More swatching

By JC | December 5, 2014

Yesterday I spent an obscene amount of time swatching, not to choose yarn, or needle size, or stitch pattern, but get this: to figure out how to shape some lace in the most attractive way possible.

Why? For some time now, I’ve wanted to knit up a couple more samples for my Wedge Shawl Design class. Sure, I have samples of lace “wedges” knit into triangular shawls, and even Faroese and circular shawls.

shape diagrams

possible wedge shawl shapes

But at the least I’d like a sample of a stole with a bend in it, a bit of shaping for visual interest and (hopefully!) to help the stole sit on the wearer’s shoulders.

stole diagram

a stole with a bend in it

Of course I started by drawing up a stitch map. Well, okay, a few stitch maps. When I thought I had something that would work, I started swatching.


a simple first attempt

Yeah, it worked. New repeats of the pattern appear along a center “spine,” creating a bend. But that plain k1 spine? Boring!

Back to drawing board – literally. After sketching out some new stitch maps in pencil, I swatched a variation without a center spine.


without a “spine”

Meh. Too… diffuse. Too many yarn overs creating too much mesh in the middle. Or something. Just not my cup of tea, I guess.

Ah, but what if we used a single repeat of the pattern as the spine?


now that’s different!

Bingo! I like this.

The key in all these experiments was defining the wedge, the tiny bit of lace that could grow from a single stitch into a new pattern repeat.

sample wedge stitch map

so tiny, yet so useful

Jeez, do I love playing with stitch maps.

Ooh, I just had an idea for a shawl with lace patterning like this and Hitchhiker-like shaping. Off to swatch some more…


By JC | October 8, 2014

Sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake. had been up and running for a few months before I started making use of stitch maps in the classes that I teach – notably, Lace Basics. And it wasn’t until this morning that I realized that, now that supports cable crosses, I could map one of my favorite stitch patterns: Rosebuds.

Rosebuds swatch


Rosebuds first appeared in Charts Made Simple, as an example in the “Counting stitches” chapter. It showcases symbols that stand for multiple stitches, even though they’re just one chart square wide,

clean Rosebuds chart

with “one square equates to more than one stitch” symbols

These “squeeze a bunch of stitches in one square” symbols certainly made for a prettier chart than if “no stitch” symbols had been used instead.

messy Rosebuds chart

with “no stitch” symbols

But the whole point of stitch maps is to get rid of the chart grid, right?

Rosebuds stitch map

without the grid

I like how the stitch map shows the undulation in the twisted-stitch column. And even if the rosebuds distort the edges of the stitch map a bit (hey, that’s what you get when you try to represent a three-dimensional pouf in two dimensions), I find the stitch map clear and straightforward.

But then again, I may be a bit biased. :-)

Yes, please

By JC | September 16, 2014

One of the best parts of Knitty is the Cool stuff! page. It always alerts me to stuff I want to check out further. Case in point: Everyday Lace by Heather Zoppetti. Jillian’s review had me popping over to Ravelry to check out the book’s patterns.

I like the Manor Ridge Shrug, though I don’t know where I’d wear a shrug. Still, I’m tempted to knit one. Maybe then I’d figure out where to wear it.

I like the Bellemont Cardigan, though I’d probably raise the neckline, shorten the body, add waist shaping, and change it from a raglan to a set-in sleeve garment (seamless, of course!). Oh, and I might change the lace panel too. I guess what I’m saying is that I like the idea of a lace panel flowing out from the base of a square neck opening.

And I like the Pequea Shell. Lace straps on a tank? Yes, please!

But that got me thinking. Wouldn’t be fun to have a solid panel behind the lace? In a contrast color, so it would peek through the lace? Ooh, I have just the yarn in my stash:

Twisted Sisters Essential

Twisted Sisters Essential

It’s Twisted Sisters Essential, a fascinating 60/40 blend of hemp (breathability, durability) and silk (shine). Purchased on sale (I admit it, I’m a sucker for sale bins), it’s been stewing in my stash for… two years? more? just waiting for the right project. Imagine: lace straps in purple, with lime green popping through. Or maybe not just the straps of a tank, but the entire upper front of a short-sleeve V-neck. With the trim in lime green, of course.

Vine Lace sample

Vine Lace, always a favorite

Yeah. That could be fun. But I don’t dare get started on it. Sheesh, you wouldn’t believe the number of UFOs I already have piled up.


By JC | September 7, 2014

Remember the stitch map I showed you the other day for the Elizabeth edging?

Elizabeth edging

That stitch map prompted this swatch:

Elizabeth edging

I think I prefer this edging over the Coronet edging; as it turns out, I’m not terribly fond of its giant eyelet. But if I were to design a crescent shawl? I might have to audition a few other edgings first. Hmm, maybe if Coronet’s giant eyelet were replaced by a cluster of yarn overs, like Elizabeth’s cluster of five yarn overs…

Instant inspiration

By JC | September 5, 2014

This morning I read Hunter Hammersen’s blog post on Everyday Lace, and do you know what caught my eye? Not the eloquent account of the book’s virtues. Not the pictures of the pretty projects.

It was the trim at the bottom of the purple tunic. With a biased sort of lace mesh and a sawtooth edge, it might’ve been knit as a sawtooth edging from which stitches were picked up for the body of the tunic. (Who knows? I haven’t seen the book yet.) But looking at that trim, what grabbed me was this thought: What if you used the Channel Islands cast-on, and arranged its picots under the decrease lines of a lace mesh?

I’ve long been a fan of the Channel Islands cast-on – so stretchy! such wonderful sproing! And it looks fabulous under k1, p1 rib, with the cast-on’s picots arranged under the k1 ribs.

Channel Islands CO and rib

But lace on top of a Channel Islands cast-on? It needed to be tried immediately.

Channel Islands CO and lace mesh

Yup. I think it looks pretty sweet. I gotta file this trick away in the “use this in a design someday” category.

Coronet, addendum

By JC | September 4, 2014

The original plan was to map a doily pattern and convert it to a wedge shape. But once that was done, I found I couldn’t stop fiddling.

Looking at the stitch map for the wedge, I noticed that it would be possible to knit Coronet in the round without ever having to shift the beginning-of-rounds marker. Consider this highlighted section:

Coronet in the round

The “gotcha!” is that, on three rounds within the hex mesh section, you’d need to keep the beginning-of-rounds marker in the middle of a double yo. That might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Ooh! What if the repeated and extra sections were defined differently?

Coronet wedge, v2

Ha! A lot of the wedge’s funkiness goes away.

Coronet wedge, v2

Also: what about using the last few rows as an edging, say, to a crescent shawl?

Coronet edging

Mm, yes, that could be fun.

Coronet edging

Coronet, step 2

By JC | September 3, 2014

Okay, this was the fun part: color-coding the in-the-round stitch maps for Coronet, using one color for the repeated stitches and another for the “extra” stitches needed to balance the pattern when working it flat.

Coronet, part C, color coded

Coronet, parts A and B, color coded

I went the high-tech route, exporting the stitch maps as PDFs and tweaking them in Illustrator. But low-tech routes are possible too: saving a stitch map as a PNG and annotating it in any drawing program, or even printing a stitch map and having at it with colored pencils.

Was this color-coding really necessary? I suppose not, but it helped with the next step of the process. And, like I said, it was fun.

Next up was creating a new stitch map for use flat, as a wedge. Using the color coding as a guide, and entering each row in the form of “*repeated stitches, rep from *, extra stitches,” I did fine through row 32.


At row 33, I ran into a hiccup. To get all the stitches to line up nicely, it had to start one stitch further to the right. Fine, fine, so I added selvedge stitches to the wedge, then continued entering the remaining rows.

Coronet wedge

And ta da! Okay, so the final stitch map is shaped kind of funny. It looks too narrow in the first few rows. Would the extra-large eyelets created on rows 10 and 11 “balloon out” and let the final fabric take a proper wedge shape? Or would the initial rows need to be modified? Swatching would give the answer, of course.

Coronet, step 1

By JC | September 2, 2014

Over the weekend I was seized by the need to map a lace doily pattern and convert it to a wedge shape. (You know, because I just can’t get enough charting in my life.) I chose Coronet, from Marianne Kinzel’s First Book of Modern Lace Knitting.

The first step was converting the lingo. Kinzel uses “K.1B” for “knit 1 through back loop,” uses “k1 tbl;” Kinzel uses “M.2” for “knit into front and back of next st,” uses “(k1, p1) in next st;” blah, blah, blah. Actually, that was about it for abbreviations. Really, the most substantial substitution was using “*yadda, repeat from *” rather than “[yadda] 6 times” so that could draw a variable number of horizontal repeats.

Entering just a couple rounds at a time so I could catch my goofs along the way, I started building up the stitch map, paying close attention to the double yo: Kinzel could just say, “on following rows, knit into one yo and purl into the other,” but that language doesn’t fly at So I carefully entered phrasing like “Round 26: *K6, p1, [k3, p1] 4 times, repeat from *.” Yeah, it was tedious, but I was liking the results:

Coronet, parts A and B

Until I got to round 33, where Kinzel instructs the knitter to move the beginning-of-rounds stitch marker one stitch to the left. Whoops. doesn’t handle that sort of thing. (I’m gonna have to re-think that limitation.) So I cheated, creating two stitch maps for Coronet: one for Kinzel’s parts A and B, shown above, and another for part C:

Coronet, part C

More fun ensued, converting these stitch maps for knitting a doily in the round into a single stitch map for knitting a wedge shape flat. But that’ll wait for another blog post.

New Vintage Lace

By JC | August 26, 2014

Have you seen New Vintage Lace? I love this book! Andrea Jurgrau takes vintage doily patterns, lifts out and rejiggers their intricate motifs, and reinvents them as stunning hats, scarves, stoles, and shawls.

It’s a fabulous idea, really. Those vintage patterns contain motifs unlike any in today’s stitch dictionaries: starbursts, overlapping petals, and lush leaves, often placed on a backdrop of open mesh. They’re really quite spectacular… and yet, until New Vintage Lace, I haven’t seen many contemporary designers making use of these motifs.

What can I say? I’ve been inspired. I’m itching to go through some of my vintage pattern books – like Gloria Penning’s Danish Lace Treasures – and see the doilies as stitch maps. More to the point: to tease out wedge shapes that could be used in wedge shawls. Ooh, wouldn’t that be fun?

I’ve already fiddled around with a couple patterns from New Vintage Lace, creating wedges from the Peaseblossom Doily:

Peaseblossom wedge

And the Sand Dollar Wrap:

Sand Dollar wedge

See those double yo on rounds 3, 5, and 7? It seems a lot of vintage patterns use them instead of today’s more typical yo, k1, yo. You get a very different appearance! One large eyelet, instead of two little ones flanking a skinny little k1 column.

New Vintage Lace also has me thinking about taking the last several rounds of a doily pattern, and using them as the slightly flared edging of a stole like Jurgrau’s Cherry Blossom Stole, or as part of a crescent shawl like her Diospryros Wrap. Consider he final rounds of the Elizabeth doily from Gloria Penning’s Knitted Heirloom Lace III:


Wouldn’t that make a lovely edging?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some more fiddling around to do.

A change of heart

By JC | August 25, 2014

You know how I said would throw up its hands and say, “I can’t do that” when asked to draw a cable cross on a WS row? Well, I’ve been convinced of another approach. Tech editor extraordinaire Karen Frisa has pointed out that a cable cross abbreviation can be interpreted in a couple ways.

I had been planning on interpreting them like other knitting abbreviations – namely, in terms of what-you’ll-do, regardless of whether it’s a RS or WS row. This affects the appearance on the RS, hence my WS conundrum.

But they can also be interpreted in terms of what-you’ll-see. If 2/1 LPC means “do what ya gotta do, such that on the RS you see two knits crossing up and to the left over one purl,” then 2/1 LPC will be worked differently on RS and WS rows… but you’ll get the same appearance on the RS, so the same symbol can be used on both RS and WS rows.

Privately, another tech editor – one that I respect greatly – concurred with Karen. And so will accept cable abbreviations on both RS and WS rows, without any silly “We’re unable to work whatever on a WS row” error messages. And its key will define how to work cable crosses on both RS and WS rows. I figure this approach ought work well 99.99% of the time, if not more.

Still, interpreting some abbreviations as what-you’ll-do and others as what-you’ll-see gives me a slight case of the heebie-jeebies. But that’s just because I’m a nut for consistency. Don’t worry, I’ll get over it.