Friday, June 15, 2012

why we follow patterns

So are we the first generation of knitters to feel the need to follow the pattern? Surely our grandparents didn't do so? Surely they knew a pattern to be a guideline to be adjusted for individual fit? Or maybe they didn't use patterns at all?

So what's with us? Why are we "afraid" to deviate?

I think it has a lot to do with global economics. Here's my reading of the situation.

50 or so years ago, if someone bought a sweater, someone might say "Why would you buy that when you could knit it?" NOW if someone knits a sweater, someone might say "Why would you knit that when you could buy it?!?!?

What transpired in those intervening years? Globalization. What did globalization bring? Cheap sweaters! So if we needed a sweater, we bought it. (And we can assume we didn't buy it if it didn't fit.)

At the same time, the price of yarn went up. Why? Simply because it could? Yarn certainly became a "luxury" item--something that people with time and disposable income could indulge in, people who could easily buy the sweaters they'd wear. But having said that, the yarn we can buy is infinitely nicer than the yarn of those store-bought sweaters. Even really really expensive sweaters are made with yarn I think inferior to what's in my local yarn shop!

So really nice yarn was now in the hands of people with enough time and disposable income to knit. And what did we look to knit? Pieces in which the knitting itself  was exciting!!!!! (Remember, we could buy what we wear, so why not knit something way more interesting?!) Hence all the brilliantly innovative patterns offered over the past many years. But some were so innovative that there was no room to modify fit: consider all those one-piece modular item without instructions (or places) to shorten, lengthen, etc.

And so we are a generation who follows patterns because the sweater might be too complex to change. Or the yarn might be too expensive to risk. And through those years we lost the sense that patterns are a guideline. At the same time, patterns weren't particularly invitational in that regard.

But it is definitely time to take back our power! And how do we do that? By doing what our grandparents did--by re-establishing the connection between our knitting and our closet.

How do we do this? Here's my list--including things some of you already do and probably missing things some of you do that I haven't thought of. (If you have suggestions to add to this list, please let me know!)
  • By contacting yarn companies, magazines, and book publishers asking that they please write patterns more appropriately--with invitations to adjust for fit, with proportions of pick-up-and-knit for front bands.
  • By not being afraid to knit a garment.
  • By knitting simpler garments that look like what fills our closets and in which we can work out fit issues. 
  • By not being afraid to rip out and re-knit until we see what it takes to get it right. 
  • By checking measurements for whatever we make against something we own that fits! (This thing does not have to be a sweater. I've check measurements for sweaters against blouses, T-shirts, dresses, jackets.)  
  • By checking measurements for whatever we make against something we own that doesn't fit! (That's right! Even if it doesn't fit, we can see what we'd need to do to make it so!)
Through this particular rant, I didn't yet tell you my most common knitting mistake. I'll save that for the next post . . . But I will tell you that it's very much related to the major thread of this one.


  1. Well said Sally. Knitting to me is so much like the process of life. Taking back our Power !!
    The one that gets me and you said it bang on is "By not being afraid to rip out and re-knit until we see what it takes to get it right."
    I squirm on that But I'm doing it now.
    I want to knit garments that fit me..I want to learn how to do that. Can't wait for you book.

  2. Thanks so much for your comments. I really appreciate your passion and dedication.
    I know the book will give you what you need to move forward . . . and never look back!

  3. Taking back our power ....beautifully said! I love your list!!!

  4. I like your points. May I suggest one?

    - By getting past being bored with "plain knitting". I have spoken with many knitters who won't go near a plain, mostly stockinette-stitch sweater, as they feel (often from experience) they'll lose interest halfway through, or sooner. Even in a design with interesting details, the large expanses for st st for such folks can be deal-breakers.

    Now *I* can get to work on that "being afraid to rip out and re-do". But now that I have successfully ripped out a couple of fully finished projects, once I saw they weren't working, and realized yes, I really *can* re-use that yarn, maybe I will get this through my head.

  5. I just pulled out a sweater that was all finished except for weaving in the ends because I wasn't happy with the fit. Better to reknit something I will look forward to wearing than having a finished sweater sit in a closet not being used.

  6. It sounds so simple. Why don't we do it?!?!
    The pile of our un-worn sweaters, if laid end-to-end, would stretch how far???