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“Charting Smocking Patterns” — guest post by Karen Butler

We’re delighted to bring you a guest post from designer and tech editor Karen Butler all about using Stitchmastery to customise stitches when chart smocking patterns. We hope you find it useful and inspiring for the start of a new year!

UPDATE April 2018 – Stitchmastery Version 3 has been released and features new tools for customising stitches. If you have upgraded to V3 visit to learn how to use these. The methods detailed in Karen’s article are specific to Stitchmastery Version 2.

Patterns using smocking stitches vary in complexity and can be interesting to chart as well as knit. I’ll be concentrating on customizing stitches for these charts; if you need to know more then check out the video Customising Default Abbreviations and Style Sheet. Charting smocking stitches also involves wide stitches, shifting patterns and stitches which cross over the start of the round; Kate Atherley’s excellent blogs Moving the Goalposts parts 1 and 2 cover these topics.

Smocking involves wrapping the yarn around stitches to form a cluster stitch. The required number of stitches can be placed onto a cable needle and the yarn wound anticlockwise around the base up to three times before working the stitches. An important consideration is how to represent the smocking stitches in your chart.

Stitchmastery has a selection of cluster stitches in the Miscellaneous drawer of the Stitch Palette. In Smocking #1, a standard cluster stitch over 4 stitches was used. Note that the key name for the stitch does not provide enough information to the knitter on how to work the stitch: additional instructions are needed in the key, and/or the abbreviation list.

Chart and key with cluster stitches

Where a cluster stitch uses more than five stitches, a custom cluster stitch is necessary (as shown below).

Chart and key featuring 5-wide cluster stitch

When editing stitches, I find it helps to look at existing stitches to get ideas about what will work. In the Stitch Library I made a duplicate of “cluster 4 sts” to experiment with. Having made edits in the Edit Stitch pop-up window (below), I clicked on Edit Appearance.

screenshot of stitch editing dialogue box

Towards the bottom of the Edit Appearance window is an image of the existing stitch with the Unicode above it: \u0077\u0072\u0072\u0078 (shown below).

screenshot of customising stitch

Looking at the Stitchmastery Dot Cable components, the start and end components are the easiest to spot. The Unicode also allows you to identify the straight line used twice in the middle of the stitch (\u0072) from similar looking options. This can save some trial and error.

To produce a cluster 6 stitch, you need to edit two things in this window: at the top right of the screen I changed the number of columns occupied by the stitch to 6 as well as the stitch itself. In this case, simply adding \u0072\u0072 to the Unicode gives: \u0077\u0072\u0072\u0072\u0072\u0078 (see below).

Screenshot of customising wider stitch

Note that you need to select symbols or enter the Unicode in the correct order to produce the required stitch. A little trial and error will help you learn how symbols work; you can always edit or delete any stitch combinations that don’t work.

A major issue with wide cluster stitch symbols is that it can be difficult to judge at a glance how many stitches are involved. Nor does the symbol give you any indication of how the stitches are worked after the yarn is wrapped around them. In the case of Smocking #2, cluster stitches are worked as k2, p2, k2. A simple way of resolving both issues is to place two purl dots above other components, as in Smocking #3.

Chart and key featuring newly edited custom cluster stitch

The Unicode I used was for the purl dots is \u0030; this code/symbol has to be placed after the code/symbol for the line that I wanted the purl dot to lie above. The final Unicode for this symbol is: \u0077\u0072\u0072\u0030\u0072\u0030\u0072\u0078 (shown below).

Screenshot of customising stitch to include purl bumps

For wider cluster stitches, the variations of working the clustered stitches increases so it is increasingly important to provide additional information in a pattern about the way they are worked. The extra information in the visual representation in the charted stitch is extremely useful, but still needs written information to back it up. Remember that brief key entries are acceptable only if they are backed up by information in an abbreviation list or similar.

Of course, there is more than one solution to any problem. You and the knitters using your patterns will have preferences which need taking into account.

You can find Karen on Instagram at @kazrbutler and Twitter as @literallyyarn. We commissioned this article in response to a request on Instagram – if you have any questions or ideas you’d like to see explored on our blog, please do let us know.

2 thoughts on ““Charting Smocking Patterns” — guest post by Karen Butler”

    1. Not at the moment but I would be happy to consider this for the future. I can see that this would work for colourwork only charts but there would be difficulties with doing any stitches other than just knit stitch.

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