black t shirt
Did you ever design a knitting pattern using Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Percentage System? Her method helps you create a sweater from scratch, one that fits you just right. If you never tried designing before, there’s no better time than now. Why? Because August 9, 2010 is 100 years since her birth. I’m designing an Aran sweater in celebration of this master knitter’s birthday. Warning: designing is a messy process.
First step: measure a favorite sweater in similar weight to the one you’ll design.
This tells you how much wiggle room you like in your sweater, whether lots or little. Without the right amount of wiggle room, you’ll never be happy in your sweater no matter how well you knit each stitch.
Second step: find yarn you love.
For an economical way to buy vast quantities of yarn, buy a cone of it. I scored some wool yarn on eBay a few years ago and didn’t know what to do with it, because it was lace weight and back then, I didn’t know lace weight from a shoe lace. I just discovered it in my stash and recognized a hundred possible ways I can use it.
Third step: make a swatch.
At first I thought I would make an Elizabeth Zimmermann Pi Are Square shawl with the lace weight. It’s a design she “unvented” that’s open down the front so the shawl will stay on your shoulders effortlessly. Cool! But until I could locate the book with that pattern, I switched.
I liked the lace weight when knitted on size four needles, liked it better doubled, and loved it tripled. After washing the swatch, the triple-strand stockinette and garter stitch measured 5 stitches per inch, had great stitch definition and comfy softness. Thus was born the idea to knit an Aran sweater.
Fourth step: select which stitch patterns you want.
In honor of Elizabeth’s 100th birthday celebration, I looked for Aran stitch patterns using the numbers in her birthday. August 9, 1910 yields the numbers 8, 9 and 10. After selecting stitch patterns with those numbers, I knitted a swatch, discovered how much the cable patterns drew in the fabric and knew I needed more patterns to go around my chest.
I had wanted a big diamond pattern, but that didn’t fit her numbers. Then it dawned on me I could use the 19 from 1910 for a nice big one. Never mind that I can’t find a 19-stitch diamond pattern. I’ll invent, whoops, “unvent” one.
Fifth step: knit an experimental cap.
As it happens, a hat uses half the amount of stitches as your sweater. What better way to see how your stitch patterns look knitted up? Knitting in the round can change your gauge. While you find out what size your array of cable patterns ends up measuring, or whether you should add or omit a few stitches or whether you might prefer another arrangement better, you’ll produce a hat you or some lucky loved one can wear.
I knitted another swatch instead of the hat while working out my pattern arrangement and how my big diamond might look.
Sixth step: knit the sweater!
I’m not there yet, but close. Let me rechart my patterns with my big diamond smack dab in the middle, and figure out what patterns fit best on my sleeves. Then I’ll knit my hat as proof it works. Hey, I lost my favorite hat this winter, so I need a new one.
Then I can knit my sweater using EZ’s Percentage System which tells us, based on how many stitches fit us around the chest, how many stitches will make the bottom, armholes, neck, cuffs and sleeves also fit. I know my finished sweater will fit me just right. Happy birthday, Elizabeth Zimmermann, and thank you for helping me design a knitting pattern in your honor.
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write by Anatole