example I've used only to illustrate the restrictions of the software. I'm not attempting to design a knitted piece.  Notice the key lists the stitch symbols in the order in which I have placed them on the chart. 

  • The knit box is not followed by the purl box in the key. 
  • The blank box says knit, yet gives directions to both knit and purl. The same with the purl box. 
  • I've added cables to both RS and WS rows. The cable directions state: none defined for WS rows. 
  • The cable is also labeled c2 over 2 left, rather than C4f, the more common abbreviation. 
  • And what if I wanted to make the  bobble differently?

Well,  I could disable the directions for each stitch symbol, using only the symbol's name or abbreviation and then define them elsewhere in the pattern.  I get the following: 

While this solves some of the problems, it creates others. I now have directions to knit all blank boxes and purl all dot boxes. I'm also left with c2 over 2 left--- not a really helpful name. And the knit and purl boxes-- still not one after the other.

The solution:
Here is how I overcome the problem. I make all of the charts for my pattern. Then I make a customized, separate key. 

Chart for the pattern exported without the key that the software will generate (see above): 

Next, I make the following chart using customized symbols: 

Notice I have placed the symbols in the order I want them to appear in the key.  Starting with the lower right box, then working across row 1 and then moving upwards.  I prefer to continue with the dot box because then I know that a cell has been converted to my customized symbol. Leaving blank cells can lead to a second symbol showing up in the key that says knit with directions to knit and purl and this will be even more confusing. 

Then I can export only the legend in either form: 
C4f and MB will need explanation  and directions elsewhere in the pattern.


While still not perfect (Knit/Purl boxes), this is much clearer on how each symbol is worked. 

So, the final action would be to place the chart(s) in the pattern without their automatically produced legend along with one customized legend that can be used for all the charts and that is clear concerning each symbol. 

My preferred method is to use the legend with only the name or abbreviation, the first of the two examples. The blank and dot box need no further explanation. In the abbreviation section of my pattern I will list C4f and MB with the directions for working them as needed in the pattern. C4f for this pattern would need directions for both RS and WS rows. MB for this pattern only needs directions for RS row. 

Good charts with clear legends give a professional look to your work.

Chart Fundamentals

When should you use a chart?

A chart should be used if it will clarify the directions. Sometimes it is easier to use a chart rather than written row by row directions. The difficulty of the pattern will determine whether you will use one or the other, or both.

For some patterns it is much easier for the knitter to use a chart, because they can track their work on the chart with highlighter, post its, etc.  For complicated directions, it is much easier for the designer to make a mistake in the written directions because she can't visualize the directions. You can visualize the directions on a chart.

For advanced patterns where the directions are more clear using a chart, it is safe to assume that the target audience for that pattern will have the skills to work from that chart.

Charts can be used to show stitch work (cables and texture), color work, lace and a combination of the three techniques.

Basic Rules for Using Charts

  • The general directions must tell how to work the chart. 
  • Each chart needs a title. Refer to the chart title in the general directions. 
  • Number RS rows along the right margin.
  • Number WS rows along the left margin.
  • Charts in the round should be numbered along the right margin for all rounds. 
  • Stitches should be numbered along the top or bottom.
  • If only RS rows are charted, there must be directions for working WS rows.
  • All charts must have a legend or key. Abbreviations must match the abbreviation section of the pattern.

Chart Legend or Key:
  • Defines symbols, color designations, or both. 
  • If using abbreviations, the abbreviations must match those in the Abbreviation Section of the pattern. 
  • May or may not give directions. If directions are not given, they should be stated in the abbreviation section of the pattern.
  • Only one legend is needed for each pattern.

Examples of Chart Legends: 
This legend only gives the abbreviation or name of the symbol. The directions or definition would need to be provided in the Abbreviation Section of the pattern. The abbreviation or name must be the same on both the legend and in the abbreviation section.

This legend gives both the abbreviation or name of the symbol as well as directions for working that symbol. It's always a good idea to include these in the abbreviation section as well.

Color legends can use symbols, a color or a combination.

This legend uses symbols to represent different colors.

This legend uses a colored cell to represent each color. This can be confusing if the knitter decides to substitute colors in the pattern.

Colored symbols used to represent the different colors.

Symbols placed in colored cells.  In this instance the symbol is relates to the color. 

Sometimes you will need to use a stitch symbol along with a color symbol.

In this pattern two stitches will need to be knit together using C4.
The main directions would state the stitch pattern that the colors are worked in.  Example:
Work in st st according to chart, slipping stitches as indicated. 

* You may use the above for personal use only. Please do not copy and distribute this information. 

Part 2: Design Integration

Types of Designs

Let's stop for a moment and talk a bit about design.  Knitting design requires you to take many things into consideration.  One of those things is they type of stitch pattern or patterns you want to use.

There are loads of good design books and articles giving the wheres and hows to integrate the stitch pattern into the design shape and how to calculate the various sections as to stitch and row counts, increases, decreases, bind offs and cast ons.

When charting you need to think more about the motif or stitch patterns you've selected. When I am designing it is easier for me to think about how the motif of the pattern moves.  There are four ways: vertically, horizontally, both vertically and horizontally, or not at all. Color, texture, cable and lace patterns can all fit in the four categories.

This is how I approach charting the designs as well.

I am sure other designers have other ways of approaching this, but I think this method makes it easier to understand how the patterns interrelate to charting. I also think this method makes it easier to see how to balance the patterns. Balance gives viewers the feeling that all parts of the work are in equilibrium. In knitting, this means the stitch elements are symmetrical, vertically and horizontally.  I use the term symmetrical but there are many asymmetrical designs, they are also balanced by some other means.

Now let's explore charting the four design types

Types of Charted Patterns: 
  • Vertical-design moves vertically with spacer stitches in between. 
  • Horizontal--design moves horizontally for a set number of rows and needs to be centered.
  • Tessellated-design moves both horizontally and vertically. Also called all over pattern.
  • Free form--design has limited or no multiples and repeats.
Lace, Color and Cable patterns can be all of the above. 

I've listed 4 'types' of charted patterns. This is based on my own personal method of organizing patterns to use for design. So let me take a moment to explain what exactly constitutes these categories

The following are examples:

The charts show more than one multiple and repeat to illustrate the type of design. 

Notice the motif moves vertically. I must have more motifs on top of the original for the design to make sense.
Here the design moves horizontally. I could place the same design above or a different design and this basic motif won't change. As it moves horizontally, it produces the patterning.
Her the design moves both horizontally as well as vertically.
Notice there is no multiple or repeat. This picture stands on it's own without the need of another motif.

Multiples and Repeats

To chart any design, you must first understand the concept of using multiples and repeats.  This is probably one of the hardest concepts when learning to design and write pattern. Once you get it, everything starts to fall into place.

The definitions get a bit confusing for some people because  the work "repeat" is used as both a noun and verb.

Multiple-- A set of stitches that repeat across a row.
Repeat--A set of rows that repeat vertically.

*Neither is set in stone. You can choose which set of stitches you want to delineate as the multiple. You can also rearrange the rows to suit your pattern.

This chart shows 2 multiple and 4 repeats

Did you spot the multiples and repeats?: 

Stitches 1-6 repeat across the row so they are the multiple and rows 1-4 repeat vertically making them the repeat. Both could continue for as many stitches or rows needed.

But there are a couple of problems. 

Problem 1-- The piece is not balanced horizontally or vertically. 

To balance this cable, I need to add 2 reverse stockinette stitches to the left of the second cable and 1 non-cabled row to the top: 

So where are the multiples and repeats?

But this works as well.
The original

In both examples there are going to be extra stitches and extra rows.  

When you look at a stitch pattern either charted or written out, you will often find that the multiple will be expressed before the row by row direction or chart. 

For the original chart the multiple was six. But,... for these bottom 2 charts the multiple is now 6 + 2. Six is the original multiple, the set of stitches that will repeat and 2 represents the number of stitches outside the multiple, needed to complete the pattern. Extra stitches are only worked one time on the row, either before the multiple is repeated across the row or after the multiple is repeated across the row. 

Typically the repeat (for rows) is not expressed. It is up to the designer or knitter to add the appropriate rows to the end (or beginning) of a pattern for vertical balance. 

Here are some other possibilities with this example: 

The second example above brings us to problem #2. What if I want to rearrange the rows?

Suppose I want to start and stop the cable with a cabled row: 

So where is the multiple and repeat now?

And just like our original example, the multiple could be shifted to the left 2 stitches. But the multiple will always be 6 + 2.  

You will see as we move along that the above chart, when placed in a pattern would be confusing.

There are 2 possibilities for presenting the final chart: 

Remember in Part 1 that I mentioned the main directions should state how to work the chart?  

The directions for chart 1 would instruct to work Final Chart 1 over a number of stitches that is a multiple of 6 + 2.  (examples: 32, 602, 68) and to repeat rows 1-4 to a certain length ending with row 4  or to work rows 1-4 a specified number of times (the end length would be based on the row gauge for that piece) then work row 5 of the chart.

I like chart 2 better. Here the directions would be similar.  Work Final Chart 2  over a number of stitches that is a multiple of six + 2. Cont working rows 1-4 to a certain length or  a certain number of times, then work row 1 once more. 

Notice on chart 2 that I did not use a box. On this chart I only need to delineate the multiple. Boxing those stitches would be fine as well. Either way is acceptable.  But for chart 1 I must use the box, because here I must delineate the repeat. 

But more on that as we move along…..

Charting Vertical Designs
Let's start by looking at a few vertical designs:



Notice that while the motif can be extended horizontally in all of the above examples, the design must extend vertically.  In each example, one multiple or several multiples are possibilities. The design does not depend on having more than 1 multiple. 

We will use a cable as our example for charting and designing with a vertical motif. 

I have chosen to work a project using the following cable and this is how I find it charted in my stitch dictionary:

OXO Cable
Multiple of 8
Rows 1 & 5(RS): C2F, C2B
Rows 2 and all WS rows: p8
Row 3, 7, & 11: K8
Rows 9 & 13: C4B, C4F
Row 14: P8.

Notice the chart only shows RS rows?  The pattern directions must state how to work all WS rows. 

In my design the cable needs to be worked 10 times across the row in order to get the correct size. I also need to use spacer stitches to separate the cables.  I have determined that the cables will be separated by 2 reverse stockinette stitches. 

First let's determine the multiple:
The multiple will consist of the cable stitches + spacer stitches. There will need to be extra spacer stitches at the end of the row to balance the cable horizontally.  

*Spacer stitches become part of the multiple*

Next, let's determine the repeat:
The idea here is to begin the cable on the row that will best complement the design. Whatever row I choose now becomes the row 1 of my pattern. The rows will need to be renumbered and charted accordingly.  The directions in your pattern should state to begin all charts on row 1. (There are exceptions that we will look at later.)  I decide that I want my cable to start with a complete O and end with a complete O---- Balance!

To do this I must start the chart as shown in the reference on row 5. Therefore row 5 becomes row 1 in my pattern.

My final chart will look like the following:

Things that must be in my pattern:
Identify 102 stitches where this chart should be worked.
The green box needs to have some explanation. 
Directions for working wrong side rows. 
Directions for working C4B and C4F.

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