KNITTING FROM GRAPHS; ROGUE; SOCK CLASS

Answer to a quick question:

Can the Fleur de Lys motif shown yesterday be used for knitting?

Sure. Like anything graphed, the fleur can be knit, but with a caveat. In cross stitch, the individual units that build a motif are square. They have a 1:1 aspect ratio, as wide as they are tall. Likewise, needlepoint units are (mostly) square. They’re worked on a square grid, but if they’re in tent stitch the stitches themselves are a diagonal spanning that square. Therefore the edges of color areas don’t always appear as neat and trim as in cross stitch. This graph is composed of square units, and is intended mostly (but not exclusively) for stitchers.

Knitting presents a different challenge. It’s rare for a knitting stitch to have a 1:1 aspect ratio. Knitting stitches are usually wider than they are tall. It’s not uncommon to have a stitch gauge of 22 stitches = 4 inches, but a row gauge of 30 rows = 4 inches (that’s the standard for a classic DK weight yarn). That works out to an aspect ratio of 22:30 or 5.5/7.5 if you simplify the representation. That’s NOT square. If you knit up a graph that’s been drawn out on a square ratio grid in this aspect ratio, you’ll end up with a motif that’s somewhat squished looking north/south direction.

There are several ways around this. First is to choose designs that have a bit of north/south spread in them to begin with. They’ll look different when compressed, but if they’re elongated enough to begin with, they’ll end up with a reasonable set of visual proportions. My lion graph, shared eons ago for people who wanted to do lion sweaters as described in the Harry Potter books is this kind of design. It’s got enough "natural" height so that it looks o.k. if worked verbatim in a somewhat squashed aspect ratio.

The second is to graph out your design on a grid that has an aspect ratio that matches your knitted gauge. If you want to do this, the English language Japanese website ABCs of Knitting features a very nice graph paper generator. It’s listed among the tools on the page’s lower right.

A third way to get around this problem is to blow up the design. Very simple motifs can sometimes be made quite dramatic by reading a unit of two knit stitches by three rows for every square on the grid. Not practical for larger gauge knits, as even a small motif could outgrow the area intended for display, but occasionally useful none the less.

A fourth fix is more of a fudge. Depending on the complexity of the motif you want to knit, you can take a plain old square unit graph and by repeating every third or fourth row (depending on your gauge), you can stretch it out to compensate for aspect ratio squish. Obviously, this works best for simple motifs rather than complex ones, and at finer gauges. I’ve done it in sport weight yarn or finer, and it has worked well enough, with the duplication fading into the overall look and not being evident. This method can be problematic though for things like graphed letters adopted from cross stitch samplers, and for ultra-small geometrics whose motifs are built on single square units. For the latter, I might be tempted to use the third method, above.

Of course one can always ignore the problem all together, placing the borrowed motif so that the stretched dimension becomes a design feature and not a bug. This is what I did with last year’s crocheted dragon curtain. I worked across the narrow dimension of the curtain rather than starting along the bottom edge, in part because the non-square nature of my filet crochet blocks would distort the motif too much if worked in the latter direction. You can see the original proportions of the graph, and the finished piece.

If you look the knight, you’ll see that in my crochet he’s taller and a bit squashed east/west compared to the original. But if I hadn’t called out the difference, I’d bet you’d not have noticed.

Rogue

Rogue progresses. I’m another two inches or so into the body. Not much more to show beyond yet another blurry photo of a slightly larger blue object, so I’ll hold off until I can post pix with more content. I can say that in spite of competing demands on my time reducing the total amount I can spend on the thing, now that I’m past the pockets and my multiple mistakes, it is fairly flying along. I am looking ahead to the next set of complications – alterations to the armhole area and beginning of the hood’s frame that might be necessary due to my gauge re-computation.

Sock Class

I’m beginning my prep for my upcoming sock knitting class, reading up on and trying out the Magic Loop technique. It may be heresy to admit, especially for someone who is going to be teaching a workshop on this method, but I find it to be fiddly and (for me) much slower than using DPNs. But I realize that there is a legion of DPN-haters out there who view this method as being their ticket to finally making socks. So I’ll persevere for their sake.

The plan is for a three-hour workshop, during which I’ll hand out an original pattern for a very abbreviated small cuff-down sock – roughly baby size, but with sadly truncated ankle and foot parts to save time. The idea is to walk the class through that ENTIRE sock in the given time, from the cast on, through the heel, and finally down to the toe. A normal size sock would be too time-consuming to get far enough for a meaningful experience, especially around the heel, so I’ll cut back on the plain old stockinette areas, leaving in just enough to get familiar with the manipulations of the needle(s). I’ll also hand out an original pattern for a normal size sock that the class can take home and use for practice.

One further complication – I prefer to teach on socks knit at DK or worsted gauge – again, fewer yet larger and easier to see stitches. But the extra-long circs for the Magic Loop method are in short supply, and are quite expensive. Likewise for the two circs needed for that method. I don’t think it’s fair to ask the class to come equipped with needles in a size that they (probably) won’t be using for their regular sock knitting, so I’m going to do the thing using standard issue sock weight yarn.

I’ve taught knitting classes before, mostly on toe-up socks, basic crochet, and on beginning knitting. I’ve been told I pack too much detail into the time alloted. In this case I will have to agree. Ideally I’d do either single oversized circ or two circ socks, not both. I do intend the choice to be either-or, as the methods are largely compatible. Learners will get their choice of working one or the other, and except for needle manipulation the basic sock-making steps should be the same for both. Obviously more thought on this is in order. If any blinding insights of clarity and nuance suggest themselves to me, I’ll post them here. Otherwise, it’s just more socks.

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