January 03, 2009


I've long wanted to do a post on knitting math.

There's lots of algebra and basic math in knitting. Knitting is mostly just ratios: you do a swatch to find out how many stitches to the inch and then find the equivalent fraction for however many inches your knittery should be. I love scribbling out my little solve-for-x problems.

There are also times when the Pythagorean Theorem comes in handy. Like when you're making something on the bias and you want to make sure that you're knitting a true square. You are making a triangle and you can solve for the hypotenuse to make sure your real hypotenuse is hitting the target.

That stuff pumps me up on dorkosterone.

When I taught knitting classes, I taught a handful of homeschool kids. I always made sure to tell their mothers that knitting can be used for math word problems. I am sure the kids were thrilled that I made knitting into schoolwork.

I am always the first to pipe up with my knitting algebra whenever people repeat the dumb "wisdom" that once we get out of school we never have to use that math stuff again.

So when AWTM told me that Chuck Z wondered if I could make him gloves, it was just a matter of doing a little glorious math.

The backstory on Chuck is that an IED took part of his left hand. He lives in cold climes and can no longer wear store-bought gloves. What he needed was custom-made ones to fit his injured left hand.

Obviously, the right glove was just a regular old man's glove. The left glove took some math to adjust the circumference of the wrist and hand, to accommodate Chuck's bigger left wrist but smaller left hand. Chuck's wife took extremely detailed measurements and I scribbled out some ratios and knitting math.

And Bob's your uncle.


I am not entirely happy with the fingertips. The pattern called for cinching them, but once they were done, I wish I had tried to kitchener them instead.

But I did infuse them with manly awesomeness: I knitted them while watching classics like The Terminator, We Were Soldiers, and Death Wish.

Chuck says they "fit like a glove", heh.


I am completely chuffed that my knitting helped support the troops. I mean, this is something that only a knitter could do. Chuck needed me, and I was so excited to oblige.

Plus there was math.

Posted by Sarah at January 3, 2009 01:40 PM | TrackBack

That is so awesome!!!

Posted by: FbL at January 3, 2009 02:40 PM

That is OFF the cool-o-meter!! Seriously. AWESOME!

Posted by: Tammi at January 3, 2009 03:07 PM

You made me cry. I think it's lovely and amazing. Good job, and I get pumped up on daily algebra dorkosterone, too.

Posted by: Sis B at January 3, 2009 03:24 PM

That is seriously one of the coolest things I have EVER SEEN!

Posted by: airforcewife at January 3, 2009 05:34 PM

That's so completely COOL!

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at January 3, 2009 06:29 PM

You totally rock!

And let me add math to the list of reasons why I haven't gotten around to learning how to knit yet ;)

Posted by: dutchgirl at January 3, 2009 08:54 PM

You are truly blessed when you lose yourself in the service of others. What a wonderful thing for both the giver and receiver.

Posted by: Steve Foreman at January 4, 2009 10:35 AM

I was hoping you'd embed actual knitmath problems in the post so us nonknitters could dust off our old skillz and see if we have what it takes.

the dumb "wisdom" that once we get out of school we never have to use that math stuff again.

There have been moments when I wish I remembered some of that stuff ... and even more moments when I wish that statistics had been an integral part of my math curriculum in school.

The pattern called for cinching them, but once they were done, I wish I had tried to kitchener them instead.

I have no idea what this means. Maybe you could recycle knitting jargon in a political context and watch as your commenters start using it. I want to say "cinch" and "kitchener"!

Posted by: Amritas at January 4, 2009 10:55 AM

Cinch? Kitchener?

When questions like this arise, I say Google Images!

Here is a kitchener finish, and from what I can find, to cinch something is to run a string of some sort through it and pull it tight. The cinch finish probably leaves a tight bump, unless I miss my guess. Can't find instructions on a knitting "cinch" stitch, but plenty of references to "just cinch it closed".

Now, to the more important point, I LOVE those gloves, and I'm certain he will wear then until they are lace.

Posted by: MathMom at January 4, 2009 12:03 PM

My daughter saw the pictures and said "That glove is missing a finger." I told her they were custom made for a soldier who lost his finger over in Iraq. "Isn't that cool?"

"Ya, but is not cool that he lost his pinky!"

I really couldn't tell her what else he lost!

Posted by: Amy at January 4, 2009 12:57 PM

I second the Armorer! You rock!

Posted by: Maggie at January 4, 2009 02:02 PM

HAH! Agreed, Amy. LOL!

Sarah- those are the kewlest gloves EVER. You, indeed, ROCK!!!

Posted by: AFSister at January 4, 2009 06:26 PM

Nicely done!

Posted by: Jim - PRS at January 4, 2009 06:36 PM

I will never complain about swatching again!

Posted by: Leah at January 4, 2009 06:44 PM

Well that explains why he's been kinda quiet on the blog. He's probably out playing in the snow.

That was a really awesome thing to do.

Posted by: Code Monkey at January 4, 2009 07:10 PM


Posted by: wifeunit at January 4, 2009 08:18 PM

That's awesome! I think it's great that you make so many "lapghans" for injured troops, hats for preemies, and now gloves. What a sweetie!

Posted by: Kiki at January 4, 2009 09:51 PM

Bravo!! Your awesome contribution makes all knitters want to do more for our troops. BTW Congrats on the math!

Posted by: Katherine at January 4, 2009 10:15 PM

"heh" indeed!

Way. To. Go.

Posted by: queenie at January 5, 2009 11:17 AM

Hey, cool!

I'm still a very, very basic knitter. I had no idea there was math involved. I secretly like basic algebra ("solve for x" is easy and kind of fun, as is the Pythagorean Theorem I was actually pretty good at geometry), so maybe I'll have incentive to make it more useful in my life. I want to homeschool Babysierra, so teaching him algebra through knitting is a FABULOUS idea. :)

Great gloves! I'm always heartwarmed by your gift projects. :)

Posted by: Deltasierra at January 5, 2009 02:24 PM

You. ROCK.

What a seriously cool way to serve!!! :-)

Posted by: kannie at January 5, 2009 07:09 PM

Awesome gloves - you are so kewl :-)

Posted by: Barb at January 6, 2009 09:34 AM

Awesome post!
I especially like the part that Chuck gave the finger to the bad guys!

Posted by: johnF at January 6, 2009 01:20 PM

In the words of Pet Detective "Ace Ventura"...
"Like a glove"!!!

Posted by: JihadGene at January 6, 2009 04:37 PM

My wife only does knitting/sewing algebra and geomerty when she is sewing or knitting, and she does it in her head. Other than that she gets a blank look and says "what?".

Nice gloves by the way.

Posted by: charlie13 at January 6, 2009 05:16 PM

Totally cool. As someone who has never graduated from squares, I'm doubly impressed. :-)

Posted by: Lisa in DC at January 11, 2009 06:12 PM

No wonder I never got along with knitting.

But seriously, that is the coolest that you were able to do that. He looks so happy with his new gloves!!

Posted by: copswife at January 12, 2009 11:44 PM