Monday, November 18, 2013

Making It Your Own

In the last year or so I've enjoyed reading knitting books from a variety of authors and designers, but the one that resounds with me the most continues to be Elizabeth Zimmermann. EZ, as she is affectionately referred to, tells you to experiment, don't assume a pattern is written in stone, change things, make it your own. Well that hit home with me, but when I first read it I didn't know enough about knitting to make changes. I think it's similar to learning to cook. Once you know the terminology and the basics, you can make substitutions and adapt recipes to your liking. But if you don't know how to chop, mince and saute' what have you got?

Last year I found this wool sweater and reclaimed the yarn. It was a hand-knit, mens large, with a very loose fabric. I reasoned it would give me enough wool to make a ladies medium.

Last week I began swatching. I wish I'd taken pictures of all the swatches, but the difference was in how they felt, not how they looked. I knitted squares in 2 different patterns on 3 different sized needles. What looked the best? Which fabric felt the best, and which one was easiest on my hands?

The original sweater was in Seed stitch, so I tried that first. Then I switched to Moss stitch. This is 2x2 Moss stitch. I really liked the look, but switching back and forth between knit and purl made my hands ache. I Googled knitting stitch dictionaries and discovered this incredible site, Knitting Fool, that offered more than 2400 different stitches. That shot that morning while I immersed myself in all the possibilities. I finally settled on Scattered Seed stitch because in the four row repeat every other row is knit. Easy. While I was on the Knitting Fool website I explored the sweater pattern generator. Hmmm... I'll have to come back to that!

Next I wanted to plan my stripe sequence. I considered graph paper and colored pencils, but wanted something more visual. I searched the Internet for free sweater design software and landed on this amazing site.

It's intended for designing custom Fair Isle, but with a little experimentation, I was able to use it for stripes.

After you enter some basic information like stitch gauge, needle size and body measurements, you get to the design screen. Here you can choose your yarn and colors and begin designing your sweater.

This program is *amazing*. It's intelligent, easy to use, allows you to save and return to your work, work on more than one color lay out and its free! You don't even have to create an account. So... do I want even stripes?

Or uneven stripes? Even seemed a little boring to me. Frank said uneven was more interesting. Uneven it is!

So armed with my stitch gauge worked out while swatching, and having decided what type of sweater I wanted to knit, I went back to Knitting Fool's pattern generator.

I entered my gauge, needle size and body measurements and downloaded the .pdf. Knitting Fool's patterns are based on the percentage system. Ah ha, Elizabeth Zimmermann's EPS again! I didn't use the pattern generator from the Fair Isle design website because I didn't want a bottom up, seamless sweater - this time around.

After all this planning, the only caveat might be running out of yarn.

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