Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Charts VS Words

I just read a message from someone who said they didn’t buy the Victorian Lace Today book because they couldn’t read charts. There are no wordy line-by-line lace patterns in this book so you have to learn to read the charted patterns if you want to knit the shawls. However, there’s a whole section on how to do this, along with a lot of other great info on how shawls and scarves are designed and executed. Why not consider this a really good excuse to learn how to read charts? Besides this book there are a whole bunch of tutorials out there to help you. It’s so much easier than working through a bunch of confusing words. I’ve even gone to the effort myself of charting patterns that don’t have them! It all becomes so clear and you can see exactly where you are at a glance. If you make a mistake you can see it much better in relationship to the stitches around it so that it’s easier to fix. What’s not to like about charts?

While perusing my library of lace books, I discovered that I had the early version of Martha Watermann’s Traditional Knitted Lace Shawls from 1993 and published by the now-defunct Dos Tejedoras Fiber Arts Publications. It doesn’t include any charts unlike the re-issued version from Interweave. If I want to knit anything out of this book, I’ll have to either chart it myself or go buy the newer revised version. Pooh. However this is a good lesson in how the world of lace knitting is evolving.

Another lesson was a class I took with local lace knitter Lynn Russell in March of 2005. The sample pattern we worked on was in a rather archaic shorthand word form, so first I put it into my own shorthand and then charted it out. It was then that I realized that her pattern’s centre was really off. Kind of a random asymmetrical section out of a larger shawl. And I didn’t like it one bit! So I redesigned the centre with some trees from Sharon Miller’s Heirloom Knitting and finished it off as a little square neck scarf. It was a great exercise and I was happy with my piece in the end but I was ticked off in a way. You’d think she would have noticed that the centre part of this little piece looked like a stoned spider had made it? (Have you seen the hilarious YouTube spiders video? Sorry I don’t have a link.) She actually knitted it up and had it as a sample in the class. It looked impressive to those of us who hadn’t knitted with such fine yarn (J&S cobweb) and in such a complex pattern. I noticed it was asymmetrical right away but I didn’t notice that it was not really a pleasing pattern until I charted it out. It certainly convinced me that charts are definitely the way to go. Besides I rather like the challenge of turning words into pictures. I guess I share that trait with VLT author Jane Sowerby though I haven’t tried to translate those really archaic patterns yet. Not sure I’m up to that yet!

Here’s a section of that mini-shawl after I dyed it. I’m not much for white lace so I couldn’t help myself! It was knitted from the outside in. First the edging was knit lengthwise, the ends grafted together, stitches picked up from the edge on a circular needle, and then knit decreasing towards the centre. Kind of backwards to the way I would do it but hey, it worked.

So what am I up to today? I’m almost down to the toes on the SIL Socks. The end is nigh! I’m an inch and a half into the Penelope Beret and it seems to be working fine so far. I won’t really be able to tell if I got the shape and size I want until I’m done though. Berets look weird until they’re blocked. I’m a fan of small firm berets, not big floppy ones. Must be left over from having to wear one for 9 years of Catholic school in my youth. The religion didn’t stick but the fondness for berets, black tights and pleated wool tunics did. Heh. So did the fear of nuns.

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