As I have written these last few newsletters, I have begun to appreciate the beauty and functionality of the stitch diagram to a greater level. For anyone who is just joining us, here is a brief refresher. A stitch diagram is essentially a picture of a crochet pattern. In a stitch diagram, each stitch is represented by a character. The easily memorized characters are arranged so that you can see the order of the stitches, each stitch's relation to the stitches around it, and how the stitches work together to create the finished product. Stitch diagrams are a fabulous tool for edgings, stitch patterns, motifs, and sometimes garments.
Garments worked in rows or rounds and not made up of motifs can also be illustrated with stitch diagrams. Stitch diagrams for non-motif garments can be a little more complicated than edging or motif diagrams. They are similar to pattern diagrams, but stitch diagrams for garment construction are illustrations of the shape and construction of the entire garment.
Stitch diagrams for full garments are frequently used in conjunction with all or part of the written pattern. In Blueprint Crochet, Robyn Chachula includes five of this type of garment. In patterns with stitch diagrams, you will generally find multiple stitch diagrams, each representing a section of the garment. In these stitch diagrams, you might find a section of stitches labeled for use only with a specific size, with perhaps extra rows for a larger size. Be sure to look for row repeats; the diagram may show you how to start the row and end the row, with a middle section that you will be instructed to repeat a specific number of times.
To try this out, grab a pattern with a stitch diagram, and some yarn. I found a fabulous example of a stitch diagram for a nonmotif project, the Rebecca Vest from Blueprint Crochet. Take a minute to study the diagram and notice all of the information it provides. Notice the repeat marked at the bottom and right side of the pattern. On the right side are several rows that are worked for the large and extra large sizes only. Now pick your own pattern up, whether it is this pattern or another. First read through the written pattern while following the stitch diagram. Then make a swatch of the pattern. Then move on to a section with some shaping; sometimes I will begin with a sleeve or smaller section of the garment to get my feet wet.
Robyn Chachula has another classic pattern with stitch diagram: her Elinor Cardigan from the Winter 2008 issue, with stitch diagrams that illustrate the shaping of the armhole, shoulders, and waist and bust shaping.
Stitch diagrams provide a wonderfully visual way to see crochet patterns, whether the stitch diagram deals with a piece of the pattern or the entire project. As you learn to read and utilize them, they will broaden your pattern horizons and increase your understanding of crochet.
P.S. Don't forget to download the free pattern for the Swirling Bag by Kathy Merrick at the Knitting Daily TV site!