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3 Easy Ways to Chart a Knitting Pattern


How can a crafter turn an image into a custom pattern for a knitted motif — quickly and easily — without spending a fortune?

It’s not as difficult as you might think, to make your own knitting pattern, and you can do it for little or no cost at all.  Suddenly, all sorts of creative possibilities come to mind —

  • custom logo knitwear for the cheerleading squad
  • a child’s artwork reproduced on a sweater vest for Granny
  • Impressionist landscapes rendered on knitted afghans and throws
  • a knitted tote with a rock’n’roll idol’s portrait
  • your pet’s portrait on a knitted cushion cover…

Here, for example, is a chart for knitting a Union Jack flag motif in three colours. (Click on the thumbnail image to see a larget version, or feel free to grab the printable PDF knitting chart to stitch up a UK flag as you wish.)

Now, let’s talk about how that knitting chart is made…

Here are three different ways to chart out a pattern onto a grid — without having to invest in some of that delicious but high-priced stitch-mapping pattern-design software — and each method has its strengths and weaknesses.

  1. Graph paper (either pre-printed knitting chart paper, or grids that you print out yourself) and coloured pencils or such
  2. Free online image-to-knitting pattern conversion tool
  3. Free downloadable Knitting Pattern Generator software

A lot of this will apply to a wide range of grid-based needle crafts and art projects, too — crochet, needlepoint, petit-point, cross stitch — possibly even related crafts like fabric-paint embroidery, if you’re into pointillism techniques — as well as beading and mosaics, so don’t go away, even if knitting is not your craft of choice!

1. Knitting Chart or Graph Paper

Grab a selection of coloured pencils (one for each colour of yarn you plan to use), and mark your design — stitch by stitch — on a piece of knitting chart paper. One row of blocks in the pattern grid will be equal to one row of knitting, and each coloured block represents one stitch. You’ll just follow the knitting chart stitch by stitch, colour by colour of yarn, along the rows of the pattern.

It doesn’t get much easier!

But here’s the trick — knitting stitches are longer than they are wide. Regular pre-printed graph paper won’t work very well for this. You want paper that’s marked out in a grid of little rectangles instead of even-sided squares, to match the height and width of knitting stitches. Using an ordinary piece of graph paper, marked out in squares, will call for a little quality time with your calculator and math-oriented brain cells in order to get the proportions right for the knitted image.

A big time-saver, and much easier to get good results, is the knitting graph paper that’s specially made for the craft.

Knitting graph paper has rectangles, not squares, and is sized to the ratio of actual knitting stitches — because it does help to see what you’re doing, to scale, as you plan out the design or image to knit.

If you’re handy with the computer, you can print up a custom grid to suit the scale that fits you best.

Tip — print your grid onto a piece of tracing paper, instead of basic office bond paper. That way, you can place the tracing paper over your photograph or motif and use it as a guide when you’re plotting in the colours for each of the rectangles that represent a stitch for your pattern.

And do slip that tracing paper pattern inside a protective plastic sleeve, so it won’t run the risk of getting torn or damaged, as you’ll be referring to it often while working on your project.

2. Image-to-Grid Online Knitting Pattern Generator

The second way to make a knitting pattern from a logo, photo, or other image is a quick-and-easy free online knitPro tool from MicroRevolt:

knitPro is a web application that translates digital images into knit, crochet, needlepoint and cross-stitch patterns. Just upload jpeg, gif or png images of whatever you wish — portraits, landscapes, logos… and it will generate the image pattern on a grid sizable for any fiber project.

Here’s the deal — you go to the knitPro site, select a grid size (48×64, 96×120, or 120 x 160), select a stitch size for needlepoint, cross stitch, crochet, or knit (portrait or landscape), and then browse your computer to select the image you want to convert.

The pattern will be downloaded to your computer as a printable PDF file, like the Union Jack knitting chart shown above.

Like any software solution, this tool works best with pictures that have simple lines and a limited number of colours, so you may need to experiment a bit to get it right. And you pretty much have to take whatever is given to you by knitPro — there’s no easy way to make adjustments to the pattern that is generated from your image.

3. Image-to-Grid Free Knitting Pattern Software

Third, there’s a clever free program that can create knitting patterns out of pictures, that you can download and install on your own computer. The Knitting Pattern Generator is made to work on both Linux and Win32 computer systems.

free Knitting Pattern chart program screenshot

KPG also offers some features that you don’t get with a simple online utility — like the choice of pretty HTML or plain text output. And here, you do have the ability to edit the generated template, if you want to tweak the design that the software has created to make it better suit your needs.

You can specify a background colour instead of having it default to the first colour given. You can create a database of yarn or thread colours, and KPG will pick the closest colour from that list to match your picture. Or you can use a black-and-white picture to create a pattern that uses only one colour of wool, and different stitches are used to create the picture.

The downside, as far as I’ve seen so far, is mostly that knitPro is not as sophisticated as we’re used to seeing in commercial programs — but what do I expect for free? — and it’s directed specifically to knitting, rather than a variety of needlework. Still, as I mentioned, once you’ve got a grid in place, it’s a short step to adapting it to a change in the materials or technique.

Still, I’ve really only just begun to play with this free software, and I can tell you I’m looking forward to many hours of arty-crafty fun to be had. Did I mention that you can use KPG to create illusion patterns — designs that don’t make sense until they’re viewed from a certain angle — and how cool is that?! Ideas, ideas, ideas…

So, those are the three cheap-and-easy ways that I know of, to create a knitting chart from an image. Do you have a favourite tool or technique to share? Use the comment area to let us know what method works best for you!

67 comments… add one
  • Kristin 2012/01/11, 4:32 pm

    Linda did you ever find that Boston Bruins pattern!?!?

  • Nicole 2011/12/19, 10:52 pm

    Am I asking too much for the pattern to be converting using words as well? I’m really new and have discovered that I really love knitting. I love the possibilities, but hate my present limitations. Help, please!!!

  • PicstoKnits 2011/05/21, 8:18 am

    At our website http://picstoknits.co.uk you can upload an image, crop to size, reduce the colours to however many you want to knit with, change any colours used and then generate a .pdf pattern. The site is intended to make blankets of throws but might be of interest to people reading this thread.

  • linda 2011/05/02, 5:08 pm

    I have used microrevolt, but i must say i was trying to get a chart without shadows. is there any other program that excludes shadows? Please help me.
    or if anyone out there has a knitting pattern for the boston bruins logo, i would really really appreciate it.

    thank you,

  • brenda 2011/04/24, 3:53 am

    Thanks for the info daughter has just ask me to knit her 6 year old son a Super Mario Jumper……I should be able to do it now.

  • Domestik Goddess 2011/03/19, 4:23 am

    Hi adesewa, do you mean that you don’t know how to knit something using a chart or grid? It’s not difficult at all, if you know how to knit using more than one colour of wool/yarn.
    Each square on the knitting chart will represent one stitch in your knitted piece – so you just work your way back and forth across the rows, counting how many stitches of each colour you need to make before you switch to another colour of yarn.
    Try knitting a few practice rows, following the Union Jack knitting chart I’ve provided in the blog post here, above, and I think you’ll soon see how it works. Have fun!

  • adesewa 2011/03/17, 10:18 pm

    i am a knitter but i donot known how to chart a knitting.i read the pattern but i could’nt understand.pls write how am i goin to do(chart) it and example.it realy bdering me

  • vera 2011/03/05, 7:05 pm

    Thank you for union jack pattern its the first thing my new printer has done.. only been trying for over a week ..so thank you xx

  • Deana Watson 2011/01/26, 9:46 pm

    Thanks a bunch! Looking forward to making pilot’s wings on a pair of fingerless mitts. Wish me luck…

    • Kim 2016/01/13, 11:16 am

      Would like to see the finished product of the fingerless mitts. I am trying a 2 needle mitt with a bow that wraps around the hand to make a complete bow when 2 hands are held up side by side. I am trying to input the bow into a plain pattern. any hints welcome.

  • pamela hogan rambin 2011/01/18, 11:06 pm

    Wow! pretty darn awesome, thanks ever so much for sharing.

  • Domestik Goddess 2011/01/16, 9:13 pm

    Geri, you can use KnitPro – http://www.microrevolt.org/knitPro/ – it’s a web-based application so there’s nothing to download.

    Alyssa, I had a look at the site you mentioned (knitpro.com), as I’m not familiar with it, but it just looks like a holding page for a web account – no website there at all. Instead, have you tried the KnitPro tool from Microrevolt that I wrote about here? Link is right above, in my response to Geri.

  • alyssa 2011/01/16, 7:52 pm

    When I go to knitpro.com the place to select the image file is grayed out so I can’t select a file. Whatam I doing wrong?

  • Geri 2011/01/12, 3:29 am

    Is there any such program for a MAC? I need a Thomas The Train graph.

  • Domestik Goddess 2010/12/03, 8:17 pm

    Sandra, I’d be delighted – thanks! :)

  • sandra 2010/11/30, 2:19 am

    THANK YOU !!! saw a bag with a Union Jack and thought it would look nice if I could knit it. Played around with trying to get design onto graph paper but … not much success.
    This is perfect !
    Mind if I put a link to this page on ravelry as a source for the pattern ?

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