In a perfect world there would be an intuitive set of graphing symbols
that would be quick and easy to understand. They’d cover all possible
maneuvers in knitting, and would be useful in every circumstance. This
is however, a total pipe dream. Knitting is near infinite, and
knitters are fiendishly clever in the variant ways they have found to
produce their desired results. There are a number of knitting
techniques and stitches that pose special problems to charting:

Large numbers of stitches increased or decreased at the same time

When you see instructions like “make 5 in next stitch” you’ll need to invent
a symbol to handle it. I’ve seen German and Japanese charts that use a
variant on something like this:

Decreasing a large number into one stitch would generate need for something
similar, perhaps with the V upside down, and the number of stitches to
be eaten indicated between its open toes.

Also unless you’re dealing with an edging, it will probably be impossible to graph up a
pattern containing massive group increases or decreases without using the
no-stitch boxes we discussed yesterday. Still, these problems fall into
the “inconvenient but not insurmountable” camp.

Bobble and bell-shaped semi-detached units

Some bobble and bell units are produced by knitting back and forth over a
small number of stitches, to make a blister-like addition that’s
attached to the main work at top and bottom. Most chart authors treat
this type of unit as a separate sub-process. The main chart may have a
single box with a specified symbol in it, indicating where the unit is
to be placed. The unit itself will be described either in prose, or in
a “mini-chart” accompanying the main chart as a sidebar. Another
“inconvenient but not fatal” challenge.

Patterns containing stitches either slipped from or knit into the row below

These can pose real charting problems, especially in linen stitch family
textures where large numbers of stitches are worked “out of row.” I’ve
seen large V-shapes superimposed on the graph that are supposed to
represent these distended stitches, but they are visually difficult to
deal with. If there are lots of them, the clutter can be overwhelming,
and some linen stitch or slip-stitch based patterns may be impossible
to graph at all.

It is interesting to note that B. Walker used a special charting notation for her slip-stitch based mosaic colorwork. In that format each row of the chart represented two rows of knitting
instead of the more conventional one row worked = one row charted
ratio. She didn’t try to show stitch deformation by the use of a symbol
set, instead she stuck to two-color mosaic patterns that swapped colors
every two rows. The squares on her charts indicate whether one is to
form the next stitch by working with the current strand, or slipping
the color of the previous two-row set up onto the needle.

Threaded stitches or stitches with right-side floats, or decorative wraps spanning one or more stitches

There are some patterns that form colorwork or texture patterning by using
separate strands that are threaded back and forth through live stitches
during knitting. Other patterns use as decorative elements floats or
wraps of one or more stitches, deliberately formed on the right side of
the work. These are both very difficult to represent in charts. I’d
probably go with some sort of notation in the main chart that Effect #1
happens here, and accompany the chart with a separate detail write-up.

Novelty stitches

Some popular novelty stitches are near impossible to chart. Loop Stitch is a
good example. That’s the stitch used to make a surface completely
covered in shag-rug style loops. The manipulations required to make the
loops don’t lend themselves to graphing, and beyond noting which
stitches carry the loops in a piece that uses both adorned and
unadorned areas for contrast, indicating their presence is of little

In spite of these exceptions, if a pattern contains just knits, purls, cables, simple increases and decreases – even twisted stitches – it can probably be graphed. The graph may be massive, but it can be done.

I’ve got only one nomination for a particularly vexing pattern to use in tomorrow’s object lesson. If you’re got one to suggest, please send me an eMail (replace the “AT” in the address with the standard @ sign).

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