Tuesday is Tools Day: I ♥ Charts!
I’ve already talked about how I use my yarn scale and a spreadsheet to maximize my yarn usage or check to make sure I’ll have enough yarn to finish a project. I use a spreadsheet for most of my knitting calculations (figuring out stitch counts, increases, decreases, etc.). I also find spreadsheets really, really handy for making knitting charts.
Charts are one of those things that knitters either love or despise. Everyone’s brain works differently, so I suppose it depends on how your particular wiring is connected. We already know that my wiring is seriously geeky, so it should come as no surprise that I adore charts with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. I love the fact that they take up less space than pages of written directions. I love that I can see how the different rows in my pattern correspond to each other. I love that I knit faster and with fewer errors if I know that the YO in row 11 should be directly above the k2tog in row 9.
I vastly prefer patterns with charts. I won’t even go near lace without a chart, so if a pattern doesn’t have a chart and I absolutely, positively must knit that pattern, I’ll create my own chart to use for that project.
One of the things that I love about charts is that they make it easier to substitute your own stitches if you desire. I was looking at a sitch pattern the other day that called for “slip 1, knit 1, psso.” This makes a left-leaning decrease. If I’d rather work that decrease as ssk, I can just substitute ssk for that symbol. With the written directions, I’d have to stop and translate it each time. Similarly, if you wanted to place a bead on a shawl instead of working a nupp or a bobble, you could just change what that symbol means to you and use the chart as written.
You can create basic charts in any spreadsheet program—or even just plain old graph paper— by making your rows and columns into small squares. (If you want to get really fancy—and this can be helpful for color work—you can adjust the size of your rows and columns to correspond to your row and stitch gauge.) You can use simple characters (/ for k2tog, \ for ssk, O for a yo, – for a purl stitch, | or a blank square for a knit stitch, etc.) or you can get fancy and use a knitting font. There are a couple out there, but I use this one by Aire River Design. It’s got most of the symbols that I need and use frequently, and best of all, it’s free.
I had a lace idea in mind for the green sweater, so I trolled around in my stitch libraries, looking for something that I could adapt to meet the design in my head. I found one in Vogue Knitting Stitchionary 5: Lace Knitting that gave me a good start. (I have several stitch libraries that I use frequently; the VK books include charts for all their stitch patterns, which makes them some of my most-used stitch references.) I made some changes to the shape and the size, added a section on the left, then mirrored it on the right. Then I decided to turn the pattern on its side and resize it to use on the sleeve. I stayed up far too late last night, but when I was done, I had several charts ready to go for my cardigan.
Tell me, do you like charts? Or do you prefer written out instructions?