Saturday, June 22, 2013

Knitting in Russian

I just completed my first Russian knitting pattern. It came from Zhurnal Mod (Журнал МОД) № 558.

This magazine usually has lots of beautiful things, mostly crocheted and mostly either Irish crochet or Bruges crochet. In my opinion, the Russians and Ukrainians do the most beautiful and creative crochet work of anyone. Really stunning stuff. I've bought a few of these and a few of another Ukrainian magazine, Duplet (Дуплет) from ebay sellers. They cost a little more than  domestic knitting/crochet magazines, but they're not as expensive as most of the Japanese pattern books and magazines I buy. Every Duplet is a treasury of crochet stitch patterns, as well as a collection of garment patterns. Generally, they love to do "variations on a theme." Their "special issues" are larger and more expensive, but if you crochet, they're really worth the money.  The crochet patterns are all charted, so even though I don't speak Russian or Ukrainian, I can follow the patterns. One thing to be aware of, though, is that the patterns are minimal. They give you the stitch patterns, but you're expected to figure out how to put them together and what the shaping needs to be. For Bruges or Irish crochet, this is perfectly reasonable. The motifs are laid out on a cloth pattern and joined with ground stitches. If you can draft patterns, that's one way to get the right shapes, but using a sewing pattern is another more accessible method.

The knitting patterns are not so easy to follow either, especially if you don't speak the language. The real problem isn't the language barrier though. The written instructions are extremely terse. Much like Japanese patterns, they give you the yarn requirements, gauge, and needle sizes, but very little more. The actual "pattern" is generally a chart to show the stitch pattern and a schematic with measurements. You get to figure out the necessary increases and decreases to make the shapes. They're definitely not for the faint of heart or for the person who wants to do some mindless knitting. That approach tends to make for a lot of knitters who are extremely creative and quick to reverse engineer things they see, but for which no pattern is available.  

Nevertheless, I'm intrigued enough by many of these patterns to step in where angels fear to tread, as the saying goes. I'm nothing if not an "adventurous" knitter. I always figure that I'm going to be working on making something virtually every day of my life. If I happen to be re-making something that didn't work out the first time, so be it. I think that attitude makes me confused about whether I'm a process or a product knitter. I definitely want the product, but if the path to it happens to be a lot of stops and restarts, that's okay with me too.

I've had my eye on the pattern I made for quite some time. I love this stitch pattern. Once I got started on swatching it, I realized the chart wasn't quite right. There were a couple of rows that couldn't be knitted because the stitch counts were wrong. I figured out how to fix that though. As it turned out, once I'd done my swatching, making the top was really easy. I didn't have to rip anything out at all.

Here's the corrected chart, using Japanese stitch symbols (Note that blank squares are "no-stitch" squares, that is, they exist only to make the chart rectangular, but there's nothing to knit there).

The main challenge was blocking. This stitch pattern has different stitch counts on different rows. That's not uncommon, but the variation in this one is really large. The shortest rows have 21 stitches per repeat and the longest have 47. The sweater has six repeats, so over the entire circumference, that's 126 stitches on the shortest rows and 282 stitches on the longest rows, a difference of 156 stitches! At 8 stitches per inch, that'a pre-blocked difference of 19 1/2 inches. I threaded blocking wires along the outer edges of the lace panels and used lots of blocking pins and a pretty good amount of brute force. The lace also needs to be stretched vigorously in the lengthwise direction as it has some areas where it tends to pucker. I'm glad I made it with a strong mercerized cotton. Something delicate wouldn't be appropriate at all.

In the end, I'm really happy with the result. I'm not sure I'd want to get caught in a downpour while wearing it, for fear the blocking would disappear, but other than that, I think it turned out to be quite nice.

You can find out more about my process on my Ravelry project page here.

And while you're over there, take a look at what the phenomenally talented tatty152 did with this motif. But please, don't stop there. Look at her other projects if you want to be blown away with wonder and admiration.




  2. Muito obrigada, Nilda! A unica receita dos pontos que tenho está aqui e na minha página do Ravelry:

  3. exceptional work! I applaud your courage to dive into Russian patterns :) I myself have 2 Ukrainian knitting magazines and I am still struggling to decipher the knitting symbols I need for the charts xD

    1. Thanks! If you think I might be able to help with any of the symbols, I'm happy to give it a try. :-)