To chart or not to chart?

You’ll find a lot of information about charting in Stories In Stitches™ 1 and 2, but not a dogmatic attachment to charts. Why is that? To be honest, I (Donna) do have a pretty dogmatic attachment to charts. But Ava does not, and she most often knits from vintage patterns that were written out in line-by-line text without any charts, sometimes without even a picture of the finished object!

hand drawn chartDorothy Reade did this as well. She love old patterns, but she did not like the old instructions. So she made her own charts. By hand. On graph paper. With a pencil or pen. She did this because she felt that charts were a type of “shorthand” that could let you see what the knitting would look like before you even cast on. She was a pioneer in the use of knitting charts in America.

I agree with Dorothy Reade’s ideas about charting. When you look at written instructions, you can’t tell what the knitting will look like at all. When you look at a chart, you can.

I once knitted the same shawl twice, just for an experiment. The first time I used the written instructions and the second time I used a chart. I actually felt like I was knitting blind-folded the first time through, because I had to trust the text and follow blindly. I didn’t know what each stitch was supposed to line up with on the row below, so I had no way to tell if I was making any mistakes until I had an entire repeat finished and I could examine the pattern and match up my knitting to the photos in the pattern. But some things are easier to knit from written instructions such as k9 versus having 9 blank squares in a row, which you need to count! It seems so simple, but it’s not.

Can you tell what this will be?

Text Instructions
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What about this? 

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That’s just me. I can’t get my head wrapped around the idea that some knitters prefer the text instructions. But when I see what Ava does, how she makes beautiful lace with thread and wiry needles, I must admit that charts are just one way to record a knitting pattern. And using charts, while it may make following patterns easier for some of us, does not make you a better knitter.

Soon I’ll upload one of Dorothy Reade’s most hated pattern stitches, one she charted from a popular knitting magazine, and I’ll let you try your hand at charting it.

(If you don’t know who Dorothy Reade is, you can find out about her in my essay “Full Circle” in Stories In Stitches 2 and in my book Successful Lace Knitting, which is the story of her life and work.)

What’s your opinion?

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