|Schematics, the Ideal and the Real
Does the standard pattern schematic at left explain my Smokestack vest for you? It's clearly a straight tube shape, so there's no shaping. Great, right? What about the hood: is it included in the schematic? (The lovely model was a student in my Steeking Tunisian Crochet class last month.)
Sometimes a schematic reveals and conceals at the same time. As a designer I've had a complicated relationship with the standard pattern schematic (the one in magazines and books). It clarifies a narrow range of facts about a design and eliminates everything else.
Sometimes it brings logic and simplicity to a jumble of details and sizes. Other times it doesn't, and can even add confusion for the technical editor or the crocheter. Nevertheless, I'm an avid user and collector of them for creative inspiration! (See the results of my research at the end of this column.)
The usual crochet pattern schematic is actually only one of about five kinds. On a scale of 1 (most abstract) to 5 (most concrete), I put the standard schematic at a 2. One pattern piece is generalized to represent all of the pattern sizes in a flat geometric shape. Minimal text is used.
The more garment sizes a schematic represents and the more unconventional the design, the closer it moves to a 1 on my scale: the most abstract of all. One schematic can't possibly reflect the proportions equally well of each size from X-Small to 5X.
Smokestack is a simple and unconventional design. The standard type of schematic is best suited to traditional garment styles. I have better types of schematics in mind for the Smokestack pattern.
Sympathy for the Schematic Outsider
Below is a schematic of a small piece of a bolero-type empire tunic.
Experienced clothing crocheters would know not to expect their Bolero Left Front piece to resemble the standard schematic exactly. A new pattern user might worry.
Abstract and More Abstract
The most abstract schematic would be a template type (#1 on my scale of 5). I use this type when I’m first designing something new. See examples over in the right column. These are handy when you have a swatch that you love and want to turn it into something to wear. It’s the ultimate example of simple shape designing.
How Concrete Can a Schematic Get?
A generalized schematic makes sense as a shorthand for a sized pattern. Since each crocheter is going to use it to make one item at a time though, the solution is for each of us to individualize and personalize it for real use. It doesn’t get much more specific and concrete than that.
A way to do this is use a life-size schematic. This schematic is close to a #5 schematic on my scale.
It shows a garment of my size only, drawn to scale on one-inch grid paper. In this case I traced a favorite vest, but I could have used an existing pattern and plotted a standard, simplified, generalized schematic onto it by using only the numbers for my size.
It’s actual size, so this a large schematic. I bought an easel pad of this paper at an office supply store. There's room for me to comfortably add all the details I want because it's Vashti-sized.
Here's a schematic of the Back piece of a thick jacket, drawn to scale and reduced for easy printing with Garment Designer software. Each grid square equals the size of one stitch repeat. I love this. Pink arrows point to my actual body measurements outlined in faint green. (Orange arrow points to a 1" decorative border to be completed after the yellow shape.)
A Creative Power Tool
Nowadays I routinely draw the starting yarn tail and note its length if I’ll use it for seaming later. I indicate when I add a new ball of yarn, and where I fasten off. I draw foundation chain symbols, and an edging in actual width. I add row numbers, stitch counts, shaping specifics, and more (see examples in the right column); how many grams it weighed at what point of completion; what I’d do differently next time. It's often a project journal page and design record.
If you’re a schematics power user—or not—I’d love to hear from you (in Ravelry, Facebook, or email me).
For this issue I read up on pattern schematics in over 30 promising crochet and knitting books. Below are my favorites on this topic.
Deborah Newton (Designing Knitwear, 1992) uses a range of types, such as “skeleton charts”, at every step of her designing process. She even describes her tools and how her drawing skills developed.
Lily Chin (Couture Crochet Workshop, 2006) demonstrates several valuable ways to use both on- and off-grid schematics: to perfect the kind of curve you want you neckline to have, save time figuring out how to shape a stitch pattern, use a favorite sweater, and more.
Jan Eaton (Crochet Tips, Techniques, and Trade Secrets, 2007) uses schematics often to illustrate all kinds of easy do it yourself designing.
J. Marsha Michler (Design and Knit the Sweater of Your Dreams, 2002) explains how to use a schematic to calculate the amount of yarn needed for your project.
Alice Carroll (Complete Guide to Modern Knitting and Crocheting, 1942) and Gertrude Taylor (America’s Crochet Book, 1972) both describe how to make your own schematics that empower you to make alterations, and how use them like maps to reduce errors as you crochet from them.
You might like:
Issue #79 Joys of Steeking
Steeks: Ideas Inspiration Pinboard
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