Anatomy of a design project

This is an invitation to knitting friends to join me in a project. This is not really a KAL, but an opportunity to enjoy a bit of random creativity, put some good words out into the universe. I am AcadiaS on Ravelry; share there or here with what you make with these ideas.

Yesterday I saw a post about math and knitting. My heart bumped. I followed the link to this page by Naomi Parkhurst. My heart bumped again when I discovered that this was about coded knitting. Words of power hidden in a craft practiced publicly like Madame DeFarge, like Rose Greenhow, like the women of Native Tongue.

Not only does Naomi Parkhurst provide the patterns she creates, but she reveals how she does it. It is a straight up matching code, where letters of the alphabet are matched with numbers which are then applied to a charting grid. The example she gave for “sunshine” used base-6. (You can read all about it on the above link.)

I had to try it. These are my notes on Naomi’s process. If you are interested in engineering your own patterns, you’ll have to read her blog as well.

But what words to use? A poet friend shares a daily post “UNITY, COURAGE, VIGILANCE” as encouragement during these times of turmoil. They sounded like the perfect words to use. I’ll give her the project when I’m done. The the next aspects to decide:

  • What base to use? I chose base-6, because that’s what Naomi used. Also because that guaranteed there would be no stretch longer than 5 stitches in any single repeat.
  • How to deal with zeroes? Since in the lace rendidtion of this process marks the end of each digit with a YO, leaving zeroes as they are would create a double YO. Naomi suggests other alternatives.
  • How big a block to graph? I started out with a block 9 stitches wide. UNITY resulted in 4 pattern rows with 4 ‘rest’ rows that could be either garter or stockinette based. COURAGE became 5 pattern rows and VIGILANCE became 6 pattern rows. This was problematic for knitting them side-by-side as I would need some buffer rows to make each block 6 pattern rows high. The alternitive would to be consistent in number of rows and variable stitch width. UNITY stayed at 9, COURAGE was 10 and VIGILANCE 12.
  • What to make? I considered scarf variations, a stole, a cowl a hat. Grafting or not, mirroring the patterns. How much and what kind of yarn was available (OK, it’s not like there is a dearth of yarn to choose from). I had been discussing the Sufi story of the sultan who had a ring made with the words ‘This too shall pass.’ To continue my round of mystical thinking I chose a circular scarf. 180 stitches on size 7 needles provides enough to repeat VIGILANCE 15 times in a round (so that word does not get mirrored because it’s an odd number), COURAGE 18 times, and UNITY 20 times. My plan for the moment is to do each word 3 vertical repeats for a total of 72 rows, probably buffered with garter stitch.

Here are the charts I’ve made:




About Susacadia

I am a writer, fiber artist, and occasional raconteur. I've been around the block a time or two, but stuck to any career I ever had for at least 10 years. They have all morphed logically from one to another. But under it all I have eternally been a teacher and a learner.
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