Secret code summary

A while ago I came up with an idea for turning Dewey Decimal library catalog numbers into knitted lace (Ravelry link) (hi, I’m a geeky librarian :D). I’m still working on that shawl, but I’ve expanded my thoughts to general encoding of words and numbers into grids, and then knitting. This is a summary of my very long blog posts about this.

First, either pick a number you like or turn your words into numbers somehow. You can assign each letter a number from 01-26 (I prefer to convert mine into base 6 because it tends to make a denser pattern) or use the ASCII codes or use some other method. I am particularly pleased by using Dewey Decimal numbers.

Then plot those numbers out on a grid. There are several ways of doing this, but the most straightforward is to make the length of one axis the same as the base you’re using (so six squares if you’re using base 6) and the length of the other the same as the number of digits you’re encoding. A five letter word will be 10 digits long in most of the methods I use, so it will fit in a 6×10 grid. Then mark the squares in each row of the grid accordingly.

Now you have a grid you can play with layout (be careful if you’re actually using secret code or you’ll make it indecipherable), and then turn the marked squares on the chart into knitting stitch symbols. It’s easiest for colorwork or purl stitches or slipped stitches. If you’re doing cables or lace, there’s more manipulation you have to do in the background.

Here’s a quick sequence for you:

Peace becomes 2405010305 (using base 6). Using a 6×10 grid, that becomes


I decided I didn’t care about decipherability, so I mirrored it on itself and then removed duplicate columns:



Used as straight-up colorwork, the chart produces


(There are more variants in the longer descriptions.)

Next up: Converting words to numbers

10 thoughts on “Secret code summary

  1. I’ve had this on my Rav profile nearly from the start: “I’m convinced that knitting can be used to encode language in projects, in much the same way that the Inca tracked information in “string databases.””

    It’s very gratifying to see that someone has been working on this. I’m not smart enough to do it!

    1. I’m glad you like it! I have some patterns on the back burner that incorporate it which I hope to get back to soon.

      It’s been a lot of fun working on it.

    1. I saw your post on Ravelry! I think what you’re doing is quite interesting.

      I’ve found that for some reason, weaving has more people playing with things like this, though I haven’t seen people using the information sources you do: there are name drafts and people converting music into weaving, and might be some other things too.

      I’ve played a little with weaving my codes, but I’m still a beginning weaver. I’ve had more luck with my tablet weaving samples. I don’t have the skill to keep the floats down to a practical length (there’s nothing inherently wrong with long floats, of course, but I tend to prefer using things that won’t snag.)

      Anyway, hi! And I’m sorry it took so long to reply; I’ve been away.

  2. I think this is fun sounding but am not quite understanding what you mean by choosing a base?

    1. Hi!

      I’ve been meaning to rewrite my code explanation; at the moment it’s a bit jumbled up. In any case, this summary page is an overview of the following pages, which go into more detail.

      Mathematics and computer science use different number bases (binary, octal, and decimal are three examples) – it’s not necessary to understand the details of this, but they provide a range of different digits to use to encode the letters of the alphabet. There’s a chart of the letters in different bases at the bottom of the next page in these instructions: Converting Words to Numbers.

      I hope this helps!

      1. I do understand now about the ‘base’ and that you are coding the letters with a number, but for the life of me cannot understand the process for the different bases. And then the process for using them???????

        Maybe I am dense, but need more help in understanding so I can actually use this method. It really sounds like fun and would like to be able to try it.

        1. I’m afraid this isn’t really something I can answer in one comment.

          I’m putting rewriting this whole section of my blog in my calendar. It can’t happen all at once because of schedule issues, but I’ll be rewriting it in chunks over the next few weeks.

          If you’re not subscribed to my blog in your RSS feed reader or with WordPress, I’d be happy to let you know when the whole thing’s rewritten.

  3. Yes, please let me know when you do this. Not always able to get on with WordPress and not connected with RSS

Comments are closed.