The overwhelming majority of my patterns include charts and written directions for any stitch patterns. I think this is important not only because it is inclusive, but also when something is unclear on one sort of directions, being able to look at the other might help. I make every effort to use standard chart symbols except where I feel the standard ones are less than desirable (the CYCA’s, i.e. Craft Yarn Council of America, purl designations aren’t my favorite, and I’ll explain why a little later on), and always define every chart symbol.
My patterns are designed to keep print costs down for the people printing them, so one of the ways I save space and therefore the # of pages printed, is by putting the chart symbols next to the corresponding abbreviation/definition. Like this:
It’s important to note that because my [knitting] charts are the variety that are meant to look like the work when viewed from the right side, sometimes symbols will have two different meanings depending on which side of the knitting they are worked. This mostly applies to knitting and purling. See above next to the blank box where it says ”k = knit. For charts: knit on right side; purl on wrong side.”? For the charts, a blank square means to make stockinette stitch.
When looking at the right side of a stockinette fabric you are looking at the side that is knitted. When looking at the wrong side, you are looking at the side that is purled. Visualizing what you are doing on a given row, and how it relates to the rest of the work, is essential for understanding how to read your work. The chart is meant to look as much like the knitting as possible. Where the above directions get tricky is that I really like stitch patterns with an odd number of rows because this makes them not just reversible but identical on both sides. This is why I always say:
“When referencing the chart symbols and their meanings from the abbreviations section, “right” side just means rows with the number on the right and they are read right-to-left, while “wrong” side means rows with the number on the left and they are read left-to-right. “Wrong” side rows have been shaded gray on the chart to make them easier to follow.”
Standards vs. legibility?
Earlier I mentioned that I dislike the CYCA standard chart symbols for purls/reverse stockinette. Theirs use either a wide dash or a gray box. I dislike the wide dash because I’ve seen patterns that use this and personally find it very hard to read. It merges and unmerges with the gridlines and my eyes read the chart like one of those mind-boggling optical illusion puzzles. The gray box is undesirable for me because I like to shade wrong side rows a pale gray on longer rows to make them easier for the eye to follow. I also have a pattern for gray and white colorwork with slipped stitches that would be particularly irritating to read with the dash/gray convention. I prefer Barbara Walker’s purl/reverse stockinette abbreviation of a bold dot. A comparison of the different types of symbols for a chart of k2, p2 ribbing is shown below:
Some charts are basically the same as the written directions. I call these “symbol-as-operation” instead of “symbol-as-result” (my charts). Let’s look at two charts side-by-side to see the fundamental difference and why the right-side chart is so advantageous. Both of the following charts are for k2, p2 ribbing. For the chart at left, | is knit and — is purl regardless of what side you are on. For the chart at right, blank squares mean knit on right side, purl on wrong side, and the • means to purl on right side, knit on wrong side.
Which one of them looks more like the knitting? The chart on the left is actually just the written instructions but converted to little symbols and put in a grid. The chart on the right serves more as a pictorial of a desired result viewed from one side. The latter does involve some mental translation while knitting, but it’s also easier to check your work against (for me, anyway).