There are lots of knitting books that can teach you how to design a great sweater, just as there are innumerable patterns for beautiful sweaters. But now matter how lovely the pattern or how well you plan, your sweater can still fall short of your expectations.
Master Knitter Margaret A. Fisher, who was co-chair of the Master Hand Knitting Committee of The Knitting Guild Association, has seen plenty of garments that don't quite meet expectations.
She's come up with seven reasons a sweater might fail in the knitting, and she describes them in detail in her book Seven Things that can "Make or Break" a Sweater.
Making a Better Sweater
Fisher takes knitters step-by-step through the process of knitting a sweater, going through each of her seven pitfalls one by one:
- Casting on
- Increasing in ribbing
- Slanting decreases
- Invisible increases
- Picking up stitches for bands
Each of the seven things gets a full, richly illustrated chapter explaining what can go wrong in these parts of the sweater and how to make them go right.
The ribbing chapter, for example, explains how to plot out increases, whether they are worked in the ribbing or in the Stockinette Stitch above the ribbing and what increases can best be used to hide the increases.
A project sweater, a baby-sized cardigan, is included to illustrate all of the points, and the end of each chapter directs knitters to the part of the sweater to work on to put what they've just learned into practice.
For all this book's emphasis on the small details, it's interesting to me that it wasn't Eight Things that can "Make or Break" a Sweater, that extra chapter being devoted to seaming. A sweater can be knit perfectly, but if time and care isn't taken with the seams, it can still look sloppy and turn out to be a wasted effort.
There is a lot of really good information on seaming in the techniques section at the back of the book, but it seems to me as if making perfect seams is shown as having less importance because it doesn't get its own chapter. It's a small complaint since the information is in the book, but I for one wish it would have been given a bit more prominence.
In addition to the practice baby cardigan, there are six other sweater patterns featured in Seven Things that can "Make or Break" a Sweater. The other patterns are all for adult women and feature some textured stitching but mostly Stockinette Stitch.
There are two pullovers, three cardigans (one is actually more of a jacket) and a vest. My favorites are the Two-Texture Pullover, which features a wide band of Garter Stitch ribbing at the bottom; and My Sister's Sweater, a basic jacket with Broken Rib details and buttons only at the top.
Patterns mostly range in size from 38 to 48 inches, though one, the vest, goes down to 36 and a couple go up to 50.
If you've ever wanted to knit a sweater but you're afraid of getting all the details right, or if you've knit sweaters before and haven't been happy with the results, Seven Things that can "Make or Break" a Sweater will give you a lot to think about and try on your own sweaters, whether you're working from a pattern or designing for yourself.
Publication date: August 2008.