Saturday, September 6, 2008

Swatchercise

I have been doing swatches to illustrated my index of knitting stitches for almost two years. Up until the first 1000 stitch patterns had been illustrated, I admit, the selection of a stitch to work was biased toward the easy patterns just to pump up the numbers.

Now that I have a passed the 1000 milestone and now that I have a firm grasp on the ‘50% of documented patterns are illustrated’ milestone, I have adopted a different attitude toward picking patterns to swatch. I want to focus on working the the biggest, most difficult stitches first. And being the database wonk I created a database view to help me. The algorithm is very simple: list the stitches in descending order by the product of the (number of stitches) x (number of rows). One side effect of this is that the number of illustrated stitches does not increase as fast. The other side effect is that more ‘high quality’ stitches are swatched.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Anguish and Old Lace

I acquired a very old needlework book, Fancy Work Recreations by Eva Marie Niles published in 1884. Approximately 1/3 of the book is about knitting. It has some very interesting lace patterns. However, they are not written in modern terminology. For example:

Openwork Lace

Cast on 32 stitches, knit across plain.

1st Row - Slip 1, 2 plain, t over 2, seam 2 together, 1 plain, (t over 2, narrow) 4 times, 6 plain t over 2 seam 2 together, 1 plain, (t over 2, narrow) 3 times, 1 plain, t over 2, narrow.

2nd Row - t over 2, seam 2 together, 3 plain, seam 1, (2 plain, seam 1) twice, 1 plain, t over 2, seam 2 together, 15 plain, t over 2, seam 2 together, 3 plain.

. . . and so on for 16 rows.

First problem: what’s ‘plain?’ what’s ’seam?’ what’s ‘t over 2?’ Narrow????

Fortunately there was a page that gave some help there. Plain is knit. Seam is purl and t over 2 is yarn over twice. Narrow is a knitted decrease.

Now you think you have it whipped. Not so fast. See those double yarn overs. They present a problem on the following row. Are they to be treated as a single stitch or as a double stitch. Turns out in this pattern some are treated as single stitches and others are treated as two stitches. But the pattern does not spell that out. And that knitted decrease — narrow — that could lean to the left or right, but the pattern doesn’t say which. I can’t exactly contact the author for guidance. She and her corset have been dust for some time now.

I got out an Excel spread sheet and by reading the instructions for each row from the right edge to the left edge and back again several times I was able to make some sense out of the pattern. Just to show you how bad it got, I am attaching the Excel spread sheet. That spreadsheet is just a draft; I think it could be done better. It was enough for me to make the first draft of a translation of the pattern. For example, the above rows translate to the following:

Row 1: Sl 1, k2, yo twice, p2-tog, k1, (yo twice, k2-tog) 4 times, k6, yo twice, p2-tog, k1, (yo twice, k2-tog) 3 times, k1, yo twice, k2-tog

Row 2: yo twice, p2-tog (the k2-tog and the double yarn over of the previous row), ssk, (k1, p1 in the double yarn over of the previous row), [k1, (k1, p1 in the double yarn over of the previous row)] twice, k1, yo twice, p2-tog (the p2-tog and the double yarn over of the previous row), k8, [k1 in double yarn over of the previous row, k1] 4 times, yo twice, p2-tog (the p2-tog and the double yarn over of the previous row), k3

. . . and so on for 16 rows.

That translation is good enough to work from, but it can be better. The p2-tog stitches that work together a previous p2-tog with a double yarn over occur many times in the pattern. Describing each one makes it too chatty. So in the next draft of the pattern, I will find a name or abbreviation for that particular decrease stitch. That new term will become part of the Legend I add to the stitch description. The use of a single term for the special decrease stitch will make the pattern more compact and easier to read.

But before I replace the chatty phrase with an abbreviation, I will try to work the pattern. There’s no point in trying to make the pattern look cute if it doesn’t work. If it works you will see a picture of it in the Knittingfool website’s stitch collection. If you don’t see a picture there, you will know that I’m still slugging it out with this knitting puzzle.