Friday, March 7, 2014

Tutorial: Pattern Marking - Tracking Repeats

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that for the past few days I've had whole-day training classes at work, and I've been knitting away the whole time.

I love getting to knit during classes and other events. It feels so productive. I've always had a hard time paying attention to verbal presentations - I'm very visual and would usually rather read a book to get information. Knitting takes the edge off and helps me focus on what is being said. (It also happens to be excellent insurance against falling asleep in the afternoons!)

Now, my current WIP is a fairly simple sweater - reverse stockinette with two easy cables down the middle. But it does have some shaping going on pretty constantly all throughout the front & back pieces. How do you keep track of that, while still devoting your utmost attention to whatever else is going on? A while back I figured out a really simple, customizable method for doing this, which requires no special tools and can even handle multiple repeats (such as armhole shaping & neckline; anytime when the pattern says "at the same time..."). This method could be used any time that your attention is at risk (knit night) or otherwise allocated (class or meetings). It is very unobtrusive - no one will even know you are doing it.

Materials Required

  • Pattern
  • Pen & paper (can be done on your pattern, or on a separate piece)
  • Enough light to see
Easy peasy, no stitch counters required!


I'll run through a simple and a complex example below, but at a high level, the method is this:
  1. Read an entire pattern section. If it contains any repeats, you can use this method. Be sure to read it fully before beginning.
  2. Let A be the number of rows contained in the repeated section.
  3. Let B be the number of times you have to repeat.
  4. Draw a grid that has A columns and B rows. Each square represents a row of knitting.
  5. Mark the grids where you have to do something.
  6. Knit! Every time you finish a row, cross it off on the grid. When you reach a marked grid, execute the pattern for that grid and cross it off. 
It sounds complicated to lay it out like that, but once you see a few examples, it is really very simple. Here we go!

Example 1: Sleeve shaping

Let's pretend we're knitting a sleeve from the cuff up, in stockinette. We might have shaping rows defined like this:

        Increase row: k1, M1R, k to 2 st before EOR marker, M1L, k1. 2 st increased.
        Knit 9 rows even.

        Repeat the last 10 rows 5 more times. 

Here, A = 10. Each repeat contains 1 increase row and 9 even rows. 

B = 6. Note: some patterns will say "Repeat 5 times, for a total of 6", or some may just say "repeat 5 times". If the latter, be sure to add 1 - the pattern assumes that you have knit the pattern row and even rows through, once, before encountering the "repeat x times" instruction. Here, we want to capture the total number of times we need to work the patterned row. 

So here is our 10x6 grid:

Now we need to mark the pattern rows. We're increasing, so I like to write a little 'i' patterned rows.

All set! Now, we work the first increase row, cross it off, and continue along until the whole grid is crossed out. When we encounter a plain square we know to just keep knitting in pattern. When we get to a row with an 'i', we work the increase row and continue.

Example 2: Multiple repeats at once!

Here, for a more complicated example, lets pretend we're knitting a modified version of my sweater-in-progress, where things happen AT THE SAME TIME. (In the actual pattern they've worked out the numbers so this doesn't happen.) We're making a sort of bat-wing/dolman/cocoon shape, and our sweater back might have instructions like the following:

        Increase Row C: (WS) Slip 1, work in pattern to1 stitch before marker1, kfb, work in pattern to
        marker2, kfb, work in pattern to end. 2 st increased.
        Work 9 rows even in pattern. 

        Repeat the last 10 rows 5 times.
        At the same time, work Increase Row D below every 6th row 8 times.
        Increase Row D: (WS) Slip 1, kfb, work in pattern to last 2 stitches, kfb, k1. 2 st increased.

Visually, we're basically doing this:

On C rows we increase at the center, and on D rows we increase at the edges. The trick is that these increase rows repeat independently from each other. This often happens in cardigan patterns when you have to shape the armscye at the same time as the neckline. 

We'll start by making a grid for the longest repeat (increase row C). For this example, A is 10 and B is 5. We'll draw a 10x5 grid and mark each grid in the first column with "iC".

Next, we'll count off every 6th row and mark those for increase row D.

And look at that, now we have this whole confusing section mapped out in a simple, visual way. We can knit merrily along, cross things off as we go, and execute the increase rows as we come to them.

It's not terribly exciting, but I find this method incredibly useful. When I want to take a project with me somewhere, I work through a page or two (depending on how verbose the instructions are) and grid out all of the repeated sections so they're ready when I come to them.

I like to do this right on my pattern - I'm already marking my size, and any modifications, so these grids just add to the cacaphony already going on. If you'd prefer to keep your patterns clean, you could certainly draw grids on sticky notes or even on index cards.

I hope you find this method helpful! If you have other tricks for keeping track of complicated patterns, I'd love to hear about them.

By the way, the sweater I'm knitting is Jules by Julie Hoover for Brooklyn Tweed. Raveled here

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