Stitch Maps and my design process

Over the last few years I’ve had various people ask me if Stitch Maps could be useful to me in my design process because they look more like knitting than regular knitting charts. The answer is a bit complicated. They are useful to me in my design process for certain kinds of things, but not because they “look like” knitting. To my mind, they don’t actually look like knitting, though they do follow more of the shape of the fabric than a standard knitting chart done on a square grid.

Before I go on, I just want to say that I think Stitch Maps are awesome, and I pay the higher level subscription fee every year because I find them valuable and I want some of the features from that subscription level. That said, they still can’t replace swatching in my design process, for multiple reasons. Some Stitch Maps look a lot like the final knitting, while others don’t so much. So how I feel about them is more related to my particular style of knitting stitch patterns than to anything in Stitch Maps itself.

JC  Briar’s done an impressive thing: she’s worked out how to represent with a computer program how decreases and increases and cables and a bunch of other maneuvers affect the shape of the rows and columns of knitting, and then the program displays a kind of knitting chart that places chart symbols (some standard and some designed for Stitch Maps) onto those rows and columns.

Here’s a simple example, that in fact looks a lot like the final result: Spiral Stitch.

There are several ways to display a Stitch Map – with symbols, with row guides, with column guides, and with sections. (And if you get a basic subscription, you can have it highlight each row of the Stitch Map as you knit it.) These can be layered on top of each other or displayed one at a time. I’m just going to show a few of the possibilities here.

Very different from what this looks like in the standard squared-off knitting chart:

Tea: a free lace knitting stitch pattern

The first problem for my design process is that I use a lot of double yarnovers. Tea (shown just above) is an excellent example of the kind of difficulty I have with using Stitch Maps for visualization of the final result.

Here is the stitch map for Tea. The thing about double YOs is that they don’t actually look like individual little circles in the lace. They make one bigger circle which usually has two stitches coming up from it. Another difficulty is that while this shows the general shape of the rows and columns, it’s not in proportion, it doesn’t show the shapes of the individual stitches, and it certainly doesn’t show the optical illusions formed by the actual knitting. If you look at the photo of the knitting, there’s a lot of little hearts. Where are those hearts in the stitch map?

Furthermore, sometimes stitches disappear or are given prominence in the actual knitting in ways that Stitch Maps cannot and should not show. The blue arrow in the small image of Tea just above is pointing at a YO that cannot be seen because of the way the stitches distort and stretch each other. A Stitch Map has to show every stitch, or it’s not serving its purpose.

Here is Meta Lace.

Here is the Stitch Map. One thing that the Stitch Map does do this time is to show the decrease lines well. I’ve outlined them in blue. It doesn’t show the shapes of the individual stitches, though. Some of the regular knit stitches inside the heart shapes in Meta Lace get stretched until they’re as open as a YO.

Other columns of knit stitches in the lacy parts and the stockinette parts change size from row to row. I’ve outlined the legs of some of the columns in this picture to show what I mean. The six upside-down Vs in the center section each are a column of plain knit stitches that have been stretched or compressed by their surrounding stitches. Stitch Maps cannot show this, nor do I expect it to.

So how do I use Stitch Maps in my design process if I can’t use it to see exactly what the result will look like?

First, I can use it to see if the rows and columns will be wiggly in desired ways.

Second, I can use it to double check my written instructions.

  1. I export the written instructions from my regular chart software.
  2. I edit the wrong side rows by hand in a text editor when there have been double YOs so that they say (k1, p1) in double yo where appropriate.
  3. I use find and replace to change the written instructions to the format that Stitch Maps uses.
  4. If there’s a mistake in the stitch count, I can track down where I went wrong with my hand-editing.

Third, I can sometimes use it to help me see places where I can change the decrease lines in a stitch pattern if I’m stuck in the design process.

So there you have it.