Category Archives: designing

Stitch Maps and my design process

Over the last few years I’ve had various people ask me if Stitch Maps could be useful to me in my design process because they look more like knitting than regular knitting charts. The answer is a bit complicated. They are useful to me in my design process for certain kinds of things, but not because they “look like” knitting. To my mind, they don’t actually look like knitting, though they do follow more of the shape of the fabric than a standard knitting chart done on a square grid.

Before I go on, I just want to say that I think Stitch Maps are awesome, and I pay the higher level subscription fee every year because I find them valuable and I want some of the features from that subscription level. That said, they still can’t replace swatching in my design process, for multiple reasons. Some Stitch Maps look a lot like the final knitting, while others don’t so much. So how I feel about them is more related to my particular style of knitting stitch patterns than to anything in Stitch Maps itself.

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Knitting design and me: how I think about upcoming designs

The questions people ask me say a lot about their (pretty reasonable) assumptions about knitting design and stitch pattern design. I’m sure there are designers out there who have a picture in their head of what they want their end result to be. But that’s not how things are for me.

I’m going to digress a moment. About a year and a half ago, one of my online communities got into a discussion of aphantasia and whether we saw movies in our heads when reading. The group covered a real spectrum, with one person saying she could paint the scenes she saw in her head in full color, and that they were vividly, visually present, like a movie, to another person who saw nothing at all when reading and can’t picture memories in her head.

I don’t quite lack mental imagery when thinking about things or reading books, but it’s barely there: I get glimpses, vague outlines or hints of movement, like ghosts and shadows. I hate things like battle scenes in books where it matters how people move in relation to each other because I can’t actually comprehend how it all fits together unless I make a diagram on paper, and so I find it boring. (I skim over those bits.)

So how can I design things, if I can’t imagine what things will look like ahead of time?

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Étude 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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Charted numbers and symmetries

I’m gradually rewriting my knitting “secret code” posts. I’m publishing the new versions as blog posts. This is the next in the sequence; once I’ve written everything up, I’ll update the old version.

Once I’ve charted the numbers onto a grid, my next task is to figure out how to arrange the grid for my stitch pattern. This usually involves playing with symmetries.

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Swatching stitch patterns

Swatching serves many purposes in knitting. There is the basic gauge swatch, which should (in theory) help the knitter pick the correct needles to go with a given yarn for a specific project. That is a story often told in many places, with many associated difficulties and the lament that swatches lie. That’s as may be, but it’s not the focus of this post.

For designers of finished objects like sweaters or socks or shawls, swatches serve other functions aside from measuring gauge. They can be used to work out the transitions between a stitch pattern and a ribbing, to figure out which buttonhole is best for a given situation, to decide which complicated lace looks best with which simple mesh. These swatches can be quite large by comparison with the gauge swatches that most knitters make.

Another kind of swatch is one that I like to use: a practice swatch to learn a new technique before incorporating it in a finished object, or to see if that mistake from a work in progress could actually be used as a purposeful technique. Here the swatch only needs to be as many stitches as it takes to work the new method.

And finally, the kind of swatch I knit most often: the swatches that show how a stitch pattern looks as a knitted fabric. How big to make such a swatch is the focus of this post. (Even though there is no knitting in my examples.)

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Really the last flattened diamond post.

In my last post about flattened diamonds, I talked about the problem of dealing with a diamond when the desired stitch pattern is centered around a single stitch.

How chevrons centered around a single stitch repeat.

The focal point of such a design is off center when placed on an even number of stitches. (I’ve been having trouble with my chart software. It’s almost fixed, but I thought I’d take this opportunity to show that graph paper can be just fine for the design process.)


The diamonds I’ve been working with so far have a rectangle in the middle based on an even number of stitches. When I place a simple chevron on such a diamond, it looks like this, which bothers my mirror symmetry-loving brain, especially when designing a shawl. The actual pattern repeat works out just fine, mind you! But there is the necessity of including an extra stitch on the right-hand side of each row.


My first thought about this was to make the center repeat an odd number of stitches, and make one arm of the diamond one stitch longer than the other. This certainly tiles, but it makes the increases at each edge peculiar.


My second thought makes use of 3-to-2 decreases and the principle that the decrease corresponding to a particular increase can be on a completely different row. (On this sketchy chart, the dark squares are grey-no-stitch squares.) This tiles nicely, keeps the increases at each edge consistent, and makes the design process easier for me. It won’t work for all stitch patterns, however. But I do like it.

IMG_4934So my third thought is probably too complicated for a final pattern chart, but it helps satisfy my mirror symmetry cravings in the design process. The arrow points at the spine of the shawl. The central column of diamonds has an extra column up the middle, so the chevrons can be centered on that spine. The diamonds on each side are based on an even number – the chevron sits slightly to the left in the diamonds that are on the right-hand side of the pattern, and vice versa.


Note that in the end, once the diamond outlines are removed, this produces the same overall rectangular stitch pattern as the second chart in this post: a repeat of 12 + 1 stitches and 8 rows. But if designing a crescent shawl, I think the third thought works best.

One last flattened diamond stitch pattern blog post… for now

Figuring out how to make the diamonds that tile nicely for a crescent shawl has felt rather like trying to drink from a firehose in regards to filling up my head with ideas. The method in question isn’t only of use for secret code, of course, and I’ve been playing around with some other ways to use it.

(I’m only including text instructions for the stitch design in the featured photo. It’s really a post about how to play with designing using charts, and the text was going to make it too long. Speak up in comments if you want text to go with the others of these, and I’ll post separately.)

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How I use my secret code methods in a non-rectangular space

This is the basic method I used to make the Galaxite stitch pattern, though I’m going to use a much shorter word to make things quicker to explain.

Sky in base 6 becomes 31 15 41. In my description of how I do my secret code charts, I’ve called the method I used for laying out the code in the diamonds, “adding it all up“, but it’s not really well described, I think. (I’m going to be rewriting that whole section of my site; when I got Sequence Knitting, I instantly realized that this particular method uses the spiral form of sequence knitting.)

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crescent shawls: tiling flattened diamonds.

When I posted Galaxite on Saturday, I wrote in passing about using a tiled flattened diamond to create the stitch pattern. This post goes into more detail about how this structure was created.

Crescent-shaped shawls have been popular among knitter and crocheters for several years now. The first such shawl I remember seeing was Annis, which caught a lot of people’s attention. A lot of other crescents used the same basic method (the body done with short rows, and the fancy edge knit straight), but designers started branching out very quickly, finding a variety of ways to make a crescent shape.

Last winter I knit Sacre Coeur (Ravelry link), which uses a very different method, which I found fascinating and unexpected. Its designer, Nim Teasdale (Ravelry link), will be the first to tell you that she didn’t invent it (at least, that’s what she said when I asked), though I think she does an excellent job of working with it. I don’t know an exact name for the style (if you do, please comment!), but it seems to be popular at the moment: one advantage to it aside from its beauty is that the shape can be worked until the knitter runs out of yarn or decides they’re done.

The method starts with casting on a small number of stitches, then increasing three stitches at each edge over two rows, while putting whatever stitches one likes between the edges. When blocking, the bound-off edge is curved around, while the two selvedges are blocked out as straight as possible.

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