Saturday, August 04, 2012
On M1 and KFB, On Repeats & Clarity
She asked about the increasing.... she said that my pattern wasn't working out.
She was starting with 68 sts, and the instruction is as follows:
(K2, m1) around. 102 sts.
Our knitter reported that it just wasn't working. She reported that she was ending up with 90 stitches, and she'd tried it more than once.
I knew immediately what she'd done. It would be cheeky of me to suggest that she go and read the Shaping Chapter of the book, but this is one of the topics that this chapter addresses.
I replied to the knitter's email, and asked if perhaps she'd used KFB. Yup, that was it!
Here's the thing: a KFB is not the same thing as M1, and they are absolutely NOT interchangeable.
They are both increases, yes, but differ in a key way KFB takes one stitch and makes it into two, and M1 makes a stitch from nothing. (If I'm feeling cute, I refer to M1 - "make one" - as "magic one", as in "conjure a stich out of nothing".)
This matters, because using a kfb uses up one stitch of the round, and my pattern assumes you don't.
(I highly recommend you spend some time on the increases page of knittinghelp.com, and watch the video for my favourite M1 method here.)
So in this case, it works as follows:
(K2, m1) puts a new stitch between every pair of stitches - adding 34 to the
existing 68, to get the 102 required.
(k2, kfb) makes 90 stitches. Each group of (k2, kfb) takes 3 stitches and makes it into 4, meaning you work as follows:(k2, k2b) 22 times (getting you across 66 of the 68 stitches), and then presumably our knitter would have just worked k2 at the end of the row. 68 + 22 = 90.
Obviously, our knitter knew that something was up when her stitch count was off, and I'm glad she got in touch.
(This is also why it's always good to give a stitch count in a pattern after any increases or decreases, of course.)
But there was another, perhaps less obvious clue that something was amiss...
For me, when I say to work some kind of repeat around a round or across a row, e.g. (k2, m1), or (k2, p2), or (ssk, yo, k3, yo, k2tog) or whatever, I expect that you will come to the end of a repeat at the end of the row/round.
It's a given to me that if you aren't at end of a repeat at the end of the row/round, then that's a sign that something isn't right. In this case, there weren't enough stitches left to work another full repeat of the pattern stitch the way the knitter was doing it, and so that should have been a red flag.
Now that didn't occur to our knitter because, frustratingly, it's not a standard pattern writing convention. I make sure all my patterns, and the patterns I edit adhere to this, but it's not nearly common enough.
This is one of those details that some feel is perhaps a little too.. shall we say... anal-retentive... but I figure it's easy enough to do, and can only help the knitter.
Ok, so let's say I did want to do it the way the knitter had tried... I would have written it as follows:
[K2, kfb] to last 2 sts, k2.
Simple, and clear, no?
Yes, it does take a bit more thought and work, but I figure it's worth it. After all, the clearer my patterns, the higher the chance of the success the knitter has. And the more successful the knitter, the more likely they will be to buy my second book...
UPDATE: Two excellent reader comments.
1) Yes, the kfb would look different than the M1 - M1 is intended to be reasonably invisible, and kfb leaves a distinct bump in a stocking stitch fabric.
2) Another commenter suggests that a knitter could use kfb instead of the M1, "as long as he or she is paying attention" - change [k2, m1] to [k1, kfb]. This is true - you'd get the required number of stitches, absolutely - but as above the kfb does look different. Plus it does indeed require "paying attention" - which is not necessarily what a knitter wants (or is prepared to do).
In summary, I only recommend using kfb when the designer specifically calls for it.