Repeats and brackets – a guest post by Kate Atherley

One of my favourite features of Stitchmastery is the ability to generate written instructions for the charts I make.

When I’m writing up a pattern, it helps me make the patterns more inclusive and knitter-friendly, because I can provide both options very easily. It saves time when I’m editing, too: if I’m reviewing a pattern with big charts and I know that the designer has used this feature, I don’t need to do a line-by-line read-through of the written instructions.

It’s all perfectly straightforward for a chart without repeats, but if repeats are involved, sometimes you need to help the software a little. I wanted to share some tips and tricks.

This stitch pattern, as shown, is worked over 14 stitches.

Knitting chart with a cable in the middle

If I want to mark the central cable element as a repeat, I use the “Repeat” function. This is important! When I was first using Stitchmastery, I didn’t bother with this. I just used the Borders to set up repeats, but that can cause problems if, at any point, you are going to use the written instructions.

screengrab of Stitchmastery software with a dialog box about adding a border to a knitting chart

The lower of the two checkbox items is the most straightforward: add border to repeat. Always click this one. It adds a border to the repeated stitches, so that when the knitter is working from the chart, it’s clear what is to be repeated. It looks like this when applied:

knitting chart and key, with a red border around some of the central stitches

Note: the screenshot above is how the Add a Repeat dialog looks the first time you use this function for a chart. When you use it again, you’ll get an expanded set of options, allowing you to create a new border, or use an existing one:

Screengrab of Stitchmastery software in action

Going back to the initial dialog, the other checkbox item is entirely to do with how the written instructions will be generated.

The Repeat Type selection is about formatting. Do you want round brackets, or the asterisk format?

With round brackets, you get instructions formatted like this:

Row 1: K2, (p2, k6), p2, k2. (14 sts)

With the asterisk, you get instructions formatted like this:

Row 1: K2, *p2, k6; work from *, p2, k2. (14 sts)

But there’s two limitations with this. Because we haven’t provided any further information, Stitchmastery can’t tell you how many times to work the repeat, and the only stitch count it can report is the number of columns in the chart – 14.

This is where the other option is required, “Add qualifier to repeat”.

If I set the qualifier to 4, this gives me instructions for a piece 38 stitches wide – the 8-stitch repeat worked 4 times, and the 6 stitches outside the repeat.

And the written instructions look like this:

Chart A Simple Repeat
Row 1 (RS): K2, (p2, k6) 4 times, p2, k2. (38 sts)
Row 2 and all WS rows: P2, k2, (p6, k2) 4 times, p2. 
Row 3: K2, (p2, 3/3 RC) 4 times, p2, k2. 
Row 5: Repeat row 1.

If you use the asterisk formulation, like this:

Row 1 (RS): K2, *p2, k6; work from * 4 times, p2, k2. (38 sts)

Perfect.

Variation #1: Different Stitch Counts & Different Numbers of Repeats
In the example above, if the pattern is for a scarf, it’s very simple – there’s only one stitch count. If this is for a sweater, however, there will be different stitch counts for different sizes.

The pattern above can be worked on any multiple of 8 stitches plus 6… 14, 22, 30, 38, 46, 54, 62, 70, etc.

If you’ve got several sizes, you can handle the instructions one of two ways. You can provide the number of times to work the repeat. For example, the pattern has three sizes, using 54, 62, or 70 stitches, Row 1 would read like this…

Row 1 (RS): K2, (p2, k6) 6 (7, 8) times, p2, k2.

Wonderfully, you can put multiple numbers in the repeat qualifier box:

Screengrab of Stitchmastery software

You can also dodge the numbers entirely. This format:

Row 1 (RS): K2, (p2, k6) to the last 4 stitches, p2, k2.

works on any possible stitch count for this pattern stitch. I do this if there are lots of sizes, since it makes the written instructions a little more compact. To do this, I usually set the repeat qualifier to a preposterous number, like 9999. I use a number that isn’t likely to appear elsewhere in the pattern, to make it easier to find. I can then edit the written instructions as required.

Variation #2: Changing Stitch Counts
Charts are common in shawl patterns, of course, and many shawls have increases, creating ever-changing stitch counts.

This chart shows a 4-stitch repeat worked in the centre of a triangle. As soon as you’ve added 4 extra stitches on each side, when you hit Row 9, you can add another repeat of the stitch pattern on either side of the centre one. I’ve marked those “new” repeats with a different border, to highlight them. This is pretty intuitive to knit, if you’ve worked a shawl like this before, and if you’re comfortable with charts.

It’s actually an 8-row repeat: Row 9 is actually just a repeat of Row 1.

Knitting chart with a central red repeat box and two smaller blue repeat boxes

When it’s time to export the written instructions, I will need to do a little bit of work.

When setting up the repeat, I had set the Repeat Qualifier to 999 times, so I could easily identify what needs to be changed.

This results in instructions that look a bit silly to start:

Chart Repeats in a Changing Stitch Count 
Row 1 (RS): K3, yo, (k1, yo, cdd, yo) 999 times, k1, yo, k3. (4005 sts)
Row 2 (WS): K3, p3999, k3. (4005 sts)
Row 3: K3, yo, k1, (k1, yo, cdd, yo) 999 times, k2, yo, k3. (4007 sts)
Row 4: K3, p4001, k3. (4007 sts)
Row 5: K3, yo, k2, (k1, yo, cdd, yo) 999 times, k3, yo, k3. (4009 sts)
Row 6: K3, p4003, k3. (4009 sts)
Row 7: K3, yo, k3, (k1, yo, cdd, yo) 999 times, k4, yo, k3. (4011 sts)
Row 8: K3, p4005, k3. (4011 sts)
Row 9: K3, yo, k1, yo, cdd, yo, (k1, yo, cdd, yo) 999 times, k1, yo, cdd, yo, k1, yo, k3. (4013 sts)
Row 10: K3, p4007, k3. (4013 sts)

There are three changes to make:

1. The stitch counts. They’re included by default in the written instructions, and you can remove them manually. But even better, there’s a setting in the Written Stylesheet to turn them off.

Screengrab of Stitchmastery software in action

You’ll need to create your own stylesheet for the Written instructions, within the Tools/Preferences menu item. See this previous column for details on editing stylesheets.

2. WS rows become very simple: K3, p to last 3 sts, k3. (A side note on this: even if the numbers were right, I’d still change it to this simpler format. If you tell a knitter to purl 4001 stitches, they’re going to take you at your word, assuming they have to count them off as they work them. If it really is just as simple as purling to the last 3, say that! It’s just a little bit more friendly, and less intimidating this way.)

3. For the RS rows, rather than giving a number of repeats, I change it to “to the last… sts”. This means that no matter how far you keep increasing, the instructions will always work.

Chart Repeats in a Changing Stitch Count 
Row 1 (RS): K3, yo, (k1, yo, cdd, yo) to the last…. sts, k1, yo, k3. 
Row 2 (WS): K3, p to last 3 sts, k3. 
Row 3: K3, yo, k1, (k1, yo, cdd, yo) to the last…. sts, k2, yo, k3. 
Row 4: K3, p4001, k3. (4007 sts)
Row 5: K3, yo, k2, (k1, yo, cdd, yo) to the last…. sts, k3, yo, k3. 
Row 6: K3, p to last 3 sts, k3. 
Row 7: K3, yo, k3, (k1, yo, cdd, yo) to the last…. sts, k4, yo, k3. 
Row 8: K3, p to last 3 sts, k3. 
Row 9: K3, yo, k1, yo, cdd, yo, (k1, yo, cdd, yo) to the last…. sts, k1, yo, cdd, yo, k1, yo, k3.
Row 10: K3, p to last 3 sts, k3.

And then all I need to do is count up how many stitches there are after the repeat, on the RS row. And I actually only need to do it once.

Row 1 has 4 stitches after the repeat. It’s increased, with the yarn over, to 5. This means that Row 3 has 5 stitches after the repeat. And then you add a stitch. So Row 5 has 6 stitches after the repeat. And therefore Row 7 has 7 stitches after the repeat.

Easy! We’ve now got this:

Chart Repeats in a Changing Stitch Count 
Row 1 (RS): K3, yo, (k1, yo, cdd, yo) to the last 4 sts, k1, yo, k3. 
Row 2 (WS): K3, p to last 3 sts, k3. 
Row 3: K3, yo, k1, (k1, yo, cdd, yo) to the last 5 sts, k2, yo, k3. 
Row 4: K3, p4001, k3. (4007 sts)
Row 5: K3, yo, k2, (k1, yo, cdd, yo) to the last 6 sts, k3, yo, k3. 
Row 6: K3, p to last 3 sts, k3. 
Row 7: K3, yo, k3, (k1, yo, cdd, yo) to the last 7 sts, k4, yo, k3. 
Row 8: K3, p to last 3 sts, k3.

And let’s look at Row 9 one last time. If you’re only counting the red-bordered area as the repeat, there are 8 stitches before the end of the row… 4 of which are used for a pattern repeat.

Row 9: K3, yo, k1, yo, cdd, yo, (k1, yo, cdd, yo) to the last 8 sts, k1, yo, cdd, yo, k1, yo, k3.

But if you look at what’s in the brackets for the repeat, you can identify those “new” repeats either side. You can straight-out remove them, since the repeat covers it… and then once you’ve changes the “to the last sts” number, it’s just row 1 over again:

Row 9: K3, yo, (k1, yo, cdd, yo) to the last 4 sts, k1, yo, k3.

This element of Stitchmastery is very powerful and helpful! If you’ve not been using it, I recommend you try it out.

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