Designing a flag with Super Saver yarn

This week, we’re having fun with flags by designing an afghan of a country’s flag using Red Heart Super Saver yarn.

It’s summer and this week I’ve done a lot of my sampling with Super Saver yarn on my front porch swing.

In my last post, we chose our yarn, knitted our samples, and accurately recorded their measurements. Today, we’re going to calculate the rough numbers for the project and prepare a simple flag.

Creating rough numbers

Yesterday you took precise data of the stitches and rows to 4” [10cm]. I emphasized the importance of being accurate to the fraction of a stitch and row, especially if you’re doing a flag with a center motif, such as the vergina star or the maple leaf in the Canadian flag, or a complex flag such as the stars and stripes of the United States of America. If you aren’t already comfortable with the metric system, where the increments are smaller and based on a decimal system, this is an opportune time to practice, as it makes both the measuring and the math easier.

Let’s use our stitch and row details to calculate the approximate number of stitches and rows for the finished afghan. This is simple algebra where s = stitches to 4” [10cm] and x = total stitches, and where r = rows to 4” [10cm], and y = total rows. If you’re using the metric system, substitute 10 for the 4, 152 for 60, and 122 for 48 in the equations below.

If you’re going to knit your afghan from the long side, the stitch calculation will be:

s ÷ 4 x 60 = x and the calculation for the rows will be r ÷ 4 x 48 = y

If you’re going to knit your afghan from the short side, the stitch calculation will be:

s ÷ 4 x 48 = x and the calculation for the rows will be r ÷ 4 x 60 = y

I plan to knit my afghan along the short side. (See direction of knitting in the photo below.) Based on my tension of 17 sts and 24½ rows to 4” [10cm], my calculations work out as follows:

17 ÷ 4 x 48 = 204 stitches and 24.5 ÷ 4 x 60 = 367.5 rows.

Overall, my afghan will have 204 stitches, and 368 rows.

The old Macedonian flag, featuring the vergina sun. The black line indicates the area to be used for charting, and the grey arrow on the right indicates the direction of knitting.

I use a spreadsheet to do my calculations. I perform my basic calculations as shown in the diagram, but, when using a spreadsheet, the symbols for divide and multiply are different. The figure below shows the formula I used to calculate the number of stitches in the formula box (beside the blue check mark). The result of 204 appears in the cell with the black line around it.

A screen capture of the spreadsheet showing the calculation for the number of stitches based on the tension sample.

Working a Simple Flag – Design Options

If you’re doing a flag that has equal-sized stripes, such as Ireland, France, Germany, or Italy, you can, at this point, simply divide your number of stitches or rows by the number of stripes, then incorporate or add your border stitches to these numbers.

Border stitches are important to prevent the flag/afghan fabric from curling. If I were making the entire afghan surface in the flag colors, I would work a deep border of ten or more rows of seed or moss stitch, along with a deep edge (8 or 10 stitches) of the same stitch worked along the left and right sides. If I planned to “float” the flag on a background to maintain its correct-to-scale dimensions, I would choose a color that is not contained in the flag for the borders. I would work the entire border in an all-over textured stitch, and I would do a deep edge along the left and right edges of the flag in the flag’s colors.

Let’s use the French flag in the diagram, and the result from my tension swatch of 204 stitches and 367 rows worked along the short edge.

A diagram showing the stripes of the French flag, placed on end so that the flag is knitted from the short edge.

In the French flag, each of the three stripes are equal. To work the afghan in one piece, cast on 204 stitches, work the bottom border, then continue in your chosen design. Change colors at 20″ [51cm], and again at 40″ [102cm]. When the afghan is its full length (60″ [152cm]) minus the depth of the bottom border (at the cast on), switch to the border stitch pattern with the color currently in use, knit a border the same length as the beginning border, and cast off all stitches.

In the next post, we’ll look at ways to use technology to assist in creating complex designs.

This is part 3 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 2:  Sampling a flag with Super Saver yarn

Go to part 4: Charting for flags and Super Saver yarn

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