The Case for Charts: Your Knitting is a Grid
The other day, a visitor to the shop pulled out a scarf that she’d set aside for several years and asked me to write down the pattern so that she could continue working on it. This is not a service that I typically offer – after all, writing down patterns for my own designs is challenging enough. But in this case, it was plain to see exactly how her scarf was made as soon as I glanced at one side and then the other.
Her scarf looked essentially like this:
But in my head it looked like this:
And in a traditional chart it would look something like this:
But what I assumed that she wanted was this:
CO multiple of 4 + 1
Row 1: k2, (p1, k3) to last 3 sts, p1, k2
Row 2: p1, (k3, p1) to end of row
Rep Rows 1 & 2 until desired length.
But there’s a fundamental problem with the latter format. The problem is that your knitting is a grid, not a series of rows. A grid has both rows and columns. When you glance at the written pattern, you can’t see how the stitches are meant to stack on top of one another.
When jotting down a written pattern while looking at a knitted thing, one must do a mental translation from the visual into a coded format. Likewise, when attempting to read ahead in a written pattern, one must translate the code into a visual format, which most people will contend is practically impossible. It just gets confusing. I get it. It’s a mental exercise scarcely worth engaging in.
A chart, on the other hand, is just a schematic drawing of the actual knitted thing. It’s simply a picture of how it looks from the front side. You can’t dramatically mess it up or make it literally impossible to follow by making a simple mistake (like I did). Unfortunately, I discovered after this kind, trusting woman had walked away, I’d accidentally written something like “(p1, k3) to last 5 sts, k4”. Well, obviously that makes no sense at all – what would one do with the final stitch?
I’m sorry that I didn’t take the opportunity to teach her to follow a chart, because this very simple stitch pattern might just be the best possible example of the usefulness of charts. It’s usually called “mistake ribbing”. It’s similar to broken ribbing, except it ripples and fluffs a bit, almost like brioche knitting. But unlike brioche knitting, it’s suitable for a very beginner. Your very first project could be a mistake ribbing scarf – if you can knit and purl, you’re off to the races.