Is it really secret code?

I’ve recently been having conversations in person with a variety of people about my methods for turning words into stitches. I call it secret code as a kind of shorthand, but could it actually be used that way?

Well, it depends.

When people are sending actual secret messages, they have to decide ahead of time what methods they are going to use, and come to agreement to make sure that they are using the same system.

I have more than one way to turn words into numbers. I use more than one way to turn numbers into knitting charts. If I were to use knitting as an actual secret code, I would need to confer with my correspondent and do the following: pick one set of numbers and one particular charting method to use for every encoding.

Furthermore, if I wanted the actual code to be knitted, it would be hard to read unless the knitting itself remained in a visible grid format. Stranded knitting or knit/purl texture patterns would probably be fine. Lace would be right out unless the recipient were very good at reading lace stitches and could make a chart for it with all the yarn overs correctly placed. (In the case of lace especially, the chart or the written instructions would make a better code.)

Finally, my methods are really not terribly efficient in terms of space (and if actually working the stitches, time).  A single word takes up a lot of chart space. If I wanted to send a message that said yes or no, then it might be practical, but any multiword message would be trickier to send in time, even if I wanted to be so melodramatic.

So yes, while the methods I use could theoretically be used as a way to send secret messages, that’s not really what I’m doing. Instead, I’m using words as a starting point for creativity, and choosing my layout methods based on what I think looks attractive or interesting.

I don’t know where I first encountered the idea of using a framework and set of rules to help me be creative, but it’s something I’ve encountered many times: if I don’t place some sort of boundary on what I’m trying to make, then I’m paralyzed. I don’t know where to start; there’s too many possibilities. If I just say to myself, I want to design some lace, but I don’t have any sort of guidelines, then I get stuck.

The framework I’ve come up with over the last five years has given me the right sort of boundaries. They’re narrow enough that I don’t feel overwhelmed by choices, but wide enough that there’s room to work and make my own æsthetic decisions.

So, while my techniques could be used for code, that is not, in the end, what I really like about them. I enjoy encoding poetic or meaningful word choices like beloved or friendship; I’m amused by using words like groundhog as a starting point for beautiful lace design. I am pleased more than I can say that one of my friends knitted a wrap for a friend from hug, which is a wonderful non-secret message.

And I love not keeping my stitches secret.