Saturday, September 6, 2008


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 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.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

What I did not say about Stitches 2007

I’m getting ready to go to Stitches in Schaumberg this month. I went for the first time last year (much overdue). I intended to write about it last year, but I had one of those experiences that evoked feelings that can only be described by that old saying, “A goose just walked over my grave.” I ran into someone that I had not seen since my first year at college. A chance meeting that gave me the chills.

I showed up for a Stitches class in the morning, early like I always am. My father believed that if you weren’t 15 minutes early you were late. He enforced that fiercely; being early is like a disease with me. A woman came in a few minutes later. She kept making nervous chit chat. The phrases she used were annoyingly familiar; excessively polite; and scripted, as if she was reading from a Miss Manners textbook. It took a few minutes and then things rushed together. I couldn’t see her name tag clearly, so I tried to judge the shape of the name, the contour of the letters. The shape fit the name I had in mind. And then the memory of the face came back. She had not changed much. Older, heavier, but very like she had been. And when I was almost sure I asked, “Were you in Carbondale in 1973?” The look on her face answered the question even before her words came, “Yes, how did you know?” “I was there.” “Forgive me, I don’t recognize you. Who are you?” “Elaine.” And then she remembered me. And I knew for sure it was Valerie Jane [last name withheld].

She came over to sit next to me. She asked all the polite questions and we exchanged the abbreviated versions of our life stories. I had completed college; she had not. I married and had kids; she had not. It was not just her appearance that had not change much. Her whole life had change only superficially.

The only shocker was her current profession. She was an insurance salesman. Shocker? Just wait. She sold insurance to a niche market: adult entertainment. I had to hold back a laugh although it must have showed on my face because she launched into a justification that boiled down to “They need insurance too.” Yeah sure, Tony Soprano needs insurance, too. What a hoot. That explains a lot about insurance rates.

I could almost write a book about Valerie Jane. She could have been a psychology case study. Usually, she was Valerie, the overly officious, tedious, mistress of idle, polite chit-chat with her mother pushing all her remote control buttons. But sometimes she was Jane. Jane was more normal, a regular 18 year old looking to enjoy life and get laid. She would even refer to herself by the two names in the third person. I more than once witnessed an argument between the two. That was creepy. I don’t know if she had a true multiple personality, but she sure had something going on. Perhaps Valerie stays home to knit and Jane goes out to strip joints to sell insurance. That presents an image.

There were 5 or 6 girls thrown together by chance in a college dorm in the summer of 1973. I have so many memories of the troubles caused by Valerie and Jane trying to manipulate the events of that summer. Until finally the rest of us figured out what was going on (sort of). The story is far too long and complex to tell here.

Just to be catish: She borrowed a copy of the winter craft issue of a magazine that had a favorite afghan stitch cape pattern in it and she never gave it back. I’m still miffed about that. Maybe I’m the crazy one! Thirty-five years later and I’m still not letting go of that grievance.

I tried to explain to my husband how badly running into Valerie Jane had shaken me. I even left Stitches early, missing one of the classes I had paid for. I know it sounds paranoid, but she scares me a little. I wanted to put the distance back between us. I still can’t put it all in words. However, I am going back to Stitches. She may be there again because it is not so far from where she lives. It’s just a risk. Fortunately, the place is big enough to hide in. But if I do run into her, I won’t miss the chance to ask where that cape pattern is.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Increasing before and after markers on circular needles

I have a raglan sweater pattern that I am knitting from the top down ( sweater pattern generator)

I have knitted the collar but it says at each side of marker, increase 1 st by knitting into the front and back of the st..

I have 4 markers - one for the sleeves, one for the back, one for the other sleeve and one for the front, so by increasing into the back and front of each st. that would make an increase of 8 sts..

Does it matter which marker you start to increase at?

Awaiting your reply,


Response from 1knittingfool

No. It is immaterial which point you choose as a starting point.