Stitch Maps

I wrote about this briefly in a recent WWW post.

Tech editor and author extraordinaire JC Briar has recently launched a revolutionary new charting tool – Stitch Maps.

JC has been thinking about charts for a long time. She is the author of Charts Made Simple, an excellent little book explaining all about knitting charts, how to work from them, and how they work. Her experience writing this book, and teaching and editing, had led her to see that there is an inherent weakness in knitting charts: although they represent the stitches, they don’t necessarily represent the fabric.

Let’s take Feather and Fan for example: because of the pattern of increases and decreases, the fabric scallops. But you don’t see that in a traditional chart.

Straight chart. (Chart courtesy JC.)
Wavy fabric. (Image courtesy JC.)

JC’s Stitch Map charts – freed of the constraints of the grid – show the flow and shape of the fabric.

The way it really is. (Image courtesy JC.)

I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with JC about her project last month.

This new approach to knitting charts was inspired by crochet charts. Crochet charts do a much better job of representing the shape and flow of the fabric, as there are no grids. In knitting charts, rows are perfectly horizontal, whether they are in reality or not. So JC took the grids away! She said that she’d been creating charts in this gridless style on her own for some time – she used them as a design and editing tool, to check stitch patterns and fabrics.

She realized that if they were helpful to her, they were probably helpful to others, too. And so: Stitch Maps launched earlier this summer.

These new-style charts really come into their own for lace and other increased/decreased fabrics. Traditional charts continue to be a great solution for colorwork and cabled fabrics, as rows remain straight.

But for such changing fabrics, the type of visualization is immensely helpful – you can see not only how the fabric behaves, but also how the stitches interact. When working a decrease, the Stitch Maps charts show you which stitches are being worked together; and placing an increase shows you which direction the stitches shift. They allow you a better sense of what you’re working on, and also make it easier to identify where to place markers – a constant struggle for lace knitters.

The tool is available as an online application. It’s free to create and print charts; a $15 a year subscription allows you to create private charts, and gives you tools to help you work with them – the ability to place vertical or horizontal lines to help you analyze the fabric – and keep track of your work.

Horizontal lines indicate the rows…
vertical lines show you how the stitches move and interact.
You can even remove the stitch symbols for a completely different view.

JC has developed a fantastic tool, and I’m very excited about the possibilities for its use…

A $60 subscription allows you to create publication-quality images, for designers and tech editors to include in online or print publication. More info on the subscriptions here.

What do you think? Would you like to see these charts used in patterns?

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18 thoughts on “Stitch Maps

  1. Purlista

    YES!! These stitch maps are beautiful. I haven’t had the pleasure of working with one yet, but I can see how they would make it so much easier to track progress and find (hopefully prevent) mistakes when knitting lace.

    I sure wish these existed when I made my first lace project..

  2. Katie K

    I think they could work well alongside traditional grid charts which are easier to read row by row.

  3. Nathalie

    Yes, these are nice, but they would be especially nice if there were a way to tell when there’s a block of 10 stitches together (or whatever number), like they do in traditional charts (usually with darker vertical lines).

  4. Lisa Barrett

    Wonderful, wonderful idea. While I know how to read charts, I have a very difficult time visualizing how it will look in 3D. This eliminates that problem. Well done and thank you!

  5. romney

    Its an interesting idea. Is there going to be a 3D version for bobbles? Then we’ll hardly need to knit at all.

  6. chppie

    Great idea! Many Japanese books use something like this and I like the visual reference. I would use this in a lace pattern.

  7. Jess

    I’ve used these since the WWW post and I love them! They are especially useful at the start of a new lace project to give you a head-start on reading the lace…that way if you make a mistake or need extra markers near the beginning its easier to fix.

  8. Seanna Lea

    I don’t want to use them to knit from, but that is not because I don’t think they are useful. It is because they are so much like art that I just want to take and posterize a beautiful lace pattern in this visualization. Extra bonus if the increases and decreases can be colored, so there might be a subtle (or hey, not subtle) gradient or pattern throughout the piece. Yummy!

  9. D Louise

    I think they’d be wonderful for lace patterns; very visual. Even people who HATE charts might understand them. ;o)

  10. Gina

    I always use a ruler or other straight edge to keep track of pattern rows. I can’t imagine how I would keep track of these. But they are pretty!

  11. Leslie C

    I think they are FABULOUS for visual folks, and I’m sure they will catch on like wildfire.

    It does bear thinking how I’ll track my rows – clearly a straightedge of post-it note tape won’t work anymore, but to be able to see things this way will really help me learn to read my stitches better and understand my patterns.

  12. Annamary

    This is brilliant! I love crochet diagrams and this is a fabulous knit alternative. I like the horizontal row lines, the vertical connected stitches, and the combination of the two. Can I use this program to translate written and charted directions from other designers’ patterns so I can see it better? It wasn’t clear if I would need to have the subscription and do it as a private map. Clarification?

    1. JC Briar

      Annamary, yes, you’ll need to get a basic subscription and mark stitch patterns as private if you’re entering other designers’ patterns. Private patterns are the stitch maps equivalent of creating a photocopy of a pattern and keeping the photocopy to yourself in order to honor others’ copyrights.

      A basic subscription comes with one other neat feature: the ability to highlight your current row. Claudia, Gina, Leslie: this is the stitch maps equivalent of your ruler/straightedge/post-it.

      1. Annamary

        Thank you! I wanted to be sure how to use this best and you’ve answered my question. I’m so excited!

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