“This explains why my answer to a question once asked – “What is the most common mistake knitter’s make?” – was that they follow the pattern. There are directions in every pattern that you should never follow blindly.”
Sally Melville, knitwear designer and teacher from “Mother-Daughter Knits” page 17
In order to become a better sewer one must eventually stop following pattern instructions to the tee. As you learn what works and what doesn’t some mistakes are made at first, but in the end you are a better and more confident sewer.
Though the initial mess-ups are admittedly disappointing one must perservere.
As in sewing, so also goes knitting.
I used The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns by Ann Budd to create a small school sweater for my daughter. Unlike typical knitting patterns that tell you what type of yarn to purchase, Budd provides detailed charts for various gauges of yarn, along with various sizes from child to adult male. The designs given are basic and you can add any special stitches or embellishments you desire.
My daughter is now 6 1/2 but barely fits a size six and is on the short side. In the past I have made this same vest from the same instructions which I followed to the tee, and it came out badly. Not right for my daughter’s proportions. I discovered what Melville articulates, even the best instructions should not be followed blindly.
That was two years ago and now with all of the couch time I am logging with the pregnancy anemia I decided that I had both hours and calm to attempt a customization.
Ann Budd is an amazing knitter and I am so thankful she has taken the time to work out all of these different sizes and yarn gauges. I feel that I can learn a lot from making these basic designs. But as with my first forays outside of the instructions provided in the sewing pattern envelopes I have made some blunders. Experience is the only true teacher for so much of crafting.
I lengthened the torso and shortened the armhole per what my measuring tape and my daughter were instructing me. What I did not take into account was that the original neckline began at the starting point of the original armhole. When I shortened the armhole, I also shortened the neckline.
That bane of home knitting, the handmade garment that you must wrestle over the child’s head!
The neckline was too small. I had to rip out the original 3/4 inch ribbing, which looked best with the ribbing at the waist. Three tries in all before I got it so I could pull the sweater over her head, finally successful with a considerably smaller ribbing which isn’t as pretty with the garment. If any of you are also knitters you know that three ripouts is enough to make a person testy. Hopefully the experience burnt some things into my brain.
Two things to remember about knitted necklines:
- Measure them!
- The ribbing or other edging shrinks the hole, so think about what size edging is desired and take that out of the garment’s neck area.
The other thing I learned – Do get off one’s duff and hunt down or buy the correct size knitting needles even if one must delay the project midway.
I began knitting the body of the garment from the waist up with circulars, size 8. When I had to divide the sweater and work on the back and front separately I used my straight needles, also a size 8. Size 8 with the straights was tighter than size 8 with the circulars. Should have stopped, took a little trip to the craft store and bought a set of size 9 straights. I didn’t think the change would be so noticeable.
Now I can see the line where I changed needles and it really bugs me.
As in sewing, my first customization has turned out so-so but I have learned a lot, more than I ever could just by reading about technique or looking at pattern illustrations. Thankfully my daughter is young and her clothes are small and quick to make as I am eager to take what I have learned and try again. As she is only in first grade and I figure I have got several years to master this. By the time she is in middle school I should be whipping these things out!