Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Binary Knitty

by Christine Dumoulin

Knitting may be a centuries-old craft, but the results can be quite high-tech. For example, it's now possible to store data on a scarf. And the good news is, the construction is completely open source. But performing computations on it, unfortunately, is another matter entirely.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with data storage in computers, the smallest piece of data computers use is a bit (short for binary digit), which comes in two flavors: one or zero. But that's only useful for storing things that have two options, like on/off or yes/no. So bits are typically grouped in sets of eight, making up the data unit known as the byte. There are enough unique eight-digit combinations of zeroes and ones to represent our alphabet and several others besides.

By my calculations, Binary holds an astounding 122 bytes of your finest information!

Binary is a flattened stockinette tube. As such, it has no visible stranding and is extra warm. Although it looks complex, the fair-isle pattern is broken up into small pieces that require minimal chart reading.

The scarf is essentially made up of lots and lots of digits strung together. It's much simpler to think of the digit (rather than an entire row) as a single unit of the pattern. It's a good idea to swatch this out beforehand to get a feel for the digits and spacing.

model: Christine Dumoulin photos: Holly Wood, Christine Dumoulin


Length: 72.5 inches
Width: 7.5 inches


Red Heart Supersaver [100% acrylic; 364yd/ 333m per 198g skein]
[MC] #0312 Black; 2 skeins
[CC] #0672 Spring Green; 1 skein

1 set US #9/5.5mm double-point needles

18 sts/ 21 rows = 4 inches in stranded color pattern


[Knitty's list of standard abbreviations and techniques can be found here]

Since rows of digits are a fairly prominent aspect of the design, I'll refer to them as 'rows' (as opposed to rounds of stitches). Each row consists of the 4 rounds which make up the digits, plus 2 rounds of MC.

You can choose the order of ones and zeroes any way you like; I find it's easiest to do it randomly. But if you're ambitious, you could knit up a message in UNICODE.

Using MC, CO 66 sts. Divide sts between needles and join to begin working in the round, being careful not to twist.

K 2 rounds.

Note: For the first row of characters, CC is joined at beginning of cursor, and broken at end of second digit. This prevents long yarn floats from pulling across the WS of the work, which would distort the fabric.

First Row of Characters:

Rounds 1-3: K21 using MC, join CC, work Chart A (cursor), work two characters of your choice from Charts B and C, break CC; k9 using MC, join CC, work Chart A (cursor), work five characters of your choice from Charts B and C, break CC.

Round 4: K21 using MC, join CC, work Row 4 of charts as set, break CC; k9 using MC, work Row 4 of charts as set, but do not break CC. Carry CC loosely along WS of work while working Rounds 5 and 6.

Rounds 5-6: K all sts using MC (rounds 5 and 6 of Charts).

Next Row of Characters (First Half):

Rounds 1-4: [K1 using MC, work eight characters of your choice from Charts B and C] twice.
Rounds 5-6: K all sts using MC (rounds 5 and 6 of Charts).

Work subsequent rows of characters in this way until you have worked 30 rows of characters, including first row. This point is the middle of the scarf; if you want the finished scarf to be longer than double its current length, work more rows of characters.

Second Half:

Work rows of characters as for First Half, EXCEPT choose characters from Charts B and D. This will ensure that all the Ones are right side up when the scarf is worn.

Continue working rows of characters until 60 rows of characters have been worked (30 rows in each half).

BO all sts.

It is unnnecesary to weave in ends, as they will be hidden inside the scarf. However, you may wish to tie the cut yarn ends at each side of the first row of characters, to keep the stitches at the edges of these characters from loosening over time.

Cut 66 strands of MC and 2 strands of CC, each approx. 13 inches long.

Use these to make a fringe at each end of the scarf, tying the CC strands below the cursors in the first row of characters. (When the scarf is laid flat, the cursors should line up.)

If you are unfamiliar with making fringe, instructions for tying a fringe can be found here.

Christine has been known to discuss knitting and sock construction with strangers and homeless guys in the subway.

She can be found here.
Pattern & images © 2006 Christine Dumoulin. Contact Christine