As mentioned on previous occasions, I do not come from a background of knitting from patterns. I was taught to knit in an improvisational manner, making calculations from scratch, and adjustments on the fly, for any piece I wanted to make. What we think of as 'designing' in ravelry-era knitting culture was for me just an inherent, and fluid, part of the knitting process. For most of my knitting life, I assumed that everyone did it this way, and, until fairly recently, I did not know there even was such as thing as ready-made knitting patterns. Fast forward to today, and I now design patterns for a living …despite which, I still find it strange and unnatural to knit from a pattern myself!
If you are thinking, this does not exactly paint a picture of an ideal test knitter, you would be absolutely correct. And yet, the Phoenix beckoned.
The Phoenix pullover is the upcoming inaugural design by Melissa Littlefield, of Knitting the Stash. Melissa - who is now doing her Nth test knit for me, poor soul! - was especially helpful with my Sunny Every Day pattern, the process behind which I described here. And so I told Melissa that, should she ever take the plunge into knitwear design herself, I would be delighted to reciprocate. Happily, she took me up on it.
And I say happily, because honestly I feel as if test knitting for Melissa ended up being at least as beneficial for me as it (hopefully) was for her. I am not going to delve into the details of the test knit here, as they are already documented here for anyone interested. But in a more general sense, I will say that in dealing with somebody else's pattern I felt a heightened sense of responsibility and ended up approaching it in a more diligent manner than I would my own work - taking copious notes, keeping to a self-imposed schedule almost religiously, and generally being far more organised than I normally would be. In the process, I realised how much better it is to do things this way, than via my normal, somewhat more chaotic process.
Design-wise, the Phoenix pullover started out as Melissa’s remake-along project. The design is based on that of a store-bought sweater, which Melissa reverse-engineered and modified to suit her preferences. Worked in DK weight yarn, in the round, from the bottom up, with raglan-sleeve construction and short row neckline shaping, Phoenix features a cabled front, and reverse-stockinette back and sleeves. It is a look that is both classic and casual.
With permission, I modified mine by working the cables on both front and back. But otherwise I (mostly!) followed the pattern as written.
Overall, I found test knitting the Phoenix enjoyable and reasonably easy, especially since the construction method (bottom up) is not one I normally gravitate toward. I did read the pattern from start to end in order to get a detailed sense of what I would be doing at every step, and why, before I started knitting. Following a pattern blindly is just not something I am capable of doing! But once I got the whole picture, I felt pretty content to follow the step by step instructions without second-guessing the design at every turn, which was rather nice!
The only glitch I experienced with the process pertained to the sizing. Before I started knitting, I found it difficult to decide on the size. I normally prefer to wear sweaters with about 2” of ease around the bust. However, the designer wore her original Phoenix sample with zero ease, and I really liked the way it looked on her in the photos. As a result, I decided to do the same - which, unfortunately led me to re-affirm my preference for 2” of ease! The sweater technically fits me, in the sense that I am able to put it on and move in it. I even like the way it fits around certain areas - tight around the bust, roomier around the waist, form fitting but not ‘sausagey’ in the sleeves. The problem is the yoke. In the size I opted to knit, it is too shallow for me, pulling at the underarms and giving the whole garment an ill-fitting vibe. Consequently, I have asked Emily (who is smaller than me) to model the Phoenix here, as I feel this does the design more justice.
As soon as I have some free time, I plan to re-work the yoke, adding at least an extra inch of length to the base before I start the raglan decreases. And since the sweater is worked bottom-up, yes that will mean unraveling almost the entire yoke! But hey, it was a good reminder of an important rule to follow when knitting from patterns, which on this occasion I neglected: When selecting which size to knit, it is crucial to pay attention to all the relevant measurements, and not just the obvious ones such as bust and waist circumference.
Having gone through the Phoenix test knit process, I can see myself doing other test knits on occasion, time permitting, for designers with whom I have some personal connection. Once I modify the Phoenix, it will be a great pleasure to wear it, knowing it was Melissa’s first pattern and that I played a role in testing it. I look forward to making the yoke adjustment and wearing my Phoenix before the winter sets in.