Customising Knitting Patterns: Shaping My ‘Reed’ Cardigan to Perfection

I’ve finally finished knitting my ‘Reed‘ cardigan, designed by Martin Storey.Reed Narrow Striped Cardigan

As usual, I made quite a few changes to the pattern. Here’s the original designs from Rowan Knitting & Crochet Magazine 74…..

Which got me thinking, don’t we all need to make changes to a knitting pattern so that it fits or suits our taste?

Navigating Pattern Modifications

If you’re new to knitting, adjusting a pattern might feel overwhelming. Beginners often stick closely to the pattern, row by row, in their chosen size. This approach works fine for simple projects like a basic boxy sweater made of rectangles for the front and back, plus triangles for sleeves. With such a straightforward design, modifications aren’t usually needed unless you’re altering sleeve or body length. The result is a relaxed, boxy sweater where fit isn’t crucial—it’s loose and casual. However, when tackling more complex patterns, whether you’re a novice or seasoned knitter, blindly following instructions in your size doesn’t guarantee a well-fitting or satisfying outcome!

Learning from Mistakes: A Cautionary Tale

Take, for instance, a friend of mine who admired a lovely scoop neck short-sleeve cotton top I recently knitted. She loved it and requested the pattern. So, for her birthday, I gifted her the book containing that pattern, along with a few similar ones. She asked me about the yarn, but then she opted for a more economical option based on her local yarn store owner’s advice. I gently expressed my concerns, explaining that even if it matches the gauge, it might not offer the same graceful drape as my finished top.

Brushing off my advice, which is understandable as I’ve done the same myself many times, she eagerly began knitting the short-sleeve top. As the garment took shape from the bottom up, she began to question its size. I suggested she lay it over a similar top from her wardrobe that she likes in terms of fit and assess how it compares—too wide? Too narrow? If she finds it either way, it’s the moment to reconsider and, if necessary, start anew. I will start again, usually refraining from unraveling my initial attempt but keep it as a reference to inform my subsequent efforts.

My friend persisted in knitting, raising several concerns about the scooped neckline appearing excessively wide and perhaps too low. Once more, I suggested comparing it to a similar top from her wardrobe and starting anew if necessary. However, she forged ahead and completed a top that left her utterly disheartened—it was far too large, and the neckline dipped much too low. She was perplexed by its stark deviation from mine.

I’ll never comprehend why she invested so many hours into something she knew wasn’t right. The end product is unwearable, a disappointment that could’ve been avoided. I understand this struggle firsthand, as I’ve made similar mistakes when I was younger. With more experience, I’ve learned that achieving a great finish often requires deviating from the pattern.

Customising ‘Reed‘ for a Personalised Fit 

When I come across a design I’m interested in knitting, like the ‘Reed‘ cardigan by Martin Storey, my first step is to examine the available sizes. Occasionally, the leap from one size to the next is significant, leaving me without a suitable size in the pattern. The “small” might be too snug, while the “medium” is too roomy. This discrepancy can deter me from pursuing the design altogether, knowing that the sizing issue would pose a significant challenge.

Once I’ve settled on a size, my next focus is on the fit. Upon examining ‘Reed‘, I noticed an abundance of fabric around the waist area which you can see in the photo below.

Reed Original Plain Front View

Reed Plain from Rowan Knitting & Crochet Magazine 74

This is a style I’m not fond of. However, I’m accustomed to incorporating waist shaping into my knits, so that adjustment would be essential here.

Additionally, looking at the pattern’s measurement schematic, I’d need to lengthen both the body and sleeves of the cardigan. With regards to the body, this presents a challenge regarding the placement of buttons and buttonholes. With the cardigan now longer, the original pattern instructions for buttonhole placement become obsolete. This calls for some foresight—I’d need to estimate the length along the centre front and determine how many buttonholes to include and the spacing between them. I needed to add an extra buttonhole.

I liked the idea of a striped cardigan but not two different stripes in one cardigan—I’m not fond of asymmetrical designs. Therefore, I opted to knit narrow stripes throughout, selecting the shades ‘Rose’, a deep pink, and ‘Blush’, a very pale pink, in Rowan Fine Tweed Haze, the recommended yarn for the pattern.

There are 10 shades to choose from in Rowan Fine Tweed Haze.

Rowan Fine Tweed Haze Shades

Rowan Fine Tweed Haze Shades

As I embark on a knitting project, I always assess the fit once I’ve completed enough rows for an evaluation. If I’m dissatisfied, I’m not afraid to unravel and start anew, as I did with this cardigan—it initially turned out much too large for my liking.

As it progressed, I compared it to a crew neck cardigan I knitted a few years back. I noticed that the shoulder decreases began prematurely and that I needed to add more rows from the start of the armhole decreases to the shoulder. Additionally, the neckline sat higher than desired. So, I ripped back my work and initiated the neckline decreases a few rows earlier than the pattern suggested. This adjustment means there are now more rows from the start of the neckline decreases to the shoulder, a factor I must consider while ensuring the number of rows also matches the back armhole to the shoulder. This also affects the number of rows for the head of the sleeve. What was very helpful here was the narrow stripe pattern – Instead of counting rows I just counted the number of stripes.

Celebrating the End Result

My completed ‘Reed‘ cardigan turned out wonderfully!

Reed Narrow Stripe Cardigan Side view2

I’m delighted with the fit, the length of both the body and sleeves, and the look of the narrow stripes. So, the choices I made—starting over when the size was off, regularly checking the fit, unraveling if necessary, and customising the pattern to suit my body—proved to be the correct ones. Not a single hour was wasted!

Click below to visit Rowan webpages related to this post:

Rowan Knitting & Crochet Magazine 74
Fine Tweed Haze Yarn
Reed designed by Martin Storey

So, do you make as many changes as I do when knitting for yourself or someone else? Please let me know by leaving a comment – scroll down to “Leave a Reply” below.

Happy Spring and Summer knitting!

Esther x