Étude no. 20: a Learning Experience

Etude no. 20: a learning experience

Aside from just loving the stitch patterns from the Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible, I have been wanting to apply some of the things I’ve learned to my own stitch designs.

This is my first attempt at pulling in some ideas to use in one of my stitch patterns. I am both happy about it while at the same time not feeling that it is a good enough stitch pattern to want to share the instructions.

On the one hand, I feel as if I’m starting to learn how to use columns of stitches worked through the back loop, how to use twisted decreases, and how to use what Hitomi Shida calls knot stitches. On the other hand, I just plain don’t like the result.

So why share it? Mostly because this kind of thing happens all the time to me when I’m learning how to design things. It happens to other designers too. It all takes practice and repetition, and time for the back of the brain to absorb the lessons that are there to be learned. It’s been helpful for me to be told that people I admire have their own mistakes that are still useful to them; I hope to encourage others to feel comfortable taking creative risks that don’t work out.

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Étude no 18: noodling around with Granite Stitch

Periodically I blog about some of my knitting experiments – I call these études, after the kind of musical exercises.

I recently joined Instagram (@gannetdesigns) and have been joining in with the @yarnlovechallenge, which provides photo prompts on a given yarny handcraft theme. The theme for this week is texture, which made my brain fizz.

I’ve been meaning to fool around a little with Granite Stitch just to see what I could see, because much as I love lace and cables, I think there’s a lot of other textured knitting stitches to play with and turn into other stitch patterns.

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Étude no. 17: further experiments in picture knitting

experiments in picture knitting

I have pretty much given up trying to invent a form of knitted filet lace, where filet lace is defined as a background of square mesh with filled in squares to make pictures or other designs. Besides, Jackie E-S has already done it (though I won’t reveal her method since it’s a paid tutorial).

The closest I’ve come up with is a variant with hexagonal mesh, which I really like quite a lot, except that the number of stitches used for one hexagon makes it harder to make detailed pictures the way one can with filet crochet or filet lace (done on netting) because of the scale involved.

I was considering the question of lace picture knitting some more and realized that my mental thought processes had gotten stuck on a particular design order. When I think about making filet crochet or hex lace, I start with the mesh chart and then mark the design on the mesh. But what if I reversed the order? I don’t know how other people do this kind of design work, but this is how my mind works. (A modern designer that I know of who does this sort of work—and is expert at it, unlike me—is Sharon Winsauer.)

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Étude no. 16: an exploration of hexagonal meshes

Swatches of more or less hexagonal meshes

I’ve talked about hexagonal mesh before, but I don’t think I mentioned that there’s more than one kind. The one I generally use is my favorite for most purposes: the stitch count doesn’t change from row to row, it doesn’t curl much, and it seems to have the most equally-proportioned hexagons. Also, it’s got decreases that face in both directions. The one minor flaw it has is that horizontal bar of yarn across the bottom point. I decided I might really be a little too biased (though the mesh isn’t), and so I should at least swatch some others, make variations along the way, and see what I might like to use at some point.

So here is my long swatch.

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Étude no. 15: permutations

3-stitch lace permutations: some free stitch patterns and how to roll them up with dice

I’m designing a pattern which needs a little simple lace in a multiple of 3 stitches at the beginning. I didn’t want a secret code lace. I wanted a multiple of 2, 4, 6, or 12 rows. In the end, I used simple diagonal lines because it flowed nicely with the other lace in the design. But I was struck by the scarcity of basic lace patterns in multiples of three in the places I was looking..

Suddenly it occurred to me that with only three stitches in a row, the most basic lace would have one knit stitch, one decrease, and one yarnover per row. This essentially makes for six permutations for a given row. (I simplified matters by pretending that all decreases are the same.)

six permutations of three stitches

Mathematically speaking, this means that there ought to be 6 possible two-row lace patterns with these three stitches (including a plain alternating row), 36 possible four-row patterns, and 216 possible six-row lace patterns. Obviously they won’t all be nice, though fiddling with changing which way the decreases lean helps a lot.

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Étude no. 14: Vertical excerpts

Spark: a free lace knitting stitch to coordinate with wildfire

Immediately after I posted about using a subset of rows from a complex chart as a coordinating stitch pattern, I started wondering about a subset of columns.

This is naturally more complicated, as the decreases and increases have to be balanced out, which means a good deal more fiddling with the stitch pattern. I think it might also be less useful – though it might help with situations where the desired stitch pattern doesn’t quite fit the required width.

Anyway, I decided to play with a chart, knit swatches, and see what happened. If it didn’t work, at least I’d know.

In the end, it took a lot more work and thought to get something satisfactory. This is not necessarily a barrier, but I felt that people considering trying it for themselves should know. (I think this sort of thing is fun; not everybody does.)

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Étude no. 13: making a coordinating stitch pattern

There’s a lot of shawls and sweaters that make use of fancy lace, but that also have sections of simpler or smaller lace – having the contrast can make the fancy lace stand out more.

Often the simpler lace is a mesh of some sort, like Feathered Lace Ladder. Other times it’s a simpler lace with a similar feel that fits in the right number of stitches, as Embossed Leaf Lace might, depending on the more complex pattern.

I’ve been wondering for a while if it might be possible to use a subset of the rows of a fancy stitch to make a simpler lace that would coordinate well with the fancy stitch pattern. The only way to find out is to try! So I did, with several samples.

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 Étude no. 12: adding extra plain rows

beech leaves: a free lace knitting stitch

Sometimes I like to try exercises in knitting stitch design as a way of exploring the possibilities. These are what I call my études, named after the formulaic exercises used when practicing classical music. I’m not always satisfied with the results, but I think it’s worth doing them. Further, I think it’s worth sharing the results publicly because it helps show that the process of stitch design isn’t effortless. I can’t learn new things if I’m not willing to make mistakes or have things come out in a way I don’t care for. And I think it’s worth sharing that process to give others the nerve to take risks and learn from them.

Anyway. This time I wanted to try adding in some extra plain rows in an existing lace design to see how the stitch pattern was affected. That is, I took an ordinary lace pattern that had one row with yarnovers and the next row plain, and changed it to one where there was one row with yarnovers followed by three plain rows.

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