My current work in progress:

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


How to Read a Chart

Some of you have emailed me to tell me that you’d love to knit some of my sock patterns but are hesitant to try because my patterns are charted and you are not an experienced chart reader. Fear not! Once you have the general idea down, it’s pretty simple.

Here is the chart for my Waterfall Socks (full pattern available from the “Free Patterns” tab up at the top of the page):


You have both a chart and the key to the chart. The key gives you the definitions of the symbols I use.

To use a knitting chart, you read from right to left (instead of left to right as you would a book) — because you are knitting from right to left, the chart goes in that direction, too.

You read the chart from the bottom up (also the opposite of reading a book, which is of course from the top down) because that’s the direction your knitting is going.

Across the bottom of the chart, the stitches are numbered. This chart is 4 stitches across.

The rows are also numbered (up the right side of the chart). Note that this chart’s rows are numbered 1, 3, 5. Only odd-numbered rows are numbered, because on even-numbered rows, you just knit across. On the pattern, there is a note that points this out.

Okay, Row 1. The first 2 squares are blank, and looking at the key, you see that designates a knit stitch, so K 2. The next square has the “Knit 2 together” symbol in it, so that’s what you do. Then the 4th stitch has the “yarnover” symbol in it, so work a yarnover.

So in words, Row 1 is: K2, K2tog, YO. (4 stitches worked)

You are told in the pattern how many times across the round you work this chart. For example, for the Waterfall Socks in size small (which has 56 stitches around) you work as follows.

Over the instep stitches:

K1, (work chart over next 4 stitches, K3) 3 times, work chart over next 4 stitches, K2 (28 stitches total)

The pattern directions tell you to simply knit across the 28 sole stitches.

Then on Row 2, you knit all the way around your sock (because all even-numbered rows are knit across).

On to Row 3. The Row 3 chart is worked: K1, K2tog, YO, K1. You will once again plug these 4 stitches into the sequence described in Row 1. Then knit across the sole stitches.

Row 4 is knit plain all the way around.

The Row 5 chart is worked: K2tog, YO, K2 and you plug those 4 stitches into the sequence once again.

Row 6 is knit plain again.

So those are the 6 rows of your pattern. Once you have completed 6 rounds on your sock, you start over again with Row 1 and do another pattern repeat of 6 rows total. And so on, until you have reached the length required by the pattern.

That’s a pretty easy chart. Here’s one a bit more challenging:


This is the Sprucey Lucy pattern chart. (Sprucey Lucy is also available from my “Free Patterns” page.)

Note that every row is charted, not just the odd-numbered ones. This is because not all the even-numbered rows are plain knit — on Row 6 you have to increase a couple of stitches.

You once again start at the bottom right-hand corner and work across from right to left and from bottom to top.

This may be obvious, but I’ll point it out anyway: Because you work socks in the round, you are starting each row on the righthand side and working right to left, because you are always working the right side of the knitted fabric. If you were going to knit this pattern in a flat piece, you would work the even-numbered rows from left to right, because you need to work back to the beginning. The odd-numbered rows are the right side, and the even numbered rows would be the wrong side.

And if this chart were designed for flat knitting, I would likely explain in the key that the blank square symbol means knit on the right side and purl on the wrong side.

Speaking of symbols, note the filled-in black square that is identified as “No stitch.” I need this symbol because on Row 5 you do a double decrease, but there are no accompanying increases. The increases are done on the next row, Row 6.

Anyhow,  this chart written out is:

Row 1: K3, YO, Sl1 K2 tog psso, YO, K3
Row 2: Knit across
Row 3: K2, K2 tog, YO, K1, YO, SSK, K2
Row 4: Knit across
Row 5: K1, K2 tog, YO, Sl1 K2 tog psso, YO, SSK, K1 (7 stitches)
Row 6: K2, K in the front and back of the YO from the row below, K1, K in the front and back of the YO from the row
below, K2 (9 stitches)
Row 7: (K2 tog, YO) twice, K1, (YO, SSK) twice
Row 8: Knit across

Because the chart is 9 stitches wide, you once again need to refer to the pattern, which tells you how to place the 9 chart stitches into a sock round, and how many times.

I hope this makes sense — it does in my head but that is not always an indication of clarity. 😉

Lucy Sez


“When I act silly, Momma takes my picture!”


  1. Thanx so much for clearing up some things for me…I always mess up on charts and shy away from patterns that only use them …

  2. Wendy I know a lot of people will appreciate this. I am going to share your website link with the Rav. group Socks From the Toe Up if it is okay with you.


    Cats last blog post..Food, Knitting and WendyKnits

  3. Sometimes it also helps to read the text accompanying the chart and before/after it. I loved the Waterfall pattern, bought the same yarn you used and couldn’t wait to knit. I decided to knit from the top down, cast on the usual number of stitches, did the ribbing and then wen to your chart. I was halfway down the leg before it occurred to me that my sock didn’t look much like yours. I had simply repeated the 4 sts of the chart all the way around. If I had read your text or thought a bit more about the photo, I might have gotten the clue that there were plain stitches between the charted ones. Duh! So, you actually gave us two designs!

  4. It looks so easy when you put it that way. So why do I still hesitate to start? I know I am gonna love these socks.

    Aunt Kathys last blog post..Tuesday- Day 2 of 30- Let The Countdown Begin

  5. Pam aka inlovewithalpaca says:

    wonderful, I’m going to link this in the socksfromthetoeupkal group for everone to see. If that is ok with you.


  6. Easy charts I can handle. What I get frustrated with is the charts where I have to stop and count, “Are those 8 or 9 knit stitches in a row? Does that slant mean cable front or cable back?” then every time I come to that weird bird’s foot thing, have to stop and look at the abbreviations, “Is that a sl-k2tog-psso or a sl2-k1-psso?” and then my eye slips and skips over one of the tiny boxes and then I’m toast. I guess I’m just brain damaged when it comes to reading charts! :/

  7. Pam aka inlovewithalpaca says:

    I guess someone else beat me to it.

  8. Thank you so much, Wendy! This is the most easy to understand tutorial that I have seen on this subject and I really appreciate you taking the time to teach us.


    Bevsyarncrazys last blog post..A WIP and a UFO

  9. Wendy — this is off topic, but I just got two skeins of LL’s Shepard Sock in the WendyKnits Sunrise colorway! I’m not entirely sure how it happened, you know how those skeins just appear into your shopping basket.

    It is quite lovely. I’m thinking maybe the Serpentine sock, hm?

    Susans last blog post..Here’s Looking at You

  10. Thank you so much for this!! If I see a pattern with a chart I immediately turn the page, I never even try and work it out. Now I think I could follow one easily.

    Thanks again 🙂


    Lucies last blog post..

  11. This a great explaination!! I am about to start my first chart pair of socks and I have read the chart over and over again and was still nervous. Thanks!!!!


    Danielle Bs last blog post..Baby Project

  12. Thank you for doing this. I’m a fairly new knitter and so I’m still on a steep learning curve, but charts were giving me pause. You probably saved me a huge mistake alone just by saying that charts are read right to left and bottom to top. I know I would have screwed that one up.

  13. Mary Pat says:

    Your chart reading tutorial is wonderful. I gave a lesson on this to our guild awhile back and I wish I could have presented in as clearly as you did.

    You have a wonderful way with words and I’m so glad that you have combined this skill with your knitting and shared it with us.

  14. I’m not a chart person either, but will use them if it is something I love. It helps to use stitch markers at every chart repeat. And count stitches every row it may slow you down but it could save you heartache and frogging later. If there are more or less decreases or yarn overs in the chart your stitch count row will be off but it stlll helps to count. Also grab a bunch of colored pencils and color your chart and the key this helps me go a little faster until I get the key memorized and it makes your chart look pretty.

  15. I usually have to just sit down with the pattern/chart and knit it to see what happens. Then it usually makes sense. I wish all pattern writers used the same symbols for knitting stitches/actions.Even in the written instructions, the same actions are sometimes indicated with different terms.

    Lizs last blog post..As the Who said, "I’m Free!!"

  16. Love those charts! They are especially easy for me to read for crochet!

  17. As a mature knitter, I learned to knit using written out patterns. Once I started using charts, I wondered why we didn’t use them back in the 60s when I started knitting. I love them now and sometimes chart things myself that aren’t charted.

    southparknitters last blog post..On the go

  18. I know it would be helpful to learn to read a chart — it’s just that when there are charted and written instructions, I tend to fall back on the written instructions. If I would take the time to learn to read a chart, I know I would eventually learn to “see” the pattern in the chart.

    Hissy Stitchs last blog post..Forecast calls for intermittent baby showers

  19. Thank you so much for this post. I hate reading charts not because I can’t but I think I’m just to lazy. But your book is filled of so many great patterns I decided to finally do a sock with a chart. I’ve knit hundreds of k2p2 socks now it’s time for the big league. 🙂

  20. Charts are fun & I actually prefer them…..great explanation……….

  21. I always enjoy your posts, but I have come to look forward to the Lucy sez picture. She is such a beautiful cat (and I always thought myself a dog-only person). What type is she and would you recommend her breed? My kids are teens and we are missing our dog who got sick and had to be put to sleep.

  22. Theresa in Italy says:

    Adding to what Susan said above, I was terrified of charted knitting instructions until I learned to crochet and discovered it’s so much easier to look at the chart than to stumble through a string of abbreviated written instructions. And using stitch markers helps a lot. Thanks for the tutorial. You’re so good at making things clear.

  23. Your explanation was perfectly clear! I love charts; for me they are easier than reading the long lines of text. I usually get lost somewhere in the middle of a line, and then have to find my place. Your explanation was perfectly clear!

    pdxknitteratis last blog post..Single Skein Club is leading me down the path to Sock Summit

  24. Sorry for the repetitive hiccup in my previous comment; maybe the comment function wanted to emphasize the clarity!

    pdxknitteratis last blog post..Single Skein Club is leading me down the path to Sock Summit

  25. That is *not* too much information! 🙂 Thank you for a wonderful little tutorial.

    Betss last blog post..Fresh Hostas

  26. To left-handed knitters – don’t forget that you may want to modify things when reading a chart, depending on how you knit. For example, if you want to follow the pattern exactly, you would read the chart from right to left, even though you are knitting from left to right. If you want to read the chart from left to right (i.e., in the same direction that you’re knitting), you may have to reverse all the directional increases and decreases (e.g., replace ssk with k2tog and vice versa, etc.). It all depends on the specific pattern and the specific way that you knit.

    The Left-Handed Crafters last blog post..Historic FO: Endpaper Mitts

  27. I “translate” all charts to words on index cards one card for each row, then put them on a ring. I flip through each “row” as a knit it. I don’t have to mark anything. I know to start on the “row” (card) on top. It is just too much of a burden for me to mark each row of the chart as I go and to drag a sheet of paper out each time.

    For me index cards are so much more convenient-and fun in bright colors.

    This is definitely a case of to each, her own.

    Cindy in Happy Valleys last blog post..And Elvis has just left the building!

  28. Lynette says:

    Thanks for the chart info. I’ve never used charts yet, but reading tutorials like yours is helping to get my courage up. And I want to make an all-out assault on Lucy’s belly fluff. She is absolutely irresistible in that pose!

  29. Lucy! You´re still very cute though you acting silly!!! We like the silly photos of you!! Mia & Sissela

  30. Kristin says:

    I much prefer charts to reading “knitting text”. It’s makes it easier to visualize correctly the way the knitting should flow.

    This is one of the reasons I love to knit Japanese patterns. I don’t read or speak a word of Japanese. However, since they have a national standard for knitting symbols, their patterns have hardly any text at all. There is a diagram of each piece to be knitted with the full, blocked measurements and then the entire garment is charted (with omissions for repeats). Even the selvedge stitches & cast-on rows are charted. Since the symbols are standard, it’s easy to follow along. Increases and decreases have an easy to follow notation such as 1-3-2 (decrease 1 stitch every 3 rows 2 times) right next to the charts.

    I wish this type of notation would catch on in the US. It makes it so much more simple to follow knitting instructions!

  31. Adrienne says:

    thanks for the excellent tutorial. Yours are the best!

  32. There was time when I would announce loudly to the knitting community (and anyone else who would listen) that I would NEVER knit from charts, it was just to complicated, that there was NO WAY I could follow a chart, if the pattern wasn’t written out I just wouldn’t knit it.

    Then one day I got the urge to learn charts. I started with the Juno Regina (free pattern in Knitty) and sat down and basically flubbed things up, but I did muddle through. ( bad idea to start on charts when knitting with laceweight for the first time too!) Now if I see something that is written and not charted, I won’t knit it!!!

    So to all of you out there hesitating around charts.. FEAR NOT! If I can do it, anyone can. Charts will make your knitting life so much easier, and the effort to learn is minimal. You’ve already mastered the hard part — you know how to knit and purl!

    I will now get off my soap box, but you know what they say about a convert!! 🙂

    Oh, and your tutorial is great!

  33. Nothing to do with your post. But i’ve bought your last book “socks from the toe up”.
    This book is wonderful. Thank you very much. Very clear and all the patterns are beautiful.

  34. Pam from Kansas says:

    I am an experienced knitter and you explained this very well. Admitidly, it took me a while to figure it out on my own the first time I attempted chart knitting. I love your book, by the way.

  35. Kathy Sue says:

    Great tutorial, and good timing! I am trying to convince a coworker that she can do lace, this makes perfect homework! Every time she sees my latest lace,she says “oh, I wish I could do that, but I can’t read the graphs”. Ha! We’ve got her now. Thanks.

    PS Lucy is particularly lovely lately!

  36. Thank you for taking the time to explain chart-reading! You are too kind! Have fun in NC, and say hi to Ms. Knotty for me!!!

    Danieles last blog post..Socks Socks Socks

  37. Willa Jean says:

    I actually know how to read charts, but I gotta tell ya, that’s an excellent tutorial. I don’t know how many people read the comments, but you might add in some future post that enlarging the chart can be really helpful. I also generally write the number in the middle of a string of knit stitches, so I don’t have to keep counting. I’ve also been known to used highlighters or colored pencils to differentiate the different stitches when my eyes and my concentration are failing me.

    I predict this blog entry is going to be linked-to and and forwarded and emailed all over knitterdom before long. It’s a real gem. Really.

  38. Katherine says:

    What an excellent tutorial! It almost takes the fear out of charts for me.
    Now I have one question. Do you ever do socks from the top down? I do not have good luck with toe-up. And I love your patterns.

  39. CatSamalea says:

    Thank you — you answered two questions today that, really, I should have known because they were so obvious: Why flat charts are read right to left and why all charts are read from right to left.

    I’m going to go now and give myself two pokes in the eye with a size 1 DPN.


  40. CatSamalea says:

    Edited due to stupidity (never comment before breakfast):

    Thank you — you answered two questions today that, really, I should have known because they were so obvious: Why flat charts are read back and forth, why charts in the round are always read from right to left.

    I’m going to go now and give myself three pokes in the eye with a size 1 DPN.