Knitting Past the conventions


I recently read another book Kathleen Kinder’s Machine and Hand Knitting – Pattern Design, published Batsford 1990 lent to me by a customer. I’m not a machine knitter, Number One child is and from experience at College. As far as I could see it involved significant use of words my Grandmother would have blushed at. However the process of knitting once the b… machine was set up was significantly quicker. I digress

The first chapters of the above book have the usual ‘History of Knitting/Machine’ what another eye opener?  – Ms Kinder suggest that the West with it is history of economic and deep rooted control over skills (think the Guilds of Medieval Society) have left knitters deprived of knowledge and patronised by the male dominated knitting yarn manufacturers –a very shortened summary but – Yikes. The Japanese, the source of all domestic knitting machines during their heyday, had knitting schools which designers and domestic knitters attended. They also had/have a common system for pattern notation which has much to commend it. Which means that they are skilled adapters of patterns to fit them. More stuff I didn’t know ! But wow it explains something – why Japanese and French ladies are so well dressed – their clothes fit them!!

Not that I thought knitting was just knowing how to make the stitches. As a big knitter I am frequently floored by a nice pattern designed for little people. Having to adapt up the sizing – not usually successfully. Many knitters I know are disappointed with their creations because of the fit. This M’s Kinder suggests, is because we slavishly follow the pattern (an accusation also made by Sally Melville) but also because we do not have the skill and are not encouraged not to adapt the knitting to our shape.  I make my own sewn clothes and changes and fitting come as a must. When taking the time to making your own garments the obvious opportunity is there to customise the fit, but we don’t – we happily spend 50 or 60 hours knitting a creation without even measuring ourselves or checking tension —- it isn’t surprising many knitters stick to small items and toys – it is a wonder anyone knits at all?

5 thoughts on “Knitting Past the conventions

  1. which is why I’m such a stickler for gauge swatches! Also – designs for ‘little ‘people won’t necessarily make up well for larger sizes; it depends on proportion and styling too. Understanding how to get what you want, and what works for you, is key. There’s no such thing as ‘average’ after all, but as a designer – you have to work to something. 🙂


    1. Most definitely, knowing what you want is only part of the process getting there is another. We seem to have lost the skills of assessing garments and styles for how they will look on our own body. Some people pick patterns for the colour of a garment on a pattern!


  2. I find it much easier to adapt (and design) crochet patterns than knitting patterns. Perhaps because I learnt to knit as a child (when rules were all important), but learned to crochet as an adult (when I’d become much more of a rebel!)


    1. Crochet is a much more fluid method of construction, more personal somehow too. I think it suits itself to adapting as you go, sculpting almost. Knitting needs more planning perhaps?


      1. You are probably right there – I’m never certain how many stitches I actually have when I’m crocheting because they are no on display like with knitting. Maybe this means I feel able to improvise and, as you say, sculpt my work.


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