All Skill Building, Charts, Decorative Stitches, Skill Building, Special Stitches, Techniques, Tips and Tricks, Working From Charts

Working from Charts: Knit / Purl

Close up of a Chinese American woman standing in a modern plant store with a long braid wearing Powell, a textured crew neck handknit sweater in Kelbourne Woolens scout in sunflower yellow.


Like most of our patterns, many of the designs in the Little Things collection utilize charts as part of the instructions. There are four types of charts featured in the collection: Knit/Purl patterning, Stranded Colorwork, Cables, and Lace. While most of the basic principles of knitting charts are the same regardless of the type of chart, we’ve broken it down into the four components.

Part 1 of 4: Working from Charts: Knit/Purl Patterning.

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!

Knitting charts are read from the bottom up. Charts that feature knit / purl patterning may either be worked in the round, or back and forth in rows.

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.

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.

Charts are a visual guide to what your knitting should look like, and this is most obviously the case with Knit/Purl patterning. It is one of the simplest types of charts to work from, as each single square on the chart represents a single stitch on your needle, and the symbol in the square tells you what to do with that stitch.

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. 

Reading Chart Keys:
There are only two symbols in Knit/Purl charts, the Knit and the Purl. These stitches represent slightly different things if you are working either in Rows or Rounds.

Reading a Chart in Rows:

Since the chart is 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): *P1, k1, p2, k2, p2, k1, p1, k1, p2, k2, p2, k1, p1; rep from * to end.
Row 2 (WS): *P3, k2, p2, k2, p1, k2, p2, k2, p3; rep from * to end.
Row 3: *P2, k2, p2, k2, p3, k2, p2, k2, p2; rep from * to end.
Row 4: *P1, k2, p2, k2, p5, k2, p2, k2, p1; rep from * to end.
Repeat Rows 1-4 for pattern.

Reading a Chart in Rounds:

If the same chart from above is in ROUNDS, you would work all rounds from right to left as follows:

Round 1 (RS): *P1, k1, p2, k2, p2, k1, p1, k1, p2, k2, p2, k1, p1; rep from * to end.
Round 2: *K3, p2, k2, p2, k1, p2, k2, p2, k3; rep from * to end.
Round 3: *P2, k2, p2, k2, p3, k2, p2, k2, p2; rep from * to end.
Round 4: *K1, p2, k2, p2, k5, p2, k2, p2, k1; rep from * to end.
Repeat Rounds 1-4 for pattern.

As you can see, while Rows/Rounds 1 and 3 are the same regardless of whether or not you are working in Rows or Rounds, the difference occurs in Rows/Rounds 2 and 4. As mentioned above (and worth repeating), 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. As a result, when working in rows on the WS, a knit will appear as a purl on the RS, and a purl will appear as a knit on the RS. If you look closely at the written instructions for both charts, Round 2 of the chart worked in Rounds (the bottom chart), is the opposite of Row 2 of the chart worked in Rows (the top chart). This is why the key for the blank square is “K on RS, P on WS”, because by purling on the WS, you create a stitch that appears as a knit on the RS.

Working Chart Repeats:
While the charts above are within the same repeat (all the stitches represented are within the * and ; that identify the repeat), on some occasions – especially when working back and forth, and in the case of the Phlox Cowl and Glendora Blanket – there are stitches on a chart that are within a repeat, and other stitches that are not.

Below is a Knit/Purl chart with repeat lines. There are a total of 15 stitches represented within the chart, 8 within the repeat and 7 outside of the repeat.

If the chart was worked in ROWS, right side rows are worked from right to left and wrong side rows are worked from left to right as follows:

Row 1 (RS): P1, k1, p1, *k8; rep from * to 4 sts rem, k1, p1, k1, p1.
Row 2 (WS): K1, p1, k1, p1 *p3, k4, p1; rep from * to 3 sts rem, k1, p1, k1.
Row 3: P1, k1, p1, *k2, p4, k2; rep from * to 4 sts rem, k1, p1, k1, p1.
Row 4: K1, p1, k1, p1 *p1, k4, p3; rep from * to 3 sts rem, k1, p1, k1.
Row 5: P1, k1, p1, *k4, p4; rep from * to 4 sts rem, k1, p1, k1, p1.
Row 6: K1, p1, k1, p1 *p8; rep from * to 3 sts rem, k1, p1, k1.
Repeat Rows 1-6 for pattern.

Below is the same chart as if it was worked in rounds.
Since the chart is in ROUNDS, all rounds are worked from right to left as follows:

Round 1 (RS): P1, k1, p1, *k8; rep from * to 4 sts rem, k1, p1, k1, p1.
Round 2: P1, k1, p1, *k1, p4, k3; rep from * to 4 sts rem, k1, p1, k1, p1.
Round 3: P1, k1, p1, *k2, p4, k2; rep from * to 4 sts rem, k1, p1, k1, p1.
Round 4: P1, k1, p1, *k3, p4, k1; rep from * to 4 sts rem, k1, p1, k1, p1.
Round 5: P1, k1, p1, *k4, p4; rep from * to 4 sts rem, k1, p1, k1, p1.
Round 6: P1, k1, p1, *k8; rep from * to 4 sts rem, k1, p1, k1, p1.
Repeat Rounds 1-6 for pattern.

While many of the same principles outlined above apply to colorwork, cable, and lace knitting from charts, each has a few separate key points worth highlighting.

8 thoughts on “Working from Charts: Knit / Purl

  1. Geraldine Sweeney says:

    Are charts read in the same direction for left handed knitters?

    1. Yes, knitting is done with both hands, so there is no “left hand” or “right hand” direction. All charts should be worked and read from right to left, regardless of which hand is dominant or if you are a “picker” or “thrower”.

  2. Sue Patenaude says:

    For October hat there are more stitches on the needle than on the chart? How should that be managed? Wanting to make 2 hat for xmas but have had to take out stitches twice and remain unsuccessful? i hope you can help – soon. Thank you in advance!

    1. Please email us at info@kelbournewoolens.com with pattern questions. (This email is also on the pattern PDFs.) That way, we will be able to better assist you. Thank you!

  3. Johna says:

    I want to make the pattern “Frolicking Deer”, for my son. He has a deer farm. Why would the cast on be 144 stitches? That seems very large. Thank you. My son’s head is 23 inches around.

    1. Hi there. As that is not our yarn or pattern, and not one we are familiar with, perhaps contacting the designer or yarn manufacturer might give you the answer you are looking for? Sorry we cannot be more helpful!

  4. Carol Stark says:

    I am working on your shawl pattern called STONE POINT using the written form of the pattern. I keep having a problem with the rows beginning with row 13 after the first lace section is complete and it is beginning of the new section.
    Has there been any corrections made since I purchased the pattern two years ago? I’ve had the incorrect stitches left at the end of the pattern row three times now.
    Any help will be appreciated.
    Carol Stark

    1. Hey there! There are no corrections to the pattern at this time, but if you please email us at info@kelbournewoolens.com, way we can better assist you with your questions. Thanks!

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