Thursday, June 14, 2012

not following patterns, part 3

So the final issue on that list a few posts back (the list of places where we shouldn't follow the pattern if it's written in the "traditional" way) is the number of stitches for a cardigan band.

Patterns are traditionally written as follows: pick up and knit 137 stitches along the front edge . . . EVENLY.

That was helpful!? How do we do this????

This is so not what you need to hear because . . .
  1. If you shortened your front (to make it the right length for you) this number will be too high and you'll get what Elizabeth Zimmerman called dread frontal droop.
  2. If you lengthened your front (to make it the right length for you) this number will be too low and your front band will flip open.
  3. If you don't get the same row gauge as the pattern, this number won't be right.
So what we need to be told instead is with what proportion did the designer pick up and knit: 1 stitch for every 2 rows? 3 stitches for every 4 rows? 5 stitches for every 6 rows?  This suggestion is what we need to hear to start. (If your row gauge is different, this suggestion won't work for you, but at least it gives you a place from which to start and then adjust.) Then, after your pick-up-and-knit row, you should be told to count stitches, then decrease or increase as needed across the next row to achieve a multiple of (for example) 4 + 1 stitch. (This multiple will be whatever your edging stitch pattern needs.)

I've had some strange reactions to the suggestion that a number of stitches should never be offered--from open-mouthed silence to "but I'd be afraid"--there's that word again!--"to not be given a multiple."

I'd be more afraid to give you one, because you might be tempted to try and achieve it! On the other hand, giving you a multiple is real information from which you can work.

By the way, it's perfectly okay to give a total for the number of stitches for a neckline because it's what we call a closed system--you don't shorten or lengthen a neck opening. But I do think it's helpful if patterns give a little information about how to achieve the correct number before offering that number--like, for a V-neck example, pick up and knit 4 stitches for every 5 rows along the diagonal, etc--approximately 121 stitches.

To be fair, printed patterns (especially in magazines) are trying to save space, so for that and other (more misguided) reasons they give abbreviated and misleading instructions without options. It behooves us to understand that and be able to see past those instructions.

But why don't we? Why do we trust the pattern instead of ourselves? That's the subject of my next post.

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