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Monday, October 17, 2016

Monday Mini Tip - No Stitch & Varying Stitch Counts

In today's Mini Tip I'm going to talk about balancing lace patterns, 'no stitch' areas in lace patterns and varying stitch counts as these are all linked. 

In lace patterns yarn over, yarn forward, yarn over the needles and yarn around the needle are all increases. I will call them all yarn overs from now on (read this Mini Tip if these terms are confusing). When you work a yarn over, you increase a stitch. Unless you're increasing your total stitch count, you need to work a decrease to keep the stitch count the same. 

Decreases are often placed next to or close to the yarn over it 'belongs to'. But sometimes the decrease can be placed several stitches away from the corresponding yarn over, or even on a different row. In cases like this, a 'no stitch' symbol is usually inserted into the chart as a place holder (I talk about 'no stitch' symbols in this Mini Tip about reading charts). 

In the lace pattern above I cast on 32 stitches and worked the pattern repeat (inside the red box in the chart below) three times, but if you look at row 1 of the chart (or written instructions below), you'll see that once you've worked row 1, you'll have 35 stitches. Many knitters will look at the cast on number and then at row 1 and assume that you'll need 35 stitches before you knit row 1 (11 stitches per pattern rep x3 =33 + 2 = 35 stitches). But a chart shows you what the row will look like after you've worked it. If you cast on 35 stitches, row 1 won't work.

If you look at the pattern repeat (inside read border on the chart or inside [ ] in the written instructions, you'll notice that on row 1 there are two yarn overs and one decrease. This means that for each 10 stitch pattern repeat, you will increase two stitches and decrease one stitch. On row 2, there's a decrease which means you'll decrease the second stitch you increased in row 1. As a result once you finish row 1, you have 11 stitches in each pattern repeat, and after row 2, you'll have 10 stitches in each pattern repeat. That stitch you loose on row 2, needs to be shown in the chart somewhere so we put a 'no stitch' symbol (a grey square in my charts) as a stitch holder. This is a lot less confusing in the written instructions for the chart as the written instructions just tell you which stitch you'll be working and ignores 'no stitch' stitches. Compare the written instructions with the chart below.

Chart - Written Instructions:
Row 1 (RS): P1, [p1, yo, k tbl, yo, ssk, k5, p1] to last st, p1.
Row 2 (WS): K1, [k1, p4, p2tog tbl, p3, k1] to last st, k2.
Row 3: P1, [p1, yo, k tbl, yo, k2, ssk, k3, p1] to last st, p1.
Row 4: K1, [k1, p2, p2tog tbl, p5, k1] to last st, k2.
Row 5: P1, [p1, k tbl, yo, k4, ssk, k1, yo, p1] to last st, p1.
Row 6: K1, [k1, p1, p2tog tbl, p6, k1] to last st, k2.
Row 7: K1, [k1, p1, k5, k2tog, yo, k tbl, yo, p1] to last st, p1.
Row 8: P2, [p3, p2tog, p4, k1] to last st, k2.
Row 9: K1, [k1, p1, k3, k2tog, k2, yo, k tbl, yo, p1] to last st, p1.
Row 10: P2, [p5, p2tog, p2, k1] to last st, k2.
Row 11: K1, [k1, p1, k2, k2tog, k4, yo, k tbl, p1] to last st, p1.
Row 12: P2, [p6, p2tog, p1, k1] to last st, k2.

In lace patterns where the stitch count in the pattern repeat varies from row to row, I usually make a note of it to draw knitters attention to it. So for the lace pattern above I would put a note in the pattern to say: Stitch count increases on right side rows (by 1 stitch per pattern repeat) and returns to normal on every wrong side row. You will then know that if you cast on 32 stitches and count your stitches after row 1, you will have more stitches. 

Above is a shawl I'm working on at the moment. And below is the chart and written instructions for the lace pattern (the chart key is the same as for the first example). You can see that in this chart there are lots of grey stitches and it all looks a bit confusing. Each pattern repeat is 19 stitches and I have four stitches extra. So if I work the pattern repeat twice, I will cast on 42 stitches. On row 1, I work two yarn overs and two decreases so the stitch count stays the same. But I've still got grey squares on row 1. In this lace pattern, the grey squares are to allow for different stitch counts on various rows and also to show how the stitches line up against those in the rows below and above. 

On row 2, I work two decreases but no increases (yarn overs). I therefore finish row 2 with two stitches less per pattern repeat - 38 stitches. On row 3, I work two decreases but four yarn overs. I have two stitches in hand from row 2, so that means that after row 3 my stitch count is back to normal - 42 stitches. On row 4, I decrease two stitches per pattern repeat so I have two stitches less again. On row 5, I work two decreases plus eight yarn overs. I have two decreases in hand from row 4 plus two decreases from row 5 which makes it a total of four stitches but I've increased eight. So after row 5, I have four stitches extra per pattern repeat, ie a total of 50 stitches. On rows 6 and 7, I decrease two stitches per pattern repeat per row. Those four stitches I've decreased per pattern repeat on these two rows, make up for the four extra yarn overs I worked on row 5. So now my stitch count is back to normal.

Chart  - Written Instructions:
Row 1 (RS): K2, (k1, k2tog, k6, yo, k1, yo, k6, ssk, k1) to last 2 sts, k2.
Row 2 (WS): P2, (p1, p2tog tbl, p13, p2tog, p1) to last 2 sts, p2.
Row 3: K2, (k1, k2tog, k4, yo, k tbl, yo, k1, yo, k tbl, yo, k4, ssk, k1) to last 2 sts, k2.
Row 4: Repeat row 2.
Row 5: K2, (k1, k2tog, k2, (yo, k1 tbl, yo, k1) three times, yo, k tbl, yo, k2, ssk, k1) to last 2 sts, k2.
Row 6: P2, (p1, p2tog tbl, p17, p2tog, p1) to last 2 sts, p2.
Row 7: K2, (k1, k2tog, (k tbl, k1) seven times, k tbl, ssk, k1) to last 2 sts, k2.
Row 8: P to end.
Row 9: K to end.
Row 10: P, k22.
Row 11: K2, ((k2tog, yo) nine times, k1) to last 2 sts, k2.
Row 12: K to end.
Row 13: K to end.

Row 14: P to end.

Does that all make sense? Don't worry if it doesn't yet, the more experience you get in lace patterns, the more these things will make sense. All you need to worry about when knitting a pattern like this is to knit the stitches shown in the chart and ignore the 'no stitch' stitches. Also, be careful when checking your stitch counts. Do check the chart to see if there are the same number of decreases and yarn overs in each pattern repeat on each row.

So why can't we just put the decreases and yarn overs on the same row and save ourselves a lot of trouble. The placement of decreases and increases in conjunction with each other is what makes the lace pattern look like it does. So by putting the decreases on the same row as the yarn overs, the lace pattern would look completely different.

Please ask any questions you have in the comments below. You can see all the previous Monday Mini Tips and other tutorials on my Tutorials page.

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