there appears to be quite the epidemic going around… wanting to knit EVERYTHING right now, as proven by the comments to my last post.

in my wanting to knit everything and being inspired by patterns i see… i got to thinking once again about designers knitting other people’s patterns. a while ago there was a thread about this in the ravelry forums in which a bunch designers said they never knit other people’s patterns. here, i would like to make a brief rant in defense of knitting others patterns.

mittens from lapland, drops jacket, and knitter’s handy book of patterns fingerless gloves
from other's patterns

first of all, i believe that knitting from patterns allows for relaxation. this is one of the main reasons why many people i know knit. knitting is relaxing and meditative and we tap that directly when we find a beautiful, ingenious pattern and knit it. there is value in the act of just stitching. by only designing your own patterns, you may be robbing yourself of this essential part of knitting and disconnect yourself from the people who might actually knit your patterns.

gentlemen’s sock in railway stitch, halland mittens, norweigan cap
historical knitting

personally, as a designer, knitting from someone else’s pattern allows me to examine and appreciate the ingenuity of other people. granted, i mostly knit from other’s patterns for family and friends and mostly around the holidays, but i still do it.  it would be a total shame if i’d never knit an elizabeth zimmermann baby surprise jacket, or lovely historical colorwork.

baby suprise jacket, lithuanian socks

knitting from many patterns allows us to connect with the continuity of history. there is value to knitting the same patterns for the same practical purposes as our grandmothers or grandfathers. i make mittens to keep my hands warm and so did they.  we make seaman’s caps because they are super warm, a lesson from the past.  as a designer, this also allows my knitting to have more depth, a historical referent and an echo throughout time.

norwegian star hat, wwi wristers, ribbed bonnet

and the last reason i believe in dropping my work and knitting from patterns is because it provides us with  community. this wonderful blogging community would not be much at all if we didn’t have common knits.  i now realize the value of writing down or sharing patterns. as an english major with a teaching degree, i firmly believe that reading helped kids to empathize with and understand people and the world around them. the knitting version of this statement is that i firmly believe that knitting common patterns puts us on common ground.  not only do we stitch, we stitch some of the same things and some of the same patterns. as a designer, by writing down patterns i may be going in one direction on this, but by taking a break and knitting from someone else’s pattern i am becoming a part of the community.

yes, in this blog i get comments on my artsy knitting and people like looking at what i make, but i get way more comments when i knit something that has been knit a thousand times before. people might understand ‘hat’ as a basic, but knitters, they understand ‘koolhaus hat’ much better.

13 thoughts on “careful…

  1. I’m someone who knits almost exclusively from patterns. I guess this is because I knit for relaxation as you mention. I also knit with concern for the finished product and I guess even after years of knitting I don’t trust myself to design yet. Though recently I have begun to appreciate patterns, such as EZ’s patterns, that force you to figure out a lot for yourself. I used to want patterns to tell me exactly what to do. I have gained a lot of confidence and understanding about knitting in this last year, since I have been knitting almost daily, and have knit a lot of things for the first time. I think some designing will be in my future.

  2. I agree with you completely. There are so many fabulous designers, with fabulous patterns, there is no way I’m limiting myself to just stuff I design! :)

    Community is a major part of life and this community of ours is uber-special.

  3. I love to see what others have designed and am often inspired, but I knit primarily from patterns. I usually use them as a starting point and may tweak them here and there, but I like the structure they provide. I love to read your blog as you’re very inspiring–both in the skill, creativity, and execution of your projects and your analysis and writing. Plus, I like that you post often and are willing to try new things. I can’t imagine posting to a blog on a regular basis, let alone several times a week, so thank you very much for your blog.

  4. i couldn’t agree with you more! i think it’s nice to have a healthy balance of both. as someone who has only recently started designing as kind of a second job, i enjoy the little breaks in between deadlines when i can just knit from someone else’s pattern.
    there are so many amazing designers out there, i only wish i had even more time to explore their genius.

  5. I agree totally. I am only just getting into designing myself, but I’ve learned enormously from knitting others’ patterns, about construction and different techniques, the way things can be pieced together. and people have such great ideas — it makes me feel part of the knitterly community when I create my own take on someone else’s pattern, and seeing what everyone else does with it too. thanks for sharing your creative process with us!

  6. I design & I love to knit other designers patterns, sometimes for the rest & sometimes for the challenge & sometimes it’s just such a good idea that I’ve got to try it.

  7. What a brilliant defense! I have knitting relative who is in the “not knitting other people’s patterns” camp. I always thought about it from the not wanting to think aspect, but the history and connectedness is so much a part of it a well.

  8. I guess I learned to knit because I wanted to have something that was passed down to me from my aunt, who is my godmother. She tried for what I believe was the third time to teach me,and this final time, it clicked and I haven’t stopped. I think there has hardly been a day in the past 10 years that I haven’t knit something. Now I primarly knit from other peoples patterns, but it has been with time and experience and encouragement from others in the “community” that I have learned to tweak the patterns for my fit.

    I enjoy your blog so much. It’s like a visit from a friend.

  9. I really enjoyed this post (and the comment thread, too). Though I do knit from my own “designs” sometimes, I tend to knit from patterns, but have always had a habit of taking patterns to be “suggestions” more than anything (which is to say, I tinker, and I just can’t help it!). But of course, so many of the ideas and skills I use both in my own designs, and to tinker with patterns, I would never have known about had I not knit other people’s patterns and interacted with so many brilliant knitters.

  10. Really beautiful post, and a philosophy that can be applied to any pursuit really. I’m a dance teacher/choreographer, and I was just talking to someone the other day at how shocked I was that younger generations don’t have any connection to the history of dance or the global community that the art form encompasses. I know kids who go to ballet class every day, but they’ve only ever seen the Nutcracker. It’s a pity!

    Bringing it back to knitting, I’m not a designer, but I imagine if I was that I would be knitting other people’s patterns all the time! There is so much inspiration available in the people that have come before us, and our peers around us today, it would be a shame to close our eyes to it! And boring, indeed.

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