Reading Knitting Charts: How do I work “no stitch” on a chart?

I recently heard from Accord publishing, as they had someone knitting the LaMancha Watchcap (in the 2006 calendar they produce) who had a question on the chart. There was a knitter who was a bit confused by the “no stitch” part of the chart as she had not seen that before, so I thought I would put a brief explanation here in the advent that there are others. My response is as follows:

This is a common method in charting which is seen where there are not the same number of stitches in each row.
When looking at the chart for the pattern, you will notice that you see the squares where there is no stitch where decreases are worked. The stitch that used to be there is no longer there because it was decreased away (hence “no stitch”). It simply keeps the chart tidy so that stitches are lined up where they are worked. When you come to a “no stitch” square, skip over it to the next square. There is no action in your knitting, it  just keeps the chart so that stitches in following rows line up as they do in the knitting.

This method of charting a stitch pattern is used in many major publications, such as Knitters by XRX. It is comparable to charts where you see squares that are simply not there when stitches have been decreased away. Sometimes, particularly if you are dealing with one square at a time, it can be difficult to tell that a square is not there, so making the space black (or gray) can make the chart easier to read.

So, when working across the chart, when you come to one of those “no stitch” squares, ignore it and move to the next square. That square is telling you there used to be a stitch there but not anymore. You don’t do anything with it.

When I did a google search, I had to type in “no stitch symbol on knitting chart” in order to find any results. Sarah Bradberryhas a wonderful site that has patterns from Home Work (published in 1891…this can also be accessed on the internet in the original form, you can view the table of contents hereand continue navigating). Please note that the content on Sarah Bradberry’s site is copyrighted (this would be her presentation of the antique patterns, not the antique patterns themselves).

For those of you who are new to reading knitting charts, it can be a little awkward when you first start just as anything new can be. I myself love charts, because I am used to reading my knitting. This is also a term that some knitters are not used to (some have not been taught this, either). It means simply looking at your knitting and recognizing what the stitches look like. For example, stockinette stitch appears as a knit stitch on the “right side” and a “purl” stitch on the wrong side. Garter stitch, which you can get by either knitting every row or purling every row (typically knitting every row) has the appearance that it does because both sides of the knitting have rows that alternate between the purl stitch rows (the back side of the knit stitch) with the knit stitch rows.

When I was working on a lace dresser scarf this past week while on vacation, I looked at the way the edging was attaching. I knew I would have a line of purl stitches on the right side by working the traditional knit 2 together when attaching the edging (because whenever you work a knit stitch, you have the appearance of a purl stitch on the opposite side of the fabric). I also knew that if I worked a purl two together, I would have a line of knit stitches across the bottom and top of the knitting, which would have created a line. I did not want that. What caused that to happen? By working the purl two together, the stitch that would lie under the other stitch as the decrease is worked while you are looking at it, would be the right hand stitch. In the case of attaching the edging, the stitch on the right hand side is the last stitch of the edging. When you then flip the work over and look at it from the right side, that stitch is now on top (from the back it was the stitch on the bottom, so it makes sense that from the front it would be the stitch on top). If I wanted a line of knit stitches where the edging joined, that would not be an issue. However for me, I like a more subtle effect. So the question then becomes how do I interrupt that line so it is not so obvious.

I have to work a decrease between the last edging stitch and the first stitch of the piece that the edging is attached to. How can I interupt the line of decreases so I don’t have a hard line? By not having the same stitch on top for every decrease. If the last edging stitch is always on top from the front of the work, I would have a line. By working a decrease that places the edging stitch on top while the decrease is worked, this would mean that from the front of the work, the edging stitch would be behind the other stitch in the decrease. Since the same stitch is not always on top, I would not have an unbroken line which would draw the eye to it.

By “reading” my knitting, I was able to choose a purl two together through the back loop as the method I wanted to use. It is all about looking at your knitting and thinking about how what you do looks. It means looking at your knitting, studying what you are doing and recognizing how that affects both sides of your knitting. It also means if you are not sure what will happen with certain things, being willing to try different ways and look to see what the outcome is. For example, I don’t always remember which way a purl two together versus a purl two together through the back loop is going to slant if I work a decrease on the wrong side of the fabric. Is it going to look like a k2tog or a ssk on the right side of the fabric? If I cannot remember, I try one and flip my knitting over and look at it. If I want the decrease to lean to the right, (and you knit in the typical manner), I would want it to look like a ssk. In which case, it needs to be a purl two together.

 I could talk more about this but I don’t want to drag it out more. It really is about learning cause and effect with what we do, looking at what we do so that we can make choices based on what we like, not what we are told to do.

Peace and Knitting, JoLene Treace


59 Responses to “Reading Knitting Charts: How do I work “no stitch” on a chart?”

  1. AppemaDyncgymn Says:

    She wouldn’t eagerly observe acidic performers in the hubby of her litle messaging when Nick had asked her to. I winced as the twat pushed up into me, sexy girls and babes com against stretching up in my exhale and gradually stoking it shamelessly to dissuade me fully.

  2. luuphung Says:

    I would like to ask a question, anyone kindly give me an answer., I don’t understand what is ” no stitch” mean, and how to do it. I tryto search everywhere to see if anywedsite can show how to, but still no clue, please give me help., thank you very much

    • jolenetreace Says:

      It means that the box is simply a filler. you don’t do anything for that box. It doesn’t represent a stitch. This happens typically when a stitch has been decreased, and will later be added back. It keeps the chart tidy. Typically the void, as it were, is colored black. It means ignore me, don’t do anything with me, move on please to the next square.

      Cheers, JoLene Treace

  3. Rachel Says:

    So, by doing ‘nothing’ to the stitch, you slip it, yes? Or do you actually decrease it by knitting together? It’s not clear what is meant by ignoring it. Thank you!

    • jolenetreace Says:

      It means that the box does not represent a stitch. You don’t work anything because it fills a void on the chart. There has been a stitch decreased away, or there will be a stitch increased later. Ignore the box, don’t do anything to your stitch, and move on to the next box that is not a “no stitch” to work your stitch.

  4. Helena Says:


    Thank so much for your explanation. I had thought that was the reason because on my chart, you increase in one of the grey blocks. It just shows where to increase, right?

    • jolenetreace Says:

      Well, without knowing which chart you are talking about I cannot say regarding the gray box. Often times I will utilize a shaded box to set it apart, like when something falls outside of a stitch pattern repeat, or when something is worked differently. If it is gray that is different than a black square or one where you are told on the key not to work a stitch. The pattern will tell you what the shaded stitches are (if they are outside of the stitch pattern repeat for example)…at least that is how I write them now. Don’t remember if that is how I have always done it or not…the key likewise will tell you what the symbol or square means (if there is a black square, which is a symbol for move on to the next square, I am just holding place in the chart for now).

      Hope that makes sense.

      Cheers, JoLene

  5. Marlene Says:

    The 1st 3 squares of my sock pattern graph are (no Stitch/grey). Does this mean I pass those 3 stitches from my left needle to my right needle without doing anything to these stitches. If so, why would the pattern just not read :slip,slip,slip?

    • jolenetreace Says:

      It means you move on to the next *square on the chart that isn’t marked no stitch, *BEFORE you do anything to any of your stitches. That no stitch square serves as a place holder on the chart to keep things lined up. Nothing more. You don’t do anything to a stitch, you move on to the next square. If it is a no stitch you do the same thing, until you come to a square that represents a stitch that is *presently there. * “No Stitch” either had one decreased, or will have one added later. But it isn’t there at the moment so you cannot do anything to it.

      If you slipped your stitches, they would no longer be “no stitch”…because you would be doing something to a stitch there.

      Hope this helps!

      • maureen Says:

        I am having great problems with my pattern which states three square blanks of no stitch. What am I supposed to do with them in order to get across to the other stitches?

      • jolenetreace Says:

        move to the next square in the chart that isn’t marked no stitch and work whatever that stitch is. It is just a place holder to keep the stitches lined up.

  6. maureen Says:
    I hope this is helpful for an answer to my previous question regarding no stitch on chart.

  7. Donna Heron Says:

    Re: no stitch. Thanks for the explanation. It was a big help. I’m working on a mystery shawn KAL on Ravelry and I had never seen this before. This shawl has been a good experience so far because there are a lot of stitches that I’ve never come across before.

  8. Elsie Berger Says:

    I’ve made a copy oF this and will study it. I have been knitting for almost 70 years and have never tred this before. I have seen it appear in different patterns, but have never tried it. I teach knitting every Monday. maybe it will come in handy.
    Thank you Jo Lene Elsie

  9. Elsie Berger Says:

    If I need more help I’ll contact you thanks again. Elsie

  10. Karen Says:

    So, the ‘8 no stitch, k, 8 no stitch’ at the beginning of the gusset in your lovely wine and roses mitts means I leave those stitches on the left needle and hop over 8 stitches, pm k, pm, hop over 8 more stitches and continue with the chart?

    • jolenetreace Says:

      No it means you ignore the black box. As far as your knitting is concerned, it does not exist. That is why it is called no stitch, because there is not a stitch there. It is a place holder. If there is not a stitch there, there is no action on your part with a stitch on your needles. ignore the box, there is nothing to do with it, move on to the next box.

      Cheers, JoLene

  11. amie Says:

    thank you my 18 year old amazing knitting daughter asked me ( I never had heard of such a thing,) I’m not that good YET. but you cleared that up .

  12. Ginny Says:

    Very good information, thanks

  13. nina Says:

    Thank you a hundred time for this information!!!!

  14. Chan WY Says:

    Thanks for your sharing…

  15. Paula Says:

    Wonderful, thanks for that post.

  16. lucy Says:

    Thank you, the lights just flashed on…I also was trying to slip stiches and it looked awful

  17. Jessica Jean Says:

    Don’t you have the ability to delete posts such as the first one above? It really is sickening to run into such on a knitting site!

    Thank you for your explanation of ‘no stitch’ on chart.

  18. Patricia J. Gray, Ph.D. Says:

    Help needed for hat design. I have come to the decrease section. Many blank space. What do you do with that you are ignoring after jumping over it? I have tried practicing with several knitted pieces. The blank space that is now gone over unravels down the piece. This can not be right. Please would you describe in detail how to manage those stitches that one has ignored. I find it difficult to believe those stitches should be permitted to be loose and thus unravel as a lost stitch. The obvious is to put a marker in that stitch however why is that not mentioned. I have searched my entire collection of fine books, used the internet and this site has the most useful information sans compete details. Thank you. Frustrated I wish to complete the hat I am trying to knit. Patricia J. Gray

    • Erica Says:

      I know you posted this comment a while back but I’ll still respond – You don’t jump over those stitches. You should not be not ignoring a stitch – you should be ignoring the greyed out square in the pattern. Those greyed out squares don’t represent anything. They are merely there to help the pattern look neat on the page but they DO NOT represent stitches. Don’t ignore stitches – ignore the greyed out squares and move on.

      • rnrant Says:

        Thanks for clarifying that is indeed what I meant. In most charts a square represents a stitch, when they are black or greyed out there is no stitch corresponding to that square so it is ignored.

        Sent from my iPhone

      • rnrant Says:

        Actually square is referred to as a “no stitch” square and the knitter is advised to skip the greyed square, not stitches.

        Sent from my iPhone

  19. Patricia J. Gray, Ph.D. Says:

    Yes I have knitted for many years and have avoided fine patterns due to the blank space. Your response will be greatly appreciated.,
    Thank you. Dr. Patricia J.Gray

  20. cbs Says:

    I don’t know what to do in this situation. I’m trying to decrease a fan lace. The base is 15 stitches. The no-stitches on the next row are on either side of the design – resulting in 13 stitches. I can’t skip the first stitch, the design won’t center and line up. I understand the no-stitch internal to a line of stitching but not on the edges of the pattern where the rows need to develop a pyramid shape. The next row is 9 stitches, so it compounds my dilemma.

    Can you help?

  21. Tree of Life Afghan and charts « Perigrines Eyrie Says:

    […] says you don’t do anything, but I was trying to work out how many to cast on. Unlike this site, which says you decreased them away, I am to *make* those ‘missing’ stitches. I could […]

  22. Erica Says:

    I just read through this series of comments and laughed for 10 minutes. You are incredibly patient.

  23. Tanya Says:

    The answer to ‘no stitch’ is very, very confusing to me. I had to read through all the q and a’s to finally understand, I think! Lol. No stitch means you ignore those gray boxes and work the next workable box. Am I correct? I hope so. Thanks

    • Erica Says:

      Yes. Ignore the gray boxes. Completely and totally ignore them. They are meaningless blobs on paper to make the paper pattern look prettier and neater and they don’t actually represent anything or communicate any information about what you should be doing.

    • rnrant Says:

      You are! Peace and knitting, JoLene Treace

      Sent from my iPhone

  24. najaorama Says:

    Oh thank you. I was going to slip my stitch.

  25. Sue Says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I was also going to slip my stitches to the other needle.

  26. Gill Everett Says:

    Thank you for the clear instructions. It makes sense when you know how, but “no stitch” is a bit perplexing when you first come across it, especially if, like me, you have only just started reading charts. Gill

  27. Alex Says:

    The chart is” Valenciennes Edging” found in The Best of Knitter’s magazine called Shawl and Scarves page 21. I am completely lost with all the black blocks some how the stitches were lost.
    Please help

  28. Gaby Says:

    Thank you for explaining this! I can keep knitting after understanding what no stitch means.

  29. Dee G Says:

    I just ran across a “no stitch” in a sock pattern. Thanks for you explaination. It was a great help. Now I can go back to my knitting.

  30. Robin Says:

    I feel compelled to say write and say THANK YOU! I finally got it after reading through the entire post and then just doing it. I think that’s the key. Have faith and follow the chart. My pattern has a “No Stitch” block at the beginning of the row. The first actual stitch is a decrease – that subtracts that first stitch from the pattern (chart). Your patience and willingness to answer all of our questions made all the difference for me.
    Cheers to you!!

  31. watch dogs pc Says:

    This site was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something that helped me.
    Appreciate it!

  32. mollistan Says:

    Hi, I have a pattern that calls for a 24 stitch cable and I would like to substitute a 20 stitch increasing to 24 stitches cable. Does anyone know how I would manage this? Thanks.

  33. Tanya Says:

    For the “no stitch” is this somewhat like decreasing? Say for example, there are 30 stitches in the row – but that row with 30 stitches has a “no stitch” 5 times. Will I then have at the end of that row 25 stitches?

    BTW, I am glad to see there are many who were/are confused/unsure just like I am!

  34. gran rose Says:

    imagine that the “no stitches” on a chart or what appears to be empty boxes are ones that have been erased (rubbed out). They don’t exist anymore.

  35. Susan Ipavec Says:

    This explanation was a huge help! Thank you!

  36. Gene Says:

    Thanks for the advice ☺️

  37. Susan Spangler Says:

    Thanks for these very helpful instructions!

  38. Kathy Wasson Says:

    I have a lace pattern chart (shawl) that is numbered 16 rows high and 39 stitches wide. The repeat pattern is from stitch 23 to 38 and 16 rows high. My question: Why is the chart numbered across the bottom L to R (1 to 39) and do I still read R to L on RS and L to R on WS OR read all lines R to L (even on the wrong side) because of the bottom numbering

  39. Kathy Wasson Says:

    Correction to Kathy Wasson’s question above “Why is the chart numbered across the bottom from R to L (1 to 39)

  40. Carol Says:

    Jolene, I’m working on the Amanda Hat by Sleepy Eyes. It’s found in Ravelry. My question is this: After I have cast on 83 stitches and have some the garter stitch rows, I come to the lace pattern and the chart. It’s a 6 across and 4 down chart. On Row 1 the pattern is 3 stitches with 3 squares as “no stitch”. Do I just repeat the 3 pattern stitches until the end? I would be increasing 39 stitches and 3 stitches will go into 39 13 times so it will even out. Then I decrease 39 stitches by dropping the 1st yarn over on round 2. Is this right?

  41. Süße Traüme Says:

    thank you for the help i’ve searched a long time in order to understand that !!

  42. Isobel adams Says:

    Hi I would like to ask a question .
    Can u tell me what omit mean in a pattern as I am confused with it
    Many thanks .

  43. Becky Says:

    I’m not sure what you do with a no stitch in a pattern, do you slip the Stitch?

  44. Carol Says:

    That is not true on this case, am knitting a hat and could not have a decrease there .

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