I have always thought that the edge stitches on charts were optional. In fact, most of the time, this is true. For those of you not familiar with charts, here is a quick summary of how they work. They should tell you the number of stitches in the pattern, plus the number of stitches in the borders. So for instance, if you have a chart that tells you it is a multiple of 10 plus 4, this means that if you want to repeat the pattern twice, you cast on a total of 24 stitches. (10 for each repeat, plus 4 for the edges.) The chart will usually enclose the repeat section between two bold lines, with the edge stitches on either side. In most cases, you can choose to simply cast on the number of multiples you wish, and then shorten or lengthen the number of edge stitches depending on what you need to meet your finished measurements.
The Barbara Walker pattern below is an exception to this rule. It has taken me hours of knitting, ripping out, reknitting, and finally, a trip to my LYS to confer with one of my coworkers, to realize why I ran into problems. For my design, I want a finished measurement of 24″ wide. The pattern repeat is a multiple of 18 stitches, and so I determined that if I did 5 repeats (90 stitches), I would be as close to my goal as I could get using complete repeats.
However, as you can see from the chart, the repeat shifts about halfway through. (The bold lines show where this shift takes place.) In this case, the edge stitches are necessary to make the pattern work, because without them, there is nowhere for the pattern to shift.
I hope these little details will help my fellow knitters. Because making garments fit has everything to do with gauge and stitch count, is helps to know where you can have freedom to alter a pattern, and where you MUST follow the chart exactly as it is written.
This shows where the ribbing was interrupted in the piece without the extra edge stitches.
And here is the partially finished swatch with the edge stitches. The shift is now working without interruption of the stitch pattern.