August 11, 2008

Taking the magic out of the "Magic Formula"

This is the first in a series of posts explaining the use of the "magic formula", a simple mathematical equation which allows knitters to calculate evenly spaced shapings in varied situations. I'm putting this here as much for my own reference as anything else. I'll be expanding upon the varied uses of the MF as soon as I get the chance to put fingers to keyboard. I'm a busy boy, so it'll probably take me a while to write the complete series. Please be patient....

What exactly is the magic formula?
The “magic formula” is a nickname coined by Alles Hutchinson, an American machine knitting expert, for a mysterious sum she discovered being used frequently in 1970's Japanese knitting magazines. This strange, but useful equation allowed knitters to precisely calculate their garment shapings, eliminating guesswork or trial and error. Although not immediately clear as to why, it worked perfectly every time as if by magic, hence the name.

The “magic formula” is more correctly known as a “diophantine equation” and was invented by Diophantus, an ancient greek mathematician credited as the father of algebra. A diophantine equation is defined as an equation in which only whole number solutions are allowed. In other words, the answer to the sum can only be a whole number, no fractions or remainders are allowed. This is exactly what makes it so useful to us as knitters, bearing in mind that we can't work with fractions of stitches or rows, only whole ones.

There are 4 basic uses or expressions of the magic formula:

Expression 1a - used to evenly space shapings along a diagonal line, such as on a sleeve underarm, a raglan armhole or a v-neckline.

Expression 1b - same as above, but shapings always occur on even rows only. This is particularly useful for handknitters who prefer to work shapings with the RS of work facing. For this particular expression of the formula to work, there has to be at least two times the number of rows as stitches.


Expression 1

Expression 2 - used to evenly divide up groups of stitches for shaping, such as on a sloped shoulder or flared panel shapings on a sideways knit skirt. Shaping can only happen on alternate rows with this particular expression of the magic formula.


Expression 2

Expression 3 - used to evenly space shapings horizontally across a single row of knitting, such as in a circular yoked sweater, or to deliberately create fullness above a ribbed border.


Expression 3

Expression 4 - used to evenly space buttonholes or other design elements such as cable panels across a knit piece.


Expression 4

I'm working on diagrams to explain everything as clearly as possible. So stay tuned!

August 11, 2008 in Knitting, Machine Knitting, Technical, Technique | Permalink | Comments (3)

December 30, 2007

Knitting the unknittable


[click on image to see larger in a new window]:

Currently working on a series of [overly] complicated prototypes for a designer's show in mid-February. Trying to come up with stitch patterns and textures reminiscent of traditional arans but with an unusual twist. One simple way is to explore the possibilties offered by photographic collage. It's an interesting approach for the simple fact you can potentially create the 'unknittable' - and hopefully something not seen before.

Doing it digitally in photoshop also means you can produce a hundred swatches in the time it would take to knit just one...

As an added bonus the images could also be used to digitally print chiffon with a knitted print anyone?

December 30, 2007 in Inspiration, Knitting, Technical | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 20, 2005


Stressed, tired, and working like a dog but it's very satisfying. No posts for a while. Have to go cut some more [complicated] patterns now...

June 20, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 28, 2005

Progress...of sorts

Just to prove I actually do attempt some knitting every now and again, I make this small offering to the Knit-Gods:


It's a baby blanket [or soon will be] in Rowan's Cotton Glace, for a colleague who is giving birth to a bouncimg baby boy in July. Gertrude, my knitting assistant [a.k.a the Garter Carriage, if you have no idea what I'm rambling about, check out Sonja's excellent article here] is chugging away on my electronic machine...slowly....veeerrrry slowly. Even on a machine, this kind of knitting isn't much faster than knitting by hand. In theory, you can set up the Garter Carriage and go away and do something completely different, whilst the machine gets on with things and creates a beautiful textured fabric and then waits patiently for you to return when it has knit the required number of rows. The reality is slightly different. There have been myriad dropped stitches, frayed yarn and carriage jams due to Gertrude being a temperamental beast when confronted with inelastic plant fibres. It also seems that all Cotton Glace is not created equal - The green is comparatively softer, but seems to have been dyed unevenly having a slightly striped effect when knitted up. Needless to say, Gertrude loves this yarn, and hates the orange which is quite hard and much more shiny due to having been more tightly spun. Dropped stitches everywhere with this yarn. Nevertheless, I intend to persevere. Watch this space.

I also had the opportunity recently to induct a new member into my gang of knitting machines. The LK150 is classed as a hobby machine, due to it being made of plastic and being relatively cheap.  It's a mid-gauge machine and is intended to knit yarns in the Double Knitting and Aran category. Despite having used all kinds of knitting machines for years, the tension settings on it have me stumped. Does anyone have any info to share on tension settings [both carriage and tension mast]?  I haven't had much time to experiment yet, so if someone could offer a shortcut I would be most grateful.

May 28, 2005 in Knitting, Machine Knitting | Permalink | Comments (2)

May 13, 2005

Randomness part 2

Well, it's certainly been an interesting few weeks...I turned 30, I moved house and am now in the midst of trying to set up in business with a friend with whom I've worked for several years.  It's proving to be much harder than first expected but also strangely satisfying (and more than just a little scary).  I guess anything worth having needs to be worked for...

And finally, for my back-tack lurker....(sorry for the delay, I only just noticed you left me a message in the comments section)

what is your favorite fruit?
a bit boring, but it's a toss-up between either an apple or a kiwifruit.

what is your favorite shape? (could be 3d or 2d)
"organic" shapes generally, but circular/spherical or rectangular with rounded corners. 

who is your style icon?
ok, this is tough.  I need more time, let me no particular order: Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Marc Jacobs, Miuccia Prada, Francis Bacon, Helmut Lang, Paul Rand, Richard May, Stella McCartney.  There are probably a million more but these are the ones that spring to mind when pushed to give an answer.

what is the most indespensible item in any self respecting craftster's kit?
indispensable craft items for me are scissors, tape measure and needles.

are there any colours you particuarly dislike?
whilst I can't think offhand of any colour I particularly hate, I do generally prefer muted/"off"/weird colours.  The photographs in the current Prada women's ad campaign are a good example of the kind of colours I mean.

where were you born?
I was born in a place called Ashington in the north of England.  But now I live in London.

May 13, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (4)

April 22, 2005

Welcome Back

It's good to have you back Kim, Rowan is not the same without you.  Can we have more soon, please?


Images and garment designs copyright Kim Hargreaves

April 22, 2005 in Knitting | Permalink | Comments (5)

April 21, 2005


Ever get obsessed by something?  A person? a place? a colour?  It happens to me all the time, especially when it comes to colour.  Currently, I'm obsessing over anything and everything BLUE.  It seems as though, for me at least, next summer will be all about blue - in all shades.


But then again, nobody said you had to stick with a single obsession, did they?  Multiple obsessions are good, we like multiple obsessions.  Speaking of which, let's not forget green.  Probably my ultimate favourite if I was limited to only one colour for the rest of my days.


A selection of green/grey/cream samples in development for a small
interiors/homewear project I'm working on at the moment


You might also get obsessed by a technique, it happens to me often.  For me at the moment it's lace/openwork/crochet. I want to take it and knock some of the 'delicateness' [is that a real word?] out of it.  First idea that occurred was to crank up the gauge.   Those are 6mm circulars with some Phildar ETE attached.  Don't like the yarn.  Come to think of it, this green doesn't do much for me either...


April 21, 2005 in Inspiration, Trends | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 27, 2005


No, I haven't disappeared from the face of the Earth. Busy organising and arranging [and trying not to procrastinate. The Interweave deadline is coming up soon and I've still done nothing concrete.] 
Spent a long weekend in Paris last weekend.  It was soooo cold.  I haven't been that cold in a long time.  Here's Notre Dame for your viewing pleasure.  In moody black and white to emphasise the coldness...


During the weekend, I also made a quick stop at the Phildar boutique [this is supposed to be a knitting blog] at Galeries Lafayette, probably the hugest department store in Paris.  They had a pretty good [but small] selection of Phildar yarns and mags, and I scooped up a few for further study.  The colour selection of yarns available wasn't to my personal taste though, and the selection of  fibres was a touch on the synthetic side, so no yarn indulgence.  That said, there were plenty of bargains to be had in terms of sale packs of yarn and the assistants were friendly.


Sunday was spent at the fleamarket at Clignancourt on the outskirts of Paris.  Lots of amazing things, lots of them at amazing prices.  I came across a batch of 1930's handcraft and sewing magazines, and snapped them up for 50 euros. I also scored some "galalite" [bakelite?? definitely some kind of plastic] sequins, hand made from tiddlywinks.  Fifty cents each.  No idea what I'm going to do with them yet. The photo doesn't really show off the colours very well.  They're also really grubby and need a good clean, which doesn't help.


And to finish, some creepy beauty advice, circa 1932, courtesy of Modes & Travaux:


Rejuvenate yourself and become more youthful and beautiful in only half an hour with a RADIOACTIVE [?!] beauty mask.  Wonder why these never caught on?  I just googled "caoutchoucs de beaute" and found it means "beauty rubbers"...Radioactive rubber beauty masks....ok.  Almost as frightening as those knitted clown masks that were doing the rounds a few weeks ago.


February 27, 2005 in Travel | Permalink | Comments (2)