Book review of JC Briar’s Charts Made Simple

Filed in Point of View by on February 5, 2015 2 Comments

Photo Feb 03, 8 19 50 AM (1)

Our assistant, Jess, is back today with a book review of Charts Made Simple – a book written by our good friend, JC Briar.

When you first start out as a knitter, it can feel a bit overwhelming just to keep up with the basics – increases and decreases, knits and purls, right side and wrong side – it’s confusing enough to read it in a pattern that spells everything out for you. But then one day you stumble across a pattern you want to knit, and it’s got a chart. You might be tempted to ask – What’s this, knitting hieroglyphics?

When I was a newer knitter (and a crocheter, for that matter – they use charts, too!), charts were very intimidating to me. I’m not a spatial-visual person, so reading a chart doesn’t always come naturally to me, and it was hard for me to wrap my head around them. I eventually persevered with figuring them out on my own, because there were enough patterns I really wanted to knit which didn’t come with written-out instructions. But it was a rough journey for me, and even now there are some charts that confuse me as I’m working through a pattern.

If only I’d had a copy of JC Briar’s book, Charts Made Simple, back then! This volume breaks down the concept of knitting charts to a level that’s easy enough for a beginner to understand, but JC takes her instruction to a deeper level that will be of interest to veteran knitters as well. This book truly does have something for every knitter, I assure you!

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The graphics and illustrations in this book make it completely clear what the author is trying to teach – there’s no confusion!


Charts Made Simple assumes you knit conventionally but includes information for unconventional knitters (combination knitters and lefties) – something I’m sure those of you with unconventional tendencies will really appreciate! The Big Picture section at the beginning of the book walks you through an introduction to charts – how they can be useful, how they are usually drawn, what the symbols generally mean. JC includes instructions for reading charts when knitting flat and in the round, and reminds you to always pay attention to the pattern instructions, which will often clarify how you’re supposed to use the charts.

This is where I had my first of many “AHA!” moments reading this book. I own several stitch dictionaries, which I often turn to when I’m in the mood to design a new pattern. Sometimes I want to knit the pattern in the round, and the stitch dictionaries only include directions for working flat. When there are patterned stitches on every row, I usually give up because it seems like too much work to figure out how to make the flat patterning convert to knitting in the round. But JC’s book reminded me that if I’d take a moment to sketch out a chart, the way to convert the knitting from flat to round would be visually very obvious. (So does this mean it was an “AHA!” moment or a “DUH!” moment? You be the judge.)

She also provides an example for how to draw your own version of a chart to make it easier for you to understand. There’s no need to be stuck knitting from a confusing chart!

Each chapter includes practice exercises at the end, to help you get better at understanding charts. It’s like a fun little quiz (or am I the only one who geeks out over quizzes?)! And of course, she provides the answers at the back of the book so you can check your work.

Another example of an “AHA!” moment: using hang tags on the bottom row of knitting to indicate when you need to switch to a new chart or stitch pattern. This would be especially useful if, like me, you tend to switch back and forth between knitting projects. Whenever I set one project aside to work on another, sometimes there’s a moment of uncertainty when I pick that older project back up, because I’m not sure what I was doing. The hang-tag solution would really help with that!

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Hang tags – genius!


JC includes instructions for learning how to “read” your knitting, which is an incredibly valuable skill because then you can compare the look of your knitted piece to the overall image on the chart and make sure you’re still on track. If you haven’t learned how to read your knitting before now, that one technique makes the purchase price of this book completely worth it.

There’s a section of the book that talks about charts that come with shaping – such as those for a garment or a mitten – and how to work charts that only show half of what you’re supposed to knit, with a “pivot stitch” instruction in the center of the knitting. This has often been a source of confusion for me, because I like to knit lace shawls and sometimes the designer will only chart out the first half and then tell you to “work it twice.” I’m always second-guessing myself about which direction to follow the chart on that second repeat, and this book really clarified that issue for me.

Charts Made Simple concludes with a discussion of the various ways that charts might show repeat stitches, as well as how to handle it when you need to shift your stitch markers or the beginning of a round.

If you’ve ever been confused by a chart (and by the way, that includes charts for lace, cables, color work and texture stitches), Charts Made Simple would definitely be a good addition to your bookshelf. It would also be an excellent resource for you if you’re thinking of designing your own patterns and you want to make sure to include charts that are useful for the people who will knit those patterns. This book is one you’ll turn to again and again for expert advice on all things charts!

And if you’d like to know MORE about charts, that’s our theme this month at EduKnit and for the #NextLevelKAL, so stay tuned! And in the meantime, you can find Charts Made Simple on Amazon, or read more about it on JC’s website.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use personally and believe will add value to our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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