Knitting progresses in rows of stitches. So it’s no surprise that charts often consist of rows of symbols, each contained in a grid square. The symbols represent stitches, and the grid squares keep everything aligned in a neat, tidy, and orderly fashion.
But is this tidy alignment really a good thing? Consider Feather and Fan, a classic stitch pattern with a lovely undulation to its rows.
That undulation isn’t apparent in a typical, grid-based chart.
But if you toss the grid aside, something magical happens.
Freed from the constraints of a grid, the symbols can be arranged into a new kind of chart, one that clearly shows how the stitches knit together (pun intended!) to form fabric. You can see how the rows bend. You can see how each yarn over snuggles between two stitches. You can see which two stitches each k2tog joins together.
These new charts? They’re called stitch maps.
Stitch maps let you see how the parts of a stitch pattern fit together – not just the sequence of stitches along a given row, but also how those stitches interact from row to row. As with a crochet chart, each symbol both describes a stitch and shows you into which stitches of the previous row it needs to be worked.
Following the vertical pathways in a stitch map – connecting the dots between its symbols – lets you visualize the stitch columns of knitted fabric. You can trace a stitch column from its start in a cast-on stitch or increase, to its end in a bind-off or decrease.
Why is this helpful? Consider this: the spaces between stitch columns are excellent places to put stitch markers – you’ll never get a marker stuck in a lace decrease again! They’re also places where stitch patterns can be modified easily – say, by adding columns of purls to create a novel rib pattern for a special sock design.
And, yes, you can knit from stitch maps. As with a traditional grid-based chart, you’ll read a stitch map in rows, from the bottom up. When working a right-side row or when working in the round, read from right to left; when working a wrong-side row, read from left to right. (That’s assuming, of course, that you knit conventionally, creating new stitches on your right needle. If you knit “lefty,” creating new stitches on your left needle, read in the opposite direction: left to right on right-side rows and on rounds, right to left on wrong-side rows.) Not sure what a symbol is telling you to do? Check out our symbol key.
Here are a few ways to get started with stitch maps:
Browse our open collection of stitch maps. Use the search options on the right side of the page to search for a particular stitch pattern by name, or to narrow your search to patterns with a specific cast-on multiple or tag. Or browse our curated collections, themed groups of stitch patterns organized by volunteer curators.
Click on a stitch pattern’s name or its thumbnail to view its stitch map. Alter your view of the stitch map by selecting from the options that appear below the stitch map. Try turning on row guides or column guides, or – for repeated patterns – altering the number of horizontal or vertical repeats.
Contribute to the open collection. Enter the name of your stitch pattern. Optionally enter a description - if you want to get fancy, you can use Markdown syntax to create bold or italic text, or to create hyperlinks. Enter written instructions in the form of knitspeak, by typing and using the available convenience buttons, or by cutting and pasting from a PDF or some other document. Optionally tag your stitch pattern, by typing new tags or by selecting from existing tags, being sure to hit “enter” after each tag. Then go for it!
Stitch maps are a new form of knitting chart that use traditional symbols in a novel way: without a grid.
The symbols within a stitch map clearly show what stitches to work. And – not being confined within grid squares – they also show which stitches of the previous row should be worked.
The end result? Charts with unparalleled fluidity, authenticity, and beauty.