Lost in Translation? We Can Help!

Hello again, folks!

Our Mystery Knit Along is moving forward into its second week. We’ve already seen some beautiful knitting by our participants and if you’re knitting along with us we hope you’re having fun.

This week promises to be a learning opportunity for many! After Clue #2 was released yesterday, we received a few questions from MKAL participants regarding written instructions…or the lack thereof. It seems some of you are uncomfortable following the chart- and that’s okay! We don’t want you to struggle with this, so today we’ve decided to offer you a tutorial on how to translate a chart into written instructions.

This is Sheri’s method for converting charts and keeping your written instructions organized. When you’re done, you will have stitch-by-stitch, row-by-row written instructions and will not need to follow the chart as you knit. (So take a deep, calming breath before continuing!)

First, consider reading our previous post entitled Charts: Why and How. It explains a few simple rules which you will need to translate this chart. In summary, here are they are:

  1. Read the chart from bottom to top.
  2. Read the right side (RS) rows from right to left.
  3. Read the wrong side (WS) rows from left to right.
  4. Use the legend to decode the symbols.

If this sounds difficult, remember- you don’t have to do this as you knit! Right now we’re just translating the chart on paper, which is much simpler.

Now gather your materials. You’ll need the chart that came with Clue 2, the glossary and legend that came with Clue 1, a pencil, and a stack of notecards- one notecard for each row of the chart.

Lay the chart in front of you. Lay a notecard on top of the chart- line it up with the current row to make reading across the chart easier. Write the row number clearly on the notecard so you can keep them in order.

Note: In the photos below, I am writing out Row 5. I chose to use this row as an example (rather than beginning with Row 1) because it is a more complicated row.


Beginning at the right side of the chart, identify the first symbol. In this case it is a blank square, which always means knit on the right side or purl on the wrong side. (Hint: if there are several knits or purls in a row, you can count them and write them all at once instead of separately- here I saw four blank squares in a row and wrote it as “k4”.) 

Continue in this manner, working from square to square, identifying and recording the stitch it indicates. Take your time and be careful, as mistakes are harder to spot in written instructions than charts!


Occasionally you will encounter a square that is completely blacked out. This is read as “no stitch”. Its purpose in the chart is to take up space so the other symbols line up correctly with subsequent rows, but in reality there is no stitch on the needle here. So there is nothing to write down here; just ignore it and move on.



When you encounter a symbol you do not know the meaning of, refer to the legend. Locate the matching symbol and write down the stitch that it represents. I will translate this symbol in my notes as “k3tog”, or knit 3 together.



A few stitches later, we find a symbol which is translated as “Central Double Increase”. I’ve chosen to abbreviate this as “cdi” in my notes. Using abbreviations where appropriate in your written instructions is faster to write and to read.


Later, as you’re knitting along with your written instructions, you’ll probably want to refer to the glossary to remember exactly what “cdi” means and how to do it.


Eventually you’ll reach the end of the chart. You’ve successfully translated a whole row of the chart! Set aside this notecard and begin the next row on a separate notecard. (Hint: every wrong side row of this particular chart is purled across. It’s so easy, there’s no need to write them out!)

Once you’ve written out each row of the chart on its own notecard, put the cards in order and clip them together or use a hole punch and scrap yarn to make them into a flip book. Now you can easily follow your own written instructions!

Whether you’re a MKAL participant or not, we hope that this method is helpful to you next time you encounter a chart you’d rather not read. Let us know how you use it!

Happy Knitting!



6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Christine Reese
    Nov 04, 2016 @ 09:40:33

    Emily thank you so much for explaining this so clearly, I love the idea of one row on each card, I will certainly try this method if I get stuck with a pattern,it is so useful.
    Is it possible to point it out? 😄



  2. Christine Reese
    Nov 04, 2016 @ 10:16:10

    Sorry that was supposed to be print it out, thanks!



  3. Gail
    Nov 08, 2016 @ 05:57:56

    Thanks for all the helpful information on chart reading and for quick assistance on the phone. You all really care about your customers and we appreciate it so much. You make me feel I can tackle any new project with confidence!



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