5 Things I Love and Hate About Knit Designs

After 20 years of knitting and  reading thousands of patterns, I have strong feelings about knit designs. The words love and hate express those feelings, although I thought I merely had biases before giving it more thought. Bias is just not a strong enough word. Hate might be too strong, so I’ll call them deep aversions.

When I look at any design, I check out five major issues. Do elements that show on both right and wrong sides look good on both? Are selvedges nicely planned so they are useful for seaming or, if left unfinished, are attractive? Is a too-simple ribbing used  on hems, cuffs, and button bands? Do shoulders fit the model’s body well, without extra fabric under the arm? Are cables and texture stitches mirrored?

This photo is a new pattern of mine, still in testing, that shows three of my essentials – both right and wrong sides are attractive, the selvedge is an I-cord variation, and the hem is garter stitch, not rib.

  • For me, reversibility is essential for shawls, scarves, cowls, and shawl collars, anywhere the wrong side will show. Knitters are not on the fence about this issue. We fall into, “I love shawls, therefore I’m OK with the wrong side showing sometimes” or “No way, I don’t want to be fiddling with what I’m wearing or what’s on the sofa.”
  • Selvedges do the job of closing an edge, but I want them do more than that – make seaming easy and good looking, be consistent with the fabric stitches, and help the fabric lay flat.
  • My dislike of ribbed hems likely dates back to my first sweater when the hem pulled in way too much. I hated it. So disappointed. I did learn to remove the hem and reknit it down. Lots of learning with that project. We probably learn more about our craft from our failures than from the easy success.
  •  I started knitting when dropped shoulders were all the rage. On the plus side – they were easy to knit with very little shaping required. On the negative side – they were baggy at the shoulder and arm, too much fabric – not attractive to me. Maybe my wide shoulders have something to do with that. I was attracted to vintage patterns with set-in sleeves, raglans, or saddles.
  •  Mirrored cables are a real bug bear for me. Symmetry is essential. Unless a design is deliberately asymmetrical, I want cables and stitch patterns to mirror one other. Otherwise offends my eye. It is possible to revise charts and stitch patterns to fix that, but isn’t it nice when the designer has taken care of it?

In the weeks to come, I’m going to be thinking and talking more depth about these issues and finding out what other knitters think. Weigh in. I’d love to know what you think.

4 Replies to “5 Things I Love and Hate About Knit Designs”

  1. I completely agree with you especially on dropped shoulders and ribbed hems. My deep aversion happens to be top down circular yokes. Probably because that type of sweater looks terrible on me.

  2. I have always like the look of circular yokes, but never made one. I wonder why? Know deep down it wouldn’t look good?
    Another one I have a deep aversion to is – dolman sleeves.

  3. This has got me thinking. I don’t often knit the same garment over again but lately I have done two patterns twice. They are cleverly constructed and more importantly, written really well even though they are complicated patterns. I like it when the designer has obviously given quite a lot of thought to how I, the knitter, can knit this easily and happily. So I guess what I dislike is when the designer forgets about the knitter trying to knit the pattern.

  4. Like you, Gayle, I like things mirrored unless there’s deliberate asymmetry in the design, and I like both sides to look good (not necessarily identical, just attractive).

    I, too, seem to have an aversion to top-down, circular yoke garments. The yokes often seem too deep, causing the design to be too far down and/or too much fabric under the arm.

    Oh, and here’s one that I think is probably unusual: I don’t care for garter stitch! I’ve made a couple of shawls that were predominantly garter stitch, but I’d rather do something more interesting that knit row after row, and I’m not crazy about that particular texture.

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