I mentioned last Wednesday that I've been playing with an 'extended swatch' in some of my handspun. I've been trying to come up with a reversible stitch pattern to use as part of a moebius cowl design. (I feel that 'reversible' is very desirable in a scarf, and absolutely necessary in a moebius: by definition, both sides will show when you wear it - or does it only have one side?!) Anyway, I want a nice, warm cowl, but not something so warm that it's only suitable for polar expeditions. Since the yarn is thick-ish, and contains silk, that probably meant that cables were rules out from the start! Also, I wanted something with a noticeable texture, that would be able to look good when scrunched around someone's neck. I came up with a simple, reversible lace motif that could be scaled over pretty much any number of stitches, and swatched it in several sizes. And I found something interesting. Here is the motif, worked as a six-stitch repeat:
The effect is of slightly distorted parallelograms - some in stockinette, some in reverse stockinette - bounded on one side by yarn-overs and on the other by decrease stitches. I'm particularly pleased with the nice, smooth line of the decrease stitches where they change direction! Now, compare that with this:
(I'm sorry; this would have been a much better demonstration in light coloured yarn. But I didn't know I was going to be making this discovery when I started swatching!) Anyway, can you see a difference? Where the decrease stitches change direction, the 'corner' stitch won't lie flat. It wants to kink up a bit, causing an interruption to the smooth flow of the line. The impact of this effect is much greater if the motif is smaller - work it over 7 or 8 stitches, and it becomes almost unnoticeable, unless you're being hyper-analytical about some design or other (ahem!). But work it over 5 stitches, and the 'kink' completely hides the pattern:
The only difference? In the 'kinked' version I purled into the yarn overs on the return row. In the smooth version, I knitted into the YO. I would never, ever have expected such a small difference to have such a dramatic effect in the finished piece. Sure, I know that the difference between stocking stitch and garter stitch is huge, but one stitch in a motif? Worked into a yarn-over? Yarn-overs are, I would have thought, open and flexible enough to accommodate the difference without affecting the surrounding stitches - but apparently not. The version I'm going with for the cowl? Smoothed, over 7 stitches:
I think this is going to be a pretty quick knit: I finished about 1/3 of it yesterday!