Math & Knitting

We always joke in my family that my brother is the math/science guy and I’m the artsy one. He is, after all, a PHD chemist, and I spend most of my days getting paid to play with yarn. I wasn’t necessarily the best or worst at the subject in school, but have since found that math can practically be applied to many aspects of knitting, from gauge swatches to stitch counts in lace. 

You see, lace knitting works on simple math, in multiples of a digit, sometimes plus or minus a few stitches. For example, a pattern may be worked in a multiple of 4, so 4, 8, 16, 20, and so on, stitches. It could also be worked in a multiple of 4 + perhaps 2 stitches, so 4 stitches x 2 repeats (which is 8) + 2 would give us 10 stitches, or 14 for 3 repeats, or 18 for four repeats.

In concept, the math is simple, but becomes complicated when factoring in the expanding shape of a triangular shawl. To keep things low stress, I have added garter rows in between the lacework. These sections allow for increases and decreases if a stitch counts ends up off because, let’s face it, we all make mistakes. In addition to allowing us to recover from the inevitable blunder, these areas also allow us to play with stitch count and give us time to add an increase or two before the next repeat. By changing the number of stitches, we can utilize a variety of techniques in the shawl, including slipped stitches, bobbles, and yarn overs.

My personal favorite website for this is, which provides an index of patterns based on stitch count. By searching their index this way, I have encountered variations of techniques that I may not have otherwise tried because they fit with the number of stitch repeats on my needles. Utilizing a wide variety of stitch textures on a small-scale project, such as a sampler shawl, also allows them to be called upon later for a larger project. (Like a sweater out of this Buckminster Fuller lace pattern, which will be coming up later in the project.)

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