Last week I posted on my explorations of swing knitting, via the Mixed Wave Cowl pattern. More recently, I’ve turned to another free pattern, Swingy Accessories, to try and understand how to balance out the rows beneath each stitch without the need for an enormous spreadsheet. Swingy Accessories provides instructions for a scarf or cowl with a repeating series of 22 short-row sections. Thankfully, row-by-row instructions are provided for the ‘hard of swing’, as well as some terse, rather enigmatic instructions for those fully versed in the technique. From these, it’s apparent that markers are used to keep track of what you might call the hanging ends of each short row. Let me try and explain…
Looking back at the first of my spreadsheet charts from last week, the one that shows each row of a short-row section, let’s stack a 16 stitch wide, yellow, right-leaning section on top of a red, left-leaning one of the same width and place them next to each other horizontally as well, so that they interlock. The tallest part of the yellow section comes at the shortest part of the red section, because they are centred on markers placed 8 stitches apart. Here’s a similar section of my swatch with the chart next to it.
In the chart, the row numbers are given at each side and the direction of knitting indicated with arrows. The blue lines show the stitch marker positions. The numbers in the first row of each section are the total number of rows in that section, and they are added together at the top to give the total number of rows at each stitch position after knitting both sections.
In a left-leaning section, the ‘short’ turns (ie those that are before the preceding turn at that side of the section) come at the end of the wrong side rows while the ‘long’ turns are at the end of the right side rows. In this way, the section moves several stitches leftwards (two in this case) with each pair of rows. In a right-leaning section it’s the other way around. The shape of the sections when charted out isn’t a good reflection of their actual shape – have a close look at the swatch together with the equivalent chart – because the white areas under each section disappear. In effect, a left-leaning section squashes over to the left and a right-leaning section to the right. This means that a section will mesh happily with a section of the opposite type as well as the same type.
You can see this also from the second chart in last week’s post (repeated below) that uses a single coloured row to symbolise a section; no matter whether it is left- or right-leaning, there are 4 ribs in the centre of it, tailing off to just 1 at each side (ignoring the edge sections, which have a maximum of 5 ribs).
What this all means is that, for sections to mesh together, a turn made after knitting a particular stitch when working leftwards (ie a RS to WS turn) should be balanced out – before too many more inches have been knitted – by a turn immediately before that stitch when travelling to the right (a WS to RS turn). In that way, those two part rows combine to form a full row – or at least part of a full row, because unless the piece is narrow there will be other part rows contributed by other sections.
This explains why markers are used for swing knitting. If a marker of one colour is placed after each RS to WS turn and a marker of a different colour after each WS to RS turn, then it’s plain where subsequent turns of the opposite complexion need to occur in order to balance things up. And thankfully, a spreadsheet is no longer required even when the sections are more randomly placed and/or sized. (Which will come as a relief to my cat, who is of the opinion that my lap is for him and not my laptop when I sit down to knit in the evenings. He has been most disgruntled during my swing knitting experiments.) When working a section, if a turn of the required type is made at a marked place to cancel out the fabric-distorting effect of a previous turn, then that marker can be removed and no new one placed.
I need to knit some more swatches to satisfy myself that this method works in all circumstances. I suspect that I will need a few additional rules, such that a marker must always be cancelled within a certain number of sections rather than carried up the work for several inches.