I am in love with top down and bottom up in the round construction for sweaters. Consequently I’m always on the look out for books that use this technique. Wendy’s Custom Knits came out around 2008. I purchased this book off of Amazon without being able to look through it. (I will buy in the round sweater books sight unseen, *grin*). I very much liked the style of the sweater shown on the front cover.
I expected this book to be a bit more user friendly for beginning knitters. (like Elizabeth Zimmerman books, she takes you by the hand and leads you through the process if needed, otherwise knit on), I do like her advice of finding styles that work for you, look at the bought sweaters that you own, and flatter you. My favorite is her “reality checklist” for picking a pattern out. I am especially guilty of seeing a photo of a women in a field of flowers, who looks nothing like me, wearing a lovely sweater and have to buy this pattern and yarn. If you follow her checklist, it will eliminate some heartbreak and problems with your knitting. She walks us through ease, choosing yarn, size, taking our measurements and even making your own dress form, if you wish.
Wendy puts the chapter at the end of the book that explains “elements to alter”, so after picking your pattern out, you need to read this section, especially if you are a newbie to knitting sweaters.
Her patterns, and many others do this, say for example, knit x number of rows and then start the cuff, for the sleeve, body etc.. instead of knit for 15 inches, or your arm length etc.. This can be a problem, when knitting a top down sweater this is one of the greatest things, try it on as you go, and you will know what is going on, and where to tweak the pattern, before you get into a big muddle. She does mention this on her first page, but for anyone not familiar with this style of knitting,she could emphasize this a bit more.
I was leery, of several of the patterns due to the photos, the armpits appeared bunched up on the models,(I don’t see that she covers this fit problem in her alterations, Elizabeth Zimmerman does, and you would want to add an inch or so before you start the arm to give it more underarm ease), and she favors cardigans that don’t close in the front, (looks good if you aren’t busty), just be aware of this if you want your sweater fronts to come together and plan for some alterations. The Round Yoke cropped cardigan on p. 104 looks very ill fitted on the model, if it looks bad on the model, I’m not gonna knit it. However, if you view it in some Ravelry queues it looks much better on some average knitters.
I did knit one pattern from the book, I bought it to knit the pattern on the front, but ended up knitting the Lion-Neck Cardigan. I did have a number of starts and stops and alterations, thanks to the Ravelry knitters, I was able to get some advice, and finally scrapped the ruffle, which I thought gave the sweater it’s cool and innovative look, and just added a shawl collar. That made it into a normal shawl collar sweater, which I do wear and very much like. But I wish the ruffle would have worked out.
Below is the Lion Neck cardigan, Whoa, I don’t have that color hair anymore, and I’m a few pounds lighter. *grin*.
I would still like to knit the sweater on the front of the book which is Updated Old Classic. A round yoke Fair Isle pullover, with a lace across the front, and bell sleeves. After looking at this book I find this is almost the same pattern that is shown on the front of Custom Knits 2, with a few minor differences. Overall I liked her first book, but think it is better for a intermediate knitter and not a beginner.
The one thing I have learned in my years of knitting, before you start, look the pattern up in Ravelry and read the comments of the knitters who have are in the process of knitting it. This is a great community, and I’ve gotten so many helpful tips from them!
See Errata for Custom Knits patterns here
Coming soon: Review of Custom Knits 2 Book by Wendy Bernard