As the title suggests, this post is about overcoming my Fear (with a capital F) of charts.

I love the look of lace projects, but have shied away from them because, let's be honest, charts scare the crap out of me. The symbols confuse me. I get confused about which direction to read the chart - do you read all of the lines right to left, or are some left to right, or does it depend on what side of the work you're on? And why do you start at the bottom of the chart? Why wouldn't you start at the top, on the left, just like when you're reading a book? It makes no sense to me!

Plain and simple, I get intimidated by charts. But, I hope to someday knit a beautiful lace shawl, so I decided it was time to get over my fear once and for all. I am taking baby steps though. No need to get ahead of ourselves here. As I mentioned last week, I'm knitting a Cladonia Shawl as a part of the MadForMeSAL. It's a mostly stockinette semi-circular shawl with a lace border. See, baby steps - just a lace border to start.

cladonia by knitwisepurlwise

Lucky for me, the lace portion is charted and written out. I'm really, really glad it's displayed both ways in the pattern. I want to learn charts, but I really do need it written out to help me if I get stuck. And boy, did I get stuck! I wasn't even halfway through the first row when I realized something was wrong. I had no idea what, but something was wrong. I dutifully tinked (that's knit backwards) to the beginning of the row and started over. This time, I made it to the end before realizing that something was still wrong. Again, I tinked. And this time, I decided to read the written instructions. It was like a switch flipped and I think I may have even said out loud "I'm an idiot!" while frantically trying to re-knit the row. I realized I'd missed a k1 in the middle of the repeat. DUH! What a rookie mistake.

So, once I conquered row one, I figured it was smooth sailing, right? WRONG! Starting row two - which way do you read the chart again? Do you start on the left or the right? Cue panic. Wait - just read the written instructions. Oh, you start on the right again this time. Okay. Whew, I just did that, I can do it again. And I did.

cladonia by knitwisepurlwise

Then I got to row six and realized one of my sections only had 16 stitches - it's supposed to have 17. Cue panic, again. I started to work my way back to the beginning of the row, when I realized I'd dropped a yarn-over. Thankfully, that's an easy fix. It could have been a lot worse, but of course I started to doubt that I could even work from a chart. In reality, dropping a single stitch happens to everyone and they're usually easy to fix.

I'm about halfway finished with the lace section now. While I still prefer written instructions, I think I finally figured out charts. Except for maybe next time, when I have to read all of the even rows left to right and all of the odd rows right to left.

So, where do you stand on the great chart debate? Are you strictly a written instructions kind of knitter? Or do you use charts?  Please tell me I'm not alone in my fear of charts.


11 Comments

  1. The shawl is beautiful! I know what you mean about charts though. When I look at them, it's as if all the little boxes and symbols swirl into one big indecipherable blob... @_@

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  2. I was given a few great tips when I started reading charts that really helped me. Before you start knitting colour code your chart and the key, so for example all YOs might be yellow, K2tog orange etc. I even bought a packet of markers just for my charts. Second put an arrow or a dot or whatever at the side that you start at so on the right for all odd numbers and left for all even numbered rows. Then I use some post it's to mark what row I'm on and move it up with each row, so you only see the stitches you're working on. I hope this helps.

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    1. Thank you so much for the helpful tips! I'll be sure to use them the next time I decide to tackle a chart.

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    2. Thank you for sharing the tips for when I finally decide to jump in and try a chart myself!

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    3. You're welcome, I hope they help :D

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  3. Beautiful! I'm terrified of charts! I do find that I love lacework - but need patterns that have charts and written instructions. The little added crutch helps. I use colored post-it notes and highlighters to help keep my way. However, there are plenty of times when my heart just starts to race and I panic...silly, when I'm supposed to be enjoying the hobby! Good luck!

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  4. Lovely shawl, must admit prefer written instructions for lace and charts for fairisle. If both are given all the better.

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    1. Funny, I didn't even think about fairisle. I've done fairisle with a chart, but that didn't seem so bad to me. Maybe because it was color coded? Either way, glad I'm not alone in my love for written instructions.

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  5. Keep sticking with it! Once you get past your fear/dislike of charts, you'll be a lace-knitting-machine! I used to feel the same way as you, but now I prefer them!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Michelle!

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  6. OMG, I felt myself tensing up reading this post. I know that panic of being off on my stitch count when knitting lace. It's crazy! Your shawl is just beautiful. Keep it up!

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