Imagine you are on a bicycling trip from Paris to Marseilles in the south of France.
On the flight over, you daydream of all the fun you’ll have. Popping into tiny cafes for tiny espressos. Breathing in the fresh air of a mountain pass. Sinking into a feather bed each night.
But will it come true? It depends on the kind of directions you use.
Navigating with written directions
Picture that, before you set out, the bike shop owner hands you six sheets of paper. They contain the written biking directions for your trip.
You scan the handwritten lines on the first page. It’s hard to tell how long the first leg of the trip will take, because each turn and twist is written down in great detail.
“Do not worry,” the shop owner assures you, “Every direction is there. Just follow them carefully.”
You start off using his directions, which seem clear enough until you get to the first town you’ll be staying in.
You unfold your sheaf of papers. “Go for 2 blocks, then turn left. Then go for 4 more blocks and turn right. Then go for 1 block and turn left. Do that once more but at the end, turn right instead of left.”
What?! The bike shop owner must have a heckuva memory.
You set off, but as soon as you start to look around you, the directions fly right out of your head. You stop again to look at the papers. And again, a few blocks later. You dismount and walk with your bike alongside so you can better concentrate on the lines on the page.
After an hour, having progressed to the second page of directions, you still cannot find your hotel. Maybe you skipped over a step? You flip back a page and read the lines again from the beginning.
At last you see where you accidentally skipped a line that looked like all the others. Sighing, you turn back the way you came and finally see the B&B sign. What a nightmare.
It doesn’t have to be this way!
Reading a map
Rewind. You’re back in Paris again. This time, you ask the bike store owner for a map of the trail.
He hands you one with the route marked in red.
Just glancing at it you can see that it’s about 8 days of biking – longer than you had expected. Your mind already starts to plan. Maybe you’ll catch a ride part of the way.
You also see symbols for hotels, campgrounds, bike shops, and famous vistas. You see that a section of the route is marked “under construction.”
“A tire repair kit may come in handy that day,” you muse.
The map shows you other important things, too, like concentric circles marking steep hills. “I’ll need to conserve my energy for that leg,” you think.
After looking the whole map over, you feel confident and excited. You set out on your trip, forewarned and prepared for every turn.
You take in the scenery of the route, enjoy the trip, and arrive on the beach in Marseilles with sore legs but a happy heart.
Why did it go so well? Because you used a map.
In knitting, maps are important too
In knitting, there are also directions. Whether you want to knit a hat, a baby blanket, or a teapot cover, you will need someone to show you how.
A knitting project always comes with written directions. On hard projects, they can make your head hurt just like they did for our unhappy biker.
However, if you are lucky, the project will also come with a map, called a chart.
On a chart, every stitch is marked in symbols. If you know how to read a knitting chart, you can understand the entire project, as well as the details, in just one look.
Just like the biker with her map, if you can read a knitting chart, you will be able to make any knitting project a success. But without the expensive trip to France.