Is Graph Paper in Your Knitter’s Toolbox?

Types of graph paper for knitting
Standard and knitters graph paper

If you’re anything like me, you prefer designing with paper and pen. Grid or graph paper is very useful for drawing precise schematics, charting pattern shaping, and charting colorwork for Fair Isle and Intarsia. There are two types of graph paper, standard graph paper with a square grid, and specialized knitters graph paper with a rectangular grid. Let’s take a closer look at these types and their uses.

Knitters Graph Paper

Graph paper designed specifically for knitting features a rectangular grid. Knitters graph paper is proportional because a knit stitch is not square, rather it is wider than it is tall. When plotting on standard square graph paper shapes are distorted. Proportional paper is sized to represent different gauges. As an example, paper with a gauge of 4 stitches and 6 rows to the inch has 4 stitches to every horizontal inch, and 6 rows to every vertical inch. Proportional paper can be purchased or downloaded from the internet.

The most common use of knitters graph paper is for drawing color motifs and patterns. When placing knit motifs on a garment, a graph paper outline of each separate garment piece is helpful. The motifs can then be placed at full size precisely, and is a true representation of the finished piece.

Using knitters graph paper for colorwork

It is also helpful to use proportional paper for charting shaping; for increasing, decreasing, casting on, binding off, and for short rows. This allows for precise shaping. Some designers plot out a whole garment with shaping, others plot out only the areas that need shaping such as necklines, armholes and sleeve caps, and some don’t work on graph paper at all. After doing the math when calculating your shaping, charting on proportional paper provides a good way to double check the numbers, and shows what the finished pieces will look like.

Standard Graph Paper

I rarely use knitters graph paper. My paper of choice is the standard 8 or 10 squares/inch grid paper. I always begin my design process here. I draw out my schematic using one square to represent one inch. Some graph paper is not reproducible, meaning when it’s scanned or copied, you only end up with the outline of the schematic to scale; great when writing pattern instructions.

schematic for dress design on graph paper
My working schematic drawn on standard graph paper

You can also plot shaping, like increases or decreases on standard square graph paper. One square is equal to one stitch, and a horizontal line of squares equals one row. Doing so serves as a check that you have done your math calculations accurately.

Charting shaping on graph paper
Shaping increases on standard graph paper

These types of graph paper are not essential, but are helpful when designing colorwork, drawing schematics, and shaping garment pieces. My toolbox wouldn’t be complete without graph paper. It helps me through the design process. Even when confronted with the occasional surprise, plotting on graph paper serves as a guide so my expected results are achieved.