Cross posted at the Create Along

People run pretty hot and cold, when it comes to the topic of charts. Personally, I'm a big fan of them, and when it comes to lace, I find it nearly impossible to work without a chart. If you saw my knitting notebooks, you'd see that, no matter how simple or complex, I always chart my lace patterns out. If you enjoy working from charts or if you ever need to create a chart for a pattern, you can produce good clean results with spreadsheet software like Excel. I've created several tutorials in the past, which you can access here. This tutorial will use some of the same techniques I've covered in Using Excel to design colorwork and Using Excel to aid in writing multi-sized patterns. If you haven't seen those tutorials and you aren't comfortable using a program like Excel, I suggest you browse them to get the basic concepts of working in Excel.

The lace

I've chosen a very simple lace stitch pattern, designed by Dorothy Reade, which I'm using in Donna Druchunas' upcoming book.

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Here are the verbose instructions.

Multiple of 6+7
Foundation row: k1, *kbl, yo, ddc, yo, kbl, k1* repeat to end of row
Even numbered rows: Purl
Row 1: ssk, *yo, kbl, k, kbl, yo, ddc* to last 6 stitches, then, yo, kbl, k, kbl, yo, k2tog
Rows 3, 5, and 7: ssk, *yo, k3, yo, ddc* to last 6 stitches, then, yo, k3, yo, k2tog
Row 9 and 13: k1 *kbl, yo, ddc, yo, kbl, k1* repeat to end of row
Row 11: ssk, *yo, kbl, k, kbl, yo, ddc* to last 6 stitches, then, yo, kbl, k, kbl, yo, k2tog

These instructions could be compressed even further, as the foundation row, 9, and 13 are all identical and 1 and 11 are identical. Even so, I find it hard to use these instructions to visualize what I'm doing. I also find that it takes me longer to memorize a lace pattern if I can't see it charted out.

Set up your workspace

Select all the rows and cells in your Excel sheet and adjust the size of the cells to mimic the shape of a knit stitch. If need be, refer to the colorwork tutorial for more information on how to do this.

Based on the verbose instructions, I see that the +7 is made up of one stitch at the beginning of the row and 6 at the end and that there is a foundation row and 7 public side rows. Because I know this, I can number my rows and add grid lines.

If you can't determine this from reading the instructions, just begin charting your lace, and go back add the row and stitch counts and your grid lines, later.

Inserting the first row of symbols

Foundation row: k1, *kbl, yo, ddc, yo, kbl, k1* repeat to end of row

There is no need to download fancy schmancy knitting fonts. You can communicate with your standard set of characters. See the key above, to see how I've translated the stitches to letters. Use characters that will make sense to you. I like a blank stitch for knit, "t" for "twist," "o" for "yo," and slashes and a carrot for the decreases. Don't like that? Do something different. I won't hate.

The first row with a modified last repeat

Row 1: ssk, *yo, kbl, k, kbl, yo, ddc* to last 6 stitches, then, yo, kbl, k, kbl, yo, k2tog

The first row in which we have a reason for those extra 6 stitches at the end. While the main pattern repeat requires a double decrease, the first and last decreases of the row will be single decreases. You will be able to see this more clearly when we get to the end.

Convert remaining rows to chart format

Complete the pattern as indicated in the verbose instructions. Whenever I can, I like to copy and paste, duplicate stitches and rows. Do whatever works best for you.

Double check your work, going stitch by stitch from text to chart.

The end results are neat and clean, but would probably cause confusion. It's not clear where the pattern repeats begins and ends.

Outline the repeat

Select the stitches that make up the repeat. In some patterns, this is very intuitive based on how the pattern is written, but some patterns are harder to distill down to a repeat, especially those where the location of the repeat shifts for one area to another. Lucky for us, this pattern is expressly written to make the repeat obvious, it's everything between the two asterisks [*]

Just select the stitches you want to outline, and choose a thick border to outline it. You can choose a custom border by going to the FORMAT menu and choosing CELL.

Shading for clarity

Finally, to make the repeat really obvious, shade everything that only gets worked once per row. This makes the repeat really clear and visually indicates the secondary elements.

I think that you'll find that many lace and knit/purl stitch patterns can be worked up this way. Have fun with it.

In the next tutorial, I'll cover doing more complex lace charts and discuss the ever-confounding "no stitch."

Sure, my dogs live a good life. We don't bat an eyelash at driving and hour and a half to spend the day at the beach, just for them. And sure, we buy them high quality food and shower them with love and live with ungodly amounts of hair so that they might join us on the couch and bed, at their whim. Yes, it seems like the world is their oyster, but don't be fooled, these are some hard working girls.

Both Thea and Panda, showed their style, grace and excellent sit stays, in today's photoshoot.

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That, my friends, is the unbelievably soft baby camel down of whacking fame.

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Final Product
Content: Baby Camel Down
Color: Natural
From: Chameleon Colorworks
Quantity: 2 ounces/167 Yards
Singles: Spun using a long draw method, after gently fluffing the fibers.
Plies: 3-ply using the Navajo plying method.
WPI: Oh, 12-14. This is some lofty fiber, indeed. Fresh off the bobbins, the plied yarn was closer to 18 WPI, but everything just bloomed after the beating.
Results: I can't get over how soft this yarn is. Every time I touch it, iI want to drop everything and make something of it. The navajo plying didn't really go as well as I hoped. I don't think I put quite enough twist in the singles to carry it off successfully and I'm darn horrible at reattaching fiber when I've broken it. Something about controlling the loop, aligning the fibers and not losing all the twist in the singles, just eludes me. Does anyone have any handy dandy tips?

I don't think the yarn's a loss though. There are lots of good solid area and the little bits of ugly will be well concealed once knit up. I love this yarn.

If you aren't burned out on black and white doggies, you can see the pictures from our weekend adventures, over here.
Stewie (the car) is till out of commission, but we'd never let a little thing like that get in our way.

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Today, I handed off the first draft of my super secret Stitch Diva project, which is a huge relief. Two projects down, 3 to go.

Craft and Whacking Baby Camels

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So a friend of mine from many moons ago (hi Doug!), comment the other day that I should go look at the upcoming cover for Craft magazine, as I'd find something rather familiar there.

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So wow, yah, it looks a lot like my Crime of Fashion scarf. Similar, but definitely different (the font, for sure, is different and the finishing as well.) I scratched my head a bit and went to their site, but couldn't determine if the pattern was inspired by mine or not and whether I should say something. Of course, only one thing to do, bug my friend Julia and ask her what she thinks, since Julia is always my sounding board, especially for all things knitterly. At the time, she found that there was already a link to MagKnits on their about page for the scarf, which suggested that they had seen my version, but no link to me. It's another week before the magazine is released so I wrote them.

Turns out that right before publication, they did, indeed, find my version and that I get a little shout out in the end AND, as you may now have noticed, they've added a link to me on that same about page.

How
Cool
Is
That?


I'm sorta kinda in Craft!

I've also been spinning some more, while I work on my deadline projects. Remember that rather pathetic attempt at spinning Yak fiber? It was so soft and oh-so-ugly. While I was glad I was actually able to spin the fiber at all, I was hesitant to spin up any more of my Luxury Fiber of the Month goodies, for fear I'd just end up with 6 skeins of nearly useless novelty yarn. Well, I broke down and had my hand at baby camel down.

I spun 167 yards of of 3 ply, from the 2 ounces I have and am much happier with the results. I did slightly under spin it, so the yarn broke a lot as I was working the navajo ply. Pretty crazy, since I was using the super high speed whorl on El Matchador, but I guess those short, downy fibers, need a LOT of twist.

Even so, I'm happy and the camel down got itself a rinse and a royal whacking.

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Final yarn pictures to come.

That's all for now, check out some pics of Thea's second agility class, here.

Thea sends a puppy kiss (or at least a cold nose in your ear) to each of you, Panda first.

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Thank you all for the concern and well wishes. We are all, thankfully, doing fine. We believe we've found a reliable mechanic (based on a couple testimonials from Leo's colleagues) and Stewie (the Element) is off to get fixed up.

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It's weird sending your car off with a stranger. I am sure he thought I was insane but I decided to get shots of him and his vehicle and his plates, juuuuuuust in case he was a craze Element steeling maniac. You never know.

Between writing up my super secret Stitch Diva project and working on a couple other projects for a book, I've been putting El Matchador to work. Oooh baby.

While at the Fiber Frolic, I picked up 2 ounces of a cashmere and tussah silk blend from Fox Fire Fibers. This stuff is yum-ME (as in mememememememe give me more.) However, it is also a real challenge to spin. The silk fibers are substantially longer than the cashmere and, when spun from the end, all the silk gets drafted out first leaving a poof of cashmere.

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I decided to try a 90 degree turn and see if that helped at all. Once again, spinning from the fold seems to have helped me coerce the fibers into submission. Instead of fibers flowing freely from the end, the folding seems to lightly link the fibers together, like those pop-up boxes of facial tissues. As fibers get drafted out, they bring more fibers with them. While the silk and cashmere may not have been perfectly distributed, with this method, they were far more so than when spinning from the end. That's as close to success as I can ask for.

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The final yarn is luxurious and the color makes me positively hungry, it's so decadent.

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Final Product
Content: Cashmere and Tussah Silk (quantities not specified)
Color: Summer Berries
From: Fox Fire Fibers
Quantity: 2 ounces/109 Yards
Singles: From the fold using a long draw technique
Plies: 3-ply using the Navajo plying method
WPI: Approximately 16
Results: The yarn is not perfect but I absolutely love it. The colors are rich and the feel is soft, silky and full of drape. I think this would make for a really fabulous hat, though if I had more, I'd gladly make a sweater from it. I'm curious to see how much the fabric pills and if the silk helps control that at all. The yarn bled substantially, when I washed the skein. I added just a touch of vinegar to the water, in hopes it might set the color a little more, but I can tell you, I won't be mixing this with any other yarn, in my finished knit piece, for fear of color contamination.

And in doggy news, guess what Leo got for the girls?

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This will replace the small bed we keep in the Element (whenever he is back) to allow room for both girls to snuggle up. The old bed was fine for one dog or one adult and one baby puppy dog, but it's gotten quite cramped in there. We've been on the lookout for a replacement, since adopting Thea and finally found this one, here.

And hey, if we are ever homeless, this bed will be big enough for all 4 of us to sleep on.

Two wheelin'

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Well, what did we do this weekend?
Let's see, we went to see Harry Potter. They left a lot of important stuff out. It was good, though and if you've read the book, you should be able to follow along fine. I thought that Umbridge bore a striking resemblance to the first lady. I'll leave it at that.

Oh and I went Salsa dancing. That was fun.

What was that other thing?
...

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