This design is just gorgeous. No doubt about it. It's the Rowan "Blithe" jacket from the spring/summer 2010 magazine. It's done in Summer Tweed -- an awesome silk and cotton blend. I am currently working up this design for a custom knitting client, and since the pattern is so exquisite, and so wickedly challenging, I thought I'd share some thoughts about knitting it. Not only in case you too would like to create it yourself, but to help you with other projects with similar challenges. First off, I am indeed using Summer Tweed for this project. It's a textured yarn that tends to stick up on bamboo, wood, or the old fashioned metal needles. I've knitted Summer Tweed on metal needles -- the worst knitting experience of a lifetime -- very slow going since the yarn adheres to the shaft of the needle. Most of the time you're prying your stitches along. If you're using this yarn, I highly recomment an Addi Turbo nickel-plated needle. The stitches will slide with ease, worry-free. That way you focus on your work and not on making your stitches behave. So now, the Blithe. The entire piece is open work. The pattern for the fabric is not written out. It's charted. Unlike a lace panel for which you'd follow each stitch on every chart row, a garment chart for open work will customarily indicate sizing. This means, you'll be reading only the portion of the chart that applies to the size you're making. This design includes sizes Small to XXL. I'm making the Medium. Folks doing the XXL have an easier row to hoe: just work the entire chart. My size is right in the center of the spectrum, so this means I start about a third into the chart and finish about a third before the end. The right side of this is where the action takes places. There isn't even one plain knit stitch here. It's all either yo's or some sort of decrease operation. Each block of the chart contains a symbol, but in each of the RS rows, the symbols come in a prescribed sequence. The wrong side is a purl back row. When working a chart like this, you have to pay attention. It's reuthlessly jealous. And in an open texture like this, there's no hiding errors. It's either right or wrong, and seeing a stitching mistake in this thing is just as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. Learn the chart symbols like you'd learn to read alphabet letters and words, so that when you see the symbol you know exactly what it means. Being able to read a chart like you read a book makes following it much easier. Luckily most symbols are universal and don't vary much from chart to chart. Next, study the chart apart from the knitting. Identify the pattern sequences for each row and form the single sequence into a sentence such as "double decrease, skp, k2tog". Having a mantra like this will help you keep the sequences straight as you work them. It will also help you check your work after the row to make sure everything's there that needs to be there before you set the purl back row on top of the lace work. I find it helpful to nickname the symbols -- this might sound silly, but it works for me. It may work for you, it may not. But this is what I do. Some operations have long names like "slip knit pass" or "slip 1, k2tog, psso". The SKP is noted with a left leaning slanted line. Come up with a name for the symbol itself. The goofier the better. I've been calling the SKP symbol a "chut-chut" (a cajun slang word for a tab or something that sticks out) -- no reason why I chose that name. It just came to mind first. The SKP is a decrease operation, and with lace, remember, every decrease is paired with an increase. So for me, the "chut-chut" includes the SKP and the YO. A double decrease is most often noted with an inverted "V" symbol. I just call it a "tee-pee". Included in "tee-pee" are the two YO's required to make up for the two decreased stitches. So "YO, Sl1, K2tog, PSSO, YO" is all compounded into one concept: "tee-pee". A K3tog is another double decrease. It's noted by the same inverted "V" but has a vertical line from the point to the bottom. I call it a "Wigwam". The K2tog symbol is a right leaning slanted line. I've been calling that "right". The goofiest of all these is the double yarn-overs, which I've called "diddle diddle". So, one of the sequence sentences that I use to remember what I'm doing across the row might go something like this: "Tee-pee, right, right, diddle diddle, chut-chut." So much easier. Of course doing this requires understanding from sight what the symbols mean and knowing how to work the operations automatically.
Now, the math. Since I'm working in the center of the chart and not from beginning to end, this means that my row starts mid-stream. The hallmark of what makes lace lacey is is the pairing of increases and decreases. It's like tempo rubato in music: whatever you take away you have to give back somewhere. Every SKP has a yarn over. Every K3tog has 2 yarn over's. In order to start in the middle of the chart or to accomodate the garment shaping, identify what increases go with what decreases and replace them with a simple operation that fills the stitch requirement (an SKP may just become a K1, for example). It's a matter of adding and subtracting in order to keep the stitch count constant, but at the same time, keeping the pattern correct. If you add one, you have to subtract one, but if you add one on the edge of your chart thats been subtracted beyond the boundery for your garment size, the add one (yo) will more than likely just be a K1. As you make the modifications to the sequence on the boundaries of the chart portion you need, make notes to help you make further accomodations along the way when it's time for the shaping. The Blithe Jacket is a math puzzle. It's a fun math puzzle, and the result is fabulously beautiful. Be patient with it, and enjoy it!