Ink, Yarn & Beer

my life a bit at a time

Knitting Offenses

April 15, 2009

The other day, I was over at the local bookstore, and decided to grab a few knitting magazines to peruse with my coffee.   I saw some great designs in texture combined with lousy garment construction and finishing techniques.  The biggest offenders are the shoulders, sleeves, bodies, and necklines.

Garment Design. As an example, not too long ago, I bought a pattern booklet from a famous yarn maker.  The cover hat and glove set caught my  eye.  I bought it, without reading it.  When I read it, I was stunned.  The hat pattern – the same as for the back of the glove – was   knitted back and forth on two needles, and then seamed!  The gloves were knitted on four needles, in the round.

Huh??  Am I missing something here?

Necklines. I always look at the construction of the neckline, and I read the pattern.  Is there sewing to be done?  Is it knitted and attached as you go along, or done separately and then sewn on?  Is the neckline shaping capable of supporting the rest of the sweater body?   How does that V-neck or scoop neck look?  Too low?  Too high?  Do the edges of the neckline have a finished look, or do they look sloppy and stretched out?  Is it flattering?  Does it make the sweater fall off the shoulder?

Badly Designed Sleeves. Under this heading, you can find poorly sewn sleeves, at the shoulder and into the armpit, and along the length of the arm.  First question:  Who did the finishing?  Next question:  Why would you design a sweater with sleeve seams?

In one of the magazines I looked at, it was pretty obvious that the person who pieced together the sweater could not do the job.  The sleeve seam was messy and ragged.  The knitted pattern did not add to the offense; some stitches make it difficult to knit a “sewable” edge, but the designer can eliminate this problem if they must have sleeve seams.

Another picture in the same magazine showed inset sleeves with the same crappy finishing.  Puckers, uneven sewing.  This destroyed the sweater.  Here, the knitting designer was at fault to a degree because the pattern stitches used did not make the sewing-up easy.

Finally, photography.   A lot of magazines show evidence of pinning and pulling to make an item “fit” the model.   Here is when design flaws can really show up, as well as poor finishing techniques.  Thank the photographer for this!  It may make you re-think doing that pattern.

Body. This has been written up by some rather famous people.  Elizabeth Zimmermann said it all.  She documented this issue quite well when she sold her seamless Fair Isle sweater pattern to a famous magazine.  Said magazine rewrote the pattern to have side seams, shoulder seams, and sewn-in sleeves, even though it was pretty obvious in the picture that there were no seams at all – or that the seamstress was superb!

Poorly designed sweaters can result in sweaters which can never be sewn together well, no matter the talent.  I have some ski sweater designs from the 40s and 50s.  The raglan sleeves are sewn in, and the patterns – snowflakes, elk, stars – are placed in the middle of the raglan seam.  Not nicely sewn in the photos, and not worth doing, unless it is in the round.

What to do? Well…what can you do?  If you really like something, is it something you can do?  Do you have the skill, creativity, know-how to fix problems?  Do you want to take the time to do it?  Do you want to learn to do it?

If you answer yes, then have at it.  If you answer no, then look for another pattern!  You know your own personality, so why make yourself crazy and frustrated to the point of misery?

IMHO. I am a frump and a snob.  I don’t wear trendy clothing, and I don’t make fashionable designs.  I like well-tailored, comfortable clothing.  I like good shoes.  I like good materials and craftsmanship.

When it comes to knitting anything, I really appreciate good construction design, good finishing, and elegance.   Most of this can be done with a minimal of sewing.


  1. Thanks for the great post! I’m not a new knitter, but my experience is limited enough that it is really hard to tell a good knitting pattern just by looking at a picture. Sometimes I really get caught up in the styling and get seduced into a dumb design.

  2. Don’t we all!!

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