Wendy Bernard is a bit of a top-down knitting zealot, using zealot in the nicest way possible. She's passionate about this style of knitting because you can try your sweaters and tops on almost every step of the way, alter them as needed and you're practically done when you bind off at the bottom (there's a little finishing like knitting a collar and weaving in ends, but not much).
In her book Custom Knits: Unleash Your Inner Designer with Top-Down and Improvisational Techniques, she shares top-down and other seamless patterns as well as plenty of tips for making them your own.
About the Book
- Pages: 168
- Format: hardcover
- Number of patterns: 25
- Skill level: none given, but most are for advanced beginner to intermediate knitters
- Sizing: all garments are for women and are sized from extra small to 3XL
- Illustrations: full-color photographs
- Knitting lessons: a "special techniques" section tackles cast ons, short rows, reading charts and other basics
- Publication date: September 2008
Shaping from the Top (and Bottom)
The book covers three basic ways to shape garments seamlessly: top-down raglan, top-down with set-in sleeves and round yoke sweaters worked from the bottom up. It begins with a chapter that helps ensure that the things you knit will actually fit you and be things that you enjoy knitting, with discussions of sizing, ease, reading schematics and even making your own dress form so you can try your knits in progress on the form instead of on yourself, allowing you to see all angles.
Each chapter includes one pretty basic pattern in that style and then goes on from there to show other options. Each pattern has a "make it your own" section that offers design alterations and fit ideas you can use to make a truly custom knit.
In addition to these basic chapters, there's a section on "designing on the fly," simple patterns you can easily alter to make them fit you perfectly or incorporate a stitch pattern you love. It's called designing on the fly because Bernard knit these projects without having a written pattern first, and they aim to give knitters the confidence to do the same.
Then there's the chapter called "unleash your inner designer," which covers many different things you can alter in a garment pattern, including neckbands and cuffs, armhole depth and sleeves and turning a pullover into a cardigan or vice-versa.
Finally you'll find "starting from scratch," a section with basic formulas for a top-down raglan, top-down set-in sleeve sweater and bottom-up round-yoke pullover. Add your measurements and gauge and follow the basic instructions for a perfectly fitting top all your own.
This book is meant to empower knitters to move away from printed patterns, or at least to use them as a jumping-off point for their own alterations and designs. But plenty of the patterns here are worth knitting just as they are.
Some of my favorites include the Indigo Playmate Jacket, a big, cozy cardigan that somehow manages to be a little sexy (and not just because the model is in her underwear); Ingenue, a three-quarter sleeved, mostly Stockinette beauty with a wide Ridge Stitch neckline; Tang, which is actually the simple top-down, set-in sleeve pattern, it's a basic Stockinette and ribbing turtleneck, but that's a lot of stuff I love; Slinky Ribs, a fitted tee embellished with ribs of different lengths and a series of cute buttons; the Essential Tank, a basic Stockinette shell with a panel of ribbing up the center; and Karma, andother cute tank, this time with a herringbone stitch on the lower part of the top.
These patterns are all relatively straightforward, the better for you to learn the basic techniques or to build on these basics to develop your own signature pieces (and there's plenty of advice here on how to do exactly that, too).
Custom Knits has a bunch of cute patterns that would make a worth book all by themselves, but add on the clear instructions on how to make these and other projects your own and you've got a book that's indispensable for people who want to learn the mechanics of design or who just want to knit things that fit them perfectly every time.
This book offers a convincing argument for knitting garments seamlessly, and if you've never tried it before you may well be a convert after looking through and knitting form this book.