A Passion for S & Z
The sometimes subtle patterns created by changing the lean of the stitches have a special place in my heart. From my first attempts at making gift bags to my latest attempt at mittens, these S & Z motifs have been my go-to for adding patterns to sprang cloth.
After my first random experiments with the gift bags, I tried a more methodical approach. I started with a single S stitch in a row of Z and increased the width of the S area one stitch each row, what I call opening the pattern. If the inner stitches change from S to Z every few rows, ridges form in the cloth. If I kept increasing those ridges become diagonals (photo at left). But, if I decreased the number of stitches in the middle, I could form diamonds within diamonds within diamonds, as in the mittens above.
The more I created the more curious I became and the more complex my designs. So, when Carol James shared a basket weave motif during our monthly SprangAlong zoom call, I was ready for the challenge. Could I figure out the motif based on the photo alone? After a few tries, going back and forth between graph paper and sprang frame, with periodic confusion and generous use of the eraser, I replicated her motif!!! I was hooked.
That’s when I reached out to Carol asking if she would take me on as an apprentice. She agreed, and shared with me photos of Coptic bonnets that made extensive use of S & Z motifs (such as this one, found in Egypt and dated to the 4th-8th centuries when the area was under Roman occupation). I explored images of these ancient sprang remains, finding diamonds within diamonds, stacked diamonds, basket weaves, vertical stripes, diagonals, and chevrons. So many possibilities! I wanted to replicate ALL the motifs and share what I learned.
So I was honored when Carol asked if I would create the patterns for the Year of S & Z, the 2023 SprangAlong. YES! I now had a reason beyond myself to dive into these patterns. I learned how to read the cloth, create patterns in Carol’s notation, and use a spreadsheet to chart those patterns. I made samples, changed the patterns, and made more samples with different yarn. Then I talked with Carol and her daughter Claire and edited the patterns some more, fiddling with details until everything was just right.
All the samples insisted on being sewn up along the sides with drawstrings added so they could be put to use. Here's a selection of the pouches made during my explorations with S & Z.
Now I have 24 S & Z patterns ready to share in next year’s SprangAlong. In addition to the patterns, Carol provides instruction on creating hats, infinity scarves, and fingerless mittens using these patterns. She also includes a couple videos and instruction sheets on S & Z stitches.* And then there’s my favorite part, the monthly zoom calls where we get to talk sprang with folks from around the world.
I'm looking forward to another year of sprang explorations and sharing my learnings with all of you. Feel free to comment on this post, reach out to me through the contact form, and/or consider joining the SprangAlong. It's in conversation that ideas build and deepen as we dive into this ancient fiber art.
*The SprangAlong is NOT a class. If you are comfortable with basic sprang techniques and want a class in S&Z, check out Carol's January online class.
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I am a sprang designer, creating new patterns in this ancient textile art form.