Today’s feature image is a sterling silver compass necklace by Tiny Cottage Treasures on Etsy.
You know how knitters talk. I had a sweet coffee date yesterday with super sample knitter Annette B (Annette has worked up tomorrow’s Free Pattern Friday project) and we got to talking about charts, as knitters often do. ‘To chart’ or ‘not to chart’ has got to be one of the most vexed issues in the craft. Some do, some don’t, but one way or another, the discussion is usually polemical.
For me, charts were a revelation! Suddenly, here was a visual representation of the way the finished fabric should look. Elizabeth Green Musselman in her (now-defunct) Dark Matter Knits podcast referred to charts as “snapshots of the face of the fabric”, and I think this is a perfectly apt description of what a chart seeks to convey. It’s interesting, too, to observe how individual knitters use charts while working through a project and to see just how personal an annotated chart can become with the knitter’s own short codes, reminders and tallies.
Over our coffee, Annette and I swapped some neat tricks for annotating and personalizing charts, some you may have used, some may be new.
- Color-coding. Annette likes to color-code directional decreases with highlighters so she can see at a glance which are k2tog and which are ssk. I like to keep the Key (the guide to stitch symbols) side by side with my chart for easy reference.
- Stitch Counts. Don’t want to keep counting the number of stitches between yarn overs? Write those numbers directly on the chart to avoid having to count them each time.
- Sampling/Swatching. I love this idea! To familiarize herself with the charted pattern, Annette worked a repeat or two in heavier yarn and larger needles. That way, she understood in a tactile way what each knitting motion was intended to produce.
When it comes to progressing through a chart, there are many ways to keep track of your rows:
- Sticky Notes. I definitely fall into the sticky note category, placing a Post-It upside down on the row directly above the one I’m working. That way, I can see what sort of stitch I’m supposed to be working in to. I’ll know pretty quickly if I’m off track.
- Highlighter Tape. I’ve heard this works a treat, though I have never personally tried it. It is removable so it can be moved from line to line (at least for a while until the “sticky” wears off). The narrowest highlighter tape I’ve found is 1/2″, though, and here in Canada it sells for about 8 bucks a roll. Steep-ish.
- Chart Keeper. KnitPicks makes a pretty cool chart keeper! I’ve seen these first hand and they look pretty awesome. Long magnet strips keep your chart in place and mark your spot. When you finish knitting, simply fold it closed without losing your place. Replacement magnet packs are also available (which is a good thing because I’m sure mine would all be in the sofa along with a million missing stitch markers and a gross of dpn’s).
If you’ve yet to work with charts, really, try it! It is SO much easier than keeping track of teensy little type on a page and it really makes sense in a visual way. Here are a couple of very basic hints:
- Charts are read from right to left, exactly as we knit but exactly opposite to the way we read.
- Charts are a snapshot of the face of the fabric. If you are working flat, your knit stitches will need to be purled on the wrong side, the inverse of the symbol on the chart. If you’re working in the round, you’ll work each stitch as it appears because you’ll always be working on the face of the fabric.
- Mark off your pattern repeats with stitch markers. That way, you’ll be able to catch any errors before you get too far along.
- Drop in a life-line! Any time you feel uncertain about what to do, draw some waste yarn (preferably something slippery and slightly lighter in weight than your project yarn) through your live stitches. If you have to rip back your knitting, the live stitches can be picked up from there.
Be sure to stop by tomorrow to see what Annette made!