On How I Grew to Love Charts

A number of years back, I was very intimidated by knitting charts. My first introduction to charts was when I downloaded the afghan pattern for my travel afghan.  It was a pattern provided by Rowan yarns, and there are eight different squares which comprise the completed blanket. Half the patterns were available as written and charts, and half were charts only.  At the time, I saved only the written patterns when they were given and begrudgingly saved the charts when there was no alternative provided. This afghan is a project I pick up every so often, and now that time has passed and I’ve learned how easy it is to follow a chart, I’ve gone back and added the charts to the patterns where they are missing.

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The trick with charts is learning how to read them.  When you’re first shown a chart with lots of little symbols and repeats, it can admittedly be intimidating.  There is no need to be scared of charts! Your fear and hesitation is something all knitters go through, before they learn how to read them.

Let’s break charts down.

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The above is a charted lace pattern that I have improvised.

Each square on the chart represents a stitch on your needle, and there is usually a key which explains what each symbol means.  Many of these symbols are universal.

When reading a chart, it’s opposite to how we would read a page of written words.  Charts are designed to be read from the bottom up, and you read them from right to left for the right side and left to right for the wrong side.

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Charts make the most intricate lace pattern simpler, can add ease to a pattern with lots of cables, and for the visual person that I am, they are much simpler for working a row of any pattern because you can see what the stitches are going to be, rather than reading through them.  A tip that I’ll pass along from the Yarn Harlot: Have sticky notes as a staple in your knitter’s bag. Having a sticky note marking your progress through a chart is a lifesaver for me.

These tips may be well known to seasoned knitters, but hopefully they will come in handy if you’re faced with your first charted pattern.

Happy knitting!

Christmas Round-Up #4 – THE Sweater

Saturday was a good day, knitting wise.  I cast off the final stitches and seamed together THE sweater. I’ve been working on this sweater since mid-September, according to my Ravelry project page, and after four-and-a-half months, it feels great to be finished!

I knew I wanted to gift my father a sweater for Christmas.  Dad has a large hand-knit sweater that was commissioned by my grandfather, and Dad acquired it after Grandpa passed away.  Dad wears this sweater all the time as it helps fend off the cool Canadian weather.  He loves this sweater, and I knew he would appreciate another hand knit sweater.  In the past, I’ve made him two scarves and two hats, and all are well worn and well loved.  Dad is definitely on the ‘knit worthy’ list, so in September, I bought the yarn, found the pattern, and cast on!

The pattern is Pub Crawler Men’s Sweater by Jennifer Hagan.  This lovely pattern can be found in the book Son of a Stitch ‘n’ Bitch.  I used just over 8 skeins of Cascade 220 in knitting the sweater, and I am so glad I bought an extra skein than what the pattern called for.  The size I made calls for 8, and I needed that ninth skein. This was my go-to project for weeks, picking it up and knitting a few rows here and there whenever I could.

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The finished, blocked cables – the yarn is actually green, not beige like the picture shows…

The cables on this project truly shine.  Cables are such a simple technique but they look so complicated and intricate that they always grab my eye and I love them so.

I FINALLY gave my father the sweater yesterday afternoon, however, it was still a little damp and needed a few more hours of blocking to be properly finished, so I don’t yet have a photo of him wearing the sweater, but once I do, I’ll be sure to share.

And with that, my holiday gift-giving knits are wrapped up!*

*Please keep reading this blog even after that terrible gift/wrapped up pun.

The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Cable Needle

Has this ever happened to you?  You’re working on a lovely pattern, full of beautiful cables and yarn twists.  You’re dutifully following the chart and when it comes time to slip those assigned stitches onto a cable needle, you find that it has somehow disappeared? This happens to me all the time, leaving me flailing about searching for this helpful tool.

Part of this is my own fault. No, actually, the darned thing disappearing is completely by my own doing, but it makes me feel better to think there might be a mystery afoot.  Let me explain.

I like to knit while in a makeshift nest – typically this means I’m curled up on my couch or favourite armchair, wearing a big bulky sweater and cozy underneath a warm blanket.  I’m also typically surrounded by notion cases, pattern books, and yarn.  While knitting along, if using a cable needle, I’ll use it then put it down, and it inevitably gets lost somewhere in this haphazard nest I’ve created, leaving me searching and, well, swearing, once I need it again.  I search, I throw blankets about, and the cursed cable needle ultimately goes flying across the room.  If I’m forward thinking, I stick the needle back into the ball of yarn, and it’s handy once I need it again. I’m not often forward thinking.  Here inlies my problem.

As often as I can, I use the ‘cable without a needle technique.’  Have you tried this before? It is a much faster way of cabling, and it is somewhat less awkward because you have one less needle either in front of or behind your piece as you’re working. There are times, however, when it just isn’t that easy.  Perhaps you’re working a 16 stitch cable, or the yarn is too slippery and you just don’t trust the whole ‘slipping stitches off the needle’ thing.  Those are the times that both curse words and cable needles go a-flying as I continuously search for that blasted notion that somehow manages to disappear.

I love cabling.  I love how simple of a technique it is, but yet it creates a fabric that looks complicated and intricate.  What I really want to know is how I manage to lose the cable needle time and time again… that my friends, is the mystery.