Based on the comments, I think that it’s the negative synergy theory that wins out. The plastic feel is probably amplified by the yarn structure. All round, a winner, until you discover what real fibers feel like.
There’s a new chart on the site: the luckenbooth medallion, which I used for what I think is the first afghan square I have ever knit. That was last month. That’s in keeping of my record of not having made a scarf until I had been knitting for about eight years.
The method of charting I used for it is the same as I used for Rogue. (But with better-looking symbols–Rogue used the same graphic symbol set as the older charts on this site, and since then I’ve recreated them in Illustrator so they look smoother. I used this new symbol set for the Shedir cap as well.) By “method”, I mean choosing not to insert blank squares as placeholders to compensate for the varying stitch counts from row to row, which are very common in closed-loop cable charts.
With the older charts, like the simple celtic or Durrow, there’s a certain (very low) frequency of inquiries that flow in about the black squares that were used as placeholders. The legend for those charts reads “no stitch–if you are knitting in this row, this stitch does not physically exist” yet there would still be a number of “what do I do with these stitches?” questions. When I eliminated the placeholder squares in Rogue, the number of questions I received about row mismatches was far lower than the number of placeholder questions. I don’t think that can be attributed solely to the fact that there were knit-alongs with knitters other than me answering those questions, so I figure I’m going to stick with the varying stitch count method of charting.
Compare these charts, for example…
This is the new luckenbooth chart, presented both ways. First, with varying stitch counts:
You can see that the width of the chart changes at rows 3, 5, 9, 21, and 25, meaning that the stitch count changed. In the case of rows 3, 5, 9, and 21, the activity that results in the stitch count changing is in that very row: 2 stitches increased in rows 3 and 5, four stitches in rows 9 and 21. The stitch count change represented in row 25 actually happened in the previous row, when three sets of four stitches were decreased. (I could have made the “rule” in row 25 conform to the rule followed for the other rows, by using a symbol for “decrease 4″ in row 24 that was one stitch wide; Barbara Walker uses that kind of decrease symbol. In that case, row 24 would have been shorter. Out of habit, I’ve stuck to the wider symbol for “decrease 4″, which I picked up from Alice Starmore.)
The result of not using placeholders is that there is a discontinuity in the cable pattern, as depicted in the chart. The most obvious examples are in row 21. Those twist 3 stitches at the left and right sides of the chart don’t really stick out in no man’s land as they seem to be doing; the first twist 3 maneuver, at the right side of the chart, begins right on top of the two knit stitches on the right side of the row below. You can see that’s true by counting the number of stitches leading in from the right edge. Row 20 ends with two reverse stockinette stitches; row 21 begins with two reverse stockinette stitches, too. And by counting the stitches in row 21 and comparing them to row 20, you can see that those two side-by-side increase stitch symbols actually happen in between the two stockinette stitches from the previous row.
Now, the same chart, but with spaces filling out the rows with fewer stitches so that the left and right edges of the chart line up:
Most of the discontinuities are gone. Try following the outline of the luckenbooth–it’s “smooth”, inasmuch as a cable chart can be smooth. The disconnect between rows 20 and 21, for example, is gone.
However, this leaves the problem of just how to shuffle the blank squares or empty spaces about to make the most sense. Rows 7 and 19 show the problem of how to handle a cable or twist that actually needs to span that empty space. On the left side of the chart, I left the symbols alone; on the right side, I stretched them out to fill the space, in order to signify that those stitches are meant to connect with stitches in the next row. (Those stretched symbols look a little silly; that’s not actually what I do when I chart cables and twists across extra spaces, but I was lazy today. What I actually do is draw a symbol with an elongated horizontal line, and I line up the actual little knit and purl stitches with their neighbouring stitches in the rows above and below.) In a design with a lot of cable openings and closures, the placeholder method can result in a crazy amount of empty squares.
Each method has its benefits. The shape of the placeholder chart is a little more true to the cable when knitted, but on the other hand I find the visual jump over empty spaces harder to read–not by much, just enough to slow me down a bit when reading and knitting the chart. I like them better when there are very few empty squares. The varying stitch method can be harder to chart, depending on the complexity of the cable. I often start out by drafting a chart using placeholders, and then when the design is finalized, I rechart without the empty squares.