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Knitting from the Top Down with Wendy Bernard

An Overview of Top-Down Knitting

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Knitting from the Top Down DVD

"Knitting from the Top Down with Wendy Bernard."

Interweave Press.

Wendy Bernard is well known for her Custom Knits books that help knitters of all skill levels take basic patterns and make them their own using top-down knitting techniques. She brings those skills to an Interweave DVD, "Knitting from the Top Down with Wendy Bernard," which walks knitters through two basic styles of top-down sweater.

While the lessons are a little short on details, if the projects shown are things you'd actually knit the overview could be helpful if you've never worked from the top down before.

Little Lessons

I should say from the beginning that this video is short. It's an hour long, and Bernard is covering two different sweaters in that time, so you can already guess that the lessons are going to be pretty short. At best it's an overview of top-down knitting techniques.

I also want to mention, because I don't make any money from this, that there is a DVD version of this workshop as well as a video download. The DVD as of this writing will run you $19.95 plus shipping; the download is $14.94. Of course you have to have a computer that can handle it, but I'd save a few bucks and get the download version if I were buying this.

The second thing I would do would be to download the patterns Bernard is using in the presentation (you'll get a link with the download or the URL is printed in the DVD materials). It would help a lot to be able to follow along, if not with actual knitting at least by reading the pattern.

The DVD shows how to knit two different styles of sweater from the top down: a raglan pullover and a set-in-sleeve cardigan. That is one of the more interesting parts of the video because people often think of raglans as being the main format for top-down sweater knitting, but the set-in sleeve is a good choice that's not that much more involved to knit.

Bernard explains the advantages of knitting from the top down: it avoids seaming and allows you to try your garment on while it's in progress, which is especially helpful when trying to get the perfect sleeve length or if you're running out of yarn and need to make pattern adjustments.

The Patterns

The raglan section covers different ways to work increases, how to separate the sleeves from the body by putting the sleeve stitches on markers, casting on stitches for the underarm, working the body and sleeves.

The cardigan pattern uses a provisional cast on starting at the top of the back. The back is worked to the bottom of the armhole opening, then the cast on is picked open where the fronts go. Once the fronts are worked down to the armholes, the pieces are joined and worked back and forth.

The set-in sleeves are worked by picking up stitches around the armhole and working a few short rows to shape the sleeve cap, a very nice and professional touch.

Bernard also covers such things as what to do if you don't want to use a provisional cast on, and generally how you might customize a pattern for your body.

But really the whole video feels like an overview, like she's just explaining the basics and doesn't want to get too technical. There are even a couple of times in the video when she says something to the effect of "Google it and watch a video if you need more information," which I guess is fine if you don't want to bore more advanced viewers with the basics, but the rest of the video is itself kind of basic.

To make this a true top-down knitting workshop that would be essential viewing for anyone interested in this technique, it would have been wonderful to see more variations and explanations of the mechanics of knitting from the top down and converting patterns to be worked from the top down. As it is, this production is mostly useful only for people who want to knit these two particular sweaters.

Bottom Line

If you're a visual learner and you do want to knit one or both of these garments, "Knitting from the Top Down with Wendy Bernard" does provide some good tips and instruction on those particular pieces. The technique of working set-in sleeves in a top-down garment will also be interesting to people who want to design their own top-down garments, but because no real specifics are given on how to shape the sleeve cap you'll still have to experiment to find out what works best for your particular garment.

And of course if you're a fan of Bernard's books you'll probably want to check out the DVD just to see more of her easy knits with a lot of style and her gentle knitting manner. Her glasses are pretty cute, too!

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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