Oh dear.

Sometimes you try something, and immediately realize that it’s a slippery slope. But by the time you realize, it’s already too late.

I am quickly running out of things on the needles, so I’ve been thinking a lot about what the next project will be. I have some silk Malabrigo that I bought because I loved the colors, but I have no idea what to make with it. I picked up a skein the other day, and thought “this makes me think of maple leaves.”

I’d just been flipping through the Walker books, and so I had a lot of stitch patterns floating through my mind, but none of them was exactly what I wanted. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a maple leaf stitch pattern. And then I had the dangerous thought. “I could probably design a maple leaf stitch pattern….”

Out came the graph paper. It started with a simple sketch:

Which then turned into a slightly more pixilated simple sketch:

And then got some stitch symbols.

Basically, I just created the shape that I wanted, and matched increase and decrease pairs to give the minimum pattern stitches on a stockinette background. This lets me play with the simplest version of the leaf pattern, and then I can add the lace background when it’s perfect. The leaf is stockinette, the edges are lined with yo’s, and the veins are made up of mirrored decreases.

At this point, I needed to figure out if this sketch was really anything like a plausible maple leaf before going any farther. So, I cast on for a swatch.

Knitting is always wider than it is tall, so I inserted a simple purl row for each pattern row, which makes the wrong side a breeze to knit.

Now, the swatch is awful for several reasons, but I’m going to show it to you anyway, because I learned a lot from this crumpled bit of fabric.

Better? (Yes, I know that the flash overexposes the image, but it makes it a lot easier to see the holes!)

The needles were a little small, so the fabric isn’t really loose enough to show the yo’s well. The color repeats absolutely don’t work with lace; they completely obliterate the pattern. I was worried about this at the beginning, but decided that I’d never know if I didn’t try. Well, now I know. I would also avoid the stacked yo’s that show up along vertical areas of the leaf; it looks too much like faggoting, and I think it’s distracting. I’ll need to alternate or move some of those yo’s elsewhere to avoid clustering too many together at the edges. Finally, the extra purl rows inserted way too much length into the motif, and the “leaf” is a little bit stretched out. But it is (just barely) there, so I have hope that the pattern is workable.

On the positive side, the ssk and k2tog’s make nice, strong lines for the veins. I would move them up a bit, I think, so that they fall in the middle of the leaf section. I would also change the central vein from a “ssk, k, k2tog” repeat to a centered double decrease to avoid having that one strong knit column in the very center. I think. I’ll have to try the CDDs before I know for sure. I also need to see the swatch in a yarn that lets me see the stitch pattern.

Designing stitch patterns is a whole new kind of trouble for me to get into. I’m not sure that I know enough (actually, I’m pretty sure I don’t), but when has that stopped me before?

I’ve been wanting to do more garments in lace, but I’ve been a little put off by the need to increase and decrease smoothly within a lace pattern. A good designer makes it seem effortless, but I just haven’t wrapped my brain around it yet. Still, the graceful change from one pattern to another makes or breaks a piece. Lace should be fluid and seamless, with one pattern melting into the next as if it had been designed specifically for that purpose and no other. It’s part of the magic.

Theoretically, building some stitch patterns from the bottom up will give me a better idea of how lace construction works, and will help me figure out how to use lace in shaped pieces. Yes, I know that it’s the long way around the barn. But this way seems so much more fun, doesn’t it?

Yes, this is why it’s dangerous to leave me alone without much to do. Very, very dangerous.