Reading Charts

ScannedImageAs you probably already know we all have different ways of learning. That is very apparent in the next form of pattern writing I’d like to talk about, called Crochet Charts or Symbols depended upon who you ask. This form of writing will cause you to basically do one of two things either you will scratch you head and feel like you need lessons, or the light will go off and the whole world will make sense (granted you can have a little bit of both too.) The charts make it easy to see what the next step is and how the stitches go together, visually; almost like looking at a close up photo of the item you are crocheting. To me it kind of reminds me of “Paint by Numbers”, except that you methodically work each cell directly to the side of the one you are on, instead of filling in all the “twos”. But you recognize the picture you are painting, and simply following the steps, instead of a written pattern that sometime requires you to work a couple of rows before the pattern repeat makes sense. Charts

This pattern reading option is not always as available as the written versions (as I am writing in North America), but it is gaining in popularity and opening up options for crocheters to use foreign patterns as well, since the charts are pretty much universal. The new found availability of these charts is also reflective of the use of illustration software by designers and publishers, as drawing the symbols by hand can often be more labor intensive then writing six pages of pattern. On the other hand, one graphic can show six pages of pattern in one that small space.

Like traditional written patterns you need to understand the abbreviations. This simply is knowing what the symbol represents. Samples of the most common symbols are below, as found on the Craft Yarn Council website:

The chart will usually indicate the starting point, and many change colors for the rows, making the pattern even more recognizable (and in some instances a piece of art unto itself). A small sample of what a piece might look like is this:

T=dc, x=sc, 0=chain, .=beginning
0 T T x x x x T T T
0x x x T T T T x x x
.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

This is read from the bottom left (at the period) across to the right, (as I don’t have any fancy software, bear with me here), traditionally you would see three ovals stacked on top of each other to the beginning of the second row (so imaging one between the two already there), and works across to the left. If you are left handed, you simply flip the graphic in the mirror direction and every row will work in the direction you are working.

If this was written out it would appear as:
Row 1: Ch 11, sc in second ch from hook, sc in next 2 ch, dc in next 4 ch, sc in next 3 ch, turn,
Ro w2 Ch 3, dc in next two sc sts, sc in next 4 dc sts, dc in next 3 sc sts.

To keep you place in a pattern like this, you may want a highlighter, or marker of some sort, to physically mark the pattern, or get creative with some office supplies and see what might work for you. Another thing to note about this pattern method is that often the entire pattern is not there; meaning that you are given the graph for the main portion of the repeat of the pattern and not the entire thing. This is one reason that it is most commonly used of motifs, since it is usually a few rows and you can see the entire square, where as is it was a pattern for a sweater it would be more involved with many rows of repeat for only subtle changes at shaping points (not to mention it would be difficult to write multiple sizes into one chart). But charting can be seen as an edging, and it will show you the repeat of the pattern. To successfully complete this you need to do only a little math, and that is only for the number of times that you need to repeat the pattern charted before you to fit desired area.

This is a very favorable pattern to read if you are very visual, to see some beautiful charts simply enter “crochet charts” in any search engine on the internet and find charts that you might even want to frame. It is also another form of pattern writing that you can easily master and might even enjoy if you give it the opportunity. However if this style still doesn’t suit your taste there are other approaches, such as patterns and stitches.

4 thoughts on “Reading Charts

  1. In your little graph above,beginning row 2, I cannot see your ch3 symbols, or is it understood that you always ch3 when you are going to start the next row where the first stitches will be dc’s ?

  2. I guess I must be the kind of crocheter that can only work from written (words) patterns. This diagram/chart stuff just makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. At least with a written pattern the whole thing is all there!! Not just a portion of it, leaving you having to decipher how to add on to it!

    As an intermediate/beginner I am not confident enough to have to “figure out” how to complete a diagram/chart pattern. I need to have the WHOLE pattern predetermined, and even then I am not always wholly confident in working the pattern.
    Many times I have to count and recount and sometimes frog a row or two when it seems I may have made a mistake.
    There is no allowance for this in a diagram/chart pattern.

    Is there a website that helps beginners learn HOW to “read” and follow these diagram/chart type patterns? Or do you just have to have an innate knack for it?

    Thank you!

    • Thanks for your insight. I think that there are some people that instinctively understand charts, these are probably very visual learns, while others have to work at it a bit.
      The reason that you never really see an chart fulfill an entire pattern is that charts actually take up more room in publications then the written pattern, so publishers have instead utilized charts to help as a visual aid for portions that may be confusing.

      I am not aware of any really good lessons on reading charts, but if I find one I will let you know.

      Some tips I can offer though is to color code each row. I will highlight all the stitches for all the even rows to make then easier to see and keep track of.

      The other thing to be mindful of is that if you are working a pattern that has you turning at the end of the row, then you need to read the chart in the opposite direct as the row just work. This can play with my mind sometimes, the highlighting also helps me keep track of this.

      Hope that helps some.

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