Too Scared to Knit a Sweater? Tips for Shaping

One thing I see over and over as a theme is the fear of shaping. I can understand the anxiety that comes with the unknown, and I do know it is a considerable investment in time and effort, as well as the money involved in yarn and pattern, to knit a sweater.

The truth is, other than a few refinements in techniques, most knitters probably know all they need in order to knit a very nice garment.

A review of the basic techniques include the ability to knit (duh!), CO, BO, increase and decrease. I know those pesky increases and decreases can be worrisome. The decreases are a simple matter (so are the increases).

When you work a decrease, such as a k2tog or a ssk, you will notice that the decrease leans a particular direction. In this case, k2tog leans to the right, and ssk leans to the left (unless you knit in Eastern Uncrossed or something a little different).

The advantage of being aware of which way the resulting stitch slants helps you remember what you need to do without having to constantly dig your pattern out to see what the directions say. Think of it as turning the wheel to your car towards the right if you want to make a right hand turn. If your map told you that you needed to make a right hand turn, if you had to dig out the manual to tell you how to do that every time you needed to turn, it would really slow you down and make you feel uncertain.

Shaping itself involves either making something wider or making something more narrow. At the armholes and at the neckline we tend to see certain methods of working the shaping.  Remember the line that the decreases make? Generally, the armhole decreases follow the curve of the armhole and lean in towards the garment. The the line of the neckline starts at the center neck BO and curves up around the sides of the neck. They too follow the line of the garment. In this case, the decreases lean away from the center neck.

If you stop for a minute and think about the direction of your knitting, you will see that knowing what decrease to work where becomes more intuitive. And really, that is where the fun begins. you can start making those decreases decorative. If you want less of a visible line, work them so that they lean the opposite direction (this breaks up the line). There are a number of ways to do this and too long a discussion for this post. But hey, it is fun to experiment. Think of it as your own textile version of a great Jazz riff.

That seems to be something we have a little trouble with here in the States. We like things to be spelled out for us to the Nth degree and when it is not, we freeze and do not know what to do. Relax, take a deep breath, maybe do a little Google. Remember this is knitting, not brain surgery.

I think our culture over here encourages us not to be as intuitive. I don’t know if it is partly a lack of exposure to knitting in general, or if it is patterns being written for beginners without adequate leading them from the level of beginners after they have been knitting. At least in terms of pattern writing. There is a big emphasis on knitting patterns being written for the neophyte (which isn’t a bad thing, but we must cut our knitting teeth and get off of the bottle eventually or we quit growing).

We do a lot of learning when we are relaxed and having fun. It is that knowledge that we gain that makes us confident…so play with your knitting. Look at what happens with the stitches that you make so that your knitting sings the way you want it to.

Peace and Knitting, JoLene Treace


One Response to “Too Scared to Knit a Sweater? Tips for Shaping”

  1. Katie Says:

    Nice post! I’ve been knitting an EZ pattern today, and it’s full of design decisions to make and work out for yourself. I’ve been enjoying the process of working out the right choice for me at each point.

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