When I knit, I am impatient, messy and passionate. I want to try my clothes on frequently as I knit them to check the progress and perhaps to reassure myself because I am not a confident knitter yet. Unfortunately traditional jumper construction – from the bottom edge up to the neckline does not allow me to try and adjust things, instead it leaves me with bits of the garment. Somehow I am supposed to just fill in the missing parts and imagine how it will all fit together in harmony.
Hm.. not sure about this…
It is frustrating..
I’ve been knitting Kate Davies’ Warriston jumper for several weeks now using Wendy Traditional Aran Yarn which my mother-in-law gave me last Christmas. It’s a sturdy lovely yarn and I love the pattern too. I had to use different size needles though to achieve the correct gauge. And really for me the gauge is a constant source of anxiety because, like I said, I am a messy knitter. I want to say that I’ve been enjoying knitting Warriston, but I can’t and this isn’t any fault of Kate’s. It’s just knitting a jumper from the bottom edge up to the neck seems illogical and unintuitive to me.
This is possibly because when I decided to learn to knit jumpers I bought a brilliant book by Barbara G. Walker called Knitting from the Top. If you are thinking of designing your own knitwear someday this book is inspiring and empowering. Walker takes you through the process of designing knitwear that actually fits. Top-down construction allows you to try your garment on at any moment and to make the necessary adjustments as you go along. You can, if you like adjust garment’s length, include shaping where necessary, or correct mistakes. Top-down construction makes knitting flexible, it allows you to play with the garment – it gives you freedom that bottom-up construction method does not. Knitting from the bottom up gives you one chance at making the garment that works.
There are many amazing knitters who have embraced knitting from the top – like Karen Templer from Fringe Association who wrote several blog posts on how to design a raglan pullover. And Ann Budd’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters is an amazing source of information for a budding designer.
But I feel that top-down construction is still something unorthodox, slightly odd, maybe even embarrassing because it is untraditional. Is it because there is a myth that knitting from the top is difficult?
To me, there is something so lovely about slowly adding to the whole jumper, seeing it grow and take shape. It seems so much more intuitive and natural than having a garment in bits and pieces that need to be put together. But for now I will continue knitting my Warriston and needles crossed it’ll fit me in the end.