Friday, March 23, 2012

Knitting Chart FAQ's

I get a lot of questions here at ChemKnits and on my YouTube channel. Early this year I received a first... a Video question! Glittermama posed several knitting chart questions in her video, and in ChemKnits comments. I thought it would be worthwhile to assemble all of these questions and answers into one post since other people may have similar questions about charting, gauge and the size of your finished project. Glittermama and Anonymous, I created this post for you!

Here is my video response to GlitterMama's Question:

Knitting Chart FAQ's:
  • How long does it take you to design your charts? The time it takes for me to produce a design depends greatly on the project. When someone asked me to design a Celtics Knitting Chart, I was able to produce a few versions in 1-2 hours. Designing my Christmas Stockings took months because I needed to coordinate many different charts to get something I was happy with. (This also took longer because I had to design the stocking itself.)

  • Do you design charts with an intended project in mind? Not always. This is addressed a little in my video response. Sometimes I have already designed a chart (such as the Red Sox B) and then when I want to incorporate it into a project I design the item (such as the Fenway Mitts) around the item I have already charted. In other cases, (such as my Ombré Hat) I first determine a basic pattern for the item (i.e. the generic skullcap) and then I draw the charts to fit within that design. (My Christmas Stockings all have the same core, and I design the chars to specifically fit within the pattern parameters.)

  • Does the size of your knitting chart determine the size of your work? No. It does not matter if you use big graph paper or tiny graph paper, the physical size of the chart will not change the final knit item. The important metric in a knitting chart is the number of stitches in the chart. The more stitches in the chart, then the larger it will be on the final garment. Even then, it does not determine the size of your final project. Your GAUGE (how many stitches and rows/inch of knit fabric) determines how big your chart will appear. If your chart is 25x25 stitches, this will be a lot bigger when made out of bulky weight yarn than it would be out of fingering weight yarn. Considering your gauge is critical when designing for a particular project.

  • Are stitches square? How does this affect knitting charts? This is another question about gauge. This also depends on your gauge. For some people with certain yarns, your stitches can have a square shape (your #rows/inch = #stitches/inch.) Usually knitting graph paper has stitches be wider than they are tall to make your chart more representative of the final knitting, but since this can depend on the gauge of your final project. For example, I used the same snowflake chart in both a knit square and in my Christmas Stocking. Because my gauge was different in both projects, it was a bit wider than it was tall in one instance, and much taller than wide in the second. For some projects you may not care if the final proportions are off, but this is why patterns always tell you to check your gauge!
  • How do you determine the size of the chart you want? Whenever I am making a chart for a particular project, I always start with how many stitches do I have to work with? For example, the generic skullcap has 100 sts x 33 rows between the ribbing and crown decreases. If I want a chart to go around the hat (as I did with Ombré) then this is the space I would start working with. BUT if I wanted a logo to fit on one side of the hat, then I would want it to be less then 50 sts wide so it could be visible on one side of hat, reducing my work area. If I want the logo to take up a smaller region of the hat, then this reduces my chart stitch space even further. If it turns out that the number of chart stitches is too small to get your intended design, then you can reduce your gauge to increase the number of stitches in the hat, giving you more to work with.

  • Should I consider gauge when I design my chart? Absolutely. This is a continuation of the previous example. When I was designing Rosalie's iPad case, I wanted a 10"x8" final product (20" circumference). My gauge 22 sts/4 inches; 18 rows/3 inches would give me 110 stitches by 48 rows. I used this as the starting area to design the charts for the iPad case. The generic skullcap has a gauge of 5 sts/inch and 7 rows/inch. The 100 stitches gives the hat a circumference of 20 inches. If you wanted to knit at a tighter gauge, say 7 sts/inch, then you could have 140 stitches to create a similar sized hat (you would also have to adjust the number of rows.) The more stitches there are in the project the more space you have for your charts.

  • Is it hard to design knitting charts? Not at all! Find some graph paper and start sketching, any design you make is a knitting chart. Alternatively you can use the tutorial that I created to help you create knitting charts in Microsoft Excel.
Note that the questions and answers in this post refer to colorwork knitting. Lace and cable charts are not specifically addressed at this time.

I hope that these questions will help you as you move forward to design your own knitting charts!