Belshazzar’s Nemesis

Obsession is a beautiful thing.

(Don’t argue, OK? You know I won’t listen anyway. I know what I need to believe.)

KTBM Cable chart

That thing on the left - that’s a chart for Kent Treble Bob Major, rendered as a 2×2 (x2×2x2×2…) cable.

(The colors are just there for color-coding purposes - I’m not actually proposing to mix color and texture here. It’s just a way of keeping track of which piece of the cable is which.)

In some ways this is an exercise in futility, because when I actually do the 2x… cable version of this, it isn’t going to be Kent Treble Bob Major. But… Kent Treble Bob Major is the one method I know inside and out, totally by heart, so it’s the one I’m using now for both sketching and swatching.

Besides - it was fun to draw. And it looks cool, no?

Cabled change-ringing is a whole different animal from intarsia change-ringing. For one thing, the texture is that of normal knitted fabric, not the tight inelastic weave I mentioned earlier. For another, there’s nothing in the cable segments themselves to tell you which strand is which. In working it you pretty much have to keep track of that for yourself - and the longer you knit the trickier that becomes, because you have to trace back to the beginning at every change. (I’m thinking of making up a bunch of special-purpose stitch markers as a crutch to work around this.)

In the colorwork you’re only dealing with the actual positions; the cabled version adds a dimension, in which what matters is the process: you have to determine which strand crosses in front at every change. (I’ve chosen, semi-arbitrarily but not entirely illogically, to keep the higher pitch, i.e. the lower number, always in front. So 1 crosses in front of 2, etc.) In the colorwork you have one change per row; in the cabled version each change takes four rows.

It really does take four rows, too. For each change there’s the change row, a neutral row, a row to work across the gaps, and another neutral row. Just for the hell of it, I tried eliminating some of that “white space,” and I’m here to tell you - ain’t no good. Remember when I did this silly drawing?

Airless KTBM cable sketch

Well, here’s what happens when you knit that up literally:

Airless KTBM Cable

Hey, I said it was silly. Even though I knew it would be, though, I still had to do it and see just how silly. If you peer really really closely, and if you know what to look for, you can sort of see the pattern. Sort of.


Inserting some air between the elements, however, makes all the difference - whether it’s a 2×2x… cable or a twist-stitch mini-cable.

KTBM Cable Swatch - pewter

KTBM Cable Swatch - darkest

I swatched these using some of Jennifer’s various bronze experiments. (I can’t begin to tell you what a struggle it’s been trying to get pictures that accurately reflect the colors. These don’t - but they’re closer than my previous attempts.) I’m seriously in love with these two.

I’m also seriously in love with this:

KTBM Cable Swatch - twist

This last one - or something very like it - is the winner for the background of the Nine Tailors sock. (Probably a different method, though, because of size constraints - maybe something like Grandsire Doubles.) And one of the three (or possibly more than one, depending which design variation I settle on) will be the main body of the Tsweater. Oh, I have BIG plans.

I’m picturing a fairly simple structured cardigan:

Jacket Scribble

Main body done in change-ringing cables. Trim (the grey bits in the sketch) done in change-ringing colorwork. Which being “woven” and un-stretchy will give it some extra structure. See?

And speaking of structure - there are a couple of interesting structural challenges here. The colorwork band actually has to be made in the round (remember the Interminable So-Called Swatch?), so I’ve got some cool ideas about how to build and attach the tube, and it’ll probably have a tiny i-cord edge. (Hook-and-eye closures, I think - no WAY am I cutting that stuff up, or interrupting it, to make a button band.) The body will have its own oddities: the cable patterns have to be worked from the top down if they are to chime at all with the logic of change-ringing, so I’m full of weird notions about how I’m going to make all those pieces fit together. Gonna have me some fun (and some sessions of hair-tearing frustration as well, I’m sure).

As I said, though, the body of the Tsweater won’t be done in Kent Treble Bob Major. With all that width available, I’m going to go for a series of panels in a Maximus method. I have room for twelve bells, so I’m gonna use them.

Talk about an embarrassment of riches, though! Browsing one of my new favorite reference sites, the Method Library on the Change-Ringers Web Directory, I find that there are literally hundreds of Maximus methods to choose from. What’s a girl to do? Base her selection on sound aesthetic criteria? Nah. Flip a coin? Nah. Allow herself to be randomly enthralled by eccentric names? Yup. You betcha. I can’t claim to have studied them all, but among those I’ve looked at so far the two that appeal to me most are… Belshazzar Delight Maximus and Nemesis Delight Maximus. I don’t know why they are so called (though I hope to find out) - but on their nomenclatural merits I simply can’t resist them. Could you?

“Delight” methods are Treble-Dodging methods, and as such have a great deal in common with Treble Bob methods. (Here, for those of you really into the geeky side of this, is the link to the Classifications Page for all the methods. And yes, BTW, there is such a thing as Kent Treble Bob Maximus - but all Bob and no Delight or Surprise must surely make Lisa a dull girl, right?) So the progression of cable movements will be similar to that in the swatches - but it won’t be exactly the same.

Full geeky disclosure: “Belshazzar” appeals to me for two more concrete reasons. For one thing, Belshazzar was a king of Babylon (he of “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin” fame). Well, I live in Babylon, and if that ain’t the writing on the wall, I don’t know what is. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

For another, the numeric sequence of its place notation is particularly pleasing:


(Oh man, I can’t believe I just admitted all that out loud in public. No rational person is ever going to want to speak to me again.)

Here’s what it looks like, one lead. Confusingly, I’ve laid it out the same way I did with the original Kent Treble Bob, first in numbers and then in blocks of color, even though I have no intention of doing this pattern as colorwork. I don’t know why. Because I enjoy mind-numbing exercises. Because OTOH I don’t know if I have the patience to draw it as a proper cabling chart. Because.

Belshazzar Composite

And here is a lead of Nemesis, laid out along the same lines. In this case there is nothing about the place notation


that screams out at me - in fact, my interest in this method is based purely on its name. (Though it does feature a brief stretch of the slow hunt, and you know how I feel about that.)

Nemesis Composite

Will it make a better/prettier/more interesting/more harmonious cable pattern? Will anybody but me even be able to tell the difference? Will even I be able to tell the difference?

Y’got me.

But I’m going to find out.

11 Responses to “Belshazzar’s Nemesis”

  1. Janice in GA Says:

    {fangirl gushing}
    Aw man, your idea of using change ringing patterns to make cables is just freakin’ AWESOME. Long years ago, I had a brief flirtation with change ringing, though we only had handbells to work with. I used to draw patterns out for fun, but it would never have occured to me to use them for patternwork. I love… no, I LURVE… the last swatch, the one with the twisted stitches. And I like the Belshazzar draw-down better, because I can see the pattern more easily.

    Totally frakkin’ awesome…
    {/fangirl gushing}

  2. Mary the Digital Knitter Says:

    Just don’t go getting yourself all embrangled.

  3. Glynda B. Says:

    Well, your blog is always a delight. I find so many challenging ideas. I know absolutely nothing about change ringing other than that I love bells, but to knit the sounds…. Now, that makes it even better. Something about the interconnectedness of change ringing and knitting is so right. Pardon, but it strikes a chord. To SEE the music in knitting, to FEEL it come to life through your fingers, that’s really passing into the music of the spheres. I can’t wait to see what you develop out of this.

  4. Angie Says:

    I’m going to have to come back here and read this a few more times. I feel like I’m in first grade and I’m watching the high school seniors do something really cool although I don’t understand a word they are saying. :-) I don’t know from obsession but I think I’m enjoying the watching.

  5. Astrid Bear Says:

    Brain . . . hurts . . .

    Seriously, you are having WAY too much fun, and the results are gorgeous! The place notation for Belshazzar could also be used for weaving instructions (number of threads per stripe, for example). There’s been a vogue for Fibonacci derived weavings for the past few years, so could change ringing notation weavings be far behind?

  6. Margaret Says:

    What a fantastic idea: change-ringing cables in the sweater, and change-ringing colors in the edging! I love it. And, yes, hooks-and-eyes absolutely sounds like the way to go. (Sorry. No pun intended.) Perhaps a zipper, but I think that wouldn’t be serious enough for the lovely, lovely geekiness of it all. Can’t wait to see where it goes.

  7. Corbie Says:

    Wow. The Nine Tailors has been one of my favorite books for a long time, and seeing the changes charted out is neat — helps me understand what Sayers was talking about.

    The Treble Bob Major chart would look lovely on, say, knee-high Bavarian style socks.

    Re: weaving — “name drafts” seem to be all the rage right now, which I don’t really get. This, however, I could get into. Will have to get a loom with more than four shafts, though, I think!

  8. stacey Says:

    wow. that is some amazing cabling! i love the one you picked as the winner for the socks - very pretty!

  9. alice Says:

    Knitting change ringing methods is awesome!! In Atlanta, Ga we are making a quilt of the method Steadman Triples. We have made three panels - like the one pictured above - to illustrate the method and added black sashing with an applique border for contrast. Our colors are intense and the quilt has an Amish feel to it. If you find these designs interesting but have never rung church bells before you should give it a try. You can take you knitting along to the tower and knit away until it’s your turn to ring. In the UK you are practically stumbling over towers so I am sure there is one close to wherever you live or work. It’s a little harder in the USA but you can go to the website for the North American Guild of Change Ringiers to find a tower close to you. And like I said be sure to bring you knitting - we would love to see it.

  10. Threadbndr (Karla) Says:

    OMG! This is Brilliant!!! I was wanting an interesting cable pattern for a sweater and I have GOT to play around with this idea, as I am a ringer! Just handbell choir so far, but there is some interest in changeringing in the bell choir.

    I wish I still belonged to my childhood chuch, where the DO ring changes the old fashioned way. I remember going up in the bell loft with my dad to unhook the ropes from the keyboard and attach the ringer’s ropes. I was so small that even my full weight couldn’t move the smallest bell LOL.

  11. RobinH Says:

    Okay, this post was so cool I almost dropped a spoonful of chili on my nose while reading the older posts about change-ringing and the Nine Tailors. Which I haven’t read yet, but clearly need to (I’m pretty sure we have a copy…oh, duh. *checks catalog on LibraryThing* Yes, yes we do.. how geeky is it that I can check my home library catalog over the internet!).

    This is going to be a gorgeous and very cool sweater.. I look forward to seeing it come together. Though you may need to offer prizes for the best story of someone trying to explain the pattern to someone else. *g*

    (And yes IE sucks. I don’t use it at home, but it’s not my decision at the office. )

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