To Knit As Written…or not?

Last time, I showed a photo of the beginnings of my Tattoo Tank from Knitscene Winter/Spring 2010. I also gave instructions for how to choose the right size for this little summer top
, only to find out that I myself had gone and cast on for a little summer top big enough to fit Godzilla.

Hmm. You know, I don't think Godzilla is really into little knit tops this season.

Once I finished that particular slice of humble pie (oooo, tasty!), I cranked up the Carrie Underwood and started pulling out all five inches of the Godzilla top. ("I dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped-up 4 wheel drive..") Whoo-HOO!

After a day or two of letting the yarn sit in the corner and think about its bad self, I cast on the proper number of stitches for my size (and re-counted twice, just to be sure).

As I worked the first round, I considered The Big Question: Would I follow the pattern as written this time, or would I go ahead and add a wee lace border to the hem, as I had done previously?

I meekly did an entire two rounds–560 entire stitches!–strictly according to the pattern. While knitting, however, I noticed that one part of my brain was off somewhere else, gleefully dividing the stitch count into manageable chunks and inventing a pretty lace pattern that would compliment the lace heart "tattoo" on the back.

Apparently, my fingers and needles have minds of their own. Before I knew it, I was several repeats in to my pretty little lace pattern, and that, as they say, was that.

I have been asked this question many times: Sandi, why on earth do you always have to change the pattern?

Let's look at some reasons I might modify a perfectly lovely pattern…

1. I can't help it.
You know how there are some folks who can never follow a recipe exactly as written? I'm one of those folks. Even if it's a simple chocolate chip cookie recipe, I'm in there adding cinnamon one time, ginger the next, substituting this for that… Even the very first time I make a recipe, I make changes. Can't be helped. Nature of the beast.

2. Normal alterations (a.k.a.: Tailoring-to-fit).
Let's face it: Most sweaters are not designed for women of my shape and size. I have to alter them just to get the finished project to fit and look great on me. Thus, the changes I am making are necessary changes sometimes, rather than whimsical.

3. Curiosity
Deep down, I'm wonderer. I am constantly wondering what would happen if I knit it this way, or that way. Sometimes I use a basic sweater pattern as a laboratory to find out What Happens When I Do This. I knit, I learn.

4. Patterns as guides
There are times I love everything about a sweater…except for this or that or this. I love it except for the collar. Or the sleeves. Or the stitch pattern. So I use the published pattern as a template, as a starting place, and go from there, knitting the sweater I see in my mind instead of just the one I see in the photo.

5. Teaching tool
You may have noticed that I love to teach knitting. (Yes, I do.) And you may have noticed that I love to write about knitting techniques. The best way to teach and write about knitting is to use real-life examples, actual sweaters-in-progress. So, if I'm planning what to write about for the next few weeks, and I see that I haven't yet written about how to do a steek, for example, I might just take the very sweater I am knitting and create a steek where there wasn't one before, so I can show you folks how to do a steek in a real sweater.

Have I ever knit a sweater exactly as written? Yes, of course. I'm just like anyone else: Sometimes I want EXACTLY the sweater in the photo, that precise style and yarn. Barring a few teensy modifications for fit, I zoom away into the instructions, and end up with That Very Sweater.

How about you? Do you knit as writ, or do you fiddle with the pattern? Chime in, leave a comment; because I'd sure like to see if I'm the only crazy person here or not.

Now that the lacy hem is done, I promise I am knitting the rest of this top exactly as written. (Except: I am adding sleevettes. Sorrryyyy.)

I hope you can knit in the sunshine a bit this weekend…

– Sandi

Sandi Wiseheart
is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. You can find her blogging here on Knitting Daily every Thursday. Want more? Visit Sandi's personal blog, wiseheart knits. Or, if you're on Twitter, you can follow her: sandiwiseheart.


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