A great variety of knitting patterns are now more available and accessible than ever before, thanks in part to online pattern databases and publishing houses dedicated to knitting patterns — in Brooklyn Tweed’s library alone there are more than 500 patterns. With so many options to choose from, now is a great time to expand your current skill set and venture off into uncharted knitting territory! (Or shall we say, charted knitting territory?)
In Anatomy of a Brooklyn Tweed Pattern, the sixth installment of our Foundations series, we walk you through the information and resources that we provide in our patterns to ensure you have a well-informed and successful knitting experience, whatever the skill level the pattern may be.
Today we offer additional tips to help you build confidence with your craft — and boldly tackle that intricate lace, cabled, or brioche piece, or perhaps even your first seamed or colorwork garment.
Remember that Skill Level ratings are not meant to be restrictive. A knitter who identifies as an advanced knitter may still be stumped by a pattern and one who identifies as a beginner may have few issues following the same pattern — so don’t feel intimidated by a higher skill rating!
In general, our Skill Level rating system is aimed toward giving you at-a-glance information on the types of techniques or construction methods that may be involved in the pattern, rather than being a hard and fast determiner of the types of patterns that you yourself can tackle. In Anatomy of a Brooklyn Tweed Pattern we break down the criteria we follow when assigning Skill Levels to our patterns. We also provide information on the construction of the item and the techniques involved in the pattern (both required and optional), so you know what to expect and can assess how this information meets your skill set long before you cast on.
Gather your resources. The great thing about knowing before casting on what construction methods and techniques are involved in the pattern is that you can prepare yourself by gathering your resources — be they a guide to abbreviations for common knitting terms, instructional videos on how to perform a certain stitch or finishing technique, or notes other knitters have provided about their experience working with the pattern.
Having these resources in one easily accessible place (perhaps as a collection of printed-out material or as bookmarks on your web browser) can be extremely handy when you find yourself stuck on a certain section of the pattern. You can also consult these resources to practice before starting your project.
Feeling well-supported is critical to a successful knitting experience. As such, we always provide in our patterns written instructions for the special techniques involved (whether required or optional) along with a handy list of abbreviations for the knitting terms and stitches used. Our abbreviations “dictionary” also includes written instructions on how to perform the particular stitches they stand for. In this way, you can be sure that your pattern and pattern resources are already assembled in one package.
Trust the process (and the instructions). One of the many magical things about knitting is that you’re creating your fabric itself, while also manipulating it to look, fit, or behave a certain way. Inherent to this method of making is a little bit of mystery — even with a schematic, you may not actually see how a piece will be shaped until you’re in the moment of shaping it, or what it will look like in its entirety until you’ve finished it. (Sock knitters, remember what it was like when you first turned a heel.) So, try to place your trust in the process and the pattern instructions. You can rest easy knowing that our tech editors and proofers work tirelessly to make our patterns as clear, concise, and reliable as possible.
Know that it’s OK to substitute techniques. There may be a simpler way to accomplish a specific technique — and these are often provided in our patterns — so don’t be afraid to substitute them to fit your comfort level. Some examples are working a Long-Tail Cast On instead of a Tubular Cast On or binding off normally instead of working a Sloped Bind Off. Some techniques may also have multiple variations. For example, some knitters prefer to work wrapless Short Rows instead of the Wrap and Turn method, or work a Long-Tail Tubular Cast On instead of the standard Tubular Cast On involving waste yarn. Play around, experiment, and practice multiple variations on techniques to find the method that works best for your knitting style.
In a similar vein, you can draw upon techniques you’ve worked in previous projects to evaluate how you can utilize them in a seemingly different application. For example, if you’re a cuff-down sock knitter who often grafts toes with a Kitchener Stitch, you’re all set to work a Tubular Bind Off!
Allow yourself to make mistakes. Many of us may develop a perfectionist streak throughout our knitting careers. While quality and perfection are worthwhile goals to strive for, it is still helpful and kind to allow yourself the room to make — and learn from — mistakes. It’s also helpful to determine what kinds of mistakes you can live with and what you can’t, so you can more judiciously allocate your time and effort.
In the words of Lela Nargi, author of Knitting Memories: Reflections on the Knitter’s Life, “There are no mistakes, only design opportunities.”
Practice new techniques on a smaller project. Try starting with something small, like a hat or a cowl. This way, you can practice and experiment in a more manageable way, and without the pressure of more yardage or fit considerations. The bonus is that accessories can be quite versatile and practical additions to your wardrobe rotation.
Ask for help. Don’t forget to ask for help when you need it. Your fellow knitters at your local yarn store, in your knitting group, or on Ravelry will be happy to help you if you get stuck. We also offer online pattern support for all Brooklyn Tweed patterns so always feel free to drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take notes. When trying something new, it’s always helpful to document your process, the issues you encountered, and how you solved them, either in a separate notebook or on the pattern itself (whether on paper or the PDF copy) — we leave plenty of negative space in our patterns for this reason! In this way, you can become a resource for yourself when you take on future projects.
Take a break. If you feel like you’ve been stuck at a certain point in a pattern too long for your liking, feel free to set your project aside for a moment. While we all want to be able to tackle a challenge immediately, it’s important not to overstretch our limits. As such, rest your mind (and hands) every now and again so you’ll have renewed energy and a fresher perspective when you return to your project.
Most importantly, have fun and keep at it. We all start somewhere — and knitting is a life-long learning experience!