Sunday, September 9, 2007

How do I use different stitch patterns to make my project?

Have you ever wondered how people come up with a different pattern to use for washcloths, dishcloths, scarves and other straight stitched items?

These items are nothing more than large swatches of knitting and you can learn how to make them the size you want. Here's how:

First, pick out a stitch that you'd like to learn. Let's say I want to learn how to do a "moss stitch". (I think in some places this is also known as "seed stitch".)

Next decide on the weight yarn you'll use. The weight of the yarn will decide the approximate size of the needle. The smaller the yarn, the smaller the needle. The larger the yarn, the larger the needle.

Say I want to make dishcloths. I know that I want 100% cotton. It will hold up better and dry more quickly than acrylic yarns. 100% wool is more expensive, shrinks and will felt with use. It could be used, but most people don't want the expense, shrinking and felting. (And the felted ones will take long to dry.)

So anyway, I've gotten my pattern - moss stitch, I know I want make more dishcloths, I know I can use anywhere between a size 4 to a size 10 needle (3.50- 6.50mm) I will use a needle on the larger end of the scale - I want to get done more quickly and I don't need the denser stitch count of a smaller sized needle.

Truth be told, I'm going to just cast on enough stitches, probably about 40, to make the dishcloth. I'm not going to worry about exactness, it's not needed for this project. I'm just going to k1, p1 for 2 rows, then p1, k1 for two rows. I'll alternate this until my project is a square - because I like square dishcloths. How do I know when I'm about squared? I fold one corner on a diagonal. If it's square, it will make a triangle, nothing left over. If it's not squared, I will have a triangle with a rectangle on top of it. Now I can make a rectangle if I want it to be so. It's my choice. There are no dishcloth police gonna get you if it's a rectangle or even a circle. Whatever floats your boat!

But suppose I want a scarf or a table cloth. How can I make those come out with correct proportions?

Each pattern requires a certain number of stitches to make that pattern. The moss stitch is a multiple of two stitches. Divided Boxes need a multiple of 5 stitches. Each pattern has it's own number of stitches to make that pattern. So for the moss stitch I need to have an even number of stitches on the needle. For the Divided Boxes, I need to have a number divisible by 5. (so 25 stitches will work, but not 22.)

For that, you're going to have to make a test swatch or two even. So cast on enough stitches for your pattern to make a 4" or larger square. Knit until it's a square. (see above).

Then you're going to determine your gauge. Turn you swatch to the wrong side, lay it down flat and measure the number of stitches to the inch and rows to the inch. So you may have 4 1/4" per stitch and 8 rows per inch. Write these two numbers down, you'll use them in the next step.

Now to plan your project your going to need two more measurements to calculate how many to cast on and how many rows to knit. The next measurement you will need it to determine how wide you want the finished project to be. I want my dishcloth to be 6" wide.) Write that number down. Then the last measurement you will need is to determine how long you want it to be when your finished making your project. (I want it to be 6" long.) Write that number down. Get out your calculator and we'll do two equations to answer the questions how many stitches to cast on and how many rows do I knit.

How many stitches to cast on:
Multiply your desired width x the number of stitches in your swatch and you will have the number of stitches to cast on. So 6" wide x 4.25 stitches = 25.50 stitches. So I'll cast on 24 stitches for the moss stitch. (I need an even number required for this pattern.) If I wanted to do a Divided box stitch, I would have to cast on 25 stitches to be able to divide it by 5.)

How many rows will I knit:
Multiply your desired length x the number of rows in your swatch = number of rows to knit.
I want my cloths to be 6" long x 8 rows = 48 rows of knitting. That will work for the moss stitch, it doesn't care how many rows you do. But for the boxes to be square in the Divided Boxes, I'll need to do 50 rows (The divided box stitch is a pattern of square boxes. I guess I could choose to do only 48 rows, but the last squares won't be squares because you'll be 2 rows short of stitches.)

There you go. This is all it takes for a flat-patterned item - dishcloths, washcloths, table runners, tablecloths, towels, scarves, bedspreads, anything that's square or rectangular and that doesn't require cutouts or to be fitted. Fitted things like sweaters, dresses, etc. require a little more calculating. Since I don't do long-term items (ADHD strikes again), I can't tell you how to size these things. I do know that the principles are the same, but that there are other calculations you will have to take into consideration - armholes, neck-lines, curvature of the cap of the sleeve, etc. It's beyond my abilities to tell you how to do those adjustments.

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