Thinky Thoughts on Writing Knitting Patterns

I really like how the Sweet Irene shawl turned out. I like the shape, the drape, the thickness of the fabric that sock yarn on a US6 (4.0 mm) produces, and the lace borders.

I had seen the Paris Toujours pattern by Isabell Kraemer, gotten it, and started it in this Premier Serenity Sock Yarn (colorway Violas). But it’s a variegated yarn with a relatively short color repeat and that yarn with that pattern just did not spark joy. So, I frogged it and went with Berroco’s Modern Cotton DK yarn in a solid color (blue) instead and like it much better.

But I kept thinking about that poor Premier Serenity Sock yarn, its colorway discontinued, its hopes of being something dashed, languishing all forlorn and alone in stash and I decided to write another pattern for it based on the Sweet Irene shawl. For starters, I wanted to modify the lace borders to incorporate that nifty new sl1 wyif (slip 1 with yarn in front) detail I had learned from the Paris Toujours pattern, and I liked the fabric that the seed stitch produces on the Short, Sweet and Nubby shawl and wanted to use that instead of garter stitch in the body of the shawl.

I learned on Short, Sweet and Nubby that the key to making seed stitch WOL-proof was to work it over an uneven number of stitches. That way you don’t have to keep track of whether you started the previous row with a knit or a purl. You can start every row with the same stitch (p1 in this case) and it automatically comes out right. So there would need to be an uneven number of stitches in the body of the new pattern.

The Sweet Irene shawl has a short (2-row) pattern repeat, which is easy to memorize, with the two different border patterns worked on alternating rows. Both border patterns are worked over the same number of stitches (the last 6 stitches of every row), which again makes the pattern easy to memorize. I wanted to carry that simplicity over into the new pattern.

In the Sweet Irene shawl, the increases were all on one side of the work (above left), giving it an asymmetrical shape, which I liked. I wanted the new shawl to have the same shape. On Sweet Irene, the lace border with the increases is worked: (kfb x3), p1, ssk. Those three kfb’s give you an increase of +3 stitches. The ssk is a decrease (-1). +3 -1 equals a net increase of +2 stitches every other row. The sl1 wyif detail is worked over 2 stitches, so I’d have to add stitches for that. But that would make the increase border worked over 8 stitches, and I don’t like the number 8. By eliminating the p1, I could get it down to 7 stitches: (kfb x3), ssk, sl1 wyif, k1. OK. Got that bit.

To get that asymmetrical shape, the other lace border (above right) needed to have a net increase of 0. This means the increases and decreases have to exactly cancel each other out. That border was worked: kfb, yo, k2tog, p1, ssk. (You have increases of +1 from the kfb and +1 from the yo, and a decrease of -1 from the k2tog and -1 from the ssk, for a net increase of 0.) But again, adding the two stitches for the sl1 wyif edging ups the number of stitches to 8. I fiddled and finagled and finally got it down to 7 stitches: kfb, yo, sssk, k1, sliwyif, k1. Because I left out the ssk, I changed the k2tog to an sssk (slip 3 stitches and knit them together through the back loop) to get rid of that extra stitch and get the net increase back to 0. Ok. Got that bit.

What took me the lion’s share of the 8+ hours (plus a good deal of swearing and frogging) that it took to get the pattern to the final version was working out how to get from “cast on n stitches” to the 17 stitches it takes to establish the pattern (7 stitches for the left border plus an odd number (3) of stitches for the seed stitch body, plus 7 stitches for the right border). That row and the row that works the edging on the other side are the “rows x and y” that you repeat until the piece is the size you want. The starting point is not quite as curly as Sweet Irene’s but judging by what I’ve done so far, Waves on a Wine Dark Sea is going to be another winner.

Again, I’ll be able to carry that right border around the corner and use it as a knitted on border to finish off the long edge of the shawl by changing the kfb to k2fb. And, this point is going to have a tassel.

Author: WOL

My burrow, "La Maison du Hibou Sous Terre" is located on the flatlands of West Texas where I live with my computer, my books, and a lot of yarn waiting to become something.

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