Knitting from charts

When we talk to knitters, many mention that they don’t like charts or are nervous of patterns that include them. Often this is because knitters haven’t ever been shown how to work from charts, so we thought we’d provide an introduction.

Charts are simply another way of providing knitting instructions and if they are well drawn they should to some extent be a diagram of how your knitting should look.

The most straightforward charts to understand are those for colourwork.

knititng in colour chart

Each square on the chart represents a stitch. You could think of putting your knitting needle below the chart and matching the stitches on your needle to the stitches on the chart.

Right side rows are worked from right to left, this is why the right hand column is labelled 1. If you think about matching your knitting to the chart, if you are working a right side row the tip of your needle would be at the right hand side of the chart. A wrong side row would be worked from left to right because you are working back along your stitches.

The key to the chart tells you the right side rows are knitted and the wrong side ones are purled. It also shows you what colour yarn each stitch is worked in. So your knitting should look like the chart picture as you progress.

This chart also has a red outlined box. This shows you the set of stitches to repeat across the row for the pattern to right a across your work. For example a in a garment with five flowers across it, row one might be written out as “K2A (k5A, k2B, k5A, k2B, k6A) five times, k1A” – A and B refer to the yarn colours. All the chart is doing is showing you that in a picture.

Cable charts

Cable charts can be a good example of showing how your work should look as well. The symbols for cables here show which direction each cable should slope.

knitting cables chart

It is important to read both the key to any chart and the abbreviations carefully. This will tell you how many stitches are used in a cable and what to do.

For example here we have a symbol using three squares which the key says is Tw3B. The abbreviations section would tell you that this means “slip next 1 st on to cable needle and hold to back, k2, p1 from cable needle” – this makes cable that slopes to the right and if you look at the symbol it has a right leaning slope. The dot in the symbol is the purl stitch and you can see that it is worked after the knit stitches.

Texture and lace

lace chart knitting

Charts for texture and lace should be approached in just the same way, understanding what each symbol means and working one stitch at a time.

You may find that as you work with charts for a while you will be able to look at a piece of knitting and see more clearly what is happening with the pattern because you are more used to reading the stitches from a picture.

Top tips

Of course looking at the charts at first might still be daunting so we asked our social media followers for their advice.

Most of this focused on being able to see clearly which row you are working on the chart. The top recommendations were to use washi tape, post-it-notes or a chart board with magnetic strips to outline the row you are working. That way you won’t be distracted by other rows.

Another useful suggestion is to photocopy the chart and use coloured pencils or highlighter pens to mark different stitches in different colours.

If your chart involves repeats, put a stitch marker or a loop of contrasting yarn on the needles at the start of the group of stitches for each repeat.

What are your top tips for working from charts, please tell us in the comments.

Know your yarn: Acrylic

Continuing with our occasional look at the different yarns and fibres we can use in our knitting and crochet, we take a look at acrylic yarns which are particularly good for homewares and items that need to be durable

Where does this yarn come from?

Acrylic yarns are made of man-made fibres which are created from petroleum-based polymers – in other words acrylic yarns come from oil.

The fibres are created by drawing long strands of the polymer through small holes. The strands are cut to particular lengths depending on how the final yarn is to behave and is washed and stretched before it is ready for spinning.

Acrylic yarn is produced in both ecru which is dyed later and in coloured forms.

It can be used on its own for knitting yarns or combines with wool or other fibres.

Clockwise from top left: King Cole Riot DK (70% acrylic, 30% wool) DY Choice Basics DK Spray (100% acrylic) : Stylecraft Alpaca Tweed (77% acrylic, 20% alpaca, 3% viscose) : Wendy Festival Chunky (100% acrylic) : James C Brett Top Value DK (100% acrylic) : Rico Melange Chunky (53% wool, 47% acrylic)  Sirdar Crofter DK (60% acrylic, 25% cotton, 15% wool)

Clockwise from top left: King Cole Riot DK (70% acrylic, 30% wool): DY Choice Basics DK Spray (100% acrylic): Stylecraft Alpaca Tweed (77% acrylic, 20% alpaca, 3% viscose): Wendy Festival Chunky (100% acrylic): James C Brett Top Value DK (100% acrylic): Rico Melange Chunky (53% wool, 47% acrylic): Sirdar Crofter DK (60% acrylic, 25% cotton, 15% wool)


  • Lightweight compared to wool, so you can make a garment from fewer balls of yarn
  • Durable and machine washable. This makes it a great choice for homewares and kids knits, because dealing with spills and stains is not a big issue
  • Non-allergenic (if not in a blend) because it has no animal
  • Can be blended with any natural fiber resulting in the best of both worlds
  • An acrylic garment will retain moisture more than a wool which makes 100% acrylic yarn less suitable for garments and accessories exposed to some weather conditions

Tips for working with acrylic yarns

Think about what sort of projects you want to use acrylic for and consider wool and acrylic blends. In particular use it for kidswear, homewares and blankets, all of which will benefit from its strengths.

Some people prefer to use wood or metal hooks and needles with acrylic yarn rather than plastic ones.

What is your favourite pattern for acrylic yarn – please tell us in the comments below.




Campaign for Wool Student Hand Knit Competition

The Campaign for Wool has announced the winners of its first student hand knitting competition.

The students were asked to design a series of garments hand knitted in yarns that were all at least 51% wool that had sculptural elements using cabling and 3D techniques. The design brief set by Marie Wallin, a knitwear designer renowned for her intricate Fair Isle hand knitting, also asked the students to use a colour palette based on British autumn. Participants were also encouraged to uses other crafting techniques including crochet and felting.

Campaign for wool hand knitting prize

Each entry included a sketch book, knitted swatches and six finished illustrated designs. The students then selected one of the designs to make up as their final submission.

Sixteen final entries were judged during Wool Week by Marie Wallin, Bridgette Kelly of The Campaign for Wool, Wendy Barker of Kingston University and Polly Leonard, founder and editor of Selvedge Magazine who awarded a special prize to her overall preferred entry.

“I was very impressed by the standard of design work submitted,” said Marie Wallin. “The students truly excelled themselves with designs that not only promoted the craft of handknit and crochet but showed how wool can be a creative and versatile fibre.”

The entries were displayed at the Artworkers Guild Hall in London during Wool Week for judging and the winners will be shown again in Yorkshire at Wool House, the British Wool Marketing Board’s head office during November.

The winners

Campaign for wool hand knitting prizeThe first prize winner of £500 was Rachel Graham of Brighton University. This very talented designer was only in her first year of her undergraduate knitwear design course when she submitted work for selection. Her winning design was a beautiful fitted tunic dominated by a mass of knitted loops creating a dramatic and tactile effect.

Campaign for wool hand knitting prize

The second prize of £300 was awarded to Jessye Boulton from Winchester School of Art, another first year undergraduate student. Jessye’s design was a wonderful blend of multi coloured yarns knitted into a collection bullion knots, creating a dramatic and eye-catching, almost carpet-like in its structure and very impressive as a garment.

Campaign for wool hand knitting prize

The third prize of £200 was awarded to Catriona Pringle from the Royal College of Art. This highly creative design was a mix of cut felted wool with twisted knitted strips woven in and out of the felted cut sections.

A special award of 3 year subscription to Selvedge Magazine was given to Zoe Lyne of Winchester School of Art. Polly Leonard, the editor of Selvedge Magazine was instantly drawn to this dramatic design of a mass of crochet tubes worked into a very imaginative wearable neck piece or collar.”

Volunteers wanted for Knitting & Stitching Show at Harrogate

The Knitting and Stitching Show at the Harrogate International Centre is just around the corner and we are looking for volunteers to pass on knitting and crochet skills to visitors. You can read more here about volunteering if you haven’t helped on one of our stands before,

The show runs from Thursday 24 November to Sunday 27 November. The show opening hours are: 10am – 7pm on Thursday, 10am – 5.30pm on Friday and Saturday, and 10am – 5pm on Sunday.

Volunteering slots are usually two hours, and we ask that you do a minimum of two slots and it is possible to volunteer for a whole day. Places are limited and will be allocated on a first-come basis. All materials for teaching and demonstrating purposes are provided.

If you would like to volunteer at the show please click here to tell us which days you are available to help and confirm your contact details.

We will be in touch by 17th November with the draft rota, further information about the show, and where to go to collect your pass when you arrive etc.

Many thanks again for your continued support of the UK Hand Knitting Association and we look forward to hearing from you.

Knitting world records

We recently posted on our social media about Sixty Million Trebles.

This is a project from a team of UK ladies who want to create crochet blankets representing the 60 million displaced persons and refugees around the world and hopefully be able to beat the current Guinness World Record for the biggest blanket which was set in India last year.

To achieve this the blanket must contain 60 million treble stitches – that’s around 13,000 squares measuring 36 inches square. Once the record attempt is over, next summer, the blanket will be taken apart to create life sized blankets for UK charities and Hand in Hand for Syria. You can find out more about the project here.

sixty million trebblesSome of the Sixty Million Trebles squares

As well as feeling inspired to do some crochet, the UK Hand Knitting team has been taking a look at some of the other crochet and knitting records people might want to tackle.

Other size records

Longest scarf – Helge Johansen  (below) of Oslo has spent 30 years working on his scarf which measured 4,565.46m 12 November 2013. He keeps the scarf in roll because wearing it could be somewhat challenging.

knitting world record

What we don’t know is if Helge’s scarf will be a good match for the largest knitted hat made by achieved by Industrias Textiles de Sudamerica (Peru). It is 20.2m  in circumference  and 17.34m.


You might think you are a quick knitter but the world record for the most stitches knitted in one minute is held by Miriam Tegels of The Netherlands who hand knitted 118 stitches in 60 seconds. Tell us below how close you can get to that record.

On the other hand you might be tempted to challenge the record for Fastest Time To Cast On 15 Stitches While Dressed As A French Girl  – it is currently held by Lu Sommer who took 18.95 seconds.

The world’s fastest crocheter is Lisa Gentry. She managed 5, 113 treble sts in 30 minutes which works out at 170 trebles per minute.


The most people knitting simultaneously . How big is your knitting group? It will take a few groups to challenge the WI’s record of 3, 083 people knitting in a single location. However, the equivalent record for crochet might be one you fancy tackling. That stands at 485 and was achieved by American University of Nigeria (Nigeria) in Yola, Nigeria, on 24 April 2015.


One of the most fun records is that for largest knitted sculpture a 61m pink knitted rabbit placed by The Gelatin Collective of Austria on the side of a mountain in Piedmont, northern Italy using 1,000kg (2,200 lb) of wool. It took more than a year to make.


Ideas for crocheted Christmas gifts

Last week we looked a couple of books that could come in useful when knitting gifts.

But we know that more and more of you are crocheting as well, so might also be thinking of getting your hooks out ahead of the festive season.

If you are new to crochet it is probably best to aim for well-chosen small projects this year. Concentrating on small gifts were you have thought a lot about the colours and yarns you use is more realistic than tackling a series of blankets for this year.

Great choices for small projects include gadget cosies, bags and purses, mug hugs and neckwarmers in chunky yarns. These can be personalised without weeks of work. Purses, matts and other homewares can be interesting learning projects as well because you can find patterns in cotton and less traditional yarns like raffia as well as wool.

crochet gifts

Crochet blanket from Hayfield; Stylecraft tech cosies; Crochet bag from Wendy; Fun animal from James C Brett; this Noro cowl pattern is a free download; Rico’s fun slippers; and a raffia bag by King Cole

If you have been crocheting for a while this might be the year to make someone a beautiful throw in someone’s favourite colours – assuming you have the time and ability to hide it from the recipient. Or you could try something with interesting construction such as a cosy pair of slippers.

For kids (and some adults), crochet toys are a good option. There are plenty of patterns out there mainly using double crochet so they can be good TV projects because they often require several rounds of the same stitch. The results are often well loved so using a robust acrylic yarn is often the best option allowing them to survive for a good length of time.

And if you don’t want the pets to be left out, why not make crochet a pet basket.



Books to inspire your gift knitting

As we get closer to Christmas you may well be revising your gift knitting plans to include some smaller items. Luckily we’ve recently come across a couple of books that might help with this.

Knitted Toys by  Jody Long (Dover)

knitted toy bookJody Long has come up with a selection of quirky toys that would make great gifts for younger children. The patterns themselves are fun and colourful and clearly written. They don’t require complicated techniques and should be as fun for you to make as for the recipient to play with. From Dippy the Duck with a rubber ring and Freddie the Fire Engine, complete with a knitted 3D ladder, to Primrose the Teddy who is ready for bed with her nightgown and cap. these patterns have lots of detail making them special gifts.

The book also features lots of advice on making toys safely as well as a techniques section. All the patterns written for acrylic DK and Jody includes an explanation of how to work out you have the correct amount of yarn if you use a different brand than the one he chose.

Speaking as someone with young nieces and nephews, if you have children to knit for this is a very useful book.

Pretty Knitted Hands by Clara Falk and Kamilla Svanlund (Search Press)

Pretty knitted hands bookFrom autumn to spring I always have a pair of fingerless mitts close at hand for chilly days and as well as enjoying wearing them myself, I’ve realised that they make lovely gifts for other people. You can put a lot of love and detail into these small items and make them in a fantastic yarn that you might buy one skein of but not a jumper quantity.

Well this year I’m not going to have any problem finding patterns – my worry is whether I have enough scrumptious yarn – because of this lovely book of handwarmers for all year round.

The 27 patterns have been broken down into seasons and there is enough variety for everyone’s taste. The techniques such as Latvian braid are explained clearly, and there is a nice mix of cables, lace and colour work, wrist warmers and full mittens. The only problem now is to decide whether I am making presents for other people or having the best selection of mitts ever.