I'm a self-taught knitter and knitwear designer.
When I was 24, I had my first opportunity to serve on a jury. We were empaneled for 2 weeks. During that time, I came to deeply appreciate the American justice system. The woman sitting next to me, in addition to performing her civic duty, also knit a vest.
I decided then and there to learn to knit. I went to my local yarn store, Nimble Fingers, and emerged with yarn, needles, and Maggie Righetti's book _Knitting in Plain English_.
That book had a profound effect on me. I started knitting, worked the easy projects in the book, and branched out to other easy patterns.
I wasn't very satisfied with the fit of most of the easy projects. Knitting in Plain English gave me some idea of why that was, and suggested that I could learn more from Sweater Design in Plain English. Within a few years, I started designing my own garments.
I read what I could find about knitwear design. Maggie Righetti was a proponent of top-down design, so I branched out into Barbara Walker's Knitting From the Top. I found Sweater 101 and a Swedish Leisure Arts brochure on raglans that handled the basic math for the very useful raglan sweaters. June Hemmings Hiatt's The Principles of Knitting was my bible.
Ann Budd and Priscilla Gibson-Roberts followed later, as did the excellent
Big Girl Knits.
I discovered Elizabeth Zimmerman after I was already an experienced designer. I appreciated her free and zany approach to yarn and needles. I loved her stories about knitting under challenging conditions. Her sweater design principles were refreshingly simple, but I found I wanted a more refined knit.
I have a generous hourglass figure. Straight up-and-down designs hang like a circus tent off my bust tips. Tighter sweaters pull against the hips. I do better with explicit waist-shaping, high hip lengths, and hemlines that drape over the hips instead of cutting a straight line across them.
It takes a lot of time, effort, and energy to knit a garment, If I'm going to put that much energy into something, I want to feel good about it. I like wearing garments that fit well, and I like seeing good-fitting garments on other people.
Designing your own garments takes a lot of math. You might was well do the math based on your real body size, and use styles and techniques that yield a comfortable, flattering fit.
I had some amazing guides about the work of designing good-fitting knitwear, but I still had to do a lot of legwork and synthesis to figure out what knitting math to apply to different yarns, different designs, and different fitting issues.
I'm a programmer by trade. I started working on a digital assistant to do the preliminary knitting math in the mid-1990s. The first digital assistant, written in perl, took a keyword-value input file and generated a plain-text pattern. I then edited the pattern in a word processor to add the details the program didn't include.
I added more yoke types and specifications over time. A few years later, I rewrote the whole program in Python and started looking for a way to give it a user-friendly front end. My program worked great for me, but it was way too barebones for most knitters.
Top-down design fascinates me. With two sticks, a knitter can turn one-dimensional yarn into a real 3D object. Using the magic of increases, decreases, and short rows, a knitter can sculpt the shape of an object right on the needles. Most knitwear designs create flat pattern pieces to be sewn together, just like fashion designers who work with woven cloth.
Knit fabric has more personality than woven fabric. Knitted fabric is stretchier and more resilient than woven fabric. Woven fabric resists stretching lengthwise and widthwise, being stretchiest on the bias. Depending on the pattern stitch, knit fabric can be expansive lengthwise or widthwise, but rarely on the bias.
I have never liked the way seams look or feel in hand-knit fabric. Seams form bulky, non-resilient ridges that don't flow with the fabric. Some knitters like the extra structure provided by seams, but I prefer working with the knit fabric directly to get the structure I want in a garment. On the other hand, a zipper is just about my favorite way to close a garment. Talk about seams! Talk about added stability! Talk about non-resilient!
Knitting is a very personal thing. We put a lot of ourselves into the garments we make. One of my goals in sharing the KnitFitter is to help other people find their knitting voices, to share a basic system of knitting that can be personalized and customized to fit the wearer, the wearer's lifestyle, and the knitter's way of working.
If you don't like something in one of my designs, feel free to change it. Choose different increases and decreases. Change the borders or replace them with turned-in hems. Choose the length the feels best to you, add or subtract pattern elements, experiment with different ways of working.