Monday, October 8, 2007

More thoughts on doily-shawl-afghan conversions

How to estimate how big a particular pattern will be with the yarn or thread you're using

Z's Momma asked in a comment to my previous post:

"I was wondering how large of a lap blanket can be made with a doily pattern using sport weight yarn."

You can make a lap blanket as large as you wish, depending on how much yarn and patience you possess.

The size of the lap blanket will depend on the size of the pattern and upon your blocked row gauge. It's very straightforward to estimate the final size.

Question 1: What is your row gauge? You can start with the approximate row gauge in stockinette. Remember that you may well be using a looser gauge than usual. You may well have some idea about how much blocking you'll do, anywhere from none at all to stretched very tightly or somewhere in between.

Question 2: How big is the pattern you're thinking about (number of rounds)? Take that number and double it, to get the number of rounds from the edge to the middle to the other edge. This is your diameter.

Answer: The diameter divided by your row gauge will give you an approximation for the final size of your lap blanket.

Conversely, to figure out what size pattern you need, take your row gauge and multiply it by the size you want to determine how many rounds you need to knit (edge to edge, not center to edge). Divide that by 2 to get the number of rounds in the pattern.

Example: for sport-weight yarn, let's use 7 rows per inch for the blocked row gauge.

If you have a pattern that is 105 rounds, its diameter is 210 rounds. The size of your lap blanket will be 210/7 = 30".

If you want your lap blanket to be 40" in diameter, it needs to be 7 x 40 = 280 rounds in diameter, or 280/2 = 140 rounds. You need a pattern that has approximately 140 rounds, give or take a bit.

After you've started knitting, you can refine the estimate a bit. After you've done, say, 30 or 40 rounds, measure it. Then extrapolate to the total number of rounds. Or measure your actual row gauge somewhere in the middle of those 30-40 rounds and extrapolate to the total number of rounds. Check again when you're farther along.

You can change your yarn (or your needle size) and thus your gauge if you want to use a specific pattern and want to end up at a certain approximate size. Make sure you like the fabric you're getting. If it's too solid or too open, it would be better to try a different approach.

There are ways to increase the size of your pattern if it's not big enough. They are easiest if you choose a pattern that doesn't finish in a flourish of scallops or fans. You can add another set of motifs, you can add an edging (either outwards-knit or sideways-knit), you can add a few rounds of crocheting, etc.

If a pattern is too large, you can often find intermediate points where you can stop knitting and still end up with something lovely. Some designers do this deliberately, creating a series of patterns that build on each other.

The other easy way to make sure the lap blanket is about the size you wish is to choose a general recipe instead of a specific pattern. In other words, choose a pattern or template that is infinitely expandable. The Hemlock Ring blanket is partly in this category. It starts with the center motif. But the feather and fan can be stopped whenever you think it's enough. It can be expanded for quite a while, too, though eventually you run into the dreaded f&f cupping problem

Someday I'll blog about some nice patterns that are near-infinitely expandable. I'm sure many of you are familiar with some of them through the writings of Elizabeth Zimmermann -- the pi shawl, spiral shawls, the square baby shawl, and other good templates for your creativity.

Intro to the long and boring part of this post

One nice thing about having a blog is that I can post whatever I've been thinking about lately, following digressions to wherever they may lead me. The last post got me thinking about the whole issue of converting doily patterns to shawls, afghans, and other items that are not made with fine, smooth threads. I did some abstract thinking, but then got distracted by a particular pattern. So, this post will be some mix of the abstract and specific. It's not the last post on the subject, since the topic is still rattling around in my skull. This is an interim set of thoughts, subject to modification.

A few thoughts on doily shapes

Doilies come in a lot of different shapes. Which ones do you like? What do you think is a good shape for a shawl, a lap blanket or afghan, a baby blanket, a rug, etc.?

Circles are common. They make reasonable shawls, excellent area rugs, and pretty good lap blankets (and baby blankets). Some can be blocked into polygons (octagons, for example) instead of being perfectly circular.

Polygons are also common. Some can be blocked into circles. Some are very definitely octagons or hexagons or some other shape.

Then there are squares, a common polygon. Some of these can be turned into triangles by only working one or two repeats (flat knitting instead of circular).

You can put several squares (or hexagons or other shapes) together to form a multi-motif pattern. There are a lot of multi-motif patterns out there already. The multi-motif patterns can be any final shape you choose, depending on how you arrange the motifs. Needless to say, you can choose to do only one motif of a multi-motif pattern as a stand-alone doily.

Some patterns are rectangular or oval. Some of these are done in one piece, using various methods to achieve a rectangle or oval. Some ovals start with a central motif, then have wings added to the sides to make it oval.

Have I missed any of the common shapes? Triangles are not very common in doily patterns. They are great for shawls, though.


I already mentioned the variation where you can take one or two pattern repeats from a square and work them flat to make a triangular shawl. It depends on the pattern, but a lot of squares' charts go from corner to corner and thus are easy to adapt. (The Hyrna Herborgar shawl feels very much like a half-square triangle adaptation; it wouldn't be all that hard to turn it into a square. I wouldn't be at all surprised if it turns out that there is a square doily pattern out there that the Hyrna Herborgar designer used as the basis for the shawl.) You can knit the entire square as a flat pattern, too.

You can often (but not always) do something similar to circular and polygonal patterns. If the pattern repeat lines are straight, you can easily knit it flat. You can choose the same number of pattern repeats as the original pattern has, or you can choose to do more or fewer. A narrow border of garter or seed stitch will help keep the shawl from curling. If the edge of the pattern repeat is more variable or is in the middle of something important, it's harder to adapt.

Another thing you can do is to omit the central portion of a pattern. You can continue in the round, ending up with a poncho-like garment, or you can knit flat, ending up with a cape-like garment. Meg Swansen's Mananita pattern is like this. I've done that pattern and will share the photos at some point. There are also some other wonderful shawls out there that use this idea.

Marianne Kinzel's Azalea pattern

I was idly flipping through patterns, thinking about afghan possibilities. I tried to limit myself to patterns that were easily available, so that I could blog about them without having to frustrate the casual doily knitter. I'd already mentioned the Mommes Lysedug pattern and the Egleblad pattern as being good possibilities (see previous post for links to the patterns).

Marianne Kinzel's Azalea doily, from the First Book of Modern Lace Knitting, jumped out at me. The photo is at the right, hopefully around this point if the blogger preview thingy is not lying to me.

It has a lot of elements that would make it a good pattern to use for a lap blanket, an area rug, a shawl, a baby blanket, a facecloth, you name it.

Good points: It's a relatively solid fabric. It would look good in a variegated yarn with long color repeats, or a variegated yarn with relatively subtle color changes. It would look good if you choose to change yarn colors every now and then. It would look good at many scales, from very fine thread to very thick yarn.

Bad points: It's boring to knit. I've tried to knit it twice. The first time, I ran out of thread at a crucial point and unraveled it in frustration. The second time, I simply got bored and then was distracted by a different pattern. However, maybe it would be more fun in yarn than in thread. Also, my definition of boring is not the same as anyone else's.

However, there are some cool things about this pattern that make it ideal for shawls, lap blankets, and other variations.

It's expandable. Each of the doilies shown in the photo is exactly the same as the one smaller, except that it has one more leaf/petal motif per side.

Obviously, one can keep going, making the pattern larger and larger by adding more motifs. The pattern chart and instructions are already set up to do this. The largest version in the original pattern is only 62 rounds. That's a good size for an area rug or for a small lap afghan made with thick yarn. But it's a bit small for other purposes.

Each additional level of leaf/petal motifs adds 12 rounds to the doily. So, even if 62 rounds is too small for your purposes, 74 or 86 or 98 or 110 might be about right.

Each additional set of 12 rounds also adds 14 stitches per pattern repeat. That may eventually become an issue, leading to ruffling due to too many stitches per round. But I don't think it would be a problem for another few sets of leaves. You'll need to block it well in order to get the thing to lie flat. You'll find that you'll get a bit of extra diameter out of the pattern as the stitches get squished horizontally and thus grow vertically.

Given the large number of stitches per round, you could cut this pattern down to 5 or possibly even 4 pattern repeats and still do OK. Do you like it as a pentagon? A square? Those could be increased to a much larger size without having to worry about too many stitches.

You could turn this into a flat-knit shawl. Do you like it as a hexagon? A pentagon? A square? A triangle (made from one or two pattern repeats)? A half-hexagon hexagon? An overlapping octagon (more than circular works fine for a flat shawl)? You could omit the center motif and start with enough stitches for the second or third level of leaves.

The pattern ends with a relatively flat edge. You can add something beyond that to make a more interesting finish. You could finish the half-leaves while putting little fans or plain stockinette between each leaf. You could transition to a totally different lace pattern. You could add a sideways-knit lace edging to finish off.

If you google terms such as kinzel and azalea, you'll see a few versions of this pattern, some done as shawls. Here's Rosemarie Buchanan's shawl, done flat as a cape-style pattern. Here's Schmeebot's shawl, with its interesting technique for finishing those last leaf motifs.

I am very tempted to try this pattern as a shawl or lap blanket. I don't know if I have a reasonable batch of yarn in my stash, though. I could go shopping for suitable yarn, of course. I'd probably do it as a circular-knit hexagon, just like the pattern, and continue for another few levels of leaf/petal motifs.

By tomorrow or next week, I will no doubt be entranced with a totally different idea.


Soo said...

We obviously have some similar tastes! I was also drawn to the Azalea pattern and did actually start it as a lap blanket. However, I used a variegated yarn which was a huge mistake as the pattern was totally hidden. I may try again another day.....

The Doily Underground said...

I wonder how many abandoned Azalea lap blankets are out there?

It's hard to match variegated yarns with lace patterns. A lot of times, it obscures the lace pattern too much. I think a variegated yarn would work with Azalea if (a) it was a very subtle variegation, or (b) the color lengths were very long, so that one could do several rounds in each color. With the long color lengths, it might be better to do it with single-color yarn that gets changed, so that the number of rounds per color does not decrease as the item grows.

I've seen a lot of doilies made from variegated yarn on the European websites, especially the German-language sites. It's not always a successful mix, in my opinion.

I am plugging away on my doily version of the Azalea pattern. It is pretty, but it is also very boring to knit. It will never get re-done as a lap blanket unless I do it as a square.

varun said...

nice images!!Shawls and Scarves