Tag Archives: design

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week 2014 – Day 4: Conversations Between Workers

I’m taking some liberties with today’s topic. Although it was meant to be a conversation between workers and their tools, I have much more to say about the interactions between my knitting (designing) work and the work I do in my day job.

You see, whilst I’m a knitter by night, by day I’m actually an incredibly glamorous Shielding Analyst in the nuclear industry. Yes, it’s about as complicated as it sounds but maybe not for the reasons you’d think! As much as I would like to wax lyrical about the basics of particle physics (really!), that’s not the part of my job that has the most impact on my knitting.

Instead it’s the practical aspects of building a 3D computer model of the shielding that needs analysing. The main thing you need to know about radiological analysis in civil nuclear is that tried-and-tested wins out over new and potentially bug-ridden software every time. I have no problem with this cautious attitude, but it does mean I’m using codes rooted in Fortran that were first released around the year I was born. The input is…clunky. I’m manually defining polygons in absolute co-ordinates whilst the mechanical engineers are using CAD packages that look like Minority Report in comparison. I’m not bitter I swear! It keeps my trigonometry razor-sharp, and we all know trigonometry has a very real use in designing knitting patterns. So, your maths teacher was right about all this stuff being useful on two counts.

The alternative title for this post could be “How Radioactive Waste Drums are like armpit shaping”. This is nerdy. This is how thinking about maths leads you in random directions if you’re not careful. I don’t know if this will provide anyone with insight but it’s definitely something.

Below is a screenshot of the software I use. You can see some sample code, and a nice plan view of waste drums in a concrete overpack, closepacked in a project specific 8-drum arrangement.


Did I mention I had to work out the co-ordinates of those drums manually? (fun aside: the software also has very little clash detection until you try to fully load the model and then it’s all like “OH HELL NO” so getting it right first time is a good idea). That’s a perfect example of a problem that can be solved with a bit of trig! It looks like this:


Now you can either recognise that this is a classic 30-60-90 triangle and that x=√3r, or do what I did and work out the much longer way that x = 2rSin60, proving that numeracy is not the same thing as common sense. But it started me thinking about the exact point the circles ‘kiss’ on the x-axis, which here is exactly half the distance between origins.

At the same time I was in the middle of designing a cardigan for the Knitter, and I wanted the armpit shaping to be dead simple – one straight bindoff row then a bunch of alternate row decreases until the correct armpit depth was achieved. But what width should the bindoff be compared to the decrease section? Perhaps it should be just before the point where the curve of the armpit becomes closer to vertical than horizontal? And as this is meant to be a close fit maybe we can simplify the armpit shape to a circle with a radius of required armpit depth? And that would make that point the exact point where a 45° line intersects the circles circumference? Which would be rSin45! Or…roughly 70% of the total armpit depth! Yes! Another successful day at t’mill!

Dramatic reconstruction of actual events

Dramatic reconstruction of actual events

Although the ideal proportions for this kind of armpit may be up for debate, I found this ratio to work very well for my purposes.

I understand this is a very quick run through more maths than most people have to worry about but nonetheless, I think it makes for a nice story of how you can get from here

accelerated-sites-traws-overpack-3to here

(C) The Knitter

(C) The Knitter

through the magic of Maths!


All of my posts for this week are collected here.

You can see what everyone else is posting today here.


Filed under KniCroBloWeek2014

A little prototype

So back when I was still high on Christmas leftovers I wrote a few sentences about how there was a certain disconnect between the things I like to wear and the things I like to knit. What I meant was, I received a sudden flood of really really freakin cute ideas for things I could totally knit, but might not fit into my wardrobe. As I said: high on Christmas leftovers. And crack.*

Eventually one of these ideas made it as an Idea To Make Happen, and I made it so:


What you see here is a teensy little shawlette covered in adorable apples. So cute! Worth it! It also proved to be an excellent stashbusting exercise. If there’s any white 4-ply left in my flat then I’d like to hear about it. This isn’t a full size wrap, but as experiments go I’m pretty excited about it. In fact I’ve already acquired the wool to make a ‘proper’ version! Hopefully I can post more updates soon, because the world needs more knitted apples, and I need something to make up for the cardigan

*I am lying about the crack.


Filed under Projects, WIPs

Circular yoke experiments

It’s almost too hot for knitting at the moment. Outside anyway. I’ve never been so grateful to be living in a garden flat. This is because I’m so English if I’m exposed to temperatures over 32°C I burst into flames and wither away with a dying shriek of “This is absolutely bloody ridiculous it issssss!”

My patented summer survival plan is two-fold.
1. Knit only lightweight projects (e.g. laceweight blouses)
2. A mixture of 4 parts gin, 2 parts sugar syrup, 1 part lemon juice, poured over ice and topped up with club soda.

Before the temperatures took off though, I had a good time whipping up an experimental top-down, in-the-round t-shirt in that awesome Yarnyard yarn I have kicking about.


This is just the main stockinette ‘body’ with no proper hems so the bottom edge is rolling like crazy right now. It wants to be a belly top but my stomach hasn’t seen the light of day since 2005. Let’s not start now.


What really makes this top an experiment for me is the armpit shaping. Once I knit the yoke, bound off the tops of the armholes and separated front and back, I knit in these little short-row triangle wedges at each armpit edge. These raise up the conical shape of the yoke and make it sit directly on the ball of your shoulders (if you get the calcs right).

I was trying to ape a vintage jumper pattern I knitted a while ago, which uses similar shaping to give you a circular yoked jumper and set-in sleeves at the same time. It lets you get super-fitted results if you’re so inclined.

Vintage schematic

It’s hard to find modern patterns that do this but Anne Kingstone is a designer that favours the technique in such garments as April and Mallorn. It seems like the main problem with knitting circular yokes is you have to be very sure they’re the right circumference for your own individual shoulders. If it’s too loose/the armhole is too deep the yoke slips down and you get rumpling by the armpit like so:


And then of course the opposite problem gives you all sorts of stress and stretching in the fabric at the sleeve cap bind off point. Luckily I think this turned out ok!

Now I’ve used up all that lovely bright green, I still have a whole ball of dark green to add for contrast. The only niggle I have at this point is I want the contrast bands to be pretty thick, which probably means ripping back both top and bottom until it looks right. Ripping is always just a tiny bit depressing!

Anyway. Stay cool guys, stay cool.


Filed under Projects, WIPs

If in doubt, knit accessories

This is the project I mentioned last week, that I’d been hiding from the internet. Soon to be my next pattern – a matching set of dude’s winter accessories!

 Yellowhammer Gloves
Yellowhammer Hat

I’ve had the gloves planned out for a while actually. Right down to the calendar schedule – because they were meant for T to wear this winter as much they were meant as a pattern sample.

But once I’d completed one I realised I would have plenty of leftover wool for a beanie too. Schedule disrupted! So I set aside that week’s blog post and went to town on a hat.

 These have both turned out fantastically well. The yarn is the Cornish Organic DK I bought earlier in the year. The fabric is thick and warm and sturdy. Perfect!

 They have been named the Yellowhammer Hat and Gloves. Both are now up for test-knitting on Ravelry here and here. So if you have tragically empty needles right now, take a look!


Incidentally, writing up the pattern for the Sashiko cardigan is about 75% done. It’s been a bit of a slog, because it’s multisize and a first for me. If you’ve written one glove pattern a second one isn’t much of a stretch, but a whole cardigan from scratch…yikes!

 Anyway, onwards with the knitting! I bet you’ve got at least one fall project started already right?


Filed under Finished Objects, Projects

Knitwear that flatters

Ladies, I would like to talk to you about knitwear and body shape.

Cory Ellen at indie.knits recently started off an interesting series of posts on her body type and what knitwear does and doesn’t suit it. That subject has been stuck in my mind all freakin’ week as a result.

I think it’s really important to discuss these things amongst those of us that make our own clothes. We put so much effort into our wardrobe we can’t afford to waste time on unflattering things! You can learn a lot by seeing what suits people the same shape as you – and also what suits those who aren’t.

In that spirit, I am going to respectfully take the indie.knits post format and add my own findings to the mix.

One of the easiest ways to figure out your silhouette/body type is to use computer trickery, by which I mean “drawing lines over your widest and narrowest points in Paint”.

I’m an hourglass in that my bust and hip measurements are the same, but it’s always a bit more complicated than that. Specifically, I’m an  hourglass with a short neck, very square shoulders, a medium bust and slightly lower than average bustline, an extremely short waistline, and long high hips. Not shown: one helluva swayback. Fitting the curve of your lower back is more of an issue in sewing than knitting so I shall leave that out for now.

I’m already pretty pernickety about how things fit me, so whilst taking me clothes shopping is a soul-sapping experience I don’t recommend, I like most of my knits. There are some exceptions though! Now to go through some of my knitwear collection in order of least-flattering to most:

Fair isle yoke jumper.

Oh hi there first-ever-fair-isle-jumper! How you doing? We don’t see much of each other these days do we? Your sleeves are a weird length and your neckline bothers me, that’s why! I don’t really like high necklines, because they hide my neck and leave only the expanse of my face. All I need is a camera flash to give me nowt but extra chins.
The vertical height of my waistline could be measured in mm, so anything with a dramatically nipped-in waist has to be exactly the right length to hit it or I appear to go up a dress size.

The jumper looks rather awkward on me when I wear it with trousers of any kind, but not too shabby with a high-waisted pencil skirt, because I can then ruck the ribbing up to the right height without exposing my midriff. The problem is I only own one high-waisted pencil skirt. Oops. Nowadays I try to make sure jumpers fit in with the rest of my wardrobe before knitting them.

Aran off-shoulder jumper.

Oh hi there first-ever-complete-jumper! There’s plenty I like about this. The sleeves and torso are both nice lengths. I just take issue with the raglan armholes. Here’s a shop bought raglan cardigan which again, I do like, but the sleeves don’t quite work for me (I have no idea where that blue light is coming from).

Raglan sleeves have a narrowing, rounding effect on the shoulders, so you’d think they’d work on a set like mine but no. They fit weird. See the wrinkle forming around my pits in both cases? I have fairly deep armpits, so raglans are going to get really stretched out over the corners of my shoulders. That, I believe, is the main fit issue with that particular sleeve style.

Next up are two shop bought knits for your perusal.

Both very similar! Neither of them are completely perfect but they get worn a lot anyway. I really like this length, which hits round about the lowest part of my hips. It cuts the length up nicely. Also, these are both tight-fitting enough to highlight my dangerous curves. Essential! That cowl neckline adds a nice bit of interest over the décolletage in both cases. The green jumper mostly gets worn to work because it hangs fine over smart trousers but looks lumpy over jeans. It also has raglan sleeves, but I don’t think it matters in this instance because the fabric is stretchy enough to compensate for any fit issues.

Beatnik jumper (click for better pics!)

God I love this jumper so much I cannot wait until it’s cold enough for me to live in it every day. What perfect proportions! Wide open necklines are kind of a thing for me. I also seem to gravitate towards ¾ length sleeves a great deal. I think (correct me if I’m wrong) that these two things work together to make the bustline appear higher and the waist lower, which I need. I tend to knit in DK weight yarn or thinner so this aran weight is a rare departure for me. Thicker wool adds width to the torso, as does a wide panel of texture. But in this instance I could not care less as the overall effect is just great.


Things I like are: wide saucy necklines, tailored sleeve caps, long hip-length garments, ¾ length sleeves, precision waist shaping, fine clingy fabrics. Oh, snap.

Things I don’t like are: thick wool, raglan sleeves, blouson shaping, high crew necklines.

But those aren’t hard and fast rules. I have no problem with one unflattering feature from category 2, provided it’s balanced out by a number of other features from category 1. Possibly with the exception of the crew neckline.

Oh, and I do not wear empire-line anything, ever. Wear empire-line: look 5 months pregnant. No thanks.

Do you know your silhouette? What kind of knits make you look fabulous? Share your knowledge!

(P.s. If analysing your shape is a new thing to you, then I highly recommend the Fit To Flatter series by seasoned knitwear designer Amy Herzog. It makes things very clear)


Filed under Ramblings

FO: Sashiko Cardigan

Done, done, done and done! How about that? After that first kerfuffle with the sleeve caps, they fit really well. Thank goodness, because this is not a yarn that you can easily knit, wash, frog and re-knit without it looking like a wibbly mess.

Not that I would like to disparage you from the yarn (Sublime Extra Fine Merino DK). It’s pretty much my go-to for any stitch pattern that needs to be crystal clear. Very smooth, very drapey and very easy to get hold of in the UK at least!

This diamond sashiko pattern has turned out better than I ever imagined. You can see how beautifully it photographs – the pattern changes ever so subtly with the light.

Obviously I am very, very pleased with this cardigan. The neckline worked out exactly how I wanted, the length is spot-on. I just love it when a plan comes together!

Now I’ve also spent a fair bit of time sitting in front of my notes with a pen in my mouth whilst saying “hrmmm” a lot. I think I am going to try writing this one up into an actual pattern! Eventually! As first cardigan patterns go, it’ll be a challenge; all those travelleing stitches will see to that. But I think it’ll be worth it?

In the mean time I’m going to be happily swanning around in my creation. It’s still juuuuuust cool enough around here that I can wear this in the mornings and evenings. Even dubious weather has an upside!

Update! In March 2013 I finally published the thing! Pattern available here!


Filed under Finished Objects, Projects

Altering Fair Isle Charts in Excel

This week I thought I’d write up a little bit of Excel charting trickery I haven’t seen anywhere else on the internet: A simple macro that lets you ‘paint by numbers’.

Excel is pretty handy for making quick and dirty colourwork charts for knitting, what with it being bundled with so many PCs. Open up a new workbook, set the column widths to 2.25 and you have a nice grid for playing around with!

But if you’ve tried this often enough in Excel, you’ll know that altering the colour scheme is kind of a pain. Copying formats around is not something Excel does spectacularly well, even in the newer versions where you can apply styles.

So I like to use this little setup.

I start by making a ‘palette’ where each number has a background colour I want in the pattern. I then build up a number chart of the pattern I want. Then I run my macro: For every number in my palette, it looks through the chart to find that number. When it finds a match, it copies the background colour of my palette number to a cell 17 rows below the matching chart number. The result is a full colour chart transposed 17 rows below my number chart.

So when I want to change the colours in the pattern, all I have to do is change the palette’s background colours and run the macro again! It’s a real time saver if you’re like me and can’t decide on a colour scheme.

Enough waffle. Here’s the code (Please read on for an explanation of how to use it):

Sub Paintbynumbers()
Dim Chart, Palette, c As Range
Set Chart = Range("L9:Z24")
Set Palette = Range("D5:D9")
For Each i In Palette
 For Each c In Chart
 If c.Value = i Then
 Selection.PasteSpecial Paste:=xlPasteFormats
 End If
  Next c
 Next i
 Application.CutCopyMode = False
 End Sub

If you want to use it in an Excel workbook yourself, make sure macros are enabled (check security settings), hit Alt+F11 to open the Visual Basic Editor, click Insert>Module and paste the code into the new window. This should work for any version of Excel from ’97 onwards.

BUT!! Please note the red highlights! These are values you will have to change yourself according your charting needs!!

The first is the cell range of your number chart. The second is the cell range of your palette. The third is the number of rows to offset the colour chart from the number chart by. This third value must be greater than the number of rows in your number chart or the two will get all mushed up together.

Then just select the ‘Paintbynumbers’ macro from the Excel macro menu and you’re away (or add a macro button to the worksheet – the help file will tell you how if you’re stuck). You can generate all the colour schemes you like!


Filed under Guides/How-to's