I’ve been making a lot of Action charts lately, and as I’ve been doing it I’ve made some notes on things to mention about the look of Action charts.
A Look at Action Charts
If you want to know why I do this, please read this. If this method of charting doesn’t work for you, I’m sorry. It works for me — and is, in fact, the only way charts make sense to me. It is really difficult for me to translate a standard chart (what I call an Appearance chart) to an Action chart because of having to do all that mental flipping, and for whatever reason, after about a half dozen flips, I lose the ability to keep track. I have always claimed to have Directional Dyslexia and didn’t know it was an actual thing! One of the most terrifying experiences of my childhood was being left about a mile from home and told I was on my own. I also have some trouble with numbers, and yes, I will sometimes count on my fingers! I’ve never had a bit of trouble reading, spelling, concentrating, etc.
Not only does the look of Action charts suit the way I can process charts, I think it makes it so much easier to knit from. You only need to track the row you are on—and the colors can make it so easy to see. I know. I am prejudiced.
Deciding on the Look of Action Charts
Some decisions had to be made about the look of Action charts, how they get used in patterns, the symbology I use, etc. I attempt to build every chart the same way, although there may be some slight variations from current charts and the early ones as I have certainly perfected things along the way. I even use the same color sequence and names for my layers for every chart I build in Illustrator.
Knits and Purls in Action Charts
When there is a single stitch, or fewer than three of the same stitch in a string, a knit is an empty box and a purl is a black dot within a stitch box in a chart.
Remember that in an Action chart it does not matter which side of your knitting you are on — a knit is a always shown as a knit and a purl is always shown as a purl. No need to flip from what you did on the other side. This means that the look of Action charts reflects the actions you are actually going to take, not what the right side of the fabric looks like. There are times this is problematic in seeing the pattern of the final fabric. Sometimes I relent and also show an appearance chart.
If there are three or more of the same stitch in a string, then colored boxes are used. Why three? It seemed the point where it took more concentration to count, so having the colored box, with a white box inside it, on which the type of stitch (k or p) and the number to be worked (3, 4, etc.) makes it easy to just read the number of stitches. I need to keep everything visually lined up, so having those stitches occupying the correct space in the chart is important, but it is equally as important to allow the eye to take in the action needed, and move on to the next action.
The Colors in Action Charts
Using color creates a look in Action Charts that is appealing (yay! color!) but also allows repetition to be easily seen. I use Jill Wolcott Knits colors — branded shades of purple, orange and green. I use the same colors on my Paper Stitches, so there is continuity of concept throughout my work. In my world, knits are purple and purls are green.
The string of knits or purls is filled with the appropriately colored box, then a white box covers the center of the entire string with the number of knit or purl stitches centered over it. Instead of counting how many stitches, just read the text. After a while, it is easy to get the number and stitch, which is reinforced by the color of the box.
I enclose stitch pattern repeats in a heavy orange-bordered box. This allows the knitter to see how stitches relate to the established stitch pattern. It also means I can state how many repeats to work, without having more than necessary in each chart.
No Stitch or Unworked Stitches in Action Charts
When needed for clarity I will set up a chart to have areas of “no stitch”. I like to avoid it when possible, but often in lace or stitches where stitch counts change, so it is preferable as it allows me to keep all the stitches lined up. When there is “no stitch” it is filled in with a pale gray. I test all the colors I use so that they are discernible from each other if printed in grayscale. This is always identified in the key.
If there are short rows there are stitches that exist on your needles, but don’t get worked on every row. These stitches are colored in a darker gray.
Here is a look at an Action chart and it’s accompanying key.
More on the Look of Action Charts
This ended up being much longer than I expected, so look for more on the look and use of Action charts next week.
I believe the look of Action charts created for Jill Wolcott Knits is unique. If you choose to copy my methodology for publication, please credit me!
Diana Hirsch says
I strongly suggest you check out stitch-maps.com – drawn without grids
so you can see how the fabric flows
I’m a subscriber to Stitch-maps.com, but I cannot work from those charts. I’m always happy to remind people about Stitch-maps.com as a resource. I believe you can use it without being a subscriber, likely with some limitations.
Helen McClaine says
So glad to know I’m not the only one who struggles with charts! I’ve trained myself (sort of) to read Appearance Charts. However, when it’s a complicated pattern or I find myself having to unknit sections, I take to my handy spreadsheet to create something similar to your Action Chart. Any chance you’ve developed a system similar to Stitch-map where subscribers could enter data and get an Action Chart? ?