Tuesday, March 23, 2010
For quite some time I have designed my own knitwear. I've adapted patterns by other people to make them more what I want. I have one of those hard-to-fit body shapes so the standard sweater or sock or mitten doesn't always fit me if done to the pattern. I have a small head in comparison to most adults so I have to alter those patterns as well. I've cast on tons of hats for charity without once using a pattern and "made them up as I went." That's all well and good and I'll presume that many knitters do the same. However, recently I have found myself in a position of actually having to create things and make them work for other people as well.
It all started when I became the knitting instructor at our local JoAnn store. There is this thing called "trend classes" and I was encouraged to come up with projects that would encourage continued interest in knitting past the Knitting 101 level. I never felt comfortable taking other people's work and creating a class around them. Even if the pattern was free, I felt some sort of infringement if I were to use their pattern to teach a class. So I decided that I had to come up with my own patterns. Wow. I hadn't realized until then how much work goes into designing so that other people can replicate your work. I actually had to make swatches to determine gauge and had to make notes that were more than "knit 'til it is long enough." Many of my notes read like a combination of Elizabeth Zimmermann's Opinionated Knitter mixed with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's Knitting Rules!. It's a mix of "do what you know is right" and "keep up, it's going to get a little tricky here."
Some things that I have learned is that many people pick up a pattern and think that it is gospel. I try hard with my students to teach them about yarn substitution, making adjustment for gauge, tailoring patterns to fit their own bodies. Somehow it just hasn't sunk in yet. They cling to the patterns like a life raft and sometimes that life raft has a hole in it. It's one of the big reasons that I teach "formula knitting." It goes sort of like this: 1. This is a hat. 2. Knitting a hat in the round means you need to know how many stitches to cast on and how big around your head is. 3. This is how you find out how many stitches to cast on. 4. Here are some various hat ideas that are all based off this hat theory. 5. Here are a few ways to end/close a hat's top. Inevitably I get the question, "But how many rows do I knit before I start decreasing?" or "But I want to use this yarn instead but my hat is too small/big." (Pardon me while I go ram my head into a wall a few dozen times.)
Perhaps I need to not teach knitting but teach lessons on how to be intuitive thinkers.