If you write garment patterns as I do, shaping is just part of the deal. I have a hard time visualizing “reverse shaping for the other side”, so I have to write it out for both sides. Plus, I like to mirror things, which sometimes makes the two sides slightly different. When I started writing patterns for my own company, I wrote right and left shaping. I wrote row-by-row instructions so it was easy to follow what to do and to work the changes in the stitch pattern caused by the shaping. This can get really lengthy.
Shaping: What Should It Look Like?
Knitting patterns typically condense shaping instructions as much as possible. This is a nice concept, although I think a lot of important information gets left out. My thinking in creating written patterns was that when I’m knitting, I really just want to knit. I like working shaping because it is more interesting, but I like working quickly more! I want to sit down and be able to make as much forward progress on my knitting as possible in the time I have to knit. What I need to make that happen is this:
- How do I work the shaping? Type of increase or decrease to be worked.
- Where do I work the shaping? Number of stitches in from the edge. Spacing of rows between increases.
- How do I handle the incomplete pattern stitches (if any) before and after the shaping? Place markers to mark off complete patterns. Spell out the remaining pattern stitches.
Below are examples of how you might find shaping in stitch patterns presented:
Stockinette Example A:
Dec Row: K1, SSK, knit, k2tog, k1. -2 sts
This tells you to work a specific decrease (SSK and k2tog) one stitch in from the edge.
Stockinette Example B:
Dec Row: Knit, working a decrease at the beginning and end of every RS row. -2 sts
This lacks instruction for where specifically or which shaping stitches to use.
Stockinette Example C:
Dec Row: K1, SSK, knit to last 3 sts, end k2tog, k1. -2 sts
This tells you to work a specific decrease (SSK and k2tog) one stitch in from the edge. Adding “last X sts, end” lets me know that I will have that number of stitches before I work my shaping stitch.
Lace Pattern Example A:
Dec Row: K1, SSK, work pattern as established, k2tog, k1. -2 sts
This tells you to work a specific decrease (SSK and k2tog) one stitch in from the edge, then to recommence the original pattern as appropriate for the row.
Lace Pattern Example B:
Dec Row: Work pattern as established, working a decrease at beginning and end of every RS row. -2 sts
This tells you only to work decreases at the beginning and end of the row while working established pattern.
Lace Pattern Example C:
Dec Row: K1, SSK, k2, YO, k2tog, work pattern as established to last 7 sts, end, k2tog, YO, k2, k2tog, k1. -2 sts
This tells you to work a specific decrease (SSK and k2tog) one stitch in from the edge, and tells you how to work the stitches in the stitch pattern repeats impacted by the shaping, while working the original pattern ,for that particular row.
Example C is how I write my patterns. Let’s face it, it gets pretty lengthy to write patterns like this with shaping through armhole and neckline, or other shaping areas. Sometimes it is really the only way to give the knitter clear, easy-to-execute and follow directions. There are ways I can condense this, which I explain below.
Shaping: Why Write the Detail?
So my original inclination was that I had to write out the pattern to see it myself, so I might as well present it in my patterns for others. This was always appreciated by LYS and those familiar with my work. Often now these carefully prepared pattern, which include written instructions, at least some charts, schematics, and pattern-specific techniques, are perceived as being difficult due to length, while I believe I have made them less difficult, and easier to follow.
I am stubborn though, and I do not believe that making the knitter figure out the shaping on every row is the best way to make knitting designs accessible. I am aware there are other ways to do it, but I am still not convinced they are the better way to go.
Everyone runs into areas on patterns where it either fails to make sense to them, or they cannot make it work on the fly. The project gets put aside and if the issue isn’t readily solved, soon it is an unfinished project which leads to guilt and frustration, and often self-flagellation. This isn’t a good outcome. I have always modeled my patterns for the knitter who wants to sit down and knit, not figure things out as they go, figuring that those who don’t want the detail will just press ahead.
Shaping: How to Chart the Detail?
For a long time I didn’t put shaping charts into my patterns, but then I started doing it and it seemed to bring a level of clarity previously missing. Those charts are time consuming to create, and take pages and pages if they show row-by-row every impacted stitch.
To the extent I can, I now use charts that require the knitter to fill in pattern, but even this method requires a pair of charts for each shaping area, for each size, and results in many additional pages (although I cluster them by size so they are easy to use or print). Personally, I think it is a nice balance of allowing the knitter an opportunity to map out their shaping, but it allows me to put in a more reasonable amount work.
Shaping: What Works?
I try to be holistic about writing shaping and approach it as needed for each design. Sometimes the knitting is so straight-forward that the simplest instruction is all that is needed. Other designs require detailed instructions in some places while not in others. Others seem to need guidance at every step.
Bromley Mitts became a free download because of length. The charts are not part of the pattern.