If you've ever wanted to design your own sweaters but you didn't want to have to work out all the math yourself, knit pros Laura Militzer Bryant and Barry Klein have just the cheat sheets you've been looking for in their The New Knitter's Template.
The templates offer basic stitch counts on which sweaters can be built for chest sizes from 30 inches to 60 inches and stitch gauges from 6 to 2 stitches per inch. Just determine your measurements and the style of sweater you want, plug in the numbers and you're ready to go. Well, almost.
Of course a bunch of numbers is a great thing to have, and time consuming to produce, but it does not in itself a book make (well, Ann Budd's Handy Book of Patterns and Handy Book of Sweater Patterns may be the exception to that statement). So the main part of the book -- about 50 pages -- is devoted to educating the reader about yarn, fit and custom knitting so that they'll be happy with the results their number plugging produces.
The process of using the templates actually includes seven steps, which cover things like choosing the yarn and stitch pattern you want to use and determining your gauge, determining the style of garment you want to knit, taking your measurements and deciding the dimensions of your garment and collecting worksheets and finding the numbers in the templates that apply to your size and the shape of the garment you're looking for.
The front of the book explores the first few of these steps, along with tips on things like full-fashioned increases, how body size affects ease and why row gauge is important when following a pattern (if you're getting fewer rows per inch than stated you'll need more yarn).
There are yardage estimates for basic sweater and top styles, detailed instructions on how to measure yourself (or, really, to have someone measure you), factors to consider when determining the size of your finished garment, understanding gauge and hand when it comes to knitting your fabric and ways to change a garment from basic Stockinette using stripes, yarns with multiple colors and textures, and pattern stitches.
Looking for More
All of this information is helpful to the knitter who wants to design her own garments based on the templates. But looking at the book from the perspective of someone who might not have designed anything on their own before I can see that the book might be a little intimidating.
For those readers (and others who want to see a little more clearly how the math comes together) I would have liked to see a sample garment worked out with the measurements and numbers from the templates. It would have been easy to just choose a size and garment style (like, say, a hip-high pullover with long sleeves and a modified drop shoulder, with a V-neck, worked in Half Linen Stitch and with a 40-inch bust) and walk readers through how they find and plug in the numbers for their particular gauge, with a sample pattern at the end so they can really visualize how it's done.
Another problem I had with the book was a minor inconsistency. On one page it says "the templates are not gender or age specific," though clearly they're mostly for adults because they start with a chest measurement of 30 inches. Literally on the next page it says to remember that "the templates were designed with women in mind."
Both Bryant and Klein come from the world of "fashion yarn," meaning more textured, colorful, bordering on novelty-type yarns than many knitters may be used to (Bryant is the founder of Prism Yarn Arts, Inc., while Klein is a co-founder of Trendsetter Yarns). Of course the kind of yarn you use doesn't matter at all when it comes to plugging in the numbers, so long as your gauge is right, but when showing stitch patterns in yarns that are often themselves textured and colorful, some of the integrity of the stitch pattern itself is lost.
If you've had some experience designing garments for yourself but you don't want to bother with doing the math to make custom garments for yourself or as gifts, The New Knitter's Template can be a big help.
Knitters new to design who aren't scared of collating numbers from charts to get the right figures for their designs will also find this book handy and will be relieved not to have to struggle with the math on top of making all the design decisions inherent in making your own garments from scratch.
The book provides lots of good advice on things to think about when designing your own garments, including information on the different length options, how to add collars to different designs and how much ease different garment types require. All of this should shorten the learning curve for knitters who want to make their own garments but aren't sure where to start.
Publication date: July 2010