Wearable Knitting

Note: Sorry for the Hiatus: this entry is from my stash (imagine that a stash of weblog entries!) I'll be back on Friday with a Hypertext entry, and hopefully some more content as well. Enjoy--ty

I think that knitted things, above just about any other quality, should be wearable. We should want to wear knitted things, not simply because they are products of our own handy-craft, or an object that our loved ones made for us, but because they are comfortable, because they fit, because they are flattering, and of course because knitted garments are a product of our (and our loved ones') handycraft. Knitting can be all of these things, and I think because of their history as working garments, knitting in traditional styles is particularly able to satisfy all of these concerns. For me, the issue of "wearability," of a garment is often decided by features in a number of key locations. In list form they are:

  • Sleeve length: sleeves that are even a smudge too short irritate me. It's harder to make a sleeve too long than it to make it too short. As a corollary to this, it's also important that sleeves not be too narrow: a sleeve that can't comfortably accommodate a layer or two can be problematic.
  • Collar: I'll touch on this more in another issue, but I find that collars that are too tall or that fit too closely, make sweaters feel too warm, and/or itchy, and are thus to be avoided. In fact I "developed" an open collar or placated collar (I've seen them called "Henley necked" as well) style that helps alleviate this issue.
  • Riding up in the back: It's a little known fact that your back is slightly narrower and slightly longer than your front. It's one of those quirks of how we are shaped. To compensate, for this, when ever possible I think it's useful to make the back of a sweater slightly longer than the front. Typically I do this with short-rows, but there are other possible methods.
  • Gussets: These are little diamonds that you can insert in your sweater/knitting to create a little extra room to accommodate anatomical features. Most people know about gussets from knitting socks, where gussets are frequently added to help accommodate the ankle/heel. Additionally, I find gussets greatly increase the wearability of a sweater when they're included at the base of the underarm. This increases the mobility of the sleeve, and can help prevent sweaters from being pulled up when you move your arms about.
  • Cuffs: This is, I suppose a corollary of sleeve length, but having a cuff that I'm comfortable with is generally pretty important to me. I'm not one for bell sleeve cuffs, so if you are you might want to ignore this matter of personal taste. I like it when cuffs are noticeably tighter than the reset of the sleeve, and furthermore, I like it when the sleeve, doesn't need the cuff in order to be long enough. This can be over done, on both counts, but honest to god cuffs are important to me. Rant over.
  • Vertical Lines: A lot of knitting, the notable exception being cable work/aran sweaters, tend towards strong horizontal lines. This follows from the fact that we tend to knit in rows or rounds that cross the sweater in horizontal rounds. If you change colors regularly, horizontal stripes are produced, for instance. If you select a handful of patterns and knit them successively, once again, horizontal stripes are produced. This can be overcome, through a number of clever techniques: adapting patterns so that you rows/rounds wrap around the sweater in vertical lines (easier than you might think, conceptually, but I've never had the desire myself), or by knitting ribbing patterns which tend to have a vertical element, or by arranging different patterns across a garment and stacking them (like cables). It's more or less true that some people look better than other people with horizontal lines, but I'd say its even more true that all people look better in garments that have vertical lines than in garments that have horizontal lines.
  • Yarn Quality:I often find myself falling into the trap wherein I say to myself "you knit because it's fun, not to produce things, and it doesn't matter what yarn you use, so buy something cheap because you're broke." And in truth, I am a college student, so I don't exactly have money coming out of my ears, but I think there is a difference between making all your sweaters out of crap yarn, and knitting exclusively in quiviet and cashmere. There is a lot of very solid yarn out there, that's of good quality, that's reasonably affordable. Be smart, and know that spending 10-20 dollars more on a sweater's worth of yarn, can make the difference between a sweater that you love to wear, and a sweater that you're ambivalent about. I've found, that keeping my yarn stash fairly slim, and buying yarn for only the next project (and sometimes two) makes this a lot easier.

These are my "wines" and sensitive points regarding knitting sweaters for myself. In a lot of respects these wines/concerns form the basis of the topics that I'm likely to engage with over the course of this series, as they are the areas in, sweater knitting at least, that I find most compelling. I am starting to realize that I need to spend a little time focusing on things other than sweaters, so expect some content about sock knitting, or other objects too. And as always, I'd love to hear your input or suggestions, in the comments or by email.

Be well and Be Warm, tycho(ish)

comments powered by Disqus