Monday, June 18, 2012

my most common knitting mistake

After 55 years of knitting and making pretty much every mistake you can imagine, my most current recurring mistake is to make something I will never wear. This is compounded if it's knitting from which I don't learn anything new.

What are these pieces most likely to be? Believe it or not, what sets me totally against the current wave in knitting is that these pieces are scarves and shawls!

In the past year, I have knit the following.
  • Jane Sowerby's leaf and trellis (twice, once as a square and once as a rectangle)
  • Stephen West's spectra and bluewhale
  • Maylin tri'coterie designs' wingspan (twice, once over 72 stitches rather than the 90 of the pattern)
  • Veera Valimaki's stripe study and color affection (I am half way through the latter but have now decided not to finish it.)

These are lovely accessories (and here's a photo of the wingspan, spectra, and stripe study as evidence). I am especially fond of the Jane Sowerby piece and the Stephen West spectra from which I learned much.

These lovely things are decorating my home and closet beautifully. And I don't regret making them. I'm just finding myself talking myself out of starting anything else in any way similar.

Because I don't wear them! Why? Too hot? Forget? Don't know how? Because they obscure the hard-fought necklines of my sweaters? Because my best features are my neck and shoulders? All of the above? I don't know.

I made each of these patterns because I got caught up in the fact that everyone was making them or I saw a friend wearing one with great and enviable style.

BEST-OF-BOTH TUNIC TOP available on   

But they aren't me. And I won't wear them. So I need to (again) learn to knit things that bear some resemblance to what I actually wear--to re-establish the connection between my knitting and my closet rather than knit things that just hang there.

As I said earlier, when I make something I love to wear I'll make it three times.  Here's a picture of something I have knit three times and am busy exploring further. And I'd rather do this than make something once that I'll never wear.

It's about honouring our craft, which I do better when I knit what I wear, wear what I knit. Plus I learn more when I knit something that requires fit to my body and coordination with my wardrobe. That's the place I'd rather inhabit.


  1. Wow. Yes yes and yes. The only thing keeping me from making the same mistake is that I knit too slowly to get to all these shawls and scarves. And socks. OTN now by the way is my second To the Cottage Pullover. Thank you twice for that one.

    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence!

  2. I made a Spectra in colors remarkably similar to yours. I enjoyed knitting it, but expect that I will not wear it often. I rarely wear scarves. I crazily knit two of the swirl jackets from the (very popular) KNIT, SWIRL! book by Sandra McIver. I am not convinced that they are flattering garments for me. You are very right to "knit what you wear, wear what you knit." One of my most flattering knits is the Center Panel Vest that I made from your pattern. That is one that I should knit again :-) and again :-)

    1. Thanks so much!
      BTW, I was staying with a friend in Tulsa who made a SWIRL jacket and thought it looked awful. I told her to wash it (and let it relax), and it was MUCH better. Would that work in your case?
      Having said that, that garment is a perfect example of what I was talking about in the previous post! It’s gorgeous, but it doesn’t always work.
      Again, thanks for writing!

  3. The wildfire knits are the worst - I knit a lovely beaded shawl this last winter, but to be honest, I haven't worn it much.

    Onto cardigans this summer, which I do wear!

    1. Sounds like it should be slung over a chair, to be much admired?
      Thanks for writing.

  4. Ditto Sally. I think I've knitted all the shawls you showed and maybe worn one of them. It's so much fun to play with yarn and stitches

    Your cautionary phrase is my mantra. When I get really excited about a pattern, it's usually about the idea of the "knitting", not the "wearing". Sideways, top down, diagonal, even entrelac...ooh, fun to knit. Then I have to stop and ask myself, if I were to try this on in a store, would I buy it? The answer is usually no.

    Now I have worn some little shawls a lot. One really fun one was Julia Zahle's Nessie, fun to knit, fun to wear. Stays on. But the bigger ones, not so much.

    1. Okay, I'll check out that little one.
      But--since I have a closet-full that I don't wear--it'll be a while before I convince myself to make it!

    2. PS and thanks for writing!

  5. This. Yes.

    I've knit one shawl. Not any of those light, lacy things that are so beautiful but would serve no purpose for me, but a big, solid, wool thing that I can wrap up in. I was on the lookout for something to wear at my rather chilly office, and bang! the perfect pattern appeared in a magazine. If I hadn't seen that pattern I'd have had to buy something. Even as long as it took to knit, finding a suitable such item in the stores would have taken longer.

    "Would I even consider buying and wearing this?" is my law now.

    This is where knitting trades with friends come in real handy, if you have the time. You get to make things that you'd never end up wearing yourself.

  6. Suncat, very good points, ESPECIALLY that need to "get past being bored" making the simple stockinette sweater.

    Here's what I suggest to avoid boredom (and I have a lot more to say about the importance and life lesson of this in my next post).

    1) Don't use a pattern. (Or, if you must use one, question it constantly.) Measure something you have, and work out the garment's pattern from this.
    2) This is easier to do with a simple stitch pattern, but using your brain to make it FIT will keep you very busy and engaged!
    3) Once you've made this "template" garment, do it again in a more complex stitch pattern.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  7. Thank You!! You have just reinforced my decision NOT to knit what everyone else is :-)
    Sometimes, 'everyone' will be knitting the same thing and I cannot convince myself to cast it on. Now I know that the 'little voice in my head' was right, because these items were items that I would never wear. Thanks for the justification nicely spelled out.

  8. Yes, we should all listen to that little voice!
    Thanks for writing!

  9. I too have way to many knit items that I don't wear. I know that I get caught up in buying (and dyeing my own)skeins of beautiful, colourful yarns but when I look in my closet everything is a solid, mostly dark, neutral colour. So why do I think that I will knit myself a sweater out of these variegated yarns? There is definitely two seperate processes for me. When I am in the mood for a fun knit an entrelac blanket in bright colours would fit the bill but as for the cardigan that I will wear everyday a good old solid brown or dark green should always be my choice. Now I just have to follow my own advice!

  10. I know what you mean about those variegated yarns! So seductive! (I did a pattern using 3 variegateds for PATTERNFISH and called it the SEDUCTIVE YARN TUNIC!)

    If you get a chance, check out THE GRAY CARDIGAN in MOTHER-DAUGHTER KNITS. It's called "the gray cardigan" for the reasons you mention. We've all been there!

    Thank for writing.

  11. I was searching for articles about this very thing! I knit it and store it - don't wear it! Really must work this year on knitting things that I actually want to wear! Glad I found this blog;O))