How to Read a Fair Isle Chart - dummies

How to Read a Fair Isle Chart

When you knit small, repeating color patterns using more than one color in a row, you can use Fair Isle knitting (or stranding). Fair Isle knitting has you work with two strands of yarn, carrying them along the back of your work and picking up and dropping them when you need them.

Fair Isle charts read like stitch pattern charts. Each square represents a stitch, and the symbol or color given in each square represents the color in which to work the stitch. The pattern chart includes a key listing the symbols used and the colors they represent. Beyond these basic rules, here are some points specific to Fair Isle charts:

  • The first row of the chart shows the first right-side row of your knitting and is worked from right to left. The second row of the chart shows the second and wrong-side row of your knitting and is worked from left to right.

  • For repeating patterns, the chart shows only one or two repeats and indicates where you begin and end the chart for the piece you’re working on.

  • Most color patterns are worked in stockinette stitch. Unless your pattern tells you to do otherwise, knit the pattern on right-side rows and purl it on wrong-side rows.

  • If the design uses a stitch pattern other than stockinette, the symbol will represent the color used and the type of stitch to make.

  • If you’re knitting in the round, all rounds are right-side rounds. You work the chart from right to left on every round.

This chart shows a repeating triangle pattern 6 stitches wide and 4 rows high.


For a black-and-white chart with symbols indicating colors, you may want to make a photocopy of it (enlarged if you like) and color it in so that you don’t have to refer frequently to the key to decipher tiny symbols.

If you want to experiment with a different color combination, make several copies of your pattern and color them in with different colorways (knitterese for “color combinations”) until you find one you like. Knit a little of the pattern in your color choice to see whether it looks as good in yarn as it does on paper.

Remember that knit stitches are wider than they are tall. So, to chart your own color designs (some designers use Microsoft Excel for this), you need to make the cells approximately half again as wide as they are tall. Or buy some knitter’s graph paper and go for it with colored pencils!