Amazing Lace Detour: Chart It or Read It

A Detour is a choice between two tasks, each with its own pros and cons. In this Detour, teams have a choice between two methods common to knitters: Chart It or Read It.

In Chart It, teams will take a pattern out of Barbara Walker’s Treasury of Knitting Patterns, which is written in a row-by-row, spelled-out manner, and convert it into a chart. The pattern as it’s written does not account for being worked in the round, and teams must write the chart so that it can be read this way. The task is challenging but ultimately rewarding, though it could take a long time.

In Read It, teams will take the same pattern out of Barbara Walker’s Treasury of Knitting Patterns, do a swatch to familiarize themselves with the pattern, and simply use the printed pattern as a guide. The task is not as rewarding, could still take some time, but may be slightly less challenging.

sock yarn“I think we should just Read It. It’s too complicated to write up a chart like this, especially since it’s not obvious where those extra 4 stitches the pattern requires (‘multiple of 8 plus 4’) are.”

me again“No, I think we should Chart It. Charts are so pretty, so straightforward, and if I wanted to write the pattern up for this sock later, it would be really useful. I’ll just keep drawing out the pattern until I can figure out how to place each stitch correctly.”

sock yarn“Alright Minty, if that’s what you want. But even though you’ve read the Knitty tutorial on charting and Eunny’s Majoring in Lace series, I’m not sure you are familiar enough with charts to make this work. Plus those resources don’t really give step-by-step directions for how to write out a complex pattern. You might need to go look at some actual books on lace.”

me again“I’ll make it work. I’m spatially oriented! I adore graph paper! I can do this. I’ll just do it—why stop to gather more resources? It’s important for me to learn, anyway. Isn’t part of this Lace about me growing as a knitter?”

The team sits down with graph paper, pencil, eraser, and the pattern book.


Multiple attempts . . . different techniques . . . getting no closer.

gulp! face“Oh my god! The stitch count changes on every row. No wonder I can’t make it all line up right! I have no idea what I’m doing. I know there’s a ‘no stitch’ often used in lace charts, but how do I know where to place it? Where’s the ‘extra’ stitch? I can’t do this. Sock yarn, there’s no way I can do this! It just makes no sense! I’ve tried. I’ve tried! Nothing lines up. And when I go to knit it, I can see where the stitches go, but I can’t seem to find them on the chart. (Really: I can ‘read’ the knitting itself but can’t make it into a readable chart for some reason.) My brain is going to explode!”

Go to slow-mo to heighten the drama before cutting to commercial. Will Minty pull out what remains of her hair? Will she manage to figure out this stupid detour? She’s going to have to break for some extensive research. Hopefully, in true Amazing Race style, when we come back from the commercial break we’ll discover that all the drama was an editor’s manipulation: Of course she was going to figure it out. (“Um, I’m not so sure!”—Minty)

8 Responses to Amazing Lace Detour: Chart It or Read It

  1. Ashley says:

    Wow, way to pick the equivalent of eating 37 thousand gallons of spicy Hungarian soup. If you can make the charting work, you are totally my knitting hero.

  2. Meg says:

    ooh, another cliffhanger! I’m not sure my heart can take it…
    Tip for chart – maybe working it out in an excel spreadsheet might be easier – not so much erasing and you can cut and paste the parts that work? Depending on what kind of pattern you’re using, the ‘no stitch’ boxes might neatly arrange themselves symmetrically about the centre of your pattern repeat (for things like leaf patterns, such as Kiri). With the no-stitch symbols: a left-leaning decrease will become (on the next RS row, assuming you’re just purling on WS rows) a no stitch, then k1; whereas a right-leaning decrease will become k1, then no stitch. That may make no sense whatsoever, sorry I should go get some more coffee before thinking about this more…

  3. Rachel says:

    Hou are HILARIOUS. And you totally should be running The Amazing Lace, having actually SEEN the show it’s based on. I like your idea of the detours — maybe I’ll do a poll on the site just for fun, to see which route (charting or reading) people prefer.

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