Custom Knits Review
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Blogging knitwear designer Wendy Bernard and I appear to share a general aversion to traditional knitted sweaters. By “traditional,” I mean sweaters that are knit in pieces, which are then sewn together. And by “aversion,” I mean a deep, dark, bitter hatred.

For starters, I hate finishing things. Not only is the process tedious, but I’ll inevitably end up with a wonky seam that ruins the piece. But it’s more than just that. It’s also the fact that I’m taller than average, with long monkey arms. If I follow a pattern, I’ll end up with the same awkwardly short sleeves that I get when I buy off the rack.

So I was relieved to discover the top-down sweater—a sweater that’s knit in one piece, from the top down. This means that I can try things on as I go—and if the sleeves are still too short, I can keep going. It also means that when it’s done, it’s done.

  
 
Fortunately, I’m not the only one who’s discovered the joys of the top-down sweater. Last year, Stefanie Japel published her book of mostly top-downs, Fitted Knits. And now Bernard has taken it one step further with Custom Knits.

Custom Knits is a collection of 25 designs—all of which are knitted in one piece, with minimal seaming. And for someone like me—someone with said aversion to traditional sweater patterns—this book is a dream.

The patterns in Custom Knits are divided into four different categories: three different styles of construction and one bonus section filled with extras (hats and tanks and wraps and things). The first section covers the most common kind of one-piece sweater—the raglan. It’s followed by a section on tops with set-in sleeves and another on round-yoke designs.

While some pattern books seem to be filled with variations on the same pattern, that’s not the case with Custom Knits. The patterns vary in every way—in fiber, gauge, fit, color, and style. So whatever your taste, you’re sure to find something in this book that you’ll just have to knit.

But Bernard doesn’t stop there. After all, her book is called Custom Knits. And her mission is to help knitters avoid Knitter’s Remorse—that terrible feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you try on a finished sweater, only to realize that it looks terrible on you. So Bernard uses the beginning of the book to coach readers on choosing the perfect style and fit—even including instructions for making your own duct tape dress form. Then, along with each pattern, she suggests variations—many with pictures—stepping you through some basic instructions for each customization. Sometimes, she’ll explain how to add a sleeve—or to make a sleeve longer. Or she’ll change the collar or the shaping for a completely different look.

Finally, Bernard ends the book with a section on alterations and customizations. She explains how to make various changes—or how to start from scratch to design your very own one-piece sweater.

As a result, Custom Knits is more than just a great book of patterns; it’s also an invaluable resource. The designs are adorable—and the lessons are priceless. So if you love knitting top-down sweaters as much as I do—or if you just hate Knitter’s Remorse—be sure to add Custom Knits to your library.

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