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Schematics, the Ideal and the Real

Smokestack Vest in progress (Ravelry project page)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.
Standard abstract of Bolero piece vs actual working schematics of Small and 2X sizes.
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.My life-sized schematic for the pink silk Tunisian Crystal Jubilee Vest
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 

That's it for #80! If you know someone who would enjoy this kind of newsletter, please forward this to them so that they can subscribe. (Click here to subscribe: ) If you have any comments or suggestions, please email me. Thanks!      --Vashti         Helpful links:
A Toolbox of Handy Schematics
Schematic style of design variations for Emdash Scarf (link goes to Ravelry project page)
Examples of designing schematics for my own use.
Shrug schematic: fold line (side view)
Compare this third kind of schematic for a shrug with the other two above.

Schematic that became a stitching diagram for 2 sizes
This working schematic may look complicated, but it's just a result of starting with the outline of a standard schematic. Then I filled it in with filet rows and other working notes as I went along.

A supplemental schematic for technical editors
Here's an early example of a construction schematic I created for the technical editor of a magazine. This was for a thick cropped jacket in novelty yarn (2006 or so). The novel sleeve cap worked out well for it. I drew the foundation chain to emphasize its side to side construction (a less common method back then).

Part of Steeking Crochet Class (Resources page)
Examples of template-style planning and designing schematics (see "Abstract and More Abstract" at left). These are taken from my Steeking Crochet class handout. Many schematics are great for steeking inspiration because it's easy to spot a slit for an armhole or head opening.

Template schematics are great for coloring in stitch textures, color changes, and fancy borders. 

Notice they lack measurements and aren't necessarily to scale. For example, few ruanas or tube vests are perfectly square.

"Parallelogram Issues", a 2010 page form my design notebook.At right is "Parallelogram Issues", a page of experimental template schematics from an early design notebook. Schematic doodling is a way to design on paper.

Showing direction of Tunisian work in schematics
An arrow indicating the "direction of work" is a standard feature of pattern schematics. Often one arrow is not enough, such as for multi-directional crochet, or a schematic of an offset Tunisian crochet scarf for lefties. 

DesigningVashti News

New Lotus Curacao Jacket pattern by Doris Chan!
Direct link to the lovely Lotus CuraƧao Jacket pattern in the DesigningVashti shop
Three lengths (shrug in Carbonite, jacket in Emerald Deep, and coat in Dark Roast colors) that are great options for transitional weather. See this gorgeous pineapple lace in the shop:

FOUR NEW Lotus yarn colors and a FIFTH is on the way! I'm showing them with cones in color groups for context.
Ltous Picot Tie by Doris ChanLavender Ice and Carbonite cones with neutrals on the left; Emerald Deep and Orange Luxe cones with gem tones on the right.

Lavender Ice was the big favorite in the show booth. I think it's partly because it's a lavender that is not a candy pastel. It's more of a modern neutral. Also, Charleston was having a heatwave during the conference, and people commented on how refreshing the color was. So far we have a Picot Tie Doris crocheted in this color to display in the booth. 

The other show favorite: Z-Bombes! These are one-pound cones of Lotus, equal to 4.5 regular balls of Lotus—over 1,100 yards per cone. The Z-Bombes and regular balls are both shown.

We have a Lotus Design Gallery in progress. It includes links to self-updating pages of more Lotus designs. Such as Linda's new one:

New! Designer Linda Dean has a beautiful design in Crochet! magazine, Autumn 2016 issue. Congratulations Linda! Let the Lace Go Top by Linda Dean in DesigningVashti Lotus yarn (Sapphire color shown)The Let the Lace Go Top p
attern is written for five sizes from Small to 2X and calls for 1280 - 1792 yards (1170 - 1639 m).
That's 5–7 balls, and a 
Z-Bombe cone plus a few regular or Snack balls is a better deal. (The math: Cone=1,100+ yds. Regular ball=256 yds. Snack=85 yds.) 

Blogged: 50 days of conference prep! Start here and scroll back through to the first of the posts on May 20, 2016.
Blogged overflow from the previous newsletter on steeking.

Links I Enjoyed This Week
2010 article by Sunil Kumar Puri: "The Geometry of the Fully Fashioned Sweater"

Doris in the booth she built. Right next to her Hall of Fame display!
Doris in the booth she built (only half of it shows in the photo). So happens it was right next to her Hall of Fame display!
Like Crochet Inspirations #80: Pattern Schematics for Insiders and Outsiders on Facebook
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Vashti Braha is a professional crochet designer & teacher who resides in Florida (USA) and owns

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