My current work in progress:

Seaforth designed by Alice Starmore, knit in British Breeds 5-ply Guernsey Wool on US 3 needles.


Chart This

Reader Emmy remarked in the comments how quickly I crank out socks and asked:

Do you have any tips for committing the patterns to memory as you work, or do you find that working from a chart is easier/quicker than working from text directions?

One of the reasons I can crank out socks fairly quickly is because I’ve memorized all my basic sock patterns so I never need to refer back to the pattern. Just the chart.

And I’ve got a very good memory for certain things, like knitting patterns and charts. I vastly prefer working from a chart because I am a visual kinda gal — when I look at a chart my brain can kinda take a snapshot of it. So I find that I quickly memorize all but the most complex charts well.

(This, however, makes me a terrible test knitter, because I won’t notice mistakes. Rather, I do what my brain tells me is right to do.)

Here are some tips that might help you with the reading of the charts. Here’s a chart:


(You’ll want to click on the chart to enlarge it so you can actually see it, I’m thinking.)

This is the pattern chart for my Seaweed Socks (pdf link) for size medium. As you can see, the pattern repeat is 8 stitches: p1, then work 7 stitches of lace pattern. You work this repeat 4 times, then p1 at the end for a total of 33 stitches across, which is half the circumference of the sock.

Note that only the odd-numbered rows are charted. This means that on even-numbered rounds you will work: (p1, k7) 3 times, p1.

Okay, on Row 1 of the chart, the 7 stitches of the lace pattern are worked: yo, k3, ssk, k2.

On Row 3, everything is moved over 1 stitch: k1, yo, k3, ssk, k1.

On Row 5, it is all moved over 1 more stitch: k2, yo, k3, ssk.

The “meat” of this pattern motif is the “yo, k3, ssk” — note that this never changes. All you are doing is shoving it over to the left by 1 stitch on subsequent pattern rows. If you remember this, after you set the pattern you will know where everything is supposed to go.

Using a row counter makes a pattern like this much easier to remember, I think. Because rows 6-8 are all worked plain (no yarn-overs or decreases), I like using a row counter so I don’t have to remember if I’m on row 7 or 8.

Another thing the row counter is good for — measuring. My row gauge in sock yarn is 12 rows/inch. I know that I want to work (for example) 5 inches of pattern (after working the toe) before I start the gusset increases. 5 inches times 12 rows is 60 rows. Divide that by the 8 rows per pattern repeat — that’s 7.5 pattern repeats before I start the gusset. That saves time because I don’t need to stop and measure.

And if I keep track of how many pattern repeats I do on the leg of the sock as well, I can make the second sock identical to the first.

Book Giveaway

The Random Number Generator chose Alice in Portland, Maine to receive the book. Thanks to everyone who left a comment!

The Sock du Jour

Here is the first Flora sock, completed.


And a close-up:


Miss Lucy’s Signature Scent


Several of you wondered whether Lucy might prefer eau de poisson to eau de poulet. I asked her, and she was quite clear in telling me that she prefers eau de poulet. She still gets Wildside Salmon treats from time to time, but she is not as enamoured of them as she was in the past. I think she eats them to humor me.

But she is nutsy-cuckoo over chicken. I generally cook chicken once a week and as soon as the aroma starts wafting out of the kitchen, Lucy positions herself beside the dining room table, ready for some prime begging. We give her tiny tidbits of cooked chicken breast, which she accepts as her due.

My current front runners in the search for a new fragrance are “Close Your Eyes and . . . ” by  Miller et Bertaux, “Grapefruit” by Jo Malone, and “Prada” by Prada. Alert the media.


  1. Congratulations, Alice, and thank you, Wendy and Lucy, for the contest. My cat commander, Henry, prefers white meat and will generally not eat read meat. You can’t call him a health nut since he’s a bit pudgy!

  2. That would be RED meat, not read meat (don’t even want to know what that could be!)

  3. Interesting. Of all the cats I’ve had, and there have been many, none of them have liked chicken cat foods although most (not all) liked raw chicken well enough. It’s fun how we all find ways to memorize stitch patterns. I tend to set mine to rhythms and notes!

  4. Flora looks great! Have never tried “Close Your Eyes” but Ilove the Jo Malone and Prada fragrances! hope one works out for you!
    I tried to give my kitties little bits of roasted chicken the other day and they did not want to try it. I think they batted it around a bit, but that was it. Baby food, on the other hand, is their favorite!

  5. I love working from charts. My brain just fills in the spaces as a quasi-mathematical exercise and then away I go! I’m the same way when I work on spreadsheets and the like. My brain finds the patterns, which helps me concentrate on what I’m doing.

    Seanna Leas last blog post..I think I heard him say…

  6. Congrats, Alice. And Wendy, I frequently laugh at how our thought processes are pretty similar, yet you manage to put it all into words so much better than I could ever hope to. When I have been asked to explain my mode of thinking, it is just so much easier to say “See, over there on Wendyknits…” LOL

    midgelings last blog post..Ugh

  7. Congratulations Alice!!

  8. The only non-cat food things my cat will eat are cold cuts. The Flora pattern is lovely!

  9. Wendy, thanks for the info on working from charts. I do have one question tho’ – do you do the yo or or skip it and just pick up the bar in the next round and knit that? Your yo’s are always so small and neat looking.

    Congrats to Alice.

  10. Sorry if you’ve answered this before…. but “I want to know”…. are you charting on a Macintosh (my computer too), and what software program do you use? I understand that Macintosh will run Windows software, but I haven’t taken that step. I agree, reading a chart is easier than reading a pattern that has been written out.

  11. Nice sock pattern. Thank for sharing…

    Abimbolas last blog post..International Polar Year (IPY)

  12. I, for one, love how my chickens and turkeys smell! I stick my nose right into their feathers. They smell like outside and hay and grass.
    Of course, I am sure this is not the smell that entrances your Lucy. 🙂

    Mos last blog post..It’s a Gift

  13. I’m a little scared that your brain works the same way mine does when it comes to pattern memorization. But I still have to look up how many inches I need to make my foot and cuff …

    Abby Ms last blog post..Post Two – Knitting Post

  14. Charts make me happy! I’m glad that you shared how you utilize charts. I think they can scare a lot of new knitters off, particularly when they have never done lace before. I taught a class for a lacy hat, and the participants had never been taught to “read” their stitches. When I explained it to them, I saw lights turn on. It was awesome

    Thanks, as always, for sharing the wealth of information you have accumulated over the years!

    Megan S.s last blog post..Warning: Very Little Content

  15. We did a side-by-side taste test of tuna vs. chicken once with the cat we had then. He went for the chicken, too. Really, it makes sense; in the wild a cat would be much more likely to go for a bird than a fish.

    kmkats last blog post..The job. Kathy needs. Candy bars.

  16. for years I had chartophobia. Then one day, out of the blue I decided to learn to read Charts. My first attempt was Juno Regina (from and it was an earth shattering experience. all of sudden a whole new world opened up to me. Once you learn to read charts there is NO going back. Now if I could just get over my fairisleophobia.

  17. My cat Fred is crazy about lettuce–any kind of leafy green, actually–but he finally got the memo about cats liking chicken and tuna, too.

  18. Congrats Alice!

    I love the new flora socks.

    When I’m test anythinging, I have to really concentrate, too. It’s just like reading typos. I rarely see them either. We must be whole-seers! LOL

    shellys last blog post..Contest Consideration

  19. Margie from Maryland says:

    I like the effect of the darker green stripes…. and the sock

  20. I love your socks patterns,thank you so much, visit me my blog ,bye

    Tita Carrés last blog post..Relógio

  21. My cat Kramer is a poulet kind of guy not poisson either. I always wondered why cats like fish. Surely cats’ dislike towards water would dissuade them from hunting for fish in the wild? Unless this is totally due to domestication of cats and the taste of fish was developed after that?

    Kramersmamas last blog post..Marlene socks

  22. I have never learned to read a chart but this really helped me. Thank you

    Aunt Kathys last blog post..Wednesdsay- Contest Day #25- Contests Abound

  23. Thank you so much for giving those of us that are new to sock knitting a few tricks of the trade!

  24. This was a great blog entry!
    I LOVE your socks, and hope one day to actually finish a pair of socks (ok even one sock) in the same month as I started it. Bless you, you must be a super-fast knitter! (I will admit have to pick up stitches after the two year old & 10 month old have had a yarn wrestle with, while the 7 year old referees, doesn’t help). Beautiful socks! I bow down and closely inspect the magic that is your sock. 😉

  25. One of my cats is obsessed with rotisserie chicken from a nearby restaurant. Whenever we order it, he whines and begs and tries to guilt trip us into feeding it to him. We always give him some after we’re done eating, and he practically inhales it.

    Of course, my other cat likes hummus and licking plastic grocery bags, so I suppose there’s no accounting for taste. XD

    Rias last blog post..Give ‘em the old razzle-dazzle!

  26. Danielle from SW MO says:

    Chicken, Fried (no breading) Pork Chops, Tuna, and any Red meat are favorites of our 4 fur-monsters 🙂 The 2 girls esp like chicken and will both eat all you offer and some you dont. The 2 boys arent picky at all and will pretty much eat anything offered to them LOL!

  27. I’m with Megan S. (#14). As amazing as learning to read a chart is, learning to read the *knitting* will change one’s life, too. To really *see* (for example): “Oh, look, on every RS row, there’s a YO ‘hole’, then a K1 ‘line’, then another YO ‘hole’…” Stitch markers? We don’ need no stinkin’ stitch markers (well, sometimes we do, but you know).

    Gorgeous Flora sock. With fancy sock patterns, I sometimes knit the foot plain and do the floral pattern only on the leg (for less instep bumpiness in shoes). What do you think of this?

  28. Michele In Maine says:

    My Wabi still goes crazy for her Wildside Salmon. Tuna juice is a second favorite. I have to split the juice among 3 cats and a dog – it’s crazy! Ella likes chunks of cheddar also. Honey isn’t interested in any of it. So much to keep track of!

    Charts all the way! Love the new sock.

  29. My first Meezer, Sebastian, as a kitten would eat nothing unless it had chicken in it. As soon as he had us trained, and we were totally stocked up, he swore off chicken for the rest of his 18 years. Go figure!

    Barbara-Kays last blog post..And the nominations are…

  30. I just cranked out, for the first time, one sock in less than a week. I think you’re on to something with easily memorized patterns. 🙂

    LittleWits last blog post..making a dent

  31. congrats alice! To commit to memory? lol, that makes me giggle. I am a natural blonde and so own it! So depending on how many active “marbles” i have in my marble jar aka: brain….. i may just remember it easy. Otherwise charts, post it notes and on occassion highlighters are my friends for memory!

    turtles last blog post..quick link!

  32. One of my cats had a thing for peas. Odd.

    miss sandras last blog post..Random Nothingness

  33. Chico (the lap Chihuahua) and I live in Alaska 4-5 months during the year. He wanted to share his favorite Salmon treat with the pretty Miss Lucy.
    It’s what all the cool cats and dogs in Alaska snack on. Normally he wouldn’t share with anyone. But since Miss Lucy is feline, she wouldn’t be eating his doggy supply!

  34. Our little 13 year old cat love chicken as well. Every week we buy her a rotessiere (sp?) chicken from the store. She eats it all in about one and a half weeks – we then boil the bones for stock – it’s win win!

    HBs last blog post..Ten on Tuesday – posted on Wednesday

  35. Seaweed Socks is in my queue to knit. I love how simple the chart is, and I usually shy away from charts. Thanks for clearing up the pattern for the even rows or I would have just knitted them all!

    Jocelyns last blog post..Checkpoint

  36. Love the description of chart reading; I, too, love the picture of the pattern and find that with the “picture” I can take off and knit without any more prompts.
    Interesting that you and I have very similar taste in fragrances; have you tried “Aromatics” by Clinique? It isn’t ‘my’ favorite scent but sure has a positive response from DH….

  37. Love the Flora Socks! Your Seaweed Socks were the first socks I made! They are lovely and since I gave them to my daughter, I need to make another pair for myself. I am a new user of charts, and I do love them. It seems to be easier to memorize the pattern. I don’t always use a row counter though, I sometimes just use a pin type marker.

  38. I’ve never understood . . . NEVER . . . how to read a chart for the “next row.” I can’t see it. What do I do when it’s time to turn for the next row? What frustration. I remember my kitty Michi loved the smell of cooking turkey; Thanksgiving was big at our house!

  39. Jen Hutchinson says:

    Do you ever convert text only patterns to charts? I might have to try doing that with my next lace pattern. I’m digging the charts on my current one and am worried the text based one might throw me off.

  40. technikat says:

    I just tried knitting a lace pattern from a text only pattern. Yikes! I kept making mistakes, losing my place. I sat down and drew myself a chart and now understand what the pattern really looks like. It’s the only way to knit lace, as far as I’m concerned.

  41. What a timely post !! I was preparing a one-day lesson for a local craft shop on reading charted patterns and took a break for my daily reading of your blog. I always refer my students to your blog for inspiration and good information — and once again I was able to do just that with this timely chart-reading info!! Thanks for your continued inspiration for us all! You ROCK !! :o)

    Heidis last blog post..Christmas Knitting Shall Cease Until December 1, 2009 ! ! !

  42. Lucina Moses says:

    Miss Georgina is also off the Wildsides. She is, however, wild about Happy Hips Chicken Breast with Glucosamine & Chondroitin. If you cannot find it locally, Georgina will send Lucy a package so she can get the name of the distributor, etc.

    Georgina’s Concierge