So today we are talking freestyle knitting - knitting where you just make up your own pattern as you go. Now, I can hear you saying “but why??... why would I want to?... people write patterns for me to follow”. All of that is true but there is a few great reasons for trying freestyling that I want to share.
But quickly before I start I want to say that this is not a post about designing a pattern - that is a whole other kettle of fish. This is about making up a garment that you want to knit without a pattern. While freestyling is much easier after you have a little experience under your belt, I do believe that advanced beginners could/should give it a go.
1. You can make what you want
This truly is the best bit. Ever spotted something on pinterest, or even in the real world, and fallen totally in love. Then spent hours on Ravelry trying to find a matching pattern. Yep - me too! Often Ravelry doesn't have the exact pattern I want. I have become a notorious modifier who is always changing something to shape it to what I want. Through learning even a little about the structure of your knitting AND the potential structures of knitted garments, you gain so much control. You can truly make what you want, how you want it. And who doesn't like having some control hey!
I'm trying to figure out how to make this beauty. If only they would take one more photo of it lying flat I would be set...
2. You learn how to make modifications
Freestyling means you will learn about knitting structure. And this means that ALL your garments benefit. By understanding more, you are able to modify patterns so they fit beautifully so you actually want to wear them. Then because they fit, you will think knitting sweaters is wonderful so you want to knit more. Win.
3. You gain confidence and understanding
Learning how to freestyle your own design really solidifies your knowledge base in a way that knitting from a pattern doesn’t. I’m having trouble finding an analogy but freestyling means that you have to pay a lot more attention to the details of the knit. Honing your skills while you work.
4. You get more joy from your knitting
I have no actual proof of this. But I do offer into anecdotal evidence the photos that are used in this post. This jumper was a request from my small boy for his birthday next week. He designed it. He chose the yarn. He refused my many many requests to choose a simpler collar. He feels total ownership of it and even knitted a few stitches. And although the ad hoc nature of the knit meant that I did lots of ripping of the aforementioned collar (and copious amounts of s@#$ring) I feel way way prouder of it than if I had knitted someone else’s pattern. It bloody well worked! And he is thrilled.
Freestyling is fun. The sweater you are making may be looking a bit big around the neck – why not do a few more random decreases you rascal you, and make it a bit smaller. Freestyling is a wind-in-your-hair kinda freedom without leaving your couch. As EZ says "it's your knitting!"
6. You learn things
Now although I like his jumper, there are a few wacky things about it – like for some random reason I decided to do a three stitch raglan which looks a little s%$t….so I learnt a valuable lesson - that I don’t like having 3 stitches in between my raglan decreases. I remember making the decision to do it but I don’t remember why and I do regret it - but not so much I was willing to rip it out. All about the learning.
Please excuse the hideous light but I was trying to take them under a very grey English sky that wasn’t going anywhere.
How to learn to freestyle knit!
I truly believe you need to go back to the masters - Elizabeth and Barbara. They wrote two essential and fabulous books. One for bottom up and the other for top down. They both have their benefits and their separate joys. Bottom up means that you are essentially doing a giagantic gauge swatch before you get to the all important yoke – but you can’t try it on. With top down you can try it on as you go but you need to get your gauge right first.
Knitting without Tears by Elizabeth Zimmerman. I have talked about this book on the blog before but if you really want to understand your knitting then this is the perfect place to start. Elizabeth will fill you with confidence, knowledge and joy.
Knitting from the Top by Barbara G Walker. This is the bible for the top down knitters. Ignore the picture on the front as this book has all types of top down shaping and is oft quoted as the book where people began their top down journey.
Read them both and you will truly have increased your knowledge and understanding of the knitted garment in an exponenetial way. You will never be the same.
Another fabulous resource would be Karen’s posts on How to improvise a top down sweater. This series is brilliant!! And she was a pretty new knitter when she wrote it, so she is looking at it from a wonderful perspective that doesn't assume you have years of knitting experience.
If you are able to get to a class or two (or work with a knitter you know) to learn it in a hands on way then that is incredibly valuable. That said – I didn’t. I learnt all I know from those books, youtube, making other people’s patterns and making a ton of mistakes (and a few successful knits ;)). Which reminds me - another great resource for how-to is just to take notice when you are knitting other people's patterns. You will find an absolute wealth of knowledge if you really start to pay attention.
Okey dokey. Now if you think freestyling may be for you, just get to it and remember mistakes are how you learn – ripping is part of the process my friends. Don’t see it as wasted time – see it as a step towards mastery.
I’d love to hear if you freestyle (or plan to) at all.
PS. A little housekeeping. Due to my inability to maintain two separate Pinterest pages, I am not going to be updating The Craft Sessions pinterest account any longer. I will however continue to update my own (and have changed the link icon to link to my personal page). I have a heap of clearly marked craft boards. So if you are interested in craft but not in the fact that I need a coffee table, please feel free to just follow the craft boards.