Getting Bigger – guest post from Kate Atherley

My last couple of columns have been all about dealing with repeats. In this column, I want to talk about finding them, to make your life much easier.

A designer posted a terrific question in the Stitchmastery Ravelry forum, about how to create the chart for a triangular shawl. She said that it was taking her a lot of time to build the full shape, and that it was going to be a huge chart when she was done.

Huge charts aren’t great, for a number of reasons! They’re hard to make, hard to read and hard to work from. OneBigChart below makes this abundantly clear!

Huge triangular knitting chart

When creating the charts for a item that grows, for example, lace shawl with increases, it’s good to see if you can find repeats.

The first and most obvious repeat in this sample is in the two patterned sections. They’re exactly the same. An instant opportunity to save space!

If you take out the borders and the centre stitch, you can create a smaller chart, like so:

Half of previous chart

But this does change the pattern’s written instructions.

That is, for the first one, you can say

Row 1 (RS): Work chart across.

For the second one, you need to include instructions for the border and centre stitch, like so:

 Row 1 (RS): K3, work pattern chart to centre st, k1, work pattern chart to last 3 sts, k3.

(There are two noteworthy side effects to this: the knitter needs to mark that centre stitch somehow – perhaps you have them place markers either side of it in the setup. But the larger concern is that to work the pattern, you need to use both these written instructions, the ones that detail the edging, and the charts. The first chart, although awfully cumbersome was a complete view of the pattern. More on this topic later.)

But even this border-free chart is pretty big! This is where you should look for repeats within the pattern stitch. It’s pretty clear there’s a motif that’s repeated, a little round lace motif that appears over and over again. The core of the motif is 6 rows tall (if you include the last WS row) and 7 stitches wide. At first blush, it might seem like the pattern repeat would be small, too. But it’s much larger than you expect.

To sort out the number of stitches in the repeat, ie the horizontal width, you have to consider the number of plain stitches between the motifs. Counting from the far side of one motif, to just before the same stitch on the next motif, you see it’s 12 stitches wide. The placement of the border around these 12 stitches isn’t entirely “clean”, in that it cuts into a neighbouring motif, but it still works perfectly well. I chose to roughly centre the first motif in the repeat, but it doesn’t matter where you place the edges, as long as it covers 12 stitches across.

Once you’ve identified the horizontal width, you then need to consider where the vertical repeat begins and ends. It looks, at first blush, that it might be 12 rows – there are two alignments of the motif, one offset from the other, each 6 rows high, making what looks like a 12-row repeat. If you were working this pattern stitch in a scarf, with straight edges, then that would be true.

But because the stitch count is changing, and you’re needing to take the increases into account, that doesn’t work. Look at the edges: there’s definitely a repeat in the way that the pattern builds. Compare the edges between Rows 19 and 42, and again between Rows 43 and 66.

So there’s a 24-row repeat in there! As you can see with the highlighting, there’s a 12-stitch/24 row repeat, that allows you to collapse the 48 rows, 19-66, into a single set of 24 rows.

Previous chart with green section highlighted

And this structure will work for as many rows as you want, for as big as the shawl gets.

Previous chart with red repeat marks

(You’ll notice that I’ve taken the stitch counts off, as they don’t apply once you start working the repeat.)

So what you have is a horizontal, stitch-repeat that enables a vertical, row-repeat.

Put another way, each time you work 24 rows, 19-44 as charted, you gain 24 stitches – 12 each side – which means that you gain an additional instance of the 12-stitch pattern each side of the central one.

Finding the repeat within the pattern stitch can sometimes be a bit of a puzzle, but I must confess that I rather enjoy it! Better than Sudoku! I start, as with this one, by looking at the edges, to see if there’s repetition in how the pattern “builds”. Although these edge stitches aren’t part of the main repeat, they are a clear indication of whether there’s a pattern there or not.

This repeat-centric chart not only saves you space in the pattern, it’s actually more helpful for the knitter: it clearly shows the big picture, and also indicates how the size of the shawl might be changed – more or fewer repeats of the 24 rows.

And this also, if you wish, enables you to put the borders back, so you’ve got a chart-only pattern.

If I want to do this, I would break up the setup section, just to create two slightly more manageable charts.

Small knitting chart

Larger chart with red repeats

(You’ll notice that stitch numbers are back for the Setup chart, because you only work that once.)

It’s a bit larger, but it’s still significantly better than the original! You could easily print that on a sheet of A4/standard printer paper and still have it legible.

Ultimately, which of these two approaches you prefer – the complete, chart-only version, or the one without the borders – is your own personal preference. But either way, finding and creating repeats makes things much easier for you, and for your knitters.

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