Charting for flags and Super Saver yarn

In today’s chapter of Fun with Flags we use technology to help us chart the design for our old Macedonian flag, and do more swatching to ensure our design will execute properly.

The information given in today’s post can be used for more than just flags – You can use this method to commemorate your trip to Paris by creating an afghan of an outline of the Eiffel tower. You can extend the legacy of a favorite stuffed toy by knitting its image into a blanket. You can even use this method to recreate digital designs, or a photo of a special flower from your garden. Red Heart’s Super Saver yarn has enough colors to recreate many images in knitting.

Red Heart Super Saver yarn comes in bold flag colors.

I’m going to show you how you can use technology to create a complex chart. Or, at least, how I did it.

Create Graph Paper

Using my base tension of 17 sts and 24.5 rows to 4” [10cm], I created my own knitter’s graph paper using my spreadsheet software. I calculated the decimal equivalent of one stitch in inches, and the decimal equivalent of one row in inches, then I set the size of my cells to that dimension. Next, I drew lines around the cells. My software won’t accept three decimal places, so I have to round off the numbers. Again, accuracy here is important: rounding up or down even five thousandths of an inch will make a difference of about one full inch over the entire piece.

For that reason, I often re-do my calculations in metric, to make sure the cells are as close to the actual size of the tension swatch as possible. I took the care to measure the tension swatch accurately, it makes sense for the graph paper to be accurate, too.

This screen capture from QuattroPro shows the row and column settings to create graph paper to chart a knitting design in the same size as the knitting.

Knitting graph paper can be found on-line from various sources, however, the products I found didn’t match my tension closely enough. The papers I found had 20sts and 32 rows to 4” [10cm], and 32sts and 40 rows to 4” [10cm].

Once the graph paper was set to the correct dimensions, I printed several sheets of paper and trimmed the margins off of two sides. Then, I taped them together on the back of the pages. When I do this, I lay the sheets face up, matching the lines, hold them in place temporarily with sticky notes, then turn the pages over and apply tape on the back. This way, I can draw in all areas of the chart.

I wanted to chart my vergina sun to its actual size. Because the design is symmetrical, I only needed to chart just over a ¼ of the sun.

The thin black line shows approximately the area where I taped my knitter’s graph paper to the wall.

Other symmetrical motifs, such as the maple leaf in the Canadian flag, would need to have one half of the motif charted – you would knit to the center of the chart, then repeat the other half of the row by reading the chart in the opposite direction.

I set my computer projector on a table then hooked the projector to my laptop and brought up the picture of the vergina sun. I wanted my sun to be 34″ across, so I adjusted the image on the computer and the projector until the image of the sun on the wall measured 17″ from the center to each tip. This step was important to ensure that the design’s dimensions are true, and in this case, symmetrical. Using painter’s tape, I taped the graph paper to the wall, positioning it over just more than half of the projected image.

The lower half of the vergina sun projected onto the wall, with the graph paper taped on the right side. In the foreground, the image is reflecting off the top of the projector on the left, and the image is on the laptop screen on the right.

Next, I traced out the center and points using my low-tech pencil.

Not everyone has a computer projector – they’re expensive to buy. You can rent one, or a really good friend may loan you theirs. An alternative to using a projector is to trace the image from a computer monitor:

Bring up the image on the monitor (you can even hook up your laptop to the TV and project the image onto it), lay the graph paper over it and tape it to the frame of the monitor (don’t apply tape to the screen itself). Next, lightly trace the design onto the graph paper. Be sure to use a soft pencil or a pen/marker that won’t bleed through the paper. You can always go over the tracing once the paper has been removed.

Knitter’s graph paper, 22sts and 32 rows to ¼, taped over the right side of the maple leaf of the Canadian flag. The top part has been traced using a pen and ruler, but dots on the lower section can be connected once the paper is removed to minimize any risk of damage.

In the lower areas of the maple leaf in the photo, I put a dot at the peak and valley of the leaf. Then, when the paper was removed from the computer screen, I used a ruler and pen to make solid lines. This would be a good technique to use for the stars in the American flag.

We now have fairly firm numbers and a chart outline for our project. It’s time to double check our work. Tomorrow: more sampling with Super Saver yarn.

This is part 4 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 3:  Designing a flag with Super Saver yarn

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