# Converting words or letters to numbers

(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 | Summary of My Method | Addendum: Ribbing | Further Resources

A first step in converting words to knitting (or other fiber arts) is to convert letters to numbers. An obvious way to do this is to assign a number to each letter. The simplest way to do this is to use decimal numbers, assigning A=1, L=12, and Z=26. This can produce nice results.

If you don’t like the way the stitch patterns come out, you can translate the numbers into different base systems. I’ve provided a chart at the bottom of this post for numbers in base 10 down to base 6, as well as ASCII values. Other possibilities for conversion include binary, Morse code, or Braille.

Another option is to use the numbers on a telephone keypad, though this would be a one-way cipher; it would be tricky for someone looking at your stitch pattern to turn it back into the original letters, even if you wanted them to.

Using ASCII values for letters also works. (And in fact, if you look at the complete list of ASCII values online, you get upper and lower case and punctuation.) Finally, there are various encryption techniques that turn words into numbers.

The last way I’ve thought of to convert meaning to numbers (and my favorite) is to use the Dewey Decimal System—one of the methods librarians use to assign call numbers to books so they can be shelved according to their primary topic. The best resource for this (because it goes into the most detail) is the set of books that lists all the Dewey numbers in it. To use this, you’ll need to go to a library that uses Dewey for its call numbers; I recommend calling the library reference desk to find out if they have the books available for you to use.

A good backup system is to use WorldCat. Do a subject search for your meaning. If that doesn’t produce results, do a keyword search, and then pick a likely looking subject heading. On the detailed record page, look for the Dewey Decimal number for the books that come up. The one that appears most often is probably the Dewey Decimal number for your topic.

Finally, if you enjoy the idea of encryption, there are a number of techniques for putting words in secret code, which you could then further encode as knitting. See Further Resources for some suggested links.

### The Problem of Zero

Once you’ve generated numbers to use in your stitch patterns, you’ll be using those numbers to count stitches or squares on a grid. Counting to zero can be tricky. One option is to add one to every digit, so that 0 is 1, 5 is 6, and 9 is 10. Another option is to turn zero into ten. A third option is to ignore all zeros. Note that this will make your code one way: decryption will be nearly impossible, even for someone who knows the code.

If you would rather comment on Ravelry, I’ve cross-posted there.

### Letter Conversion Table

10 9 8 7 6 ASCII
A 01 01 01 01 01 65
B 02 02 02 02 02 66
C 03 03 03 03 03 67
D 04 04 04 04 04 68
E 05 05 05 05 05 69
F 06 06 06 06 10 70
G 07 07 07 10 11 71
H 08 08 10 11 12 72
I 09 10 11 12 13 73
J 10 11 12 13 14 74
K 11 12 13 14 15 75
L 12 13 14 15 20 76
M 13 14 15 16 21 77
N 14 15 16 20 22 78
O 15 16 17 21 23 79
P 16 17 20 22 24 80
Q 17 18 21 23 25 81
R 18 20 22 24 30 82
S 19 21 23 25 31 83
T 20 22 24 26 32 84
U 21 23 25 30 33 85
V 22 24 26 31 34 86
W 23 25 27 32 35 87
X 24 26 30 33 40 88
Y 25 27 31 34 41 89
Z 26 28 32 35 42 90

# Embedding meaning in your knitting: Index

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

I’ve known about Madame Defarge and her knitting code from A Tale of Two Cities for a long time, and have read a number of novels which include the idea of encrypting things in fiber arts. This may be what subconsciously inspired me to encode meaning in my Secret Code of the Librarians shawl (still in progress) and then to write up this series of posts.

Sometimes we knit for a special occasion: a wedding, a birth, graduation from college. In those cases, the beauty of someone else’s design can be wonderful, but it can also be fun to create something new for the occasion. Why not combine the birth dates of two people who are marrying in a special gift, or perhaps encode their names into it?

You might be knitting a gift for someone who is ill–why not knit your wishes for good health into the design? Or if, like me, you wish you were more patient, you could knit yourself a shawl with “patience” hidden in the stitches.

### Choosing Words or Numbers

A first step in converting meaning to knitting is to find a way to express that meaning in numbers.

To reduce the number of steps involved, the easiest thing is to pick numbers that are meaningful: dates, phone numbers, and so on. Dates have the further advantage that they can be expressed in a variety of different ways. Take the third of May, 1990. 1990 could also be written as 90. Three could be either 3 or 03, five could be 5 or 05. The five could come first or the three could come first (depending on whether you use US date order or not). The different configurations of dates will change the way your stitch patterns can be arranged, providing better flexibility in their appearance.

(This code swatch was knit using the date I started college.)

You can also combine multiple dates in one stitch pattern: if making a stitch pattern for a wedding shawl, you could use the engagement date and the wedding date, or the birthdates of the people getting married.

Some of the methods I’ll explain later lend themselves more to writing long sequences of words, but I particularly like choosing one or two words to convert to numbers and then to stitch patterns.

I have limited these posts to the craft of knitting, but I am certain that some of the techniques I mention could be translated into other crafts. I would love it if someone gave it a try.

If you would rather comment on Ravelry, I’ve cross-posted to my group there.

Next post: Converting words or letters to numbers

(This series of posts assumes you are familiar with reading knitting charts.)

# Sycamore stitch

I recently knit slippers for my son with a cable from my Mon Tricot stitch dictionary, Sycamore Stitch. I’m not going to write up the pattern, but I thought I could at least chart the stitch pattern for people; the written instructions are my own, not a direct copy from the original. Nobody has tested these for me; please let me know if you have problems!

Key:

Right Side: knit; Wrong Side: purl
RS: purl; WS: knit
RS: slip 1 with yarn in back; WS: slip 1 with yarn in front
Slip 1 as if to knit onto cable needle, then the next as if to knit. Bring cable needle to front. Purl 2. Yarn over. Slip the stitches from the cable needle and knit them together through back loop. (Left leaning decrease.)
Slip 2 onto cable needle and let fall to back. Knit 2 together, yarn over. Slip the stitches back from the cable needle; purl 2.
RS: purl through back loop; WS: knit through back loop (results in twisted stitch)

Written instructions for flat knitting:

1: purl 1, knit 2, purl 4, knit 2, purl 1
2: knit 1, purl 2, knit 4, purl 2, knit 1
3: p1, k2, p4, k2, p1
4: k1, p2, k4, p2, k1
5: p1, k2, p4, k2, p1
6: k1, slip 2 with yarn in front, k4, slip 2 with yarn in front, k1
7: p1, slip 1 as if to knit onto cable needle, then the next as if to knit. Bring cable needle to front. P2. Yarn over. Slip the stitches from the cable needle and knit them together through back loop. (Left leaning decrease.) Slip 2 onto cable needle and let fall to back. Knit 2 together, yarn over. Slip the stitches back from the cable needle; p3.
8: k1, p2, k1 through back loop, k2, k1 through back loop, p2, k1

# Fancy Stitch 2

A stitch from S.F.A. Caulfeild’s Dictionary of Needlework, p. 122, rewritten in modern terms.

This stitch forms a lattice with the chains peeking through.  It can have a lovely effect when worked with variegated yarn. It biases strongly to the right. (It ought to be okay in the round, though.)

Original instructions from the book:

A suitable stitch for couvrepieds when made in thick fleecy wool and with a large No. 8 bone hook, but which does not look well worked with fine cotton. Make a foundation chain of an even number of stitches, work a row of Tricot, and work back. Second row–Work the first stitch plain, and then put wool round the hook, bring it out at front, push the hook through the next two long loops, still keeping the wool before the work, put wool round hook, as shown in Fig. 221, and draw it through the two loops. Put wool again round hook, thus making a stitch for the one lost in the work, and continue to end of row; work last stitch plain. Draw the wool back through the edge stitch, and then through two stitches, as in Tricot. The second row is repeated throughout.

Interpretation:
Make a chain with an even number of stitches, and work a foundation row of TSS and back.
Bring the yarn to the front of the hook, and then over.

Bring the yarn over the top of the hook again; you should now have wrapped the yarn around the hook twice.

Insert the hook through the next two vertical loops.

Bring the yarn back to the front so it crosses in front of those two loops.

Gently pull a new loop back through the two loops.

You now have a total of two new loops on the hook.  Repeat the two wraps and purling the two loops together to the end of the row; work the last stitch as usual for TSS. Work back as usual.

(For the knitters among you, this is structurally the same as *yo, p2tog*, except for the chaining back part, though the maneuvers to get there are different.)

# Open Raised Tricot Stitch

A stitch from S.F.A. Caulfeild’s Dictionary of Needlework, pp. 130-131, rewritten in modern terms.

This is an open, netlike stitch with thick horizontal ridges.

Original description:

A handsome raised stitch used for crossovers, petticoats, and comforters. It should be worked in double Berlin or four thread fleecy wool. Make a foundation chain of the width required, and work a row of Tricot, and then back. Second row–work the first stitch plain, then bring the wool in front of the work and put the hook into the hollow between the first and second loop, allow this to catch hold of the wool at the back, the wool passing from the front to the back over the work, bring the hook back again to the front with the wool on it, put it into the hole between the second and third loops, and let it catch the wool, returning with it on the hook, where there will now be three loops for the one stitch, draw the last made loop through the other two (see fig.248), and retain it on the hook. For the next stitch, put the wool forward, and the hook into the same space as before, between the second and third loops, and repeat from * [transcriber’s note: there was no *]. Work the last stitch as the first stitch, and work back in Tricot.

Modern interpretation:

Work a row of regular TSS (the most basic stitch in Tunisian crochet), and work back.

Bring the yarn forward, in front of the hook.

Insert the hook into the space between the first and second stitches, bring the yarn over  to the back, and pull a loop through.

There are now two new loops on the hook.

Insert the hook between the next two stitches, and pull a third loop through.

Pull that loop through the previous two loops.

*Yarn forward, insert the hook into the last space you pulled a loop through, and pull another loop through. Insert the hook into the next unworked space, pull a loop through, and pull the same loop through the previous two loops.* Work the last stitch as you would for Tunisian Simple Stitch, making sure to not pull it tight, as the Open Raised Tricot stitch grows vertically.

# Tricot Ecossais

A stitch from S.F.A. Caulfeild’s Dictionary of Needlework, pp. 128-129, rewritten in modern terms.

Abbreviations:

• YO = Yarn Over
• TSS = Tunisian Simple Stitch
• st(s) = stitch, or stitches

Chain a multiple of 3 stitches, plus 1.

1: Sk 1 chain. *YO. Pick up one st in each of the next 3 chains. Pinch the YO in the hand not holding the hook and pull the last three sts on the hook through the YO. (This leaves the three sts on the hook.)* Return as usual.
2: Skip the first vertical bar. *YO. 3 TSS. Pull the last 3 sts on the hook through the YO.* Return as usual.
This is very similar to some maneuvers from knitting, like passing a slipped stitch over another one.

(I expect the name has very little to do with the stitch’s national origin – the name means Scottish knitting in French.)

# Josephine Tricot Stitch

A stitch from S.F.A. Caulfeild’s Dictionary of Needlework, p. 130, rewritten in modern terms.

This stitch has fewer similarities to knitting than the other Tunisian crochet stitches I’ve tried. It makes a nice mesh.

Special abbreviation:

JTS: Insert hook in a stitch, pull a loop through, and chain one.
Repeat in the same stitch. Pull a third loop through the same stitch,
and then pull a loop through the last three stitches on the hook.

Original version (but with modern terms):
Start by making a chain the length you want, plus three.

Row 1: JTS in the fourth chain from the hook, repeat in every chain to
the end. Return row as usual.
Row 2: Chain 2, then work a JTS in each chain space. Return row as usual.
Repeat row 2 as desired.

If you find that the start of the row is a little too tall, try doing

I found that I could get a version that draped more softly if I added
some extra chains, like this:

Variation:

Start by making a chain with an even number of stitches, plus one.

Row 1: JTS in the third chain from the hook, repeat in every other
chain to the end. Return row: Chain 1. *Chain 1, pull a loop through
the first 2 stitches on the hook.* Chain 1.
Row 2: Chain 1, then work a JTS in each chain space. Return row: Chain
1. *Chain 1, pull a loop through the first 2 stitches on the hook.*
Chain 1.
Repeat row 2 as desired.

This stitch pattern lends itself well to being fringed. Omit the last
return row and knot two pieces of yarn through each stitch.