Design book - The Knitting Architect by Sion Elalouf

I've been reading up on design a ton recently, trying to perfect my technique and learn some new ones as well.

The full text of The Knitting Architect is provided on the Knitting Fever website here. Paperback and spiral editions are also available via Amazon.

The Knitting Architect seeks to teach the American knitter (as opposed to the European knitter, who has generations of tradition and 'knitting intuition' behind them) to think beyond the confines of a pattern and simply pick up the needles and knit a well-fitting sweater. The author's thesis is that generally speaking, in Europe, the method of constructing a sweater has been passed down through the generations, while Americans are fairly new at the craft. So, Americans are more reliant on patterns to tell them explicitly what to do, while European patterns leave more to the reader (take a look at any of the Norwegian DROPS patterns, for instance, and you will see what a European-styled pattern is like!).

The book is focused on sweaters, and bottom-up sweaters at that - not exactly my knitting cup of tea, but all the more reason for me to learn. The Knitting Architect uses a charting method to show schematics that explain where to increase, decrease/BO, and so forth. Then, the knitter plugs their gauge into the formula, and their own measurements, for a sweater that will fit (in theory, anyway!).

The book was surprisingly short - it ended quite abruptly. The material covers pullovers, cardigans, and vests, with a number of neck and sleeve variations as well. Combining these elements, along with any stitch pattern you could choose to plug in, creates an endless number of potential patterns.

It's a good starting point - but only a starting point. Every design is basic and boxy, without waist or bust shaping. Being nearly 30 years old, some styles have not aged well (such as the "very popular" leg o'mutton sleeve!). More interesting and knitterly constructions are not mentioned - everything is knit flat, from the bottom up, and seamed. It's funny, because the author mentions that raglan sleeves are the trickiest sleeve to knit - when it's the only type of sweater I can knit with my eyes shut! But of course, from this book's perspective, it is - it involves changing the front of your sweater to incorporate the wedge sleeves. While, from my perspective, from the top down, raglan sleeves grow naturally from the neck.

Reading this book, I felt like I was starting everything all over again. I've knit sweaters before, but generally only from patterns. Bottom-up, seamed construction is truthfully not a style I'm wholly familiar with. While in the past it was the most common way to knit sweaters (still is? not sure), I basically skipped that step when I learned to knit jumpers, in favor of in-the-round, top-down knits. I've come out with new knowledge of the old ways, and I do think I'll be referring to the book in the future, since it does give you instructions on how to shape all sorts of necks and sleeves.



  1. Interesting theory that Americans don't have the generations of knowledge passed on, though I wonder if that's factually true. In the big cities perhaps, where shopping is easy and people were too busy to knit or crochet or sew for themselves; but in rural America crafting didn't die. In rural America it wasn't and still isn't in some areas crafting, it's simply making from hand the items your family needs. Might have to check this book out. It's always fun to get inside someone else's head.

  2. Unfortunately the author doesn't expound on the theory too much, only mentioning it briefly in the introduction as their purpose in writing the book. It is mentioned that there was a resurgence in knitting in the late 70s (due to oil prices, apparently). It is an interesting idea. There is certainly a different style between European patterns and American ones, which are much more explanatory -- but the American style is spreading, what with the indie designer boom, where there are fewer space restrictions and designers are expected to provide more pattern support to the knitters, so it is easier to just explain things in the pattern.