The More that I Knit

The more that I think knitting patterns are simply a guide.

They are a guide to get you about where you want to be with a garment.  No pattern can anticipate every knitter's shape.  Sooner or later you'll need to tweak something to get that perfect look.

It's not that difficult.  Don't be fooled, it's not something you can do while you're watching TV, cooking dinner, and trying to check your email.  (Trust me).  You can't do it on the train either (again, just trust me on this).  Adjusting patterns requires attention to detail, checking and double checking, and a thoughtful approach, but it's not rocket science.

Lately a few people have asked me how I alter patterns.  I wish that I could sum up the how in one post, but I can't share them all here.  I can, however, give you a few resources to get started.

1.  Pick up a good reference book.  You know, there are loads of good knitting reference books.  Tons and tons!  My favorites: Vogue Knitting and Sweater Design in Plain English.  That's just me.  Who cares which books I like?  Spend an hour or so at your local bookstore or LYS browsing.  You might find one or two titles that appeal to you.  Buy them.

Don't forget to actually use the books you buy to expand your knitting knowledge.  I'm not a read-a-reference-book-from-cover-to-cover kind of knitter.  I tend to grab my books for a specific technique, or to read how another knitter might approach the problem.  The customized short-row bust shaping in my last tank came straight from the pages of SDiPE. 

2.  Take a class.  Do you live in the Boston area?  We're spoiled for choice when we want to improve our knitting skills.  There are lots of knitting shops that offer great technical expertise.  About a year ago I took the Knitting Math series at Circles.  It's been non-stop alterations ever since!  Sure, the first few times were mind bending.  After that, I became much more comfortable knowing when and how to alter knitting patterns.

Some patterns, however, are still beyond my adjusting skills.  Most Rowan patterns are so convoluted to me that I wouldn't attempt to change one of them very much--I would just look for another pattern.

3.  Join a knitting group and read blogs.   Don't expect any member of a knitting group or any blogger to give you 1-on-1 technical support all throughout your project, but advice and tips from other knitters can be an invaluable resource.

Thus concludes my little soapbox moment.  Please return to your needles.


I have just started minor adjustments...I'm not big time like you yet! I don't have some of those books you refer too...I have heard alot about them, I must investigate!

Sweater Design was so interesting to me. Alas, I've never tried to alter a project. Maybe soon.

Thanks for the tutorial. I'd LOVE to take a Knitty Math class. I think it would be hard for me, I hate math, but so helpful! The notes alone would be worth the price of admission. Maybe someone needs to write a book on Knitty Math?!

#3: EXACTLY. Thank you. :-)

Also, I would suggest "Designing Knitwear" by Deborah Newton.

I love the books you suggest, and would add 2 to the list (not that you asked, but I'll share anyway!). Knitting from the Top by Barbara Walker and Knitting Without Tears by EZ.

Both are great at sharing formulas to get at the basic shapes.

I agree with all points made, especially the last one :) :).

Thanks for the tips! Not fortunate enough to have a knitting math class here but I'm quite certain I'll find one after we move!

Yes, and yes. Small steps help. Knit bloggers are a great resource, as are the LYS.

So true about Rowan, their patterns drive me NUTSO. I can't pick up a pattern without adjusting something, and trying to do this with Rowan patterns always entails rewriting the whole damn thing.

Ref-wise, I'm a big fan of the "Big Book Of Knitting" and "Knitting Without Tears." Both have been tremendously helpful in getting me to fly (somewhat) solo.


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