Part 4 of 4: Working from Charts: Lace

Originally part of a series put out in conjunction with the release of Little Things collection, this series breaks down working from charts into 4 separate parts: Knit/Purl patterning, Stranded Colorwork, Cables, and Lace. 

We highly recommend you try to familiarize yourself with how charts work. Charts are a great tool, and once you’ve swatched and are more familiar with the pattern, you may find that knitting from a chart is a walk in the park!


Of the 4 topics covered in this series, lace patterns are probably the most frequently confused by knitters. The nature of lace stitches - increasing and decreasing in order to create motifs - makes it more difficult to visualize just what your knitting is supposed to look like. We argue, though, that unlike a lace pattern written out longhand, a charted lace pattern tells you both exactly what you should be doing AND what your knitting should look like.

LACE CHART KEYS: You may remember from the Knit/Purl patterning section where we said each single square on the chart represents asingle stitch on your needle, and the symbol in the square tells you what to do with that stitch. While this is technically the case with lace knitting, each square represents what is occurring after you have worked the stitch(es). 


sample lace chart.jpg

Above is a sample of a very simple lace chart worked in rounds. If you were to write this chart out, it would read as follows:

Round 1: *K2tog, yo; rep from * around.
Round 2: *K2; rep from * around.
Repeat Rounds 1-2 for pattern.

Even though in the "knit 2 stitches together" action you are working with 2 stitches and knitting them together, you can see the box only occupies one stitch because you are taking two stitches and making them into one. And, even though the YO action, "yarn over" is making a stitch where one does not exist, the YO symbol occupies one box because you are taking zero stitches and making one.

NOTE: One of the rules of lace knitting - charted or written out - is that for every increase there has to be a decrease to maintain proper stitch count, so this sample chart shows that you start with two stitches and decrease one then increasing one, and you end up with two stitches after both actions have been worked. 

WORKING IN ROUNDS: For all charts, all rounds are charted and all rounds are RS. When working in the round, you will read all rounds from right to left. 

Since the chart is worked in ROUNDS, you would work the above chart as follows:

Round 1: *P2, k2tog, k1, yo, k1, yo, k1, ssk, p3; rep from * around.
Rounds 2, 4, 6: *K12; rep from * around.
Round 3: *P1, k2tog, k1, yo, k1, p1, k1, yo, k1, ssk, p2; rep from * around.
Round 5: *K2tog, k1, yo, k1, p3, k1, yo, k1, skp, p1; rep from * around.

WORKING IN ROWS: When working in flat in rows, if both RS and WS rows are charted, you will read RS rows from right to left and WS rows from left to right. If WS rows are not charted, there will be separate written instructions telling you what to do on the WS rows. 
Note: Typically, RS rows are odd numbered rows, and WS rows are even numbered rows. This is not always the case, though, so it is important to pay attention to which rows are RS, and which are WS.

If the above chart is worked in ROWS, you work all odd numbered (RS) rows from right to left and even numbered (WS) rows from left to right as follows:

Row 1 (RS): *P2, k2tog, k1, yo, k1, yo, k1, ssk, p3; rep from * around.
Rows 2, 4, 6 (WS) : *P12; rep from * around.
Row 3 (RS): *P1, k2tog, k1, yo, k1, p1, k1, yo, k1, ssk, p2; rep from * around.
Row 5 (RS): *K2tog, k1, yo, k1, p3, k1, yo, k1, skp, p1; rep from * around.

IMPORTANT NOTE: When looking at the chart, regardless of whether or not you are working flat or in rounds, the chart is a visual representation of what your knitting looks like from the RIGHT SIDE.

CHARTS WITH INCREASES: One of the most popular lace patterns are triangular or square shawl patterns. We have many in the Kelbourne Woolens pattern collection: ParquetKindlingHoney HollowMeadowsweet, and Aleda from Little Things are just a few examples. 

When working charts with increases, there isn't much more that you need to know, except the "one decrease / one increase" rule is broken, as you are increasing stitches in order to create the triangular shape. This is most typically done via a YO or M1 on the edges of the triangular segments that are not paired with a decrease. In the case of Aleda, the increases are created with both YO increases, as well as a unique 1-5 increase:

If written out, the chart above would be as follows:

Row 1 (RS): (K1, yo, k1, yo, k1) into the same stitch - 5 sts.
Row 2 (WS): P5.
Row 3 (RS): YO, k5, YO - 7 sts.
Row 4 (WS): P7.
Row 5 (RS): YO, k7, YO - 9 sts.
Row 6 (WS): K9.
Row 7 (RS): (K1, yo, k1, yo, k1) into the same stitch, k1, skp, k1, k2tog, k1, (K1, yo, k1, yo, k1) into the same stitch - 15 sts.
Row 8 (WS): P15.

In Part 1: Knit/Purl Patterning, we went over working charts in rows and rounds and working repeats versus working across the whole chart. The same principles used when working Knit/Purl Patterning apply to working Lace, so we recommend you reference that post, regardless of which type of chart you are working from!

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