Become a whiz at lace knitting
05/30/2017                       #711
Summertime is upon us, and there's no better fabric for warm weather than lacy knits. 

But lace knitting patterns are frequently accompanied by lace knitting charts. Many patterns are written to either use lace charts or written out lace instructions, and every now and then you'll find a pattern that includes both a chart and line-by-line written instructions, but that's not very common. In printed patterns, charts may take up less space than writing out the lace row-by-row, and more paper for printing equals a higher cost of the pattern, so many publishers have tried to conserve space. 

In our more digital age, we're seeing more and more patterns that include both types of instructions, but just in case you're looking to knit a pattern that only has a chart and you need a refresher (or have been afraid of charts), here's a quick lesson in how to read knitting charts. 

Charts should always have a chart key
Chart keys are generally placed next to the charts themselves, but they may be on other pages. Look for the chart key and familiarize yourself with the different symbols before you start knitting from the chart. If an abbreviation or a stitch is unfamiliar to you, the pattern may have a stitch glossary associated with it that explains them. Don't be afraid to write out the meanings or leave yourself hints to help you remember what each symbol means!
Since we have the chart key above, we can match each symbol to the actual chart. The chart shown here comes from Chock from Norah Gaughan Volume 14 (you can see a photo below). This small portion of the chart shows all of the symbols used in the chart key (we'll talk about the numbers in a moment). Once you understand how the chart key decodes the chart, you can more easily knit from the chart—or write out the instructions if you'd prefer row-by-row.
Learn how to write out chart instructions on the Berroco blog

Chock, a shawl knitting pattern by Norah Gaughan, uses two charts to form part of each motif. Because of the way the pattern repeats and builds on itself, it's easier to represent the instructions in chart form, rather than written out. This gorgeous shawl was knit with 6 hanks of Berroco Maya® in color 5603 Jicama.
Pay attention to the row or round numbers
Taking another excerpt from the Chock pattern, you can see the numbers are listed on either side. The number 1 points out in important thing to remember—charts are read from bottom to top, beginning with the number 1, unless otherwise noted in the pattern.
If your pattern is knit flat and begins on a right-side row, you'll start at the bottom right of the chart (near the 1 above). For the next row, you move up to the 2 and read from left to right. If your pattern is knit flat and begins on a wrong-side row, you'll start at the bottom left of the chart and read from left to right; on the following row, you'd move up to row 2 and read from right to left. 
Watch Emily Explain How to Read a Knitting Chart on the Berroco Blog
Now, if you're working a pattern in the round, such as Peacehaven from Norah Gaughan Vol 16 (photo below), you will start in the bottom right corner (at the 1 in the chart above), but when you reach the end of the round, you start at the right side again (at the 2).

Oh, and about those gray boxes in the middle? They are "no stitch" boxes, meaning there's no stitch there—they only act as placeholders to make the chart a nice square shape. Take a look at this photo below (you'll have to imagine it's upside down—that's another thing to remember about top-down lace knitting, the bottom of the chart = the top of the sweater). See that column of stitches in the center of the eyelets? That's the center of the chart above—the two circles on either side of the odd pyramid shape (or a yarnover on either side of a center-double decrease, if you're familiar with standard chart symbols). Pretend the gray box doesn't exist; on either side of the center column, there's a knit stitch. Pretend the other gray boxes don't exist and you see the make 1 stitches (represented as M in the chart above).
Peacehaven is knit with 5–10 hanks of Berroco Maya in color 5638 Mancora
Think you're ready to start tackling lace knitting charts? One of my favorite free patterns of all time from the Berroco archives is Mallow, a long cardigan with a dramatic lace back. It may look daunting, but you use the same stitches throughout the whole pattern, starting at the bottom, so by the time you get to the wider flowers at the top, you've mastered the stitches from working them at the bottom. Knit in pieces and seamed, this cardigan calls for 9-15 hanks of Berroco Maya in color 5635 Tierra. The combination of 85% cotton with 15% alpaca in Maya is perfect for drapey, summery fabrics with lace elements, and there are 24 gorgeous shades from which to choose.
Find Berroco Maya Near You
Not feeling lace knitting? No worries—this week's free pattern, Tuberose, requires no charts whatsoever! Knit with 6–13 hanks of Berroco Maya in color 5615 Verde, this tee is knit in pieces—the front is all one piece, with stitches cast on for the sleeves before working the raw neck edge. The back pieces are also knit separately and are extra wide to allow for a dramatic tie-back look—or flip the piece around and wear it as a wrap cardigan!  
Download This Week's Free Pattern

How comfortable with lace knitting are you? What questions do you have about lace knitting? Let us know at the Berroco blog and we'll do our best to answer them (or write future blog posts about the topic)!. 

Happy knitting,


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