Knitting as programming

I’ve seen a few people, over the years, compare knitting to programming. It usually goes something like this:

Wow, have you ever looked at a knitting pattern? It looks kind of like source code! Those knitters must be real geeks!

And it’s often accompanied by a snippet of a set of actual knitting instructions that look like incomprehensible gibberish to the uninitiated, but which your grandma could probably read and turn into a jumper or a scarf or an attractive toilet-paper-roll cover (my Nanna actually knitted these!)

In case you haven’t seen this kind of knitting pattern before, here’s an example:

1st Row: P. 3, * k. 1, p. 1, k. 1, p. 3, repeat from * to last 4 sts. (k. 1, p. 1) twice. etc.

A typical knitting pattern from the 1940s. This one is Sun-glo pattern #2616, "Country Club", a sporty cabled sweater in two colours, in case you were wondering.

There was even a post a little while ago entitled Knitters and coders: separated at birth? that talked about knitting patterns as code, and worked through some examples using regular expressions. It was a good post, but I don’t think it went far enough, so I want to riff on it a bit.

Here’s the thing. Let’s say you have a pattern that says:

row 10: k2 p3 *(c6f p6) rpt from * 8 times c6f p3 k2

(Or as the aforementioned article would put it would put it, (c6f p6){9}.)

You read those instructions and do what they say, producing a row of knitting that incorporates a number of cable twists against a purl background.

Is what you’re doing programming? Of course not! It’s the reverse of programming: you’re reading a series of low-level instructions and doing what they say. It would be more accurate to say you’re an interpreter, or possibly a compiler, since it’ll usually save you time and trouble to read a pattern right through before you begin. (Ask me how I know. Ugh.) You might even be called a human computer.

But let’s be clear: even though what you’re doing when you read a pattern is a complex technical skill, and involves code, it’s not programming.

Despite that, I very firmly believe that knitting is like programming. I just think that the common analogy drawn — of printed knitting patterns as source code — is not a very good one for describing the intellectual process of knitting as it is practiced by the current generation of geeky crafters.

To explain this I’m going to have to take a detour, so please bear with me. What follows is based on conversations I had years ago with my friend Rose White, aka @yarnivore, who studies hacker culture and presented at CCC (a hacker conference in Germany) on the subject of guerilla knitting. Watch Rose’s guerilla knitting talk on Youtube. I’m going to proceed to paraphrase Rose for the next few paragraphs here, so credit goes to her, and all blame for any errors to me.

In her presentation, Rose talks about knitting patterns as intellectual property through history. When knitting was first developed in the middle ages, it was a secret skill known only to the members of exclusive knitting guilds, who didn’t share it with anyone else. However, as Rose points out, knitting is easy to reverse engineer, so it didn’t take long for non-guild people to figure it out and start doing it. As one of the great knitters once wrote:

“Really, all you need to become a good knitter are wool, needles, hands, and slightly below-average intelligence. Of course, superior intelligence, such as yours and mine, is an advantage.” — Elizabeth Zimmerman

And so, from about the 16th or 17th century onward, you start to see more people knitting for themselves and their families, or as a cottage industry. Throughout this period, a number of traditional knitting styles and patterns were developed, but the fundamental thing about them was that, for the most part, they were the sort of patterns you could pass from person to person without writing them down.

Take a sock as an example. The simplest sock is a tube of fabric knitted until it’s long enough, then closed up at one end. Of course, it’ll fit better if you find a way to make it bend at an angle around the heel, and there are a number of techniques you can use for that. Ribbing at the cuff will help it stay up better. If you want a long, shapely sock you can add more stitches around the calf and reduce them at the ankle. You’ll save yourself some discomfort and possible blisters if you find a way to graft the toe end instead of sewing a lumpy seam. And of course you’ll probably want to embellish your sock according to the local fashion: perhaps a fancy coloured band around the top, or twisted cables down the side, or a repeating texture all over.

This is just the icing on the cake, though: socks are all just tubes, when you get down to it. Fundamentally, there’s nothing about knitting a sock that needs a pattern; for hundreds of years, all anyone needed was a “slightly below-average intelligence”, an already-knitted one to look at every so often for reference, and perhaps a few pointers from someone who’d done it before. Gloves, jumpers, and other knitted garments are much the same. For the most part, like the Internet, they’re just a series of tubes. Ba-dum-tish!

Fast forward to that point in the industrial revolution when most textile production has become mass production, most working class people are pulling long hours in factories and mills, and it’s cheaper to just buy a pair of socks than to knit your own. At this point, knitting becomes a bit of a luxury activity, and you start to see this in the proliferation of Victorian-era knitting books for ladies, specialising in delicate items like lace doilies and silk purses. No longer were people knitting practical items based on traditional patterns you could figure out with “below-average intelligence”; it became hip to show off your accomplishments by knitting increasingly complex and fiddly items, the patterns for which you could find in the finest publications for the discerning gentlewoman.

And then, in the 20th century, something truly awful happened. You see, the yarn companies realised that if they started publishing patterns themselves, they could use them to sell more yarn. But they didn’t want people using just any yarn. The idea was that you’d buy, say, a Patons pattern and then buy the Patons yarn to knit it with. To make sure that consumers were locked into the Patons brand, they’d make sure that the patterns were obfuscated so you wouldn’t be able to figure out how to substitute another company’s yarn.

This is fundamentally bullshit, and it’s amazing that they ever got away with it, but by this stage people had lost touch with a lot of the traditional methods, and so they didn’t have much choice. Just so the non-knitters understand how diabolical this is, let’s pause for a moment to talk a bit more about how knitting works. If you already knit and know about gauge and yarn substitution, you can skip down to below the next image.

Knitting is basically formed by repeating a single stitch (the knit stitch), which loops a length of yarn through itself in such a way as to form a stretchy fabric. To create a piece of knitting, you “cast on” a certain number of stitches, then knit, either back and forth, or round and round in circles. Each stitch looks like a “V” on one side and a sort of nubbly or wavy effect on the other side. If you want to see this, take a close look at your socks, which probably have Vs on the outside, nubbles on the inside, and alternating Vs/nubbles in the rib around the top. (A “purl” stitch is just a backwards knit stitch, with the V and nubbly sides reversed.)

Depending on the thickness of your yarn and needles, your stitches might be tight or loose. Big needles give looser stitches, and small needles give tighter ones with the same yarn. The measurement of this tightness or looseness — how many little V shapes you have per unit of distance — is called gauge or sometimes tension. For instance, worsted weight yarn on 4.5mm needles normally knits up at a gauge of 5 stitches per 2.5cm/1″, while finer yarn knit on smaller needles will have more stitches in the same distance.

As long as you know the gauge of your project and the yardage it requires, it’s fairly simple to substitute one yarn for another. However, 20th century yarn companies didn’t want you to know this, and they went out of their way to make sure you were locked in to their proprietary system.

Warning -- Use the wool specified, otherwise success of garment cannot be guaranteed. 3 skeins "Sunbeam" or "Wilga" blanket wool, shade No. 2101... etc.

So, this is the system that created knitting patterns like the one I linked at the top of this article, where yarn companies write the patterns and knitters interpret the code and execute it, without much input into the process, not even a choice of what yarn to use.

If being an instruction-executing machine doesn’t sound too appealling to you, you’ll be pleased to hear that there is an alternative. Modern knitters, especially those online, are increasingly returning to traditional techniques, making their own patterns, and adapting existing patterns to their own needs. One of the great leaders in this trend was the late, great Elizabeth Zimmermann, quoted above. EZ, as she is known, helped popularise, or perhaps re-popularise, traditional forms of knitwear in the United States, and along the way taught knitters to throw off the shackles of mid 20th century commercial knitting patterns and think for themselves again.

One of EZ’s best known patterns is for a sweater knitted to what she calls the Elizabeth Percentage System, or EPS. It’s so simple that almost anyone can understand it, and I often use it as an example when explaining the technical side of knitting to non-knitting geeks. It goes something like this:

  • Knit a gauge swatch and measure how many stitches per inch you have. Now measure your torso around your widest point, or your favourite existing sweater. Multiply the number of stitches by the number of inches. This is your key number (K).
  • Using a circular needle, cast on K stitches. This will be the hem around the bottom of your sweater. Knit until you get to the armpits (measure yourself or a favourite sweater to figure out how far that is).
  • For each sleeve, cast on 20% of K, then increase gently (2 stitches every 6 rows should about do it) til you get to 33% of K, then knit straight until your sleeves are long enough.
  • Join the sleeves to the body, and knit the yoke area (i.e. upper chest and back), decreasing — in one of several possible ways, all of which can be derived arithmetically — until you get to 40% of K, which is the neck opening, and cast off.

Of course, you can elaborate in various ways: ribbing at hem, cuffs and collar; textured stitches across part or all of the garment; coloured designs in the yoke area; leave a gap at the front and knit back and forth to make a cardigan. The options are endless, but the fundamental design is the same.

Now, people will possibly point out that EZ’s EPS pattern is copyright, but there’s a lot of bullshit about copyright in the knitting community, so let’s be clear right now: ideas cannot be copyrighted, though the expression of them (the specific words EZ wrote in her books and newsletters) can be. The idea of EZ’s EPS sweater is simple, based on traditional techniques, easy to reverse-engineer, and in fact could be done by anyone with “below-average intelligence” as she herself points out. There’s nothing tricky about it, it’s just simple craft.

But taking this simple kind of design and elaborating on it is where knitting really becomes like programming. When I knit a sweater this way, I’m not executing instructions written by someone else. I’m creating my own code, designing and implementing my own project from the ground up.

I start out by considering my requirements: What sort of garment do I want: pullover, cardigan, long coat? What design elements do I want to incorporate: pockets, a hood, shaping to make it more fitted at the waist, a warm shawl collar, those awesome thumb-holes in the sleeves that let you pull them down and wear them as fingerless mittens? What materials and tools do I have at my disposal? Can I take the opportunity to try out a new technique or refine my skills?

I prototype my design by knitting a swatch or something small like a hat, using the same stitches and yarn as I’m thinking of using for my finished project. From this, I figure out my gauge, and using one of the many tools available I can calculate the yardage I’ll need, without ever relying on a yarn company to tell me how much of their product I ought to buy. Modern yarn sellers list the yardage of their yarn on the label, or failing that, websites like Ravelry have all the information I could need.

To implement my design, I draw on a variety of design patterns — yeah, knitting’s had them far longer than OO programming has — that I’ve learned through classic books like EZ’s or Barbara Walker’s, and through blogs like TechKnitting: short row shaping for better fit, twisted rib for extra stretch in the cuffs and collar, underarm grafting to make a seamless join, endless options for buttonholes, cast-off techniques for all occasions. Some knitting techniques even follow agile principles, like EZ’s “thumb trick” for mittens or her “afterthought pockets”, which are inserted when and where needed without requiring Big Design Up Front.

When it comes to this kind of knitting, an experienced knitter is one who takes a modular approach, mixing and matching existing patterns and individual techniques, to build a finished product. It’s someone who can look at a pattern and figure out how to knit it in a different yarn, a different gauge, and a different size, without breaking a sweat over the calculations. It’s someone who geeks out on the knot topology, the 3D spatial reasoning, and the materials science of it all… and knows how to put them to practical use. It’s the difference between being a code monkey and being an engineer.

So when we talking about how “knitting is like programming”, let’s take a minute to go beyond reading and executing code and think about how much further knitters’ technical skills really extend.


Epilogue: Since I suspect a bunch of geeky knitters will read this, I’m going to lay out my current technical challenge and see if anyone has any thoughts.

I’m knitting a triangular shawl beginning at one of the tips, started by casting on 3st and increasing at the start of every second row. It has integral i-cord borders, which I’m doing by yf, sl 3 at the end of each row, then on the next row I k3 then continue as usual.

On the straight side of the shawl this makes a nice border, firm but stretchy. But on the diagonal side (i.e. the side with the increases) the i-cord, which after all only has half as many rows as there are in the main part of the knitting, is stretched really tight. I’m worried that it’s going to limit my ability to block the shawl as vigorously as I’d like to.

My current best idea is that every second time I do the i-cord on the tightly-stretched diagonal side, I insert an extra row. That is, I would go yf sl3 at the end of the previous row, turn, k3, slip them back on the original needle, then knit the three stitches again and continue. I figure this gives me 3 i-cord rows for every 2 I had previously, which is not far from the sqrt(2):1 ratio of the side lengths. Anyone done this before?


32 thoughts on “Knitting as programming

  • anatsuno

    Crunchy post, yay! I have a few friends I’ll be ahppy to pass this around to.

    re: your present challenge (is this the red shawl you started around the time we discussed it?), I haven’t tried doing this yet – I mostly only did the knit-in icord edge on a rectangular piece before – but I think your solution should work out well… I’m a smidge worried about how tight things might be/become *inside* the border, but it’s certainly worth trying! Hope you’ll tell us how it worked out. :D

  • Skud Post author

    anatsuno: yes, it’s the one I started while you were here, and with your help! I don’t *think* it’ll get too tight inside the border, but I guess the best thing would be to swatch it and see.

  • Penny Richards (@PennamitePLR)

    Disclaimer: Not a knitter–I crochet–but I think most of what you say applies either way. I never thought of things quite this way, though I did make mention of women using gridded quilting patterns and equipment in a paper about gender and map literacy in the 19c. American south. ;)

    I wonder if folks realize that some of us never learned to follow patterns, or at least not very complicated patterns. All my crochet is freeform hacking. I’ll crochet pretty much anything, a hat, a sweatervest, a laptop case, a coral reef costume (http://www.flickr.com/photos/11418107@N02/5108435689/), but it’s usually a surprise to me when it’s done, and I like that. I’m often noodling away when someone asks, “what are you making?” and the honest answer is usually, “I have no idea yet.” I usually play with yarn for a while, see what kind of stitches it likes, see what I’m in the mood for doing, and hey look, that piece looks like something… And then I end up with a hat with antlers.
    http://pennamite.wordpress.com/2010/04/17/mocha-antlers-hat/

    In crochet world there’s also a significant culture of collaborative projects–afghans with squares contributed by various participants, like quilting. That probably works into the analogy too; now I can think of my most recent afghan as “crowdsourced”? ;)
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/11418107@N02/6967669858/

  • Skud Post author

    Penny: love the coral reef costume! Do you know the “coral punk” tea cosy? I’m working on a knitted version of that at present, if by “working on” I mean “half finished, sat on the coffee table for a month until my housemate cleaned it up”. But I do intend to finish it sometime! It’s pretty much improvised as I go, and looks ridiculous.

    Do you have a pointer to your paper on women and map literacy? Sounds right up my alley.

  • Mackenzie

    The extra row is what I thought of too.

    I blogged before about my grandma teaching me to reverse engineer, because my grandma has never read a pattern in her life. She’s a crocheter and never learned about patterns. She just looks at the finished object, the traditional way. Her having taught me that from the start (I crocheted over 10 years before learning to read a pattern) means I can tell when a pattern is wrong and correct it.

    My preferred sock algorithm is the Lifestyle Sock . Cast on a grafted toe on two ends of a circular needle, increase til it fits your toes, make a tube til you reach your ankle, do a short-row heel, knit til you run out of yarn or decide it’s tall enough. Whichever comes first.

    What I want to know is how they handled loose or tight knitters with the proprietary patterns. I’m a loose knitter. I’m knitting worsted weight cotton on size 0 needles to get 5st/in. If it was wool, I’d use size 3 needles. If the patterns didn’t TELL you the gauge, how were you supposed to get anything even remotely the right size?

  • Skud Post author

    Mackenzie: Well, although Rose talks about patterns not having gauge information at all, most of the knitting patterns I was looking through tonight (which are mostly Australian from the 1930s-1950s) did mention it. I suspect if the pattern didn’t specify, you just knitted the garment, tried it on, and went “darn, too loose” and knew next time to move down a needle size. I do remember reading suggestions to that effect in older knitting books. Ugh.

  • Misha

    Yes! I’ve always said EZ was like Cory Doctorow – well-known maker devoted to building a maker culture – but I like this metaphor better. Her patterns really do require you, and enable you, to think for yourself as you work, which then leads you to feel more confident about putting your personal stamp on everything else you knit.

    So does this mean Ravelry = Stack Overflow? ;)

    As to your shawl, have you tried blocking what you’ve got done so far? Is this a yarn that’s going to bloom a lot in blocking? I tend to replace knitted-on I-cord edges with something else, so I can’t be much help, but I’m certain there’s someone on Rav who’ll know. (Or ask Rose! That woman knows her knit.)

  • Penny Richards (@PennamitePLR)

    Hm, try that again. Penny L. Richards, “‘Could I but Mark Out my Own Map of Life’: Educated Women Embracing Cartography in the Nineteenth-Century American South,” Cartographica 39(4)(Fall 2004): 1-17.

    (It’s downloadable on academia.edu)

  • Skud Post author

    Penny: Thanks! I will grab it and read it over lunch tomorrow. Bedtime now!

    (Advanced apologies to anyone who gets stuck in the mod queue overnight. I’ll clear it first thing in the morning.)

  • Skud Post author

    Russ: soooort of, except that most people who knit the way I described never write down the pattern. The knitted object embodies the code, and there is no external representation beyond, perhaps, a few quickly scratched notes. What you describe is more like what a knitwear designer does in order to publish, but that’s not most knitters.

  • Polly

    Great post! It’s a fun analogy. I’ve certainly refactored patterns I’ve written, a bit like I would with code.

    I think Russ is right. Whether you write the pattern down or not, you’ve still executed a set of instructions to get your jumper. If you don’t write down the knitting pattern, it would be a bit like typing all your code directly into a command line interpreter – you are left with the program executing in memory, but no way of easily repeating the process to run the program again. Of course, this is less of an issue with knitting as the jumper instance will not disappear into nothingness when you reboot it :)

  • Vass

    Damn you, Skud. I wasn’t planning to make a jumper this year. Or maybe ever. I still have one and a half socks sitting on the couch beside me waiting for me to be fucked to turn the heel, because it’s so long I’ve forgotten how to do short rows and I’ll have to locate the YouTube video I used to learn how in the first place, and besides, I’m in the mood for mindless crafting, and turning a heel is not mindless.

    But that percentage pattern looks really doable. And my favourite grey v-neck got eaten by moths and I haven’t replaced it yet. Damn you.

  • Rebecca Zicarelli

    For this sweater, http://www.ravelry.com/projects/RebeccaZicarelli/diagonal-sweater-2, I worked the I-cord edging twice every row. Works just fine; but you may find that the width of the edging rows aren’t the same; the rows held on the needle there and back again are wider then the rows worked the second time.

    But the more important issue is what you’ll be doing inside the I-cord border; the width of stockinette stitch would require additional rows on the diagonal edge; garter stitch might not. I’ve worked I-cord edgings on lace fillet, and it required three rows of I-cord at each end to have the appropriate stretch.

    As in all things, a swatch will reveal the truth of it.

    And great post. I’ve often thought knitting patterns could be done effectively in flow-chart form.

  • Rebecca Gordon

    Your adjustment to the i-cord border makes sense to me, assuming you’re aiming for a 45-45-90 degree triangle. Won’t you still need to block hard if you want something a little flatter?

    Great post. Somehow I’d not put it together that yarn companies originated the modern knitting pattern.

  • sarvi

    I also read Russ’ comment the way Mackenzie did, writing vs. writing down.

    Based on my knitting, I imagine I’d be a terrible programmer, with a patch & forget approach to bugs.

  • Lisa Dusseault

    Hi Alex,

    I’m a programmer, and now that you mention it, when I knit a pattern I’m an interpretive engine too ;)

    I’ve done what you ask about with iCord that has extra short rows to provide enough iCord length for a good fit. It was part of a complicated zig-zag edging with included iCord, and I wrote it up in this pattern: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/cielo-baby-blanket

    Sadly my instructions are written more like programming than like a recipe, but hope it helps anyway. The key idea was that I’d slip the iCord back onto the needle I’d just knit them off of, and reknit them, as much as needed to add the extra ease.

  • Jonathan

    Patterns are to knitting what music notation is to music. Music existed long before notation, and in fact notation was born out of the need of the Catholic church to standardize on liturgy. You seem to be arguing that patterns are anti-traditional in knitting, and likewise you could make the case that music notation is anti-traditional in music.

    But the origins of intent, in fact, have little to do with their modern use. While I totally support the idea of thinking for oneself when it comes to knitting, patterns are a way to convey intent of a particular design which would otherwise be much more difficult. So I think patterns can often be necessary, particularly when a designer comes up with a finished product that looks really awesome that you want to knit as well. Plus, written patterns give you the chance to “get into the head” of the designer and possibly learn some new things about knitting.

  • Joan F Silverston

    When I got my first Fortran manual in 1962, I had already been crocheting from written patterns for several years. Imagine my delight when I realized that those patterns were actually programs, with loops and subroutines, which I executed with my hook and needle. (Think of an individual stitch as a subroutine..)

    Unlike a computer, a crocheter (or knitter) can recognize an error or ambiguity in the program and compensate.

    I am unfamiliar with the history of written knitting patterns, but crochet patterns have been written since the mid 19th century.

  • Anni

    Hi
    Interesting post, very thought provoking.
    At this point I should own up to actually being a knit designer – my first job out of college was with a yarn company that employed its own team of designers. The design dept was a kind of loss leader – the real money was in the yarn, and the whole point of our designs was to sell more yarn. So yes, as you rightly say, we added in a phrase that stated to use only the recommended yarn or a dreadful fate would befall you (or words to that effect!) The phrase was there to supposedly protect knitters from making costly mistakes. And knitters would complain when their garment, knitted in a totally inappropriate yarn, looked nothing like the one in the photograph! However, the company stats told us that not only did most people buy the recommended yarn, they even bought the shade that was shown in the photo – and we would sell more of a pattern if the garment in the photo was in white or cream! So our market was more conservative than the current generation of geeks (your words ;) ) Anyway, that’s my defence!

    The other point I wanted to make, was that, actually, it doesn’t matter how precise and code-like the written instructions are, once they get into the hands of individual knitters anything can happen. No two garments knitted from the same pattern will look exactly alike, even in the same yarn, even if they are wanting it to. You only need to look at Ravelry projects to see what I mean. You only need to check a few knitters’ swatches to see a difference. I find this variability really interesting – I am into the Dada anti-art movement and the concept of ‘chance.’ And anyway, as a creative person myself I would never want to imprison another creative person into slavishly following my instructions – if you like something, anything about my design and would like to integrate it into your own work, that’s flattering. I like the idea of knitting recipes, more like guidelines, where the knitter crunches their own numbers, and chooses their own stitches, and comes out with something original to them.

    I guess it all depends whether a knitter is in it for the product (they love the design, and want to knit/own/wear that exact garment) or for the process, for the love of knitting itself.

  • Lena

    Since the early 70′s I have been using the knitting pattern to code analogy to get non programmers to understand what I did for a living and that it wasn’t some esoteric weird magical stuff. It didn’t help with the guys but most women clued in right away. “What I do for a living, I write stuff like knitting patterns for computers” even my grandmother understood.

  • austin

    good to see proprietary lock-in isn’t anything new…

    i think industry is in the constant state of taking power away from people and giving it to themselves. an empowered, self-reliant populace is one which doesnt need most of what industry sells…so its in their interest to lock people in and take away their self reliance.

  • Geek Girl Crafts

    We read your article, and loved it. I’ve been trained as a software engineer (but not my current profession), and knitting is very close to programming. Both are extremely heavily math based (esp. if you look at EZ’s percentage sweater.

  • Skud Post author

    austin: not only is proprietary lock-in nothing new, but protesting against it isn’t so new either.

    From Wikipedia: The Luddites were a social movement of 19th-century English textile artisans who protested – often by destroying mechanized looms – against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution, that replaced them with less-skilled, low-wage labour, and which they felt were leaving them without work and changing their way of life

  • Skud Post author

    Anni: thanks for coming over and commenting! It’s great to hear from a pro knit designer with experience in the more commercial side of things.

    Wrt the product vs process knitter distinction: I’ve heard this terminology used before, and often wondered whether there is an analogy to programming styles? That is, is there a difference between programmers who want a particular piece of software to exist and so they build it, vs those who program for the joy of it without caring so much about the finished product? I came to the conclusion that the split doesn’t make as much sense on the level of individual programmers, but makes more sense on the level of software projects: some projects have a very clearly specified end-goal and you just work to build that thing (I’ve usually seen this in corporate environments where the company itself is not in the business of developing software) whereas startup coding and/or hacker culture can be more about the process without such a fixed end goal in sight.

  • Christy

    Re: your current issue; I just finished a shawl with an i-cord border (Colorama Crescent Shawl) but it was a 2-stitch icord border. Technically, it’s a triangle shawl with chevron shaping, increasing by 2 sts each rs row, iirc. It worked well, and blocked fine. The bottom edge was done with a 2-st icord bindoff as well, and everything was stretchy enough to be blocked to about twice its off the needle size without warping or breaking.

  • seeherknit

    Love the comparison! I’m currently working on transitioning from knitting compiler to knitting engineer. I learned to knit from books, so I was all about following the pattern. Once I was more comfortable knitting I started modifying patterns.
    Now, I’ve moved to trying to write my own. I’ve found it much easier to knit freeform than to write the pattern.

  • Crysta

    I really enjoyed this post; my partner is a computer engineer (I am a knitter) and I think we both look at each other’s work like, “whaaaaat?” I will say, though, that I consider myself an experienced knitter (over 10 years hacking away with needles and yarn) and I very rarely deviate from patterns, nor have I found myself compelled to write or create my own. I have been described as a bit of a rule follower, so maybe that accounts for it! That said, I do enjoy looking at knit items that other folks (or machines, even) have made and think through how those particular pieces ended up looking the way they do. But my point is that being an experienced knitter doesn’t necessarily demand that you often/ever throw caution to the wind and engineer your own product.

  • Jordi Gutiérrez Hermoso

    This was a fun post. It made me feel like a sub-par knitter, since I am still too skittish to make my own patterns. I can usually figure out the general shape, but I still ask the advice of more expert knitters when it comes to details. Also, I follow many patterns. I wonder where do I fit in your knitter classification? Am I a compiler or a programmer? Maybe I’m a script kitty!

  • Zelda

    I did a 3-color icord bind off on a brioche stitch garment and I did joining decreases on 2 out of 3 rows. I knew using a bigger needle alone would not be enough to match the stretch of brioche, so the extra row was perfect in that instance. I even calibrated the decreases to either side to match the rib structure (doing them from opposite edges of the cord) and it was totally sweet!
    Hope your mods are equally successful.

Comments are closed.