Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A matter of perspective

The swatch I showed you in the last post had errors in it. Actually, there were originally a lot more errors, but I tinked back several times, trying to make it a good swatch. At the end of one pattern repeat, I was pretty ready to give up on knitting anything sizeable in this stitch pattern.

And then I sat back and thought about it. It's not a difficult pattern, but the chart was (to me) just unreadable. I being able to see how my knitting lines up with the chart is absolutely crucial for me, and I just couldn't see it.

And so, I would make a mistake without realizing it, knit blithely on for 4 rows or so, realize that something looked funny, spend 20 minutes figuring out where the problem was, and then have to tink all the way back. Not fun.

Why was it such a big deal, you ask? The charts.

Here is the chart, compared to the knitting*:

They look nothing alike. To me, that chart looks like so much chicken scratch (no offense intended to the author; the pattern is clear and can be followed. I just don't see the order in it). But this is a simple pattern, and there's no reason that the chart should look so complicated. And I really wanted to use the stitch pattern.

To use the pattern, I would also have to figure out how to knit half a repeat so that the edges of the piece would be straight. So, I sat down to figure out just exactly what was going on with this chart.

There's a column of faggoting stitches that separates the two half-dropped patterns from one another, and so I started there, using the yo/decrease pairs as my signposts.

This at least looked a little more like the knitting, but I thought I could do better. The problem is that the chart is written in solid rows with a stitch in every position. Generally I like them this way, but this pattern has lots of increases and decreases that change the stitch counts for each motif every four rows, effectively shifting the chart rows relative to one another. If you keep the stitches constant in the chart, then it can't look like the knitting. Since I rely on being able to "read" my knitting to figure out what to do next and to catch errors, I'd rather have empty chart boxes where there are no knit stitches.

Since the faggoting stitches are always worked directly above one another, I shifted them into vertical columns and centered the motif stitches, leaving "no stitch" areas to take up the extra space.

This chart looks like my actual knitting, and it's very easy to figure out where to cut the design motif to get a half-pattern to even out the edges. After half an hour of re-charting, I can use the stitch pattern that I like, and I can see where I'm going.

When I sat down to figure this out, I was sure it would be a real pain in the neck, and it simply wasn't. I wonder how many times we avoid a pattern that looks complicated, when a small change in perspective is all it takes to make it simple?

*I'm only showing partial charts where they are copied directly from the book, to avoid giving away BW's published material. It goes without saying that you should own her books anyway. =)