(This is part of a series of posts on different ways of hiding meaning in your knitting.)
Table of Contents: Embedding meaning in Your Knitting | Converting Words to Numbers | Making a grid | Asymmetry or Symmetry? | Converting grids into stitch patterns | Lace | Cables | Other Encodings | Summary of My Method | Addendum: Ribbing | Further Resources
Now we have come to the end of this series; I have finished describing my method for encoding words and numbers into grids and knitting. I’m going to finish up by summarizing some other techniques, both by other people and myself.
I have located two simple ways of knitting a block of text into a cipher that other people have come up with.
One is to knit as if you were writing, using purl bumps, colorwork, or slipped stitches. Writing is done in rows; knitting goes back and forth or round and round in rows. Admittedly, the mechanisms are slightly different. However, you can convert letters into binary and then knit the binary code in rows or rounds, where 0 is knit and 1 is purl. Take the word peace. Converted to binary, that’s 01110000 01100101 01100001 01100011 01100101. In knitting, that would be k1, p3, k5, p2, k2, p1, k1, p1, k1, p2, k4, p1. You could go on to write other words as well and end up with a random-looking collection of knits and purls, or you could knit just peace as ribbing with a 40 stitch repeat.
Another option would be to convert the words into Morse code and make dots and dashes by purling or using colorwork and leaving gaps in between for the spaces between letters. A dash is three times as long as a dot. Here is peace in Morse code: dot dash dash dot, dot, dot dash, dash dot dash dot, dot. So that would be k1, p1, k1, p3, k1, p3, k1, p1, k3, p1, k3, p1, k1, p3, k3, p3, k1, p1, k1, p3, k1, p1, k3, p1, k1.
In fact, since I wrote the first draft of this post, Kate Atherley has published a pattern on Knitty for mittens with a Morse Code stranded knitting pattern.
There is also a web page by Wayne Batten which speculates about a potential way that Madame Defarge could have encoded names in her knitting on the fly.
Another straightforward method of turning numbers into knitting is to make stripes. Take the word knit. If you use the simplest decimal encoding, then k=11, n=14, i=9, and t=20. Knit 11 rows of one color, 14 of the next, 9 of another color, and 20 of another. Alternately, you could knit ribbing that was k11, p14, k9, and p20.
Two anecdotal methods of knitting ciphers from World War II that I haven’t found definite confirmation of and that seem more complicated to use involve modifying the yarn, knitting with it, and then unravelling it when it reaches its destination. In one case, the yarn might have been painted (in a long string, not a skein) with the dots and dashes of Morse code. In the other case, knots might have been tied in the yarn with the space between the knots indicating different letters.
Now for some thoughts I haven’t seen elsewhere (though that certainly doesn’t mean these are new ideas).
A somewhat more subtle method is to make stripes in both directions on a baby blanket. Here’s a short name for an example: Ed. This becomes 5 and 4. If you do a k5, p4 ribbing for 5 rows and then a p5, k4 ribbing for 4 rows, it makes a reversible check pattern.
Another way to make stripes is to pick cable patterns that have stitch repeats that match the numbers.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my tour of a variety of methods of embedding and encoding meaning–I’d love to see any projects using my techniques!