I like to knit. Knitting is very Zen. It is hypnotic and soothing, you can do it while watching TV, so it appeals to the multi-tasking monster inside me, and – bonus – you get clothes out of it.
For the sad sacks who don’t knit, and think jumpers and gloves just appear like magic out of a pile of yarn and two pointy sticks, I need to point out that you need a pattern.
The pattern tells you how much yarn you need, what type, how many stitches to cast on, what to do with them, when to stop, when you’ve fucked it up so badly you need to unravel the whole sodding thing and start again (not bitter).
The pattern also has a nice big picture on it that shows you what the finished garment is supposed to look like.
These pictures are universally shite.
Look at some of these – would you ever want to knit anything that made you look like you just woke up naked in a stable and grabbed the first horse blanket you could see?
Sewing patterns do not do this (yeah, I sew too, get me).
Sewing patterns are stylish, with slender models rocking the latest looks, or artist-drawn pictures of what the clothes will look like if you have a team of tailors at your disposal and can actually understand the instructions about putting in zips. Sewing pattern pictures are aspirational.
Too many knitting pattern pictures look as if the knitwear has been shoved on top, like dressing a Twinkle doll in cut-out cardboard clothes with tabs to hold it in place (that dates me).
It doesn’t have to be this way. Some patterns – often from indie designers – look lovely and tempting and don’t scream I’M WEARING THIS BECAUSE SOMEONE OLD MADE IT FOR ME AND I’M TAKING IT OFF AS SOON AS THEY’VE GONE BACK TO THEIR CARE HOME.
The thing is, most of these patterns are perfectly good designs. In the right colour, with the right clothes, without those massive brown plastic buttons you only get on home-knitted stuff, they will look OK. But you have to reimagine them.
The only way to do this is to take the pattern picture, hold it at arm’s length, squint and imagine it:
- In a colour that isn’t lime green or diarrhoea brown.
- On a model who isn’t 18 trying to look 70.
- With a different background to the ‘walking across a field or standing by a barn door’ that seems to be essential if you are photographing knitwear.
- With a model wearing normal clothes, not a tweed skirt last seen on Nancy Mitford in 1934 or some bizarre colour combination.
It can be done brilliantly, and lots of independent knitting designers come up with draw-dropping pattern photos that have you reaching for your cable needle.
But a lot of the established companies (I’m looking at you, Sirdar and Wendy) have fallen way behind.
Or have they? The fact they are still going after all these years means they must be doing something right, yes?
Maybe they are appealing to a (much) older knitter, whose eyes are too feeble to see just how wince-inducing that lilac and pistachio Fair Isle jumper is.
Whoever it is, it isn’t me.