estherkate's projects
Machine Knitting - Charts and Punchards
Project info
Machine Knitting - Charts and Punchards
Esther Kate Designs
Machine Knitting
Tools and equipment


Stitch patterns can be created on a knitting machine using hand tooling techniques or automatic techniques such as the use of punchcards.

A chart is a symbolic representation of your knitting which is used instead of usual knitting instructions. Theoretically at least, using a chart, a knitting pattern can be presented succinctly in a clear, universal format that can be read by anyone in any language. Each symbol, or group of symbols, has a definition that tells you how to knit that stitch.

A punchcard is usually 24 stitches wide. However, here are 12 stitch punch card readers and 24 stitch punch card readers. Punchcard knitting machine allows you to create garments and accessories quickly and easily. The punchcards let the user create different stitch patterns, including Fair Isle, lace and a tuck stitch pattern, which produces a seed stitch-type textures.

The punchcard system works by engaging and disengaging needles, and different punch cards feature different patterns. To ensure the pattern knits correctly, insert the punchcard straight into the machine, lining up the start line on the punchcard with the panel and pressing down on the feeding knob to feed the card into the machine. Make sure the two ends of the card are overlapped and snapped together so the card can rotate continuously while you are knitting.

There are 7 pattern rows below Row 1 printed on the punchcard. When positioning the pattern for your particular knitting machine, be sure that you line up your pattern on the punch card so that the punched holes for row 1 are the correct number of rows below the printed number 1 on the side of the card. Numbered rows from 1 to 54. There are 60 rows available to punch your pattern on.

Converting charts into punchcards:

If you have a punchcard which is 24 stitches wide, then any knitting chart which is 6, 12 or 18 stitches wide might be able to be converted into a punchcard. However, even if the knitting chart is not a suitable number, it may still be possible to convert it into a punchcard with a bit of creative adjustment.

Punching your own punchcards

You can create your own original design on blank punchcards. Before punching the card, mark on the card with a felt pen, china-graph pencil or biro, according to the design. The numbers on the sides of the card will be 7 rows up from the bottom if you use a Tyota or Jones/Brother machine and 5 rows up from the bottom if you use a Knitmaster/Silver Reed machine. This is cause 7 or 5 rows are hidden in the machine when your punchcard is lined with ready to knit. When you punch your cad you start at the bottom on the first row up from the double row of holes.

Starting at the bottom row on the punchcard, punch your required pattern and when it is finished, complete the card by punching two rows of holes, then cut the card. Make sure that the finished punchcard is long enough to fit into the machine easily and allow you to clip both ends of the card together to form a circle. For larger patterns use two pieces of card and connect them with the plastic clips. Both cards should start and finish with two rows of holes. These two rows should be overlapped so that they effectively disappear allowing the pattern to become a complete circle.

You can, if you like, use a punchcard roll for larger patterns. You will also have to punch extra holes at the sides of the card for the card clips if you have shortened the card. For small patterns, repeat the pattern the required number of times to make a large enough punchcard. Small pieces of punchcard are difficult to work with. At the top of the card, if you have shortened it, cut off both side corners for a depth of 2 cm. You will see how this ids done in a pre-punched cad.

Exploring a punchcard

  • Knit a piece of fabric using either
    fair isle, tuck (plain and colours),
    slip (plain and colours) lace,
    punchlace, weaving and plating.
  • Now, elongate (card rotates every other row) and proceed as for 1 above.
  • Try knitting with different
    thicknesses of yarn e.g. 1 ply, 2
    ply, 3 ply and 4 ply. e.g. punchlace with 2 - 2 plys or slip with one
    thick and one thin yarn.
  • Try unusual yarns such as random due, slubs, boucle, even try elastic.
  • Lock onto any row on punchcard and
    proceed as for 1 above.
  • Lock onto different rows for a given
    number of rows, for example, slip
    stitch - lock onto row 4 knit 8
    rows, now lock onto row 9, knit 8
    rows. etc.
  • Inter-space sections of pattern with
    sections fo stocking stitch, for
    example, 8 slip rows, 6 plain rows,
    or 1 row tuck and 1 row plain.
  • Try random colour changes, such as, 2 row stripes, 6 row stripes, or just
    change colour when you like.
  • Use higher and lower tensions.
  • Check reverse side. This might be
    interesting to.
  • Try some needles out of work, for
    example, tuck lace, slip lace, fair
    isle with ladders, stocking stitch
    with ladders.
  • Knit sections of one stitch pattern
    and then sections of another stitch
    pattern, for example fair isle and
    lace, tuck and slip, lace and
    punchlace, fair isle and punchlace,
    fair isle and weaving etc.
  • Use punchcards with ribber, for
    example, every needle rib, set
    machine to tuck and card to rotate.
    Now, transfer some needles from main
    bed to ribber. Proceed as before.
  • Try pleats for example, 10 row plain, 2 rows tuck, 10 rows plain, 2 rows slip.
  • Try patterns as borders.
  • Braids - cast on a few stitches, any number less than 24 for example 13 and proceed as for 1 above. This might produce an interesting braid.
  • Braids - these can be knitted widthways in one long piece, for example, cast on and knit one row plain, knit 7 rows pattern, knit one row plain,cast off.
  • Experiment, experiment, experiment.

Needle in holding position

If we put a needle in holding position it will not knit. This is how we create tuck stitch. The stitch is held for several rows and then knitted. The stitches can also be in holding position for show rowing. The stitches are held, no longer knitted, and knitted later.

How to create a chart

  • Start with a blank chart: Use a piece of graph paper or a spreadsheet on your computer to produce your blank chart.
  • Add the symbols: The symbols or notation used depends on the knitwear designer. There are various systems used by designers and some standardization.
  • With each chart you will find a key or legend. This gives you a list of the symbols used in the chart.

How to read your chart

Charts are a visual representation of your pattern instructions. Each stitch in the pattern is represented by a box and in each box contains an instructional symbol. Each symbol represents one stitch in the pattern. Charts only represent a portion of the finished project such as a pattern repeat. The first thing you need is a legend or key which will tell you what each of the symbols in the squares mean. You start reading the chart from the bottom and work upwards. The rows of the chart are usually numbered along the side. All right side rows are read right to left and all wrong side rows are read left to right.

Hand knitting charts always represent the right side of your work. However, on a knitting machine, is the right side of your work the side facing the knitter whilst the work is on the machine or the other side which is away from the knitter whilst knitting?

Begin reading the chart at lower right hand corner. The chart should be read from right to left on row 1, and from left to right on row 2. So, starting at the bottom right corner, you would read across the chart to the left. After turning the work, you are working from the left edge of the piece to the right edge - so read in that direction.

The chart will be read from right to left when working in-the-round. So, with this type of chart, the numbers will all be on the right.

Any well-written chart will line up the rows properly, and provide a literal representation of how the pattern is constructed. Start trying to really read your chart, rather than just make the movements dictated square by square. Notice things like a decrease, for example, takes up two of the stitches from the row below and turns them into one - the second stitch in the decrease should be the one directly below it on the chart. Knowing this, you can keep yourself on track by looking and seeing that the second stitch incorporated into the first decrease of row 5 should be the stitch directly above the first YO of row 3, that the 6th stitch of row 3 should be directly above the third decrease of row 1, etc.

Types of chart

There are three types of chart:

  • every other row chart
  • every row flat chart
  • every row circular chart

The every other row chart is used when the pattern is only on every other row, and every alternate row is just purl. So, the chart is for a flat knitted piece with a right and a wrong side. Charting every other row means that the finished chart is a lot smaller than it would have been if you had charted every row.

The every row flat chart is used for a pattern knitted back and forth on two knitting needles.
The every other row circular chart is used for a pattern knitted in the round using circular needles or four double pointed needles.

One repeat or more than one?

Normally, charts only show one complete repeat which is used according to pattern directions. However, it is hard to see how the pattern will knit based on only a single repeat of the stitch pattern. If you are making your own charts, you might want to see what multiple repeats look like together, and mark the single repeat.

Knit chart symbols

There is some standardization of symbols in knitting but many designers use their own system. There are standardized knit symbols that have been adopted by members of the Craft Yarn Council and are considered to be the clearest and easiest to render and to read. For the most part each symbol represents a stitch as it looks on the right side. It is always good to check the legend for your pattern.

Machine knitters use the same symbols as hand knitters but they mean slightly different things. For example, a hand knitter will use the symbol for a yarn over which creates a hole in the fabric. However, machine knitters do not yarn over. Instead, they transfer one stitch to the adjacent needle. So, instead of yarn over, the machine knitter will have an empty needle. So, YO = empty needle.

In a similar way, a hand knitter will knit 2 stitches together (k2tog), but a machine knitter will transfer one stitch to the adjacent needle and will have one emply needle and one needle with 2 stitches on it. So, k2tog = two stitches on needle.


There are knit symbols for

  • knit
  • purl
  • empty needle (yarn over, yo)
  • transfer stitch to adjacent needle (k2tog)
  • SSk or sl1, k1, psso
  • right slanting increase
  • left slanting increase
  • sl 1 purlwise
  • k3tog
  • SK2P or SSSK
  • SK2P2 or S2PP2
  • k1 tbl
  • pl tbl
  • bobble
  • no stitch
  • make 1 knitwise
  • make 1 purlwise
  • inc 1 to 3
  • inc 1 to 4
  • inc 1 to 5
  • dec 4 to 1 right slanting
  • dec 4 to 1 left slanting
  • dec 4 to 1 vertical
  • dec 5 to 1
  • k1, wrapping yarn twice around needle
  • cast off, bind off


  • each symbol has a meaning.
  • charts are read in the direction of the knitting
  • charts are presented from the right side
  • each grid square represents one stitch
  • for Right Side Rows, begin reading row on the Right.
  • for Wrong Side Rows, begin reading row on the Left and use the instructions for working that symbol from the Wrong side (WS in Legend).
  • charts typically only show one complete repeat which is used according to pattern directions
  • in circular patterns every row is read in the same direction, usually from the right.

No stitch!

Sometimes you will have a chart where increases will happen on one row, and decreases will happen on another row. This leaves you with a different number of stitches per row. To represent this in a chart, we introduce the concept of “No Stitch”. It means do nothing.

Fair Isle and Intarsia Charts

Fair isle and Intarsia charts are also called colourwork charts. They are usually written in colour, reflecting the colour of the knitting. However, they can be written in black and white, using a symbol such as an ‘X’ for Colour A and a blank square for Colour B.

viewed 3201 times | helped 38 people
About this pattern
Personal pattern (not in Ravelry)
  • Project created: January 11, 2013
  • Finished: January 11, 2013
  • Updated: June 28, 2018