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How to Design Knitted Colorwork Charts

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How to Design Knitted Colorwork Charts is a guide to creating your very own fair isle designs. The process couldn’t be easier and the best part is that it’s completely free.

I’m about to blow your mind. In the best way possible, that is. Designing your own knitted colorwork charts is so simple and So. Much. Fun. And not only that, it’s completely free! I mean, come on! There’s nothing better than fun and free!

Toy Pattern from Little Cotton Rabbits

One of the best parts about knitting is the colorwork. Whether you’re doing Fair Isle, Icelandic, or Nordic knits, the color design is what makes it so amazing. Most stranded knitting is done with stockinette stitch and the color design is the star.

Check out my post Stranded Knitting for Beginners

When I was crocheting more this was a look I wanted to achieve but because of it’s very nature, it never looked exactly how I wanted. Crochet stitches lean to the right (if you’re a right handed crocheter). Therefore, colorwork design is difficult to achieve. But with knitting, the stitches stack on top of one another neatly and obediently.

Knit Stitches Aren’t Squares

One important thing to keep in mind with knitting is that the stitches aren’t squares, they are rectangles. Knit stitches are actually wider than they are tall. For that reason any old graph paper won’t work well for colorwork design. The image designed on graph paper intended for math won’t look the same knitted on a garment.


If you already have the Vogue® Knitting The Ultimate Knitting Book: then you have the graph paper in the back, which you can copy and use over and over again.

Chart Minder for Knitted Colorwork

Bee Sweet

Chart Minder is a free online resource and is a total game changer!!! It was specifically created with knitters in mind. What I love about this program is that is completely customizable. You can decide how wide and tall you want your design to be. There are so many different colors to choose from. In the above video I demonstrate exactly how I use this program.

Knit or purl stitches can be added. I also love that you can save and download your colorwork charts. You can also go back and change something if you decide to.

Knitters Graph Paper

Depending on my mood I like to switch things up and use actual markers/colored pencils and knitters graph paper. It brings back memories of color by number paint sets, except you’re in charge of the design.

This is the graph paper I use and I love that it also has a cute illustration on the front. I am a big fan of anything that is visually appealing and who can resist a bunch of colorful sheep. There are many different covers to choose from and they are all 100% adorable.

Knitter’s Graph Paper Notebook

Art Markers Dual Tips Coloring Brush Fineliner Color Pens, 60 Colors

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No Limits

The only limit is your own imagination. But a little inspirational help never hurt. I like using traditional motifs and designs from around the world.


Knitted Colorwork from Around the World

One of my favorite resources is Alice Starmore’s Charts for Color Knitting. It is chock full of horizontal and vertical borders, single motifs, and allover patterns.

Designs are arranged by countries of origin like Norway, Sweden and Finland. But there are more unusual patterns from the Middle East, South America and Russia, just to name a few. There are also sections divided by topics like birds, flowers and seashore designs.


Another favorite resource is Knit Like a Latvian: 50 Knitting Patterns for a Fresh Take on Traditional Latvian Mittens. I haven’t used this book as it is intended, a mitten pattern book, but as knitted colorwork design inspiration.

Traditional Latvian knitting includes bright bold colors and I couldn’t love it more. It has a folk art feel to it and most of the patterns are floral or geometric in nature. One of these days I’m going to knit my husband a pair of these mittens…. But for now I use the designs as inspiration for my own toy knitting.


Pinterest is another huge resource for knitted colorwork patterns. When I designed the Autumn Acorns Chart I found adorable acorn motifs that I incorporated into the overall design.

Pinterest was also instrumental for the Musical Notes chart I designed for a custom bunny order (see what I did there… “instrumental” – “musical notes”?) I found a chart for the notes and then confirmed with my daughter, who is an actual musician that they were indeed real notes. I then changed the spacing to fit my pattern repeat and used other border designs from there.

Check out my Knitted Fair Isle Pinterest board for more colorwork inspiration.

Knitted Colorwork

Colorwork is one of my favorite parts of knitting. Fair Isle consists of gorgeous colors and endless design possibilities. With the availability of online and free resources colorwork design is no longer just for the professionals. Let me know if you design something yourself, I would love to check it out.

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  1. So beeeeutiful, the little bees on bunny’s dress. Watched and commented. Pinned too on my craft board ❤️ You’re very gifted.

  2. That bee dress is one of my favorites!! I love how your creative advice can cross to other crafts, not just crocheting or knitting. I always learn something new!

  3. Oh Elise, how I love your sense of humor. You brighten my day with everything you do ❤️. Thanks for sharing this AMAZING resource. I hope to someday get to play around with it.

  4. Awesome post, Elise! Love all the resources you provided. And your bee dress is the cutest! I totally plan to give this a try sometime. Totally obsessed with colorwork here!

  5. How fun! I could see this getting out of hand! Snowflakes! Flowers! All knitted into cute things!