Knitting in code

morse code cowl

So there I was on my couch last week, knitting yet another cowl, trying to arrive at the perfect combination of yarn, stitch pattern and dimensions to create a warm and stylish object I would want to have piled around my neck always, when I began chiding myself for how particularly minimalist this one was. A nice tasteful charcoal. Stockinette with ribbed edges. “Can’t you put a little texture in it or something?” Well maybe I could scatter a few purl rows in there — 3 or 4 spaced-out purl rows? “Daring! But how would that affect the way it lays?” I don’t know. What if they weren’t all solid purl rows but maybe every other stitch, something like that? Or random purl stitches here and there? “What if it wasn’t random, but there was actually some irrelevant organizing principle at play?”

And somehow the next thing my brain came up with was … Morse Code. What can I say? (And, hey!, I’m sure I’m far from the first dork genius to ever make this connection.)

It so happens that I have always liked inscriptions and secret messages and such, so the idea stuck. The next day I was learning the code and charting out a message — using a single purl stitch for a dot and 3 in a row for a dash. (“Dots” and “dashes” really being short and long signals.) And every space is a knit stitch: 1 between the dots/dashes of a single letter; 3 between letters; 7 between words. Then I figured if I’m doing something as dorky as knitting Morse Code, I might as well go all the way and make it punny, right? So this cowl says I wool always love you.

As intended, it gives just a very little bit of visual interest. I centered my three “text” rows on each other but then positioned them toward one end of the object for a little asymmetry. If I knew someone who could actually read Morse Code, could they read the cowl? Maybe. But it’s sort of beside the point. Like an inscription, the wearer is the only one who needs to know.

I’m including the pattern, such as it is, but you could obviously make up anything you want for the “inscription.” Just remember that Morse is a lot of characters, what with all the spaces between letters and words — I mean, “love you” is 83 stitches — so you have to keep it short and break the words up such that they fit within your stitch count. And then knit them right to left, bottom to top.

- – - – - – -

P A T T E R N

Materials:

  • US11 x 24″ circular needle
  • approx 240 yds solid-colored* chunky/bulky yarn
  • stitch marker

Dimensions:

Approximately 32″ circumference and 17″ high, before blocking

Directions:

CO 96 stitches, place marker, and join for working in the round
Work k2/p2 ribbing for 1-1/2″ or 5 rows
Switch to stockinette stitch (knit all rows) until piece measures 4″
Next row: k6, p3, k1, p1, k1, p1, k3, p3, k1, p3, k1, p3, k3, p3, k1, p3, k1, p1, k1, p3, k7, p1, k3, p3, k1, p1, k1, p1, k1, p1, k3, p3, k1, p3, k1, p3, k3, p1, k1, p1, k1, p3, k1, p1, k7
Resume stockinette until piece measures 6″
Next row: k17, p1, k1, p1, k1, p1, k3, p3, k1, p3, k1, p1, k1, p3, k3, p3, k1, p1, k3, p3, k1, p3, k1, p1, k3, p1, k1, p1, k1, p3, k1, p1, k3, p3, k1, p1, k18
Resume stockinette until piece measures 8″
Next row: k18, p1, k1, p1, k1, p3, k1, p1, k3, p3, k1, p3, k1, p3, k3, p3, k1, p3, k1, p3, k3, p3, k1, p3, k1, p1, k7, p1, k1, p1, k19
Resume stockinette until piece measures 15-1/2″
Switch to k2/p2 ribbing for 1-1/2″ or 5 rows
BO and weave in ends

- – -

*The idea here is that this is subtle texture. Doing the Morse stitches in a contrasting color would be too “on the nose” for me personally, whereas a variegated yarn would muddle the stitch pattern — the Morse bits would wind up just looking like mistakes in your work. Hence my recommendation to do this with a single solid color.

p.s. 01.17: Added to Ravelry

morse code cowl annotated

28 thoughts on “Knitting in code

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