Purls of wisdom
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When it comes to following patterns, we knitters are a diverse group. And let me say this right now: I see it as a thoroughly good thing. It’s not just about whether someone is a cautious beginner who needs detailed guidance, or whether they’re highly experienced, having knitted for years.
THE OBEDIENT KNITTER
Even amongst the most skilled knitters, you’ll find people who prefer to stick so closely to the instructions that if the designer had accidentally tacked their shopping list on to the end of Row 17 you’d find the knitter in the supermarket obediently hunting for stain-remover, superglue, co ee, and painkillers, as per the pattern. (Wow, that must have been some party the designer had last night!)
THE OFF-PISTE KNITTER
Occupying the mid-point of this scale of pattern-adherence are the folk who regard patterns as loose guidelines, nudging things in the right direction, rather than as inviolable rules. The pattern may be for a moss stitch cowl, but by Round 20, they’ve veered wildly o -piste and replaced the moss stitch with entrelac, added a couple of sleeves and – oh look – a jumper! These knitters may respect the designer’s original vision, but they have clear preferences for what works for themselves and how they want to achieve it.
THE FEARLESS KNITTER
Finally, let’s be brave and leap to the far extreme of the scale. Here, you’ll find the knitters who regard patterns as a form of oppression, to be avoided. A pattern would cramp their urge to just get on with knitting whatever they feel like making. Sure, this group includes lots of accomplished individuals who’ve been knitting for so long they probably invented the cardigan, and who certainly don’t need to be told to avoid twisting when joining in the round. But there are newer needle-wielders in this group, too; people who prefer to go their own way, people who just don’t like being bossed about. Try telling them to work a two by two rib and they’ll stare you defiantly in the eye whilst they (k3, yo, k2tog) right to the very end of the row. Do not mess with these knitters, for they are afraid of nothing.
What prompted me to write this column was when a woman contacted me to ask, very cautiously and politely, whether I’d mind if she reworked my Hiking Reindeer cowl pattern as a cushion. Are you kidding?! Of course I don’t mind! It sounded like an excellent idea. That’s how creativity works: one idea sparking the next idea, and so on. If you look at any pattern listed on Ravelry, you can browse the very di erent directions in which people have taken it; short sleeves vs long sleeves, a cowl-neck or a button opening (all of which are surprising choices when the original pattern was for a pair of socks, but I’m sure you get my point). Seriously, though, one of the many beauties of knitting is that you can do it exactly how you like. If you want to stick rigidly to the pattern, great! If you’re not quite happy with the neckline, then go ahead and alter it! And if your needles just like to take o in their own unique direction, wild and free, then may perfect stitches fly from their tips! Got a knitting story to tell? Tell us about it via the addresses on page 28.