While teaching, I often launch into what I call a "rant" against one of many common knitting practices that are clearly not in my repertoire (else I would not rant!). And I know I swim against current streams, but my list is looooooong, and my rant is pretty loud and strong. Here is a list of the practices I find myself railing against.
- knitting in the round in anything other than fairisle or a garment with heavy cables
- knitting top down
- 3-needle-bind-off at shoulder seams with or without short rows
- one-piece raglans
- slip stitches as selvedge in anything other than garter stitch or scarves
- slip stitches at the beginning of round neck bind-offs if a neck edging is to be applied
- short rows and live stitches for round neck shaping
While explaining my reasoning for not liking one of these practices, a student wisely asked "So why are patterns written with these instructions?" And I answered "Because the pattern was written for the knitter, not for the sweater."
"That's really good!" said the student. (Since I had given my reasoning, and since she was a wise woman, she agreed with my rant and thought the statement perfect!) Yes, I thought, that really is good. But what does it mean?
It means that sweater patterns are written in such a way that works for the knitter but not the sweater. It means that sweater patterns are written in such a way that the knitter can look at her knit pieces and say "Wow, that sure looks good!" But then the student is faced with finishing that is near impossible to make look good (in the case of the last 3 bullets), or a sweater that isn't often flattering (in the case of the 4th bullet), or a sweater that droops at the sides over time (in the case of the 1st bullet), or a sweater with a ditch rather than a tight shoulder seam (in the case of the 3rd bullet), or a sweater where all manner of shaping happens early in the knitting and before we get to really know our gauge and stitch pattern (in the case of the 2nd bullet).
Obviously, there are long explanations for each of my rants. And here's just one of them--against garments knit in the round. What are we trying to avoid? Side seams--the easiest and most invisible of our seams. Why would we do this? We don't own sewn garments without side seams (except for occasional T-shirts which skew after washing), so why would we knit them in our more flexible knitted fabric? Seams are the skeleton of our garment. Look in your closet, and you won't find a sewn garment without side seams. You'll also find dresses and coats with additional seams at center back. It is a rare knit fabric that does not benefit from this structure.
And consider this. If you knit your garment in pieces and find that the front is too big, you can make the back smaller. (I have many garment with M fronts and S backs.) If you knit in the round, you cannot adjust as you go: what you get is what you get.
For these and other reasons, I stand by my statement that patterns should be written in such a way that gives the best possible result for the sweater itself. Because that's what will make a knitter feel really proficient and clever! And then she can happily and proudly satisfy my most common rant: knit what you wear, wear what you knit!
I know there are differences in opinion out there, and I truly look forward to a dialogue.