Designer Choices, and YOU!

Here is a little something for you to think about, a little mindfulness prompt about designer choices, and you.

Some people are confident enough to use patterns as “recipes” and don’t always do what they are told to do. Other people hold onto the pattern for all they are worth and hate going off script.

There are strengths and weaknesses to both ways of doing things. But sometimes a pattern can make your life more difficult than it has to be for no good reason.

Knit In the Front and Back

Here is an example.

Whenever a pattern says to “increase 1 at edge” or “decrease the end of the next two rows” or something similar – be mindful!  Take a second and think about what you plan to do with this piece.  You do have choices, no matter what the pattern might say, so take a moment to think about it.

Let’s say I am making a sweater, and I am working on the sleeves.  The pattern tells me “knit in the front and back of the first stitch at each end of every alternate row 5 times.”  So I knit in the font and the back of the first stitch and then again in the last stitch of the right side row.  Then I work a wrong side row, and then repeat my increase row.  Can you see it?

This is what will happen: the edge of my sleeve will have little “bump-outs” every time I have worked an increase row. This will make my life rather difficult when I come to sew my sleeve edges together. If I sew it together right along the edge it will be bumpy and uneven.  If I sew it together a stitch from the edge it will be straight and even, but I will have a very thick seam.  This will make the sleeve feel bulky and ugly as well as making the sleeve a bit smaller in circumference.  Not optimal.

More than one option

Here is another choice.

Instead of knitting in the front and back of the first and last stitch one could choose to knit in the front and back of the SECOND stitch and the NEXT TO LAST stitch.

How does this make a difference?

Instead of a sharp bump-out on the increase rows there is a minor bump out (which I can make even less if I do my increase on the third stitch) which makes the seam smoother.  It also gives me a nice clean edge stitch (that hasn’t been messed with) to sew the edges together. Thus making my seam straighter, thinner and not bulky inside.

Additionally,  if I were knitting this, I would wonder if “knit in the front and back” was the most efficient way to increase.

If you do that type of increase you will have a purl bump for each “knit in back” part of the increase.  If you are working in seed stitch or a pattern of some kind this might not matter.  However if you are working in stockinette that will really show up. I would probably make a stitch instead.

If I used “make a stitch” instead of “knit in the front and the back” then you will still see it, especially since it will be a bit away from the edge, but it will be smooth and regular, and will not stand out at all.

So why did the pattern author choose to do it that way?

Sometimes, there is a reason for why the designer make a specific choice in a pattern. A professional pattern designer has a lot of tricks up their sleeve, and lots of options – and I think most of the time we can trust them to know what they are doing.

But sometimes I think designers get lazy.  They are looking at the big picture and tiny little choices get overlooked.

More often though the problem comes from that fact that we are living in a Ravelry and Pattern Fish world.  Which means that sometimes we end up with patterns from not-so-professional designers.

It’s not uncommon for patterns you get on-line to be unedited and untried by anyone other than the designer.  To be honest that is how my patterns happen.  I write them as I knit the project, usually so I can remember what I have done for ME, not for anyone else.

If I like what turns out I write the pattern out, then follow the pattern to knit the item again, just to make sure it works the way I say it does.  I rarely have people knit my patterns before I distribute them. Unfortunately, I don’t make enough money to hire a professional pattern editor.

But just because a pattern is super edited and slickly designed doesn’t always get you the right choices.  Sometimes there are just better ways to get to the same end.

A little mindfulness on your part can save you time and energy in the long run.


It’s up to you

Going off script in a pattern is not for everyone.  But being mindful is something that every knitter should cultivate.  Where and how you place increases or decreases is something that any knitter can take charge of and own.  If you aren’t sure it’s a good idea ask a knitting friend.  Or just try it for a bit and then see what you think.  No one ever died from having to unravel five rows of knitting, that I know of.

Be mindful and then be adventurous, you might really like where it takes you!!


Don’t forget that even though the Tour de Fleece doesn’t start until July we are starting to warm up NOW! If you are a spinner,  consider joining us (it’s free!) and learn about how much FUN we have!!

What is Mindful Knitting

I have been using the phrase mindful knitting  a lot in the last few years.  I have believed in and used the concept my whole knitting life, but in 2013 I started using it specifically when I taught classes.  It has really blossomed in my teaching of both knitting and spinning since then.

Perhaps it’s time to take a moment and define exactly what I mean by Mindful Knitting.

Mindful Knitting – The Concept

Mindful knittingThe concept of being a mindful knitter isn’t difficult to understand.  It’s just about being aware, paying attention, focusing and yet relaxing at the same time. The idea of being mindful about anything is not to take stuff for granted, to appreciate and celebrate as well as fix and adjust.  Paying attention is hard to do though, especially in something that is supposed to be enjoyable.


You need to be a mindful knitter – BY DESIGN. It won’t just happen on it’s own.  As you knit this row, you casually review the row before.  It’s not casual at first, of course, it’s something you have to train yourself to do.  But it’s not difficult to make it a habit and then it becomes casual.You have to make the CHOICE and perform the initial moves that will create in you a mindful knitter. Why make the choice?


Everyone knits for different reasons. Everyone knits different things, for different people and in different ways.  But one thing that all knitters have in common, to some extent, is the wish to do it right.  You don’t start a project hoping to make lots of mistakes – you start it with visions in your head of perfection!

This, then, becomes your motivation.  I can spend a little time creating a great habit that will bring my knitting closer to perfection. Or I can choose not to improve and then spend minutes, or hours undoing, or redoing to get my knitting closer to perfection.


480 1372652869 469px Vasily Tropinin 75“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”Aristotle

Researchers at Duke University have determined that about 40% of what we do comes from habits.  Learning to knit has, we hope, created in us the habit of knowing how to create and use knitting and purling to form fabric.  But how can being mindful become a habit?

Actions that are small and easy to do will become habits much sooner than big, huge earth-shaking actions – so start small.

At the end of each row, take a breath, and as you turn your work (in straight knitting or magic loop) take a look at your work. Does anything stand out as wrong or uneven? If it does then explore that. If it looks great, smile, and keep going.


What do you often screw up in your knitting?  Is it reading a pattern? Is it getting the right number of stitches? Is it splitting your yarn, dropping stitches, or knowing where you are in the pattern?

All of these issues are a matter of focus.  If you created small mindful habits around the places you make mistakes it might help prevent the mistakes from happening!  If reading a pattern is tricky read it twice, review it with a friend, write all over it to remind yourself of areas of concern.  And don’t just do this ONCE on ONE pattern. Create a habit of always doing this.

Focus on the pieces you want to be mindful of and create small habits to help you improve or expand the areas of your knitting where mindfulness will be most helpful.

Common Sense

I get frustrated with myself, and others sometimes because what I call mindfulness seems to be to be mostly common sense.  When I read the “AND AT THE SAME TIME” piece in the pattern and then don’t mark it and, of course, forget.  When I read through a pattern quickly and don’t go back to check, assuming that I know what I am doing. And then have to frog three inches. (that would have been last night in a nutshell)

There is a difference between common sense and being mindful, I think.  We all make mistakes – no matter how much common sense we have or how mindful we are.  Common sense is knowing that that I have to read a new pattern through completely before I start knitting. Being mindful is choosing to be aware that the piece should be square – but is starting to look rectangular.

Common sense is knowing that if I use a different sized yarn I have to manipulate the pattern a bit. Being mindful is noticing that the fabric is puckering in one place and taking the time to find out why.

Common sense is knowing that you can’t bind off 100 stitches with one yard of yarn.  Being mindful is watching the amount of yarn and making some smart decisions about bind off options when I still have enough yarn.


Some of being mindful is being experienced.  Once you are comfortable knitting then you can take the time and spend the energy to become a mindful knitter. But there are an enormous number of things in knitting – and in any part of our lives, really – that can benefit from making a simple deep breath, a pause, and a bit of focus into a constant habit.

I wish you all mindfulness!

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