Category Archives: Math

Embrace Math – Ditch the Fear

I should be writing the very tardy fourth episode for my raglan sweater, but I’ve got a bee in my bonnet.  I am probably going to alienate a few people by saying this, but I can’t stand it anymore. Every time a woman says “I can’t do math” or “I hate math” I want to scream… STOP IT! STOP IT! No…… STOP IT! Saying these things aloud to others and then obstinately refusing to learn can be detrimental not only to them but others around them, including impressionable young women who may be struggling with the subject. And honestly, I think many of these people have already shut down and are in refuse-to-learn mode, but I don’t think they should spoil it for the rest of us.  I’ve also noticed that these cries of protest usually come from women of older generations, I feel horrible that they had to live through the Dark Ages where they were told that they couldn’t do things because of their sex.  but here is the true secret of their struggles… if they’re knitting… THEY’RE ACTUALLY DOING MATH!

I can remember math being a huge mystery to me as well. There were moments in Algebra and Calculus where I really didn’t get the logic behind what we were doing. It took some real work and engineering for me to get the answers when I could. It also took reviewing the answers over and over again until I understood the pattern. Sometimes I didn’t get the pattern and I just accepted the answer. What was I missing…?

Number Sense.

When I first heard this term as an elementary educator in my mid twenties…I laughed. I thought… what is this? What does this mean? Number sense? Is it like “Spider Sense?” Do you know when numbers will appear? Number sense simply means that you develop a sensibility and awareness of things mathematical. Applying number sense can mean developing an awareness of patterns in numbers or objects. It can also simply mean having the ability to use mathematical logic to solve everyday problems.

Here’s the wonderful thing… You don’t have to be born with the ‘gift’ of Number Sense… you can learn it. Most importantly, Number Sense can help you see solutions to problems in your knitting.

Knitting and later crochet actually helped me develop a stronger awareness and improved use of my Number Sense. I’ve often exclaimed, why if they were only teaching us how to use Algebra for knitting, I would have paid more attention in class! I was mulling over a few examples of using Number Sense in knitting last night.

Here’s a knitting example of number sense with symmetry: If I’m decreasing on the left front side of the to make an armhole using a left leaning increase. I will have to decrease from the right on right front side to shape the armhole there.

Here’s an example of multiplication/division number sense: I want to use a simple color-work stitch pattern in the yoke of my sweater. It’s 7 stitches across before it repeats again. There are 200 stitches in my yoke. How many stitches do I need to decrease to fit my repeat pattern?

Here’s an example of algebraic number sense: With the same yoke sweater I need to decrease by 1/3 of the total stitch count 198. This leaves me with 132. I need a stitch pattern that is less than 7 stitches wide that can fit into this? Can I use one with 5? If I do how many stitches will I have to decrease to fit the stitch pattern?

If you remember your multiplication tables and can factor out possible repeats within a stitch count you’ve got the building blocks for Number Sense. Understanding a bit of math can help you really add power to your knitting skills. Instead of relying on someone to help you work out the problems, you can do it yourself. Instead of requiring that patterns spell out what to do row by row, you can see the overall pattern in the knitting and sometimes learn the pattern and knit without it. I actually love that when that happens. I only have two hands and two eyes and I hate flipping back and forth between a pattern and my work. I think it interrupts my whole flow with my knitting. This doesn’t mean I don’t go back and look at the pattern to check if I’m on the right track. Moreover, reading a pattern ahead of time to find the mathematical quirks can also save you a great deal of headache before you even get started.

The mathematical examples I shared are simple examples, but they are good examples of how a knitter might use math to figure things out. The simple truth is if you want to grow as a knitter you have to embrace math and chuck your fear of it out the window and remember math is like everything else it takes some time and effort to master it. It’s not some secret mystery language being spoken by monks in purple robes. It is a language but one that can be decoded, and one’s love of fibercraft can help you translate they code.


Filed under Knit, Knitters, Knitting, Math

Ultimate Geekiest Knitting: Programming a Scarf Design

I would love a knitting machine like this but I doubt I’d be able to afford it right now:


I can dream can’t I?

Leave a comment

Filed under Craft, Fun Stuff, Gadgets, Knit, Knitting, Math

Experiment #3: Planning a colorway

Dyeing cotton fibers is such a pain. Not only do I want to make sure that the pain is worth it, I want to make sure I get it right the first time.  Not to mention, I’ll be using my precious Artfibers cotton (Rush), and I really don’t want to over-dye any of this stuff.

I’ve decided to knit up the skeins of blank cotton yarn I have with a knitting machine and then paint these long blanks by hand using a color combo of four (see below).

(clock wise from the top left) Black Cherry, Brazilnut, Dusty Rose, and Raspberry

Four colors of Dharma Fiber Reactive Procion Dye: (clock wise from the top left) Black Cherry, Brazilnut, Dusty Rose, and Raspberry

This may sound a bit geeky, and I’m sure there’s a better way to do this, but I used a graphics program to ‘plan’ out the color on the blanks.  I think I’ll actually dye a test blank in leftover dyes that I’m not crazy about using one of the patterns below. Pattern 1 will result in a graduated dye dispersal. Pattern 2 is a recipe for plain striping. Pattern three will create broad strips of color with blends of the dye colors in criss-cross patterns dispersed throughout the fabric.

I want to know what the color patterns will be like in a large panel of stockinette knitting (say for a sweater).  If only my math and programming skills were sharper, I could actually create a program that would help me estimate the staggering of the pattern based on the length and width of the knitting and the stitch gauge. Actually, I could probably do it if I had the time, but for now, I’m just going to have to rely on both my imagination and powers of estimation.

Pattern 1

Pattern 1

Pattern 2

Pattern 2

Pattern 3

Pattern 3

Leave a comment

Filed under Colors, Colorwork, Cotton, Creativity, Dye, Dyeing, Dyeing_yarn, Knit, Knitting, Math, Project, Stockinette, Sweater, Techniques, Yarn

Am I dyslexic or just lazy? I can read charts but I can’t write them

I love Elizabeth Zimmerman’s writing, but sometimes I lament that she doesn’t make enough use of charts. There are times when the mathematician in myself would prefer to scan over visual charts instead of reading Zimmerman’s written pithy instructions. I’ve decided that it’s ironic because I myself would rather give verbal instructions when teaching than write the instructions out with diagrams.

I made up a simple little pattern for a pair of fingerless mitts about a year or so ago and I gifted them to a friend who taken up knitting since then. It was a nice little number…. a simple O cable panel surrounded by two panels of a zig-zag eyelet pattern on a stockinette background. I added a bit of snugness by fashioning a mock cable rib along the underside of the mitt. Don’t ask me for a picture because again, I’m two lazy to draw or produce one.

She asked me for the pattern and yesterday I tried to write it out, and I discovered… I’m crap at writing out patterns. At the very least, I need more practice writing them and I make excuses all the time telling myself that I don’t have the time and I’d rather spend my free time knitting. Okay, I realize that this is a very bad attitude to have and I’m sure that eventually I’ll reckon with my testy impatience and selfishness. After about twenty minutes and five or six crumpled pieces of graph paper… I just told her that I would walk her through the process telling her what to do row by row. I figured that after two repeats of the very simple pattern she would be able to do at least the length of the arm and section before the thumb hole on her own. I’d later show her how to join the mitt and then finish with a ribbed edge.

It was so bloody cold this weekend. I took a break from knitting gifts to make a pair of mitts for myself. I have a different variation which I finished this weekend. I will post a picture of these when I have the time. I used a very chunky and somewhat polar bear (beige) colored furry yarn that I purchased at a sale at JoAnn Fabrics (Sensations -Angel Hair) and knit a version of the mitts I described above on US size 10 and 11 needles. Result… in about three hours I had a pair of warm toasty hand warmers to wear in the cold outside…. with clothes, a coat, scarf and hat, of course. I love them because they make me feel like a cave woman.


Leave a comment

Filed under Challenge, Craft, Creativity, Gifts, Knit, Knitters, Knitting, Math, Patterns, Reflection, Stockinette, Teaching, Techniques, Yarn

Interdisciplinary knitter

All this talk of robots and robotics has gotten me into this kick about understanding the science and mathematics of knitting. Quite a while back on my other blog I posted a set of links I found on “mathematical knitting.”

crochetlorenz.jpgI may have mentioned in a previous post that I find knitting lace soothing because of it’s soothing effect on me. Numbers and patterns have a calming effect on me not just because they can repeat and the repeats have the same effects as chanting sometimes the challenge of figuring out problems in my knitting, or undoing mistakes can keep me focused (and sadly other times it can also drive me buttons).

Knitting is not an easy skill for very young hands to learn, but from my own experience learning how to knit as an adolescent, it has taught me patience and that the fruits of patience and labor can result in something both satisfying and aesthetically pleasing. Perhaps learning to knit can help teach children and young people who have been raised in the frenetic age of instant-wow how to slow down, step back and learn tactilely. The article linked above “Teaching Mathematics with Knitting” described ways that some educators use to teach mathematics with knitting, namely multiplication. However, there are so many other ways to teach mathematical type subjects and concepts:

  • Tessellations
  • Numerical Patterns
  • Modular Arithmetic
  • Arrays
  • Probability
  • Area
  • Algebra
  • Trigonometry
  • Geometry
  • Measurement
  • Estimation
  • Quadrants/Coordinate Plotting
  • To name a few…

As Knitting fool points out…

All knitters are mathematicians. Knitters count the stitches (arithmetic), figure out the number of stitches needed (algebra) and create shapes (topology, geometry, and trigonometry). Knitting was one of the first applications of computer programming. Knitted fabrics were commercially produced using punch cards long before anyone ever heard of IBM or Microsoft.

I no longer teach in the classroom, but I think it would be wonderful to create a mini-curriculum for math focused on knitting. Now, imagine the possibilities for teaching chemistry (fiber identification and dying)

Image above, from an article in Science News Online, is of a crocheted Lorenz manifold (pattern and paper on the subject). Image below is of a Mobius band knit by Sarah-Marie.



Filed under Colors, Knit, Knitting, Math, Reflection, Techniques, Yarn