I always liked to think of myself as open minded, particularly when it comes to knitting. Despite the prevailing wisdom at the time I learned to knit—that there was one and only one way to do anything—I harbored the philosophy that “if it looks right, it is right”. Things seem less dictatorial for new knitters now, particularly with the abundance of books, blogs, videos, and podcasts explaining the many ways to accomplish the same thing.
But comments that I read on blogs, or hear on podcasts or in real life often surprise me, particularly if a knitter avoids something that I always found easy. Perhaps this reflects a lack of self-confidence. If I think something is easy, then everyone should be able to do it. And I’m particularly frustrated when I find a technique that another knitter thinks is easy (Kitchener stitch is at the top of this list) that is always a stumbling block for me. What does that knitter know that I don’t? I have this sneaking suspicion that the other knitter is lying, just as I suspected that other new mothers were lying when they said their infants slept through the night and I couldn’t manage more than three uninterrupted hours of sleep until my son was nearly a year old.
But recently I’ve come to the conclusion that there may be more to knitting styles than English vs. Continental or process vs. project. This difference has to do with sweater construction.
Because I learned to knit and sew at about the same time, I don’t think of them as terribly different. In sewing, you buy fabric, cut it apart, and sew it together. And so, knitting for me replaces the buying fabric and cutting it apart steps. For me the piece of the sweater is the same as the piece of a shirt or jacket, only it is knitted and not woven. Seaming is the only way to imagine putting these pieces together if you just view them as a flat piece of fabric.
In her class at Stitches East, Jean Frost explained that crocheted seams—which I favor as well—give her Chanel-style jackets shape (which indeed they do). But most students in that class fell into the anti-seam group. And Jean recounted her background in the fashion industry and her skill in sewing. So, she has the same general background and approach as I do, but I realized we were clearly in the minority.
Then after listening to Kelley Petkun’s podcasts, the differences in sweater construction became clear. Kelley explains that she began as a knitter after spinning, and she has an enormous fondness for EZ and knitting in the round. She also hates to sew. After thinking about the reasons I approach sweaters differently, I realized that I don’t think of them as tubes and I don’t work as much with the natural shape of the knitting as I might. In effect, I’m not a “pure” knitter, but a practitioner of a hybrid technique.
Rather than “pure”, Susan suggested the term “organic”, after the description of a wannabe designer on Project Runway, and I think that is an apt way to view more traditional sweater construction and modern sweater designs that develop more naturally from the drape of a knitted tube.
And so in contemplating what I will set for knitting goals in 2008, I will try at least one sweater that has a traditional shape. I’ve set myself up to learn a few new things in 2008. The stranded mittens (not yet done) are practice pieces for this Philosopher’s Wool design.
In making it, I’ll be knitting my first seamless sweater, my first sweater with steeks, and my first stranded sweater. I hope I don’t buckle under the challenge. And I’ll probably look around for a tubular modern sweater that is somewhat more fitted.
But I am not sure I’m ready to give up “constructed” sweaters. I’ve progressed nicely on Jean Frost’s Devonshire jacket.
Blocking the back loosened the stitches so the piece has a nice drape.
Before blocking, the slip-stitch pattern was very dense—almost to the point where I felt that lining the jacket would be unnecessary. But blocking did what I hoped in terms of sizing. The bust circumference will be around 42 inches and the lopsidedness is gone. So I’m ready to cast on for the fronts.
How do you choose a sweater pattern, aside from the gut reaction of liking its looks? Do you think about the drape of the sweater? The finishing it will require?