Play with filet charts: Knit them or crochet them!

No, we’re not cutting up a fish. We’re looking at and playing with filet crochet charts.

Filet crochet, as you might already know, is a way of making mesh that, with its alternating open squares and filled squares, creates a picture or design. The cool thing about filet crochet patterns is that they’re already charted and you can recycle them for other kinds of projects in both knitting and crochet. Here I’m going to show you how I knit and crochet following these charts and then provide other ideas on how to make interesting items based on them. “Option 1: Filet Crochet” shows you how to filet crochet. “Option 2: Double Knitting” shows you how to use a filet crochet chart to make a reversible knit fabric. “Option 3: Other Ideas” is just a list of embroidery ideas with links to instructions on how to cross stitch and embroider on knitted and crocheted fabrics.

Option 1: Filet Crochet

You can always, of course, use the charts for their originally intended purpose if you know how to crochet. These mesh designs can be used for tablecloths, curtains, bedspreads, hand towels, edgings, and whatever else you can think of. You can use thicker yarns or fine crochet cotton, depending on the effects you wish to achieve and the size of the item you wish to make. The Antique Pattern Library has plenty of free crochet books with filet patterns. It’s fun to browse through the charts, actually.

To filet crochet you just need to know what the boxes in the charts mean. I assume here that you already know how to double crochet and chain. If you don’t know how: learn! It can be fun!

Here’s an example of a chart I found in Eduard Boucharit’s Grand Album de Modeles Pour Filet, no 3. Don’t worry, you don’t have to know French to use the book. It’s just a collection of filet crochet charts. In other words, it’s 100% visual. You can find it at the Antique Pattern Library web site in the catalog under “B” for “Boucharit.” Here’s the chart I found in that book, on page 4:

This chart has a little mistake on it. I’ve indicated the mistake, which is a single missing black square, in this picture:

OK, now, here’s how to use this and any other chart for filet crochet:

1) Count the number of squares wide the chart is. This one is 49 squares wide.
2) Multiply the number of squares wide by 3 and add 1. In this example 49 X 3 = 147. 147 + 1 = 148. This last number is the number you’ll want to chain.
3) Chain the number of chains you got from step 2, turn, and chain 3 if the first square you must crochet is solid (black) or chain 5 if the first square you must crochet is open (white). To make this chart for one pattern repeat chain 148, turn, and chain 3. This chain 3 counts as your first double crochet.
4) We work starting from the bottom of the chart, reading right to left. If the first square in your chart is white you need to make an open mesh square. This means that your turning chain is a chain-5 (counts as one double crochet + chain-2) so to make an open mesh square:  double crochet in the 8th chain from hook. If the first square in your chart is black you need to make a solid square, so your turning chain is a chain-3 and you double crochet in the 4th chain from hook and in next two chains.
In this example, the first square in the chart is a black square, so we double crochet in the fourth chain from hook and in the next two chains.
5) Follow the first row (very bottom row) of the any chart as follows: a) for black squares, 1 double crochet in each of next four chains; b) for white squares chain 2, skip 2 chains, and double crochet in next chain. The bottom row of the example is very basic: after you turn and chain 3, double crochet in the the fourth chain from hook and double crochet all the chains.
6) When you finish your first row: turn, chain 3. To make a beginning filled in square over a chain 2 space: double crochet twice in the chain 2 space and the next double crochet. To make a beginning filled in square over another one that is filled in: double crochet in next 3 double crochet. After your beginning square: make filled squares with three double crochet or mesh squares with chain 2, skip 2 chains, double crochet in next double crochet.
7) Remember your chart differs from reality (although most filet charts are symmetrical): You crochet row 1 starting at the bottom and read from right to left. When you turn, you now read the chart from left to right. It’s a good idea to place a marker on the side that is your corresponding odd-numbered row from the chart. This helps when you set your work aside for a while and can’t remember where you were on your chart. Flat crochet is totally reversible, remember! There is no apparent wrong side.
Here’s a picture to see how it works (sorry! it’s a work in progress so it’s not blocked!:
If my directions and photo are difficult to follow try using crochet.about.com’s instructions. You will discover that there other ways to do this. It also includes directions for different mesh patterns that come up in some charts.

Option 2: Double Knitting

Filet crochet charts aren’t usually good for converting to color knitting. It’s just a bad idea to strand alternating colors behind five or more stitches. The example chart above has as many as 15 squares of the same kind in a row. Intarsia would be impractical. However, these charts are perfect for double knitting, which creates a very attractive reversible fabric. Double knitting creates a color pattern on one side and the negative version on the other side.

Double knitting is also great because it’s an easier way to work with cotton in color. Of course, you don’t have to use cotton. It works great with all types of fibers. I’m just pointing out that cotton is stubborn and can be difficult to use for color stranding or Intarsia. Heck, it’s difficult to make flat stockinette with cotton.

By chance I wanted to make a nice cotton cloth to line the bread basket I use to serve bread. So I used cotton.

To double knit using a filet crochet chart choose a dark color and a light color. Here’s what happens when you double knit the same filet crochet pattern I showed you above:
Side A
Side B
Sides A and B

I really love this pattern in double knitting and I like the colors. It reminds me of a Wedgewood design.

A close view of the fabric reveals how well cotton responds to the double knitting method. The tightness of the fabric tames a fiber that is otherwise very difficult to work with in color knitting:
Close up of Side A
Close up of Side B

Here’s how I did it:

1) Multiply 49 X 2 = 98 (49 for side A and 49 for side B).
2) Cast on 98 stitches with the dark color for a single pattern repeat.

Each square in the chart represents two stitches: 1 knit stitch on the side that faces you and 1 purl stitch on the side that faces away from you. Follow the chart in this way, remembering that when you turn your work you have to read the next row in the chart in the opposite direction. Also remember that when you do this you have to put the correct colors on the correct side. For example, if you’re a right-handed knitter you will knit row 1 reading right to left and row 2 as well as all even numbered rows from left to right. Row 1 colors in the chart are the ones on the side facing you. Row 2 colors, reading from left to right, are the colors on the side facing away from you.

Here is how to think and read a chart in double knitting:

1) When you read the chart from right to left each black square means: a) knit one with dark color holding both yarns in back; b) purl one with light color holding both yarns in front.
2) When you read the chart from right to left each white square means: a) knit one with light color holding both yarns in back; b) purl one with dark color holding both yarns in front.
3) When you read the chart from left to right each black square means: a) knit one with light color holding both yarns in back; b) purl one with dark color holding both yarns in front.
4) When you read the chart from left to right each white square means: a) knit one with dark color holding both yarns in back; b) purl one with light color holding both yarns in front.

As you’ll notice there is no need to do any color stranding or intarsia because as you knit you carry both yarns along your rows.  It is important to knit holding both yarns in back and purl holding both yarns in front. You have to do this because the yarn that you’re not using to make a stitch is pushing the stitches you knit and purl to the side they need to be on. Unfortunately you need to complete a few rows to have the satisfaction of seeing how you have a reversible fabric. It’s worth the effort and wait, though!

At first double knitting seems confusing but after some practice it gets easier. If you don’t like my explanation, try this one at knitting.about.com. There are also plenty of videos on the internet that are helpful.

All kinds of items can be made with this method. Think wool scarves, cotton placemats, reversible cotton kitchen and bathroom towels, reversible shawls, reversible knit quilts made of various squares crocheted together…

Option 3: Other ideas (embroidery, etc.)

1) Knit a square with an area of stockinette stitch that is the size of the chart. Every dark square will represent an embroidery stitch, duplicate stitch, or cross stitch.
2) Use Tunisian crochet (the afghan stitch) to make a square with an area the size of the chart. Cross stitch the pattern onto the fabric.
3) You could alter a filet pattern by adding more colors (instead of the plain old light and dark color) if you’d like to try the embroidery method. Just get some graph paper and try out different colored squares.
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Hey, dude! Did you read that knitting magazine?

Knitting magazines from a male knitter’s perspective: it’s not really marketed towards him.

As a matter of fact, all year long Creative Knitting Magazine hasn’t published a single pattern for a man’s garment. The summer edition of Interweave Knits has one lonely sweater pattern for a man. Knitsy, a brand new digital magazine for knitters and crocheters, does not have much for men, either in its first issue and it assumes the reader is a woman. Knitty usually does a good job of providing a variety of patterns for men and women. Men and women contribute to the magazine.

Considering that Knitty is a free magazine men who knit and crochet might think that it’s not worth paying for another magazine.

Male fiber enthusiasts, here’s why I pay for two knitting magazine subscriptions that don’t have a whole lot that could be called “male oriented:”

1) I don’t expect knitting and crochet magazines to be marketed towards men. The vast majority of knitters are women. I can live with that.

2) I like to make stuff for women since I have friends and family who like my knitting. If I have patterns for women I can make something a woman will like to use or wear. Reading about what is in style for women helps me come up with designs for the women in my life as well.

3) It’s fun and challenging to use a pattern for women to transform it into something for a man to wear. I get a lot of my ideas from the magazines. For example: the Vertex Cardigan by Carol Feller from the Spring issue of Interweave Knits is awesome and can be adapted for a man. Yes, yes, I know, the model in the picture is a woman. However, the way the sweater is shaped and constructed is very cool. I can imagine myself wearing this cardigan in a “manly” color, perhaps knit at a slightly bigger gauge with some sort of tweed or rough cotton and long sleeves. Add some button holes and buttons if you want, or perhaps a cord to tie and presto! A dude sweater! This sweater is actually one that I plan on making for myself some day. I actually like it more than the only dude sweater in the Summer issue, the Crosstrees Cardigan by Meghan Jones. I like the cardigan enough, but I feel more enthusiastic about an altered version of the other one.

4) I like the articles that don’t necessarily include patterns. I usually learn something new from them or they inspire me to try out something. Creative Knitting Magazine, Interweave Knits, and Knitty all have excellent articles about techniques, yarn, and other creativity-focused material. Each presents the information in different ways.

5) A magazine subscription is like a gift that gives over and over. My favorite thing is actually to get a new issue of a magazine. Any magazine, not just knitting magazines.

6) It’s fun to sometimes flip through a new issue and look at the pictures without reading anything.

For these reasons a subscription to a knitting magazine is worth the price for me. Most important for me is that it inspires my creativity.

Mosaic knitting fun

For the first time I’ve cast on a toe-up sock (that is, I’ve been following a sock pattern that starts at the toe and ends at the cuff). I knit most of it last week. By the middle of last week I got tired of the pattern a bit and started looking through my books and magazines. Since last midweek I’ve actually been reading about knitting more than actually knitting. Of course I’ve been playing with the yarn as well.

You could say that lately I’ve been having lots of fun swatching.

Yeah, I just wrote that sentence and I’ve paused a minute before writing this line. I’m surprised as well.

What has brought on this swatching activity? Two things: 1) I have one sister-in-law who deserves a scarf because the other one already has one I knit; 2) Barbara Walker’s mosaic patterns have inspired me to try designing a nice scarf for her.

Mosaic knitting is nothing more than slip stitch color change knitting. It’s an extremely simple technique: you get a two-color pattern using one color at a time.

Due to its simplicity two fantastic outcomes occur: 1) garter stitch suddenly becomes a superstar if you decide to knit every row in flat knitting and 2) you come up with all kinds of ideas for using it because simple techniques are also versatile and easy to imagine in the planning phase of applying them.

I’m more interested in its implementation for different kinds of knitted items than I am in explaining its technique. Plenty of other knitters have written about the topic. If you’re not familiar with the technique have a look here to find out how to do it with examples in stockinette (all knit stitches on right side rows and all purl stitches on wrong side rows). To do the technique in garter stitch while knitting flat just knit on the right side and on the wrong side and slip the stitches you are supposed to slip. Some patterns just look better in garter stitch than in stockinette.

Back to my swatching: I’m trying to figure out a nice scarf design and I want it to look nice on both sides. Mosaic knitting is great for double knitting. As a matter of fact it might just be the cousin of double knitting.

First, I’ll show you some swatches and then I’ll explain how to knit mosaic so you can have two different patterns, one on each side of your knitting. One side is a stripe design and the other has a mosaic pattern.

Anyway, the first thing I knew was that I wanted stripes on one side of the scarf and a mosaic pattern on the other side. The only thing I didn’t know was: which mosaic pattern? Do I want it to be garter stitch or stockinette?

Here’s a mosaic pattern I swatched up from Barbara Walker’s A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns:

It doesn’t look bad in stockinette stitch, does it?

But wow! The garter stitch version I like also. I actually still can’t decide if I like the stockinette version or the garter stitch version.

So far I’ve swatched the mosaic pattern in stockinette stitch with stripes on the reverse side:

Later on down the road when I choose the right yarn for the project I’ll decide if I want mosaic garter or mosaic stockinette.
Anyway, how did I do that? It’s not hard once you get the hang of it. Basically, I made a closed tube using two knitting needles. Here’s the basic method for doing this so you have stockinette on both sides:
1) With color A cast on twice as many stitches as you would need for a one-sided item. Make it an even number for simplicity.
2) With color A *K1, slip 1 wyif* repeat from * at end of row turn your work
Repeat step 2 three times. You will discover that you have two sides. Side A is now facing you. Your first stitch is a stitch for side A. The second stitch is a stitch from side B. When you look at them facing side A the individual stitches alternate in this way: side A – side B – side A – side B, etc. You always slip, with yarn in front, the stitches from the opposite side you’re working on.
Now:
3) You’re on the A side after you turn your work. Using color B, knit the stitches you’re supposed to knit following your mosaic pattern and slip your yarn with yarn in back for stitches to slip in your mosaic pattern. Always slip the stitches from the B side with yarn in front.
4) With color B, do step 2.
5) Repeat steps 3 and 4 one more time.
6) Switch back to color A and continue with your mosaic pattern on side A and your stripe pattern on side B.
And now, continue as the pattern is established, alternating colors A and B working sides A and B twice with each color. You’ll notice that, if you’re using a mosaic chart, the same old rule applies: you don’t need to read the chart for even numbered rows because you can already see which stitches need to be slipped with the yarn in back.
If your mosaic pattern calls for an odd number of stitches you can either A) make a selvedge edge or other kind of decorative edge or B) alter the basic pattern here so that you always slip the first stitch, wyif, whenever you begin work on side A.
Maybe you like your mosaic pattern in garter stitch. If this is the case, alter the basic pattern so that you alternate rows in knit and purl stitches each time you work on side A for the mosaic pattern. Of course, you mustn’t forget to slip the stitches you’re supposed to slip with the yarn in the correct position.