Japanese Charting Lesson 2

We are going to use only the tank top part of this Japanese pattern. There is also a ribbed skirt included in the original, but we are not going to use it here. The original pattern in the Japanese book fits on just one page. They also included a chart on page 2 for the Snoopy picture. However, Snoopy is a licensed character, and I don't have permission to use it, so am not including it. This is the same pattern shown on the first page of this tutorial, shown here.

Your eyes are not deceiving you. That really is the entire pattern for both tank top and skirt. We don't need any of the skirt information, and for this lesson we need only the chart for the tank top. So I have cropped it out, and placed a copy below.

tank top chart

Please look at the very bottom of the chart. On the left side are three symbols. These are the ones most commonly used, and if you learn only these three, plus the one at the very top of the back armhole, just under the shoulder slope, which somewhat resembles a T, you will usually be able to knit from a Japanese chart.

bottom chart symbols

The symbol for rows. It resembles a capital F, with two extra arms, coupled to a symbol that often looks like an R over an x.  rows symbol

The stitch symbol looks like a ladder. 

The times symbol looks like a box with a square, or sometimes a dot, in it.  times symbol

Japanese patterns are written in metric, and we will deal with that in future lessons. For now, if you are used to working with inches, just know that 10 cm is almost exactly 4". This is where a tape measure with inches and centimeters on the same side is very handy. You can look at the measurements on the chart, and quickly see what they are in inches.

At the lower right of the chart is a notation that 10 cm = 31 sts, 52 rows. I don't know any current yarn that will match this exact gauge. The old Nomis 3/15 coned yarn would match the stitch gauge, but probably at 44-46 rows. Lightweight sock yarn would also come close. If you decide to actually knit a garment from this pattern, be prepared to do some re-figuring. You will almost certainly have to do some math, any way; this pattern is designed for someone with a 33" bust measurement. But the object of this lesson is just to learn how to read a Japanese pattern.

We will begin with the Back. The dashed vertical line means that this is half a pattern; it is similar to marks on the center back of a sewing pattern which indicate it should be placed on a fold of the fabric. The line at the bottom, extending out past the center vertical means that the entire back width is 42 cm, or 130 sts. The number 1 plus the ladder (stitch symbol) in the band indicate that it should be done in 1x1 ribbing. You are expected to know that ribbing is worked at a tighter tension than Stockinette. In the middle of the Back, the large characters mean "Back" and the smaller ones under them mean "Stockinette". Usually you will be able to determine this just from looking at the schematic, and at the photo of the garment. So, when knitting this pattern, we cast on 130 sts at tension appropriate for ribbing, which is usually 2 full numbers less than Stockinette tension. Knit even 39 rows, as shown in the vertical space between Back and Front at the band length. Since there are arrowheads at each lengthwise section, we are supposed to turn the row counter back to 000. Change to Stockinette, knit even to armhole, RC 76, and reset the row counter to 000, as indicated by the arrowheads.

At the armhole line, first there the symbols for rows, stitches, times, then the numeral 7 and the stitch sign in parentheses. This means that the shaping formula is rows-stitches-times (every xx rows, decrease xx sts xx times). We will do the armhole shaping, exactly as it is charted. Please note that the same shaping must be worked on both sides.
1. 7 plus stitch symbol = Bind off 7 sts at the beginning of the next row.
2. 2-2-2 = every 2 rows bind off 2 stitches 2 times.
3. 2-1-5 = every 2 rows decrease 1 stitch 5 times.
4. 4-1-3 = every 4 rows decrease 1 stitch 3 times.
5. 6-1-4= every 6 rows decrease 1 stitch 4 times.
This completes the armhole shaping. The -23 plus the stitch symbol at lower armhole means that a total of 23 stitches should have been decreased from each armhole edge. If we total all of the stitches in steps 1-5 above, we see that this is indeed the case. As further reference, look at the very top of the chart. The line indicating back width shows 27 cm, and 84 stitches remaining. 130 stitches, the amount at the cast on edge, less 46 sts (23 from each armhole) equals 84 stitches

Now, looking at the armhole length line between Back and Front sections, we see that there are 106 rows between base of armhole and beginning of shoulder shaping. Therefore, knit even to RC 106. In this pattern there are 8 rows for neck shaping, and 8 rows for shoulder shaping. This is shown at the top on the pattern. Numbers at center back line indicate neck depth, and numbers between Back and Front indicate shoulder depth. The neck shaping figures are located inside the Back outline, and the shoulder shaping figures are outside. This is one time I would likely make a "cheat sheet" or T-Bar chart before knitting, since this involves some fairly complicated shaping.

First reset the row counter to 000, as indicated by the arrowheads. We will assume that the carriage is on the right. The line directly above the schematic indicates that there are 13 sts in each shoulder, and 58 sts in the neck. The numeral 44 plus the stitch sign at top of center back line indicates that there are 44 stitches in center back neck. 7 stitches are in the neck shaping on each side. We will assume that the neck and shoulders are shaped by placing stitches into hold position.

RC 000, carriage on right. Place center 44 stitches, plus all other stitches left of center 0 into hold position. Set carriage to hold. Knit 1 row to the left, wrap first holding pos (HP) needle.
RC 001, carriage on left. Place 3 sts at right into HP for shoulder, Knit 1 row to the right, wrap first HP needle.
RC 002, carriage on right. Place 4 sts into HP for neck, Knit 1 row to the left, wrap first HP needle.
RC 003, carriage on left. Place 2 sts into HP for shoulder, Knit 1 row to the right, wrap first HP needle.
RC 004, carriage on right. Place 2 sts into HP for neck, Knit 1 row to the left, wrap first HP needle.
RC 005, carriage on left. Place 3 sts into HP for shoulder, Knit 1 row to the right, wrap first HP needle.
RC 006, carriage on right. Place 1 st into HP for shoulder, Knit 1 row to the left, wrap first HP needle.
RC 007, carriage on left. Place 2 sts into HP for shoulder, Knit 1 row to the right, wrap first HP needle.
RC 008. The funny "T" symbol straight symbol indicates that shaping is completed at the neck edge, and to knit 2 rows even. Therefore, just Knit 1 row to the left, and do not wrap. 3 sts remain in work position at the shoulder, as indicated by the 3, plus the stitch symbol in parentheses. Push the 10 HP shoulder stitches back about halfway on the bed (upper work position), Knit 1 row over all 13 shoulder stitches, and remove on waste yarn. Return left side to work pos and knit to correspond, reversing the shaping.
When shoulder is completed, Knit 1 row main color across back neck sts, then remove on waste yarn.

Front is made similarly. A large Snoopy intarsia pattern begins 31 rows above the waistband, as indicated by the line across the lower Front, and the row symbol plus numeral 31 on the right side. We are not using it. Knit the same as for the Back, to the armhole. We will do the armhole shaping, exactly as it is charted. Please note that the same shaping must be worked on both sides. Remember, this pattern uses the shaping formula rows-stitches-times.
1. 10 plus stitch symbol = Bind off 10 sts at the beginning of the next row.
2. 2-2-2 = every 2 rows bind off 2 stitches 2 times.
3. 2-1-5 = every 2 rows decrease 1 stitch 5 times.
4. 4-1-2 = every 4 rows decrease 1 stitch 2 times.
5. 6-1-2= every 6 rows decrease 1 stitch 2 times.

This shaping makes the front armhole narrow in faster than the back armhole. Now comes the trickiest part of the whole pattern. We must knit even to the neck edge. However, the row count number for this is not given. We must determine it mathematically. On the left side, the chart indicates there are 36 rows in the neck shaping. There are 106 rows for the armhole, plus an additional 8 rows for the shoulder shaping. 106 plus 8 equal 114 rows for total length above armhole. 114 minus 36 equal 78. Therefore we begin the front neck shaping on RC 78. Front shaping will be a little simpler than the Back, since neck shaping ends before shoulder shaping begins. We know this because the final shaping note at the front neck edge is the numeral 18 plus the "T" symbol,  straight symbol indicating 18 rows even after the last shaping row. Since there are 8 rows in the shoulder, there will be 10 rows even, with no shaping, between last neck decrease and first shoulder decrease. We will now write out the actual pattern.

RC 78. Carriage on right. Place center 24 sts, plus all other sts left of center 0 into HP. Set carriage to hold. Knit 1 row across to the left, wrap first HP needle, knit back to right.
RC 80. 2-4-1 = every 2 rows place 4 sts into HP 1 time.
RC 82. 2-3-2 = every 2 rows place 3 sts into HP 2 times.
RC 86. 2-2-1 = every 2 rows place 2 sts into HP 1 time.
RC 88. 2-1-5 = every 2 rows place 1 st into HP 5 times. This completes the neck shaping. Knit even to RC 106, same length as Back to shoulder.

Set row counter to 000. Knit 1 row across to the left. Place 3 sts into HP at right, knit 1 row, wrap first HP needle, knit back to left. Place 2 sts into HP at right, knit 1 row, wrap first HP needle, knit back to left. Place 3 sts into HP at right, Knit 1 row, wrap first HP needle, Knit back to left. Place 2 sts into HP at right, Knit 1 row to left. 3 sts remain in work pos. Push the 10 HP shoulder sts back half way to upper work pos, Knit 1 row to the right with main color, then remove on waste yarn. Return left side to work pos and knit to correspond, reversing all shaping. When left shoulder is completed, Knit 1 row MC across front neck sts, then remove on waste yarn.

Japanese Pattern Charting

Japanese Charting Lesson 1  General information and preparing to draft knitting patterns using the Japanese method

Dolman Pullover Chart  What a charted version of the Ladies Dolman Pullover looks like

Tuck Stitch Pullover  What a charted version of the Mens Tuck Stitch Pullover looks like

This completes the tutorial on how to read Japanese patterns. The next two pages illustrate how I chart my own patterns, using a very similar method.

Original version of this tutorial was copyrighted and uploaded to the old Clearwater Knits website in 1998.