What's in a Number?

Last week, somebody on Twitter posted a link to this table from positiveintegers.org (I really apologise for not making a note of who it was). It was billed as a useful resource for designers because it lists all of the factors of the numbers between 101 and 200 so you know at a glance which numbers of stitches will fit to a particular stitch pattern.

But then it really got me thinking. What if you're working on something with a change in the number of stitches in a repeat. Let's say you have a sweater with a 2x2 rib at the bottom and a 7 stitch body pattern, you can find the number closest to the size you want that will give you both. Similarly if you want to decrease evenly, you can see how many decreases you can make and cross reference against the resulting number of stitches to check whether a second decrease of similar size is possible.

I should have been doing other things, so of course I looked through for the really useful numbers - those with a large number of factors. This was when I discovered something that probably everyone else knows: 168 is a really, really useful number. OK, so it doesn't have 5 or 10 as factors, nor does it have the largest number of factors in the range, but, if we can get over our having 5 fingers on each hand for a minute, it does have plenty to work with (16 in total) and it isn't a number that springs immediately to mind.

So will I be changing how I work out stitch counts? Well, in all honesty, probably not. I'm still firmly wedded to using a spreadsheet for grading as exact numbers of pattern repeats (particularly for larger numbers of stitches) don't always give the right interval between sizes and cross referencing is much quicker. I will however bookmark it as a starting point when looking to combine two stitch patterns.

Geeky mind dump over.

Pattern Checking Basics

Having eased you all in with some posts about things I have been making, I thought it was about time that I posted something geeky about knitting.

First up, what is the difference between pattern checking and technical editing?

I look at the two process as related, but different. Pattern checking is going through a pattern looking for errors, whereas for me, technical editing includes pattern checking, but also correcting any errors (with or without the help of the designer, as needed), re-writing sections for sense, and ensuring that the pattern is written in a consistent style.

We will come back to technical editing at a later date, but in the meantime, here are a few basic starting points for pattern checking. The remainder of this post covers the first step in checking a knitting pattern. It looks at the information section, and provides a checklist of sections that should be included at the start of any knitting pattern.

Check that the size information is appropriate, and that any conversion between metric and imperial has been correctly carried out. If a pattern is designed with negative or positive ease, ensure that the ease is consistent across all sizes. Standard sizing tables are available from websites like Yarn Standards and Ysolda Teague.

Check that any tabulated size information matches the blocking diagram (if one has been provided), and that any sections that should add up, do so. Check length to armhole, armhole depth and shoulder drop add together to make total length. Double check these lengths against the written pattern (if lengths are given in the written pattern).

Check that full information has been provided about the yarn. This should include, Yarn company name, range name, fibre content, mass and yardage (or meterage), shade name and any shade code used by the company. If possible, check this information against the yarn company's shade cards or website. Use Ravelry or online stores only as a last resort, as these can be subject to users inputting information incorrectly. Check that the yarn requirements seem appropriate (and if you have the knitted sample available, weigh it to check that it is correct). Check that the yarn specified seems appropriate for the tension information. Yarn companies often make one line in a number of weights (Rowan Pure Wool, Fyberspates Scrumptious, Patons 100% Cotton to name but a few), and it is all too easy to specify the wrong weight. Look at the classic stocking stitch tension information and see if it looks sensible with the pattern tension information. E.g. DK yarns usually knit to around 22 sts and 30 rows, so a cable pattern in DK yarn might knit to 26 sts and 30 rows, as cables will pull inwards in comparison with stocking stitch. If a pattern had a tension of 28 sts and 36 rows to 10cm over stocking stitch, it is unlikely that it is knitted with DK yarn, so be sure to check again.

Check the tension of each stitch pattern against the sample garment. Ensure that these match the tensions given in the pattern, and that as far as possible, all stitch patterns have tension information. Being able to match a cable pattern tension doesn't guarantee that you will match a stocking stitch or colourwork tension in the same pattern, so to ensure success, each tension needs to match. The other reason for needing all tensions, is to work out the dimensions of each section of work.

Needles and Accessories 
Work through the pattern instructions making a note of all needles and equipment required, and ensure that it is all listed in the materials/accessories section. Check that size conversions are given for the needles or crochet hooks used, and that they are correct. Check that the needles seem sensible with the yarn weight used.

Work through the pattern instructions and make a note of any abbreviations used. Check that there are explanations of any special abbreviations (ones not listed on the general abbreviations list). If the pattern is being published separately, then it is best to include all abbreviations for the avoidance of doubt.

If a chart is included, make sure that somewhere in the pattern, instructions are given on which way to read the rows of the chart. Ensure that the chart has a key, and that all symbols used on the chart are explained.

Phew! And that's only the very beginning of the process of checking a knitting pattern. I highly recommend checking any discrepancies or uncertainties with the pattern's designer. It may seem evident that something is incorrect, but sometimes, there is a good reason for a value or choice being unusual, and there is nothing worse than realising that you have introduced an error, when your job is to get rid of errors.