Knitters love patterns. They knit from them, mod them, repost them, download them, write them out by hand, and even pay money for them. I suspect some knitters keep patterns under their pillows and was not surprised to learn that others have knitting patterns tattooed on their flesh.
To knitters, patterns are like high-traction stepping stones that lead out across the water of murky patternlessness to an island filled with perfectly knitted sweaters and scarves and little knit booties that fit. Patterns allow knitters to make things right, good, and beautiful. This is, I think, the essence of Pattern Logic.
And yet, there seems to be no common language behind knitting patterns. Aren’t many of them incompatible or at the very least different? Some rely on simple symbols like “/” and “X” while others traffic in sub-lingual sounds like “P” “O” “K” and “P” “O” “M” while still others delve into pure Navajo code talk: “K2TOG” “SSK” “SL1-K2TOG-PSSO.” In patterns, knitters find not only clues to what stitches to place where and at what time. They find a common technical language that, when translated into the clickity clack of their needles, allows the DNA of one knitted garment to flow readily into the next. And then in patterns like this one (found over at wurstwisdom.com), individual stitches are not emphasized but the elements of the garment come out clear as day. It’s “Easy!”
Well, I don’t speak pattern, and it’s not easy for me. I don’t read patterns, I don’t know what way is up when I look at them, and I don’t get all the secret little signals that patterns give off. I’m simply oblivious to what patterns have to do with anything knitted. To me, looking at a pattern is like staring at nothing at all, as they simply don’t get me going. If I look at a sample hat over at the knitting store, I immediately am greeted by all the other hats I could make. But when I look at a pattern, nothing greets me. And yet, even though the knitting universe seems to rely on patterns, somehow I’ve managed to learn to knit, and to purl, and to do a few various things like decreases and increases and even some short rows. (Learning to do short rows was less like learning some stitches and more like joining a cult, but that’s another topic for another post, if I’m ever let on here again.) The hats I knit may be a bit off and no-size-fits-one, and the gloves I’ve made may invite drafts, but my knits work for me and don’t originate from patterns. Instead, they just come from knitting.
All of this was fine and well until last winter when I decided to knit myself up a sweater. What resulted from my efforts was less a sweater and more a thin little tube for my torso attached to a capacious cavity for one arm. That was all. Oh, and there was a hole for the head that you could have driven the knitting van through. It was as if my intention had been to swaddle my torso in a compression sleeve of wool while leaving room for my arm to swell to five times its size. Seeing what I’d done, knitting a second sleeve seemed pointless. Patterns, I started to worry, could be essential.
But enter the sweater pillow, and all of my problems were gone. A sweater pillow is any pillow that is made from the wreckage of a sweater. The sweater pillow allows the sweater to live on, only in the form of a pillow. To make one, begin by knitting a very problematic sweater. This can be done in any number of ways. Then felt the sweater in whatever way you can manage: first try the washer set on hot, then the dryer, then a pot of boiling water. Stir with a stick. Once felted, cut the largest rectangle you can possibly harvest out of the torso region of your sweater. This gigantic rectangle can now be turned inside out, sewn up on a sewing machine (save for a small section for stuffing), and stuffed until it reaches pillow proportions. Stitch up the stuffing hole with a needle and thread and you will find that you have both a functional sweater pillow and confirmation of your misapprehension that patterns are completely unnecessary.