DIY Knitting Design – When You Can’t Find a Pattern That’s Just Right

You may have heard that knitted vests are all the rage these days. I’ve seen quite a number of knitted vests and armless tunics featured in fashion magazines, though I haven’t really seen many in the stores yet. 

Honestly, I haven’t worn a knitted vest since around 1987. Would I wear one again? I just might. If I could find a pattern I liked….

With plenty of yarn at my disposal (my yarn cabinet overflows), I have many yarn options available. The problem? I can’t find a pattern that works. I searched high and low on Ravelry for a free pattern. But everything on offer featured complicated details, the dreaded short rows, or intricate stitching that would ruin my eyesight. The few I liked called for fingerling yarn (too small) or bulky (too large). I just couldn’t find that Goldilocks “just right” pattern.

As I’ve found many times in my knitting life, sometimes it’s just easier to make up your own pattern that works for you. In fact, unless you have EXACTLY the yarn called for in a pattern – which is rare – you might save yourself a lot of time searching through the multitude of patterns on the web by scribbling out your own design.

It’s not that hard to come up with your own design. Here’s my process:

  • Identify a favorite sweater that fits just right. It can be store bought and manufactured.
  • Measure it. Write down the width and the length of the body, along with the dimensions of the arms and the neck.
  • Knit a swatch and determine the gauge. How many stitches to an inch? Multiply the dimensions of the favorite sweater by your gauge, subtracting stitches for neckline, armpits, and so forth. If you’re off, forgive yourself and carry on. 
  • Use your favorite stitches to give your garment some zing. I usually do this as I go.

Do you need pages-long instructions and umpteen books to do DIY Knit Design? Nope. What I find most helpful are bare bones charts for top-down sweaters (telling me how many stitches to increase on top and how many stitches to put on a lifeline for the arms) and a comprehensive stitch dictionary. Here are my current go-to sources:

As a knitter, you have skills. You have the ability to make precisely what you want. Go for it!

Blessings on your DIY Designs, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. 

Copyright 2022 Cynthia Coe

Knitting Luxuries – Let’s Talk Stitch Markers

In my continuing quest to master the art of Cardigans, I suddenly find myself in need of more stitch markers. Lots of them. After conquering (at least in my mind) the art of yoke sweaters, I’ve moved on to raglans. Lesson Number One before starting a raglan sweater: you need a whole handful of stitch markers, at least 8 of them. 

Recently, I’ve bought several types of stitch markers. Have I simply bought the plastic ones sold at the big box craft stores? Oh no. That’s no fun. The prettiest ones are handmade and come from woman-owned small businesses. If you need a rationalization for your purchases (you don’t), you’re helping out small businesses owned by kindred spirits by buying the fancy ones.

My favorites have tiny mandalas and sparkly crystals attached to them. I must confess, I match my stitch markers to the colors of the knitting project I’m working on. (It gives me a sense of balance and harmony, and in this crazy time, that’s something.) For lightweight yarn – or if using a lot of markers – I like the ones with fine, ultrathin wires that barely weigh a thing. In my mind at least, they’re easier on my hands and wrists. 

Sure, you can make stitch markers out of spare yarn. I’ve even heard of knitters using the pop top from a canned drink for a stitch marker. But me? I need stitch markers that are pretty and make me happy. Lovely tools for knitting are a luxury, I know. But in the great scheme of things, it’s a small investment for the craft you love. 

Here’s what I’ve bought recently, after lots of browsing online:

I’ve bought a number of stitch markers from Jill’s Beaded Knit Bits, both on Amazon and Etsy. Her work is high quality, useful, and she ships quickly from Pennsylvania. She also offers row counting chains and other knitting related jewelry. 

I’ve also bought stitch markers from Crafty Cat Knitty Bits in the U.K.  She offers the ultrathin wire stitch markers I prefer when using multiple markers. Even though my order was shipped from England, I received it quickly AND got postage stamps with pictures of the Queen for the husband’s stamp collection. Double win!

What are your favorite stitch markers? Feel free to comment and share your faves!

Blessings, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. 

Copyright 2022 Cynthia Coe

What’s Your “Small But Essential” Knitting Toolkit?

It’s the small things in life that make a difference. For knitters, we usually have a handful of small “must-have” tools we can’t knit without. Some of these are inexpensive, some a bit pricier, some may be items we’ve re-purposed.

Here’s my list of small but essential tools I use just about every day:

  • A small pair of really sharp scissors. I’m making a temperature blanket this year, and I’m changing colors (and cutting off loose ends) frequently. In tying up any loose ends, I’ve found a really sharp pair of scissors makes a difference. My go-to is a small pair of Fiskars.
  • A crochet needle. My pretty Birch-wood crochet needleis always within reach when I’m knitting. In addition to weaving in loose ends when a project’s complete, it’s handy for picking up dropped stitches as well. I recently found an inexpensive pack of crochet needles in every size imaginable, and I’m using the tiny ones for socks and lace weight projects.
  • A pattern page marker. I’m nearsighted, and I wear “progressive” glasses. I don’t need to ruin what vision I still have trying to decipher knitting patterns. This is a fairly new product I found recently, by Clover. It has magnets to mark exactly where you are on the pattern page.
  • Tapestry needles. Necessary for sewing up seams and useful for loose ends. I keep mine in a cork from a wine bottle so I won’t lose them.
  • Row counter. I’ve got one with sparkles on it, along with a claspthat I use to clip it to my project or knitting basket (‘cause they’re really easy to lose). 
  • Stitch gauge and ruler. These have been around since God was young, and they still get the job done. Measure your gauge, measure your work-in-progress, and figure out what size needles you’ve got – all in the same tool. 

What are your essentials? Feel free to comment to share ideas and tips with other readers!

Peace, Love, and Knitting, 

Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. 

Copyright 2022 Cynthia Coe