Freshman year in college, many years ago, I knit my first sweater – a short-sleeved cardigan in a yellow nylon yarn with an all-over Yarn-Over design – faithfully following
the Woman’s Day magazine directions to work the creation in 6 pieces: two fronts, one back, two sleeves, plus the tiny collar. Then came the struggle. The directions BRIEFLY read “seam the pieces together.” Well, these jigsaw shaped pieces had a mind of their own, especially the sleeves that did not want to be set-in! Persevering, the 6 pieces became one and was worn under a suit jacket a few times to hide the irregularity of the seaming and I became more and more convinced that there had to be another way to work sweaters seamlessly, as socks.
A thirty-year search ensued – through years of sewn-in raglans, (which behaved a bit better than set-ins), to seamless top-downs (which defy gravity) and finally in 1978 to Elizabeth Zimmermann’s bottom-up raglan worked to one’s own gauge. The latter feature a blessing as I had started to spin my own yarns that did not want to conform to the gauge of a “designer”. As Elizabeth did not purl, she very kindly granted me permission to take her basic design beyond its limiting high square neck that required only five very short purl rows. As they say, one idea led to another, and words led to more words, and directions led to more directions, teaching led to more teaching, and The Sweater Workshop Book came into being in 1983 published first by Interweave Press and now its second edition published by Down East Books.
This method of knitting “on your own” with any yarn, handspun or millspun, to your own gauge, offers the knitter complete freedom to create sweaters in many styles and sizes and frees one from relying on “patterns”. My one wish would be that all yarns came in skeins, big fat skeins that could be held and hugged and loved before use – not
in sterile small balls that require a myriad of ends to connect.
In this, my book’s 25th Anniversary year, I marvel at its long life and have to thank all knitters who helped it achieve this great milestone by word of mouth recommendation.
The wonder of it all is that I still have that first sweater. Rather than pitch that labor of love, I had tossed it in a storage box with college prom gowns and discovered it one day cleaning the attic. It has since traveled with me as a sample of all the unnecessary aspects of knitting in pieces. And just this past summer, 58 years after the fact, I recreated the poor thing with nary a seam! Here’s to seamless enjoyable knitting!
Jackie will be teaching Designing Sweaters From Homespun on Saturday from 3-6PM…there are still spaces available in her class.