I gave up patterns.



I’m bored with ‘em. I have always felt guilty about using them – I don’t qualify it as an artistic endeavor if I am simply copying someone else’s work. I see the need for them in the beginning stages of knitting, but at this point I have learned enough about the craft to do some freestyling. Besides, I would NEVER consider using any kind of pattern or guide in any other art medium. Paint-by-numbers? Copy-and-paste.

I think this may be what separates the artists from the crafters.

Hmmm… so I agree with you on a variety of levels and disagree on others! The thing about knitting is that while it is absolutely an art form, it is also a science.

Knitting requires the skills of dexterity and coordination of your hands to physically create a garment. There are some who would argue that the development of these skills is artistry.  Now that being said – I think there is a difference between a knitter and a designer, designing for sure takes more creativity.  Think about music for an example – I learned to play the piano as a child and I can play Bach, Rachmaninoff, etc.  Because I have the skills to play the piano, I am considered a pianist -a musician.  However – I am playing music that someone else wrote, therefor I am not a composer.  I don’t think it is fair to say knitters aren’t artists just b/c they are not all designers.  But again, that depends on how you are defining artistry.

I think you are right that using a pattern is a crutch of sorts – it doesn’t allow the same amount of freedom – and yes you are using someone else’s ideas. BUT there are some things that you need a basic pattern for.  Socks for example – you can always change the stitch pattern used – but it would be very difficult to ad hoc a pair of socks and end up with a left/right the same exact size and shape.  You would have to count in there at some point.  Also – if you are knitting things like sweaters and hats for people not near you, it is good to have a pattern as a gauge on sizes.

Which brings me back to the whole science thing :).  Unlike painting where a stroke can go anywhere on a page and not cause any harm, your stitches have to be formatted properly.  You have to know your right side from your wrong and how the basic knit/purls interact.  One mess up can be a hole in your sweater… yes, it might add ‘character’ and art, but it might just make the whole thing unravel or be unwearable.

OK… so I know that is a lot of rambling from me… but this is one subject on which I definitely have an opinion.  There is so much value in creativity when combined with knitting, the possibilities are endless and that can absolutely be an art.  I just think that when I see a beautifully made knitted object, the first thing I think is not ‘oh they used a pattern, crafters!’ but ‘wow! someone spent an incredible amount of time creating that piece from nothing but a ball of yarn and two needles, and my gosh is it a work of art!’

I maintain my stance on this. I am not demeaning the amount of effort required to successfully create a garment, that is certainly an accomplishment. But following a pattern is NOT art, it is craft. If anyone is unclear about this, Oxford English dictionary can help:


noun 1 the expression of creative skill through a visual medium such as painting or sculpture. 2 the product of such a process; paintings, drawings, and sculpture collectively. 3 (the arts) the various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, and drama. 4 (arts) subjects of study primarily concerned with human culture (as contrasted with scientific or technical subjects). 5 a skill: the art of conversation.

— ORIGIN Latin ars.


noun 1 an activity involving skill in making things by hand. 2 skill in carrying out one’s work. 3 (crafts) things made by hand. 4 cunning. 5 (pl. same) a boat, ship, or aircraft.

verb make (something) skilfully.

Many use the term “art” loosely, and I appreciate this opportunity to draw the distinction. Again, I do not mean to undermine any skills one has – there is a lot of credit to be applied to someone who is an adept knitter, a proficient computer software user, a fine piano player. These consume a huge amount of time and dedication to master. But not all of these people are artists.

Art is “the expression of creative skill through a visual medium,” meaning it is a creative idea that is being channeled through whatever medium chosen. Craft is “making things by hand.” I still admire people who make things, but that does not distinctly qualify them as artists. There is a reason why “art” and “craft” are two separate words.

I understand the point made on needing a pattern for sizing and such. Knitting is unique from other media in this way – there are specific methods to learn, and a sense of mathematics and spatial recognition helps. I would not know where to begin if I had not consulted patterns the first few months.

This illustrates another distinction. Is one knitting to relax and create an item, or is one using knitting as a creative medium for a unique idea? Either is fine – both activities have merit but the end result is vastly different. When I knit without a pattern, I make the technical decisions as I go along and I am not concerned about the proportions or the end result. Knitting with a pattern is necessary if a specific project is in mind.

Have I sworn off patterns forever? Probably not. Copying someone else’s work isn’t all bad (if they agree to it). Knitwear designers far surpass my understanding of knitting, and if they have designed something I love I might as well use their pattern!

I felt like my imagination was being supressed when I used patterns, and I have a good idea of what sizes to make hats, mittens, scarves, so why not try to invent some new stitches? If I ever dare make a sweater on my own, I can consult this non-patterny guide from Knitty.


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