Wavy is the way to go

By JC | April 29, 2010

A few weeks back, I posted a couple charts for a lace edging. Both had a zig-zag left selvedge (just like the edging), to account for the change in stitch count from row to row. But one also included “no stitch” symbols, so the symbols in the chart could line up vertical like the stitches in the knit edging. No surprise: most people preferred the second chart, despite its “no stitch” symbols, since it more closely resembled the knit edging.

Here’s another pair of charts, and a similar issue. (The key, as before, is here.)

Remember the rivulets swatch? The stitch pattern is of constant width—that is, its stitch count doesn’t change—and so it would typically be charted like this:

straight-edged rivulets chart

straight-edged rivulets chart

But the stitch pattern is so lovely in large part because it sways; it practically shimmies. Redrawing the chart makes this undulation apparent:

wavy-edged rivulets chart

wavy-edged rivulets chart

Bonus: this second chart also arranges the yarn overs and decreases as they appear in the knit swatch.

You’ve probably already guessed I prefer this second chart. I figure it’s clearer. Don’t you agree?

So I wonder why we don’t see more charts presented this way. Rivulets isn’t the only stitch pattern with wavy selvedges. The Gumdrops socks that I designed for Blue Moon Fiber Arts Rockin’ Sock Club feature a stitch pattern with wavy selvedges, and the leg chart in that pattern has wavy edges. As I recall, no-one in the RSC had a problem with that chart.

For wavy-edged stitch patterns, why do we see so many straight-edged charts? Or am I imagining things—do books or other publications that I’m unaware of use wavy-edged charts?

11 Comments

anysteph on April 29, 2010 at 12:29 pm.

Thank you for this. Your second chart is lovely.

I ran into this with the jaw-droppingly beautiful Fair Isle Rapids pattern (http://www.kieranfoley.com/knit_lab_fair_isle_rapids.html) before I gave up after my third frogging. It involves waves if not a wavy edge. I am going to see if redrawing it as you did helps; I think your principle applies there.

JC on April 29, 2010 at 12:58 pm.

Oh, aren’t Kieran Foley’s stranded-knitting patterns some of the most stunning ones around? I love the use of increases and decreases to get otherwise straight lines of colorwork to tilt and bend.

If you think redrawing the Fair Isle Rapids chart would help, go for it! Though the charts shown in Knitty make perfect sense to me. You just have to remember to ignore the “no stitch” symbols as you read the chart. All the other symbols line up just like the stitches in the fabric.

Janet Szabo on April 29, 2010 at 4:48 pm.

Lacy Knitting of Mary Schiffman? Does that qualify?

What IS the rationale for making straight-edged charts?

Janel on April 29, 2010 at 5:37 pm.

I think people publish straight edge charts because they take up less room on the page than a wavy edged chart, and also because people are used to seeing them. I do like the wavy charts, they’re quite nice.

JC on April 30, 2010 at 9:53 am.

Janet, I guess you’re right. In addition to charts shaped to match lace edgings or wedges of circular pieces, The Lacy Knitting of Mary Schiffmann does have some charts that are shaped to match the “natural” layout of a stitch pattern of constant width. (On the flip side, in flat-knitting charts it uses symbols to indicate stitches as worked on WS rows, not as viewed on RS rows… but that’s a bugaboo to tackle some other day.)

Janel, that’s an excellent point! I had figured that straight-edged charts were used so often in part because they’re familiar, but I bet you’re right: their smaller size is probably a factor too.

Mona Phaff on May 5, 2010 at 2:08 am.

The only wavy edge charts I’ve seen are for lace trims. I like the concept of using wavy edge charts as it makes knitting from them more intuitive and also allows you to visualize the finished piece when a swatch isn’t available. Interesting discussion, JC!

Karen Frisa on May 5, 2010 at 12:01 pm.

I always figured people drew straight-edged charts because they’re easier to create: just blindly plop the next stitch into the next square. You don’t have to think about/figure out how one row aligns with the next and do the right thing.

JC on May 5, 2010 at 8:45 pm.

Too true, Karen! It does take more thought to draw a chart that conforms to the shape of the fabric… but I figure it’s worth it.

Karen Frisa on May 5, 2010 at 10:36 pm.

Agreed that it’s worth it, but not everyone thinks that solving those kinds of problems is fun. Personally, I like puzzles. :) (I hope the commenting software doesn’t turn that into one of those overly happy yellow smilies.)

Karen Frisa on May 5, 2010 at 10:37 pm.

Damn.

JC on May 6, 2010 at 7:15 am.

Aw, c’mon, Karen. At least the smilie isn’t blinking, flashing, or jumping up and down.