Reading Knitting Charts…a conversation

So I had a question asking why a knit stitch (shown as a blank square in Row 1 of both charts below) doesn’t show as a blank square on Row 2 (as shown in the ‘As Knit’ chart on the right, below) — it’s a knit stitch after all, isn’t it? Why does it take two different forms when it’s the same stitch?

To demonstrate let’s use a Garter Stitch piece worked flat (where every row is knit). I’ve created a ‘RS Facing‘ chart (shown at the left, below) and an ‘As Knit‘ chart. The ‘RS Facing‘ chart shows how I normally chart my patterns – the chart always shows how the Right Side of the knitted fabric will appear. This requires the knitter to visualize and interpret (although the Legend or Key will tell you) what action to perform on the WS rows to obtain the desired result on the RS rows. The ‘As Knit’ chart shows which actions the knitter would perform on each given row, no further interpretation needed.

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I’ve seen discussions on this from time to time (and I think there are some — rare?? — cases where charts are done in the ‘As Knit‘ format). But the general consensus is that charts represent the knitted fabric from the Right Side at all times. I think one of the main reasons for this is so that, at a glance, you can ‘see’ what the fabric of the Finished Object (FO) looks like. So, e.g. in the first chart, you can see by the purl dots in R2 that after working R2 the fabric will have purl bumps on the RS. If charts were created using the ‘As Knit’ format (as in the second chart), the knitter would have to visualize what the end fabric would look like by visualizing all those WS knit rows as purls.

I think this is one of the main reasons many people don’t like to / find it difficult / can’t — knit from charts — they have to be able to visualize / interpret that when they see a purl dot on the chart and they’re working a WS row they need to knit….but, when the same symbol appears on the RS, they have to purl.

I’ve also seen charts where RS and WS rows begin at the right side of the chart as well as charting each stitch as it was worked, so basically taking written instructions and changing each abbreviation to a symbol; his/her chart showed symbolically exactly what was happening on the needles.

The standard for most publications seems to be, however, the ‘RS Facing‘ model.

Just one more thing that makes knitting so interesting!!


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