“On Writing Instructions for Using Charts” – post by Kate Atherley

As I mentioned in my first column, it’s most knitter-friendly to, where possible, include both written and charted instructions for stitch patterns, when you’re writing up your pattern for publication.

But you can’t just paste them both into your pattern, you’ve got to make sure that you’re instructing knitters how to use them. It’s no good if you have a chart but no information about what to do with it!

To show you what I mean, let me give you an example from a pattern I recently edited.

It was for a mitten, and the back of the hand was patterned, and the palm was not. The pattern offered three different sizes. The basic pattern stitch was a five-stitch repeat. Because there wasn’t an even multiple of five stitches on the back of the hand and the pattern was flowing up from the cuff, there were partial repeats at either end of the back of the hand.

The designer had written the following:

A marker is placed at the midpoint of the round. The first half of the round will be worked in the broken-rib pattern. It’s worked slightly differently for each size, using a 5-stitch repeat. The repeat is charted above.

I was with her up to here. I loved that she’d made a note to explain what was happening, so the knitter would be prepared.

And then I looked at what came next.  There was the chart, nice and tidy:

Picture of knitting chart

 

And then these sets of instructions, two rows for each size.

Size S: 
Round 1: k1, (p1, k1, p2, k1) to 2 sts before marker, p1, k1; k to end of round
Round 2: k1, (p1, k4) to 2 sts before marker, p1, k1; k to end of round

Size M: 
Round 1: k1, (p1, k1, p2, k1) to 1 st before marker, p1; k to end of round
Round 2: k1, (p1, k4) to 1 st before marker, p1; k to end of round

Size L: 
Round 1: (p1, k1, p2, k1) to 1 st before marker, p1; k to end of round
Round 2: (p1, k4) to 1 st before marker, p1; k to end of round
Repeat Rounds 1 and 2 until piece measures 5cm.

Although her instructions were entirely correct, at no point did she explain how the chart related to the written instructions. Now, the pattern stitch is pretty straightforward, and if you’re comfortable reading charts you can likely work out how to deal with it, without fuss. The chart, after all, is just the instructions in the brackets.

But, as I told the designer, if she was going to write it out like this, why had she bothered providing a chart? Written this way, the chart was basically a decoration, no more!

Imagine if this was a more complex repeat, and there were more stitches either side worked out of pattern… a knitter who wants to use the chart isn’t necessarily going to be able to see the overlap so easily, and therefore isn’t going to be able to see how to use the chart.

I suggested the designer consider the following structure:

Establish hand pattern: K1 (1, 0), work chart to last 1 (2, 1) sts before marker; p1, k (0, 1, 0); k to end of round.
Repeat Rounds 1 and 2 until piece measures 5cm.

Which has the side benefit of being significantly more concise, and tidier! After all, that’s a big part of the reason we provide charts in patterns.

And then, I suggested she actually write the written instructions out for the pattern stitch, beside the chart, like so:

 Broken Rib Pattern
Picture of knitting chart
Round 1: (P1, k1, p2, k1) around. Round 2: (P1, k4) around.

and then do the following:

Establish hand pattern: K1 (1, 0), work Broken Rib Pattern to 1 (2, 1) sts before marker, p1, k (0, 1, 0); k to end of round.

This takes up a little more space, but it allows you to take advantage of both the written and the charted instructions, and be inclusive at the same time! If the instructions are aimed at less experienced knitters, I might even use the phrase ‘work from written or charted instructions as you prefer’, just to emphasize that the two sets of instructions are equivalent.

If you’re doing this, I also recommend give the pattern stitch a name that doesn’t include “chart”. I know this seems like a small thing, but, to steal a phrase from the software industry, it’s more user-friendly! After all, some knitters are nervous about reading and working from charts, and to be told that they’re working a chart, even if you offer written instructions, might put them off.  If it’s phrased like the example below, how is the knitter to know you’ve also provided written instructions?

Establish hand pattern: K1 (1, 0), work chart to 1 (2, 1) sts before marker, p1, k (0, 1, 0); k to end of round.

A knitter flipping through your pattern before deciding to purchase might not realize that both options are available. I often organize things in a layout with the glossary, charts and stitch pattern information all grouped together in the last couple of pages, which can easily be missed on a first glance through.

If you’ve gone to the trouble of creating both, make it clear they’re both there. You’ll broaden your audience for your pattern!

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