The Other Side – guest post by Kate Atherley

A common question when creating charts for complex lace patterns is what to do about the Wrong Side rows. This gets particularly pressing if the chart is worked mostly in garter stitch, as you’re working the same stitches on both sides… so is there a way to simplify the charts to use the same symbol on both sides?

The short answer is that if you’re working in garter stitch, WS rows show the purl dot, like this:

Chart: Plain Garter Stitch

This is reasonably straightforward and easy to read.

The challenge comes when the charts get larger, as they get busy.

Chart: lace on garter background with purl dots showing

You can still read this, easily enough, but the purl dots are distracting. An easy solution, if the WS rows are all worked in the same manner, is to Hide the WS rows. This option is available in the Chart Properties dialog box.

By the way: I chose to edit the legend, for ease of reading. If a particular stitch is never worked on the WS, I simply remove the WS definitions.

Chart: lace on garter with WS rows hidden

If you’re going to do this, make sure that you include a note somewhere about what to do on the WS rows. Once they’re hidden, the knitter has no idea if they’re to be knit or purled. I would put a note in the pattern right beside where the chart appears.

But if the chart has patterning on both sides, things get a little bit more complicated.

Chart: Shetland Bead Stitch

You can’t hide the WS on this one, as it’s patterned. These types of heavily patterned WS rows can get pretty challenging to read. For one, they’re busy. One solution is to change the use of the “knit” symbol. That is, you could create a new symbol that’s a blank square and define it as knit on both sides.

(You could simply change the legend of the existing knit symbol, but that would mean that you couldn’t use the software to generate written instructions for the chart. It’s much better to actually create a whole new custom stitch.)

If you do that, you then get a chart that looks like this:

Chart: Shetland Bead Stitch with redefined knit stitch

If you chose to do this, again, make it very very clear in your pattern that this is what you’ve done.

The other reason these types of garter-background lace charts challenging is to do with the decreases… two-sided lace on a garter stitch background uses knit decreases on both sides. And knit decreases on the WS show as purl decreases on the RS, necessitating the use of RS-facing purl decreases.

Which means that you’ve actually got two symbols for the same decreases.  K2tog has a RS version of the symbol and a WS version of the symbol.

You can simplify by editing the legend, to ensure that only relevant side definitions are shown, like so:

Chart: Shetland Bead Stitch with redefined knit stitch, and tidied decrease symbol names

As the charts get more complicated, it’s awfully tempting to consider going one step further with the decreases… why not use the same symbol for the RS and WS versions of the decreases? (Remembering, of course, that to get proper written instructions, you’d need to create custom symbols.) You would get a chart that looks like this:

Chart: Shetland Bead Stitch with redefined knit stitches and same decrease symbols fo both sides

Does it work? Absolutely. Is it easy to follow?

That’s an interesting question: on one level, it’s very straightforward: each symbol has one meaning.  For a less-experienced chart reader, this is probably the best option.

But for an experienced chart reader, you’re at the risk of making it harder to read.  This chart presentation doesn’t conform to the (admittedly loose but very common) standards of chart-making we see in knitting patterns. The point of standards is to establish a common style so that everyone is communicating the same way.  Knitters only have to learn the basic concept of chart-reading once. It may seem like an uphill battle at first (I quote from an email message from a friend “ARE YOU KIDDING ME THE SYMBOLS CHANGE MEANING DEPENDING ON WHICH SIDE I’M ON?!!!!!!!!”), but once you’ve worked it out, it’s straightforward and predictable and you can apply that knowledge to any chart you see. And if a knitter has worked from a lot of charts, they’ll be used to these standards, and they may not even bother consulting the legend in detail. (This is a mistake, but it does happen.)

The chart above goes against all standards and expectations. Does it mean you shouldn’t do it? No, but consider the cost and benefits. It comes down to this, in essence: are you able to make your ‘new’ system and symbols easy enough to understand that it makes the effort to learn it worthwhile?

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