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Last June, I had the great pleasure of taking a series of Bruges crochet classes with designer Tatyana Mirer at Knit-a-Way. Tatyana had some stunning sample garments, and I asked her about her favorite resources for sizing. She brought me over the bookshelf and pulled out Cheryl Brunette‘s Sweater 101: How to Plan Sweaters That Fit… and Organize Your Knitting Life At the Same Time. Though the price tag on the book was high, I decided to buy it. I figured that I was supporting two small businesses (the LYS and the author/publisher) with my purchase.
The book sat on my shelf for a while, mostly unread, but I did look through the charts in the back. I even brought it several times to the knitting classes I teach when students asked about sweaters. But I only finally got around to finishing reading it last month.
Cheryl has a wonderfully conversational (but not overly chatty) writing style that makes it easy for you to follow along. Her introduction reminds us of the complexities of contemporary knitting, which for most of us is about an abundance of choice (in yarns, needles, and notions). The downside of this abundance is that each project is a completely new adventure in tension, gauge, the habits of the yarn before and after washing, etc. This contrasts with the past, when most knitters used the same needles and the same yarns predictably for most of their knitting lives. As a result, knitting a sweater today is different than it was when my grandmother made one.
The next chapter, Basic Sweater Styles, provides detailed explanations with illustrations of the differences between drop shoulder, raglan, and set-in sleeve styles. A Couple of Math Skills, the third chapter, provides an excellent tutorial for using your calculator memory to use your tension to calculate stitch and row counts. Cheryl also shares what she describes as the “More-or-Less Right Formula,” a series of steps for increasing and decreasing (e.g., for sleeves). The fourth chapter, Finding Your Gauge, goes into that zone that oh so many knitters dread – swatching. In thorough but enjoyable detail, Cheryl outlines the process for swatching so that you can obtain useful information for perfectly fitted sweaters.
How to Size a Sweater to Get the Fit You Really Want is the chapter that many knitters will be drawn to (but I encourage you to read the book in order, nonethless!). Cheryl describes several techniques for identifying the right bust size and length for a sweater pattern. She also cautions readers not to follow her fashion advice (or anyone else’s, really) and to stick with “colors and styles that make you feel beautiful.” Perhaps my favorite chapter is the one that comes next, How to Take Body Measurements. Using delightful vintage illustrations, clear text, and some directional lines, Cheryl explains what to measure for different sweater types as well as how to measure it.
The next three chapters are really the core of Cheryl’s method. In How to Assign Pattern Measurements, and Filling in a Picture Pattern, she explains where all of those measurements you just took fit into the picture patterns she encourages you to make. Essentially, she suggests using an annotated “picture pattern” (similar to a schematic) to help you design your sweater projects. These chapters help you match the measurements to different parts of the pictures and make calculations for knitting the sweaters flat. After walking you through the process for creating your own picture pattern, Cheryl also shares sample written patterns of all three sweater types, matched with annotated picture patterns. The final chapter, Beyond the Basics, provides a written explanation of how to vary necklines and sleeves and create vest and cardigan patterns.
Her appendices are what brought me to the book to begin with: schematics for 30 standard sizes, from 6 months to men’s size 50, for all three sweater types. While measuring the intended wearer of your sweater would be ideal, it isn’t always possible, and these schematics will help you create sweaters for all of your loved ones. (Or, if you are a designer or maker of finished sweaters, for your clients.) The second appendix includes worksheets you can copy and use to plan and track your own sweater designs.
I haven’t provided a lot of detail on the Cheryl’s methods (you’ll have to buy the book for that), but I will say that Cheryl succeeds in sparking your enthusiasm for knitting a sweater of your own design while explanation (and then simplifying) the math involved. Her method is clearly developed, understandable, and a wonderful start. I can honestly say this is the only book I’ve ever read that really has made me say, “Wow, I want to knit a sweater” (and I’ve read a lot of sweater design books). The hardcover version is spiral bound, which allows you to easily knit and read at the same time. She offers an ebook version on her website, which is cheaper and interactive – you can fill in the worksheets before printing.
Overall, I highly recommend this book for anyone who has wanted to take the leap into making a sweater. While the book is clearly targeted at knitters, there are many elements (the process, the worksheets, etc.) that could be used by crocheters. This would also be a wonderful book for an emerging designer looking for help with sizing sweater patterns. Other than the price (which makes sense, as it is published by a small company), there are truly no downsides to this book.