One of the benefits of the interstate move I mentioned is that I now live just a few doors down from my best friend. Obviously this is awesome for about a million every day reasons, but since this is a knitting blog let’s talk about the knitting-related ones. Beth was an occasional knitter for about a year, and she’s certainly kicked things into high gear since we moved.
In fact, she’s now knitting her first sweater!
One of the great things about that is that I’m getting to see, first-hand, in a context where I can pester her with questions, what it’s like to approach sweater knitting as a relative newbie. (Because let’s face it, it’s been a long time since I (or any other designer you’re likely to meet) were in that stage of our sweater-knitting journey.)
I’m fascinated by the fresh slate with which she approaches patterns themselves. I had no understanding of how much context and custom we (pattern writers) assume on the part of the knitter – she’s mentioned several times how vague knitting patterns are. In most cases when a pattern is vague, there’s a reason – different choices exist that you can make entirely based on your own taste, and will probably want to make differently for different sweaters.
So today, I’m starting a series of posts on the options and freedoms you have when you’re knitting any sweater pattern. Things you can do this way, or that way, and still get a great sweater. The first topic is edge shaping.
When shaping on an edge, you have a variety of options that will all produce different looks.
The actual pattern instructions for edge shaping often look something like this:
“Decrease 1 st at each edge every RS row 7 times.”
And as long as you’ve gotten rid of those 14 stitches over the 14 rows specified, you’re pretty much good. So what are your options, and what look will they produce? There are two different parts to how you’ll work your shaping, and they’re independent of each other. So let’s break things down that way.
The first thing to decide is where you’ll work your shaping.
Edge shaping should typically be carried out within the 4 or 5 stitches at the edge of the piece, but you can work the shaping wherever you want within that range: Either right at the edge, one stitch in, or more than one stitch in.
Shaping at the edge means that the shaping itself is going to be hidden within the finishing you’ll do – whether you’re going to be seaming that edge, or picking up stitches within it.
Shaping one stitch in means that the shaping will be just outside the seam of whatever finishing you’ll do. It will be visible, but fairly unobtrusive.
Shaping more than one stitch in from the edge means that the shaping itself will become a visual element in the piece. This is sometimes called “fully fashioned shaping”.
Wherever your performing the shaping, you can either choose to have it slant with the edge being shaped, or slant against the edge being shaped. All of the images above have shaping that slants with the edge being shaped:
Slanting the shaping with the edge, for example using left-leaning decreases on the right edge and right-leaning decreases on the left edge of the armholes of a sweater back, will make the shaping slightly less eye-catching.
Slanting the shaping against the edge, for example using right-leaning decreases on the right edge and left-leaning decreases on the left edge of the same armholes, will make the shaping slightly more eye-catching.
Putting them together
Putting them together, you’ve got a range of shaping options from completely unobtrusive (shaped at the edge itself, slanting with the edge being shaped):
To fashionably eye-catching (shaped 3 stitches away from the edge, slanting against the edge being shaped):
Which should you choose?
Truly, it’s up to you.
I personally prefer a clean look on sleeve caps most of the time, and on necklines when the yarn itself is somewhat busy, and fully fashioned shaping on neck edges when the yarn and design are more plain – as seen in the new CustomFit Basics sweater Firth:
…but really, truly, it’s a matter of taste. What look do you like, given the rest of what’s going on in the sweater?