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Jessica Joy

Knitwear designer, teacher and author

After releas­ing my polka dot hat pat­tern last week I thought it would be use­ful to post a tuto­r­ial on how to read colour charts, specif­i­cally when there are decreases involved. Polka Face is con­structed (almost) entirely using charts, one for the body of the hat, and one for the spokes at the crown.

Knitting Tutorial: How to Read Colour Charts

Tak­ing the time to demys­tify charts, beit for lace or colour work, can really improve and speed up your knit­ting. I’m a very visual per­son, so I would take a chart over writ­ten instruc­tions any day!

We’ll take a look at read­ing a flat knit­ted colour chart first, so using straight nee­dles and knit­ting back and forth. You’ll notice charts are always num­bered along the bot­tom and sides. With a flat knit­ted colour chart the odd num­bers (knit rows) are listed on the right side of the chart, and the even num­bers (purl rows) are listed on the left side (right-hand image). The num­bers along the bot­tom count indi­vid­ual stitches in the pat­tern repeat, which always begins in the bot­tom right-hand corner.

Knitting: How to Read Colour Charts

This (the­o­ret­i­cal) exam­ple is made up of a 6 stitch pat­tern, so those 6 stitches are repeated from right to left until the end of the row. The stitch repeat will always be divis­i­ble by the num­ber of stitches in the row. Once we reach the end we then need to move to row 2 just above and purl the stitch pat­tern back the way we came, from left to right. Con­tinue this zig-zagging motion all the way to the top of the chart, or for as long as the pat­tern calls for.

The dif­fer­ence with knit­ting a colour chart in the round is that every row is a knit row, so the chart will be num­bered on the right side only (left-hand image) and every row is read from right to left. Super easy!

Of course there will always come a time when we need to decrease stitches in colour work and often that can occur seam­lessly through the pat­tern, but some­times — as with Polka Face — it’s not pos­si­ble, and we need a spe­cific chart that will han­dle the pat­tern and decreases at once in a neat, con­tin­u­ous way.

How to read a decreasing colour chart, fair isle decreases

The result is this funny-looking chart, which is actu­ally more prac­ti­cal than it may appear, as it only shows the stitches that will actu­ally be knit. The first thing you’ll notice is that the begin­ning of the round is in the mid­dle of the chart, denoted here by a solid line. The first stitch worked is directly to the left of that line, labelled 1. We then work from right to left as before, fol­low­ing the num­bers and fin­ish­ing to the right of the line. The clever part comes when a block of the chart dis­ap­pears every other row; this is where we work the decrease.

In place of the miss­ing square/stitch we slip 2 stitches knit-wise, knit one stitch from the ver­ti­cal col­umn at the right of the chart, and pass the 2 slipped stitches over. The decrease is only worked on the right hand side, but we lose two stitches , so this cre­ates the tri­an­gle shape. Repeat this pat­tern until the end of the round line, and move up a row when you reach your marker. On a non-decrease row you must ensure you still knit the stitch from the ver­ti­cal col­umn. Here is the writ­ten ver­sion, so that you can see the mechan­ics of what I’ve just described.

Rnd 5: *K7, Sl 2, K1, PSSO, K8* repeat between ** to end of rnd.
Rnd 6: Knit all
Rnd 7: *K6, Sl 2, K1, PSSO, K7*
Rnd 8: Knit all

Polka Face Bobble Hat Knitting PatternThe decrease stitches pro­duce a neat, raised seam that shapes the crown of the hat and cre­ates the spokes. If you’d like to have a go and prac­tise these tech­niques, you can pur­chase Polka Face in my shop now for £3.50. I hope you find this use­ful and please ask below in the com­ments if you have any ques­tions. I’d love to see your fin­ished hats so, as always, don’t for­get to link your projects to the pat­tern page on Ravelry.

Happy Knit­ting, folks!

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