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Is modifying the pattern an insult to the designer?

No. Full stop. That’s the post.

Just kidding. You know I’m wordier than that!

Most of us have modified a knitting pattern

Whether it's lengthening a cuff or cropping a top, most of us have made at least some modification to a pattern. Maybe you've swapped one cable for another. But are the modifications we make that might insult the designer? At some point, is it better not to tag them so they don't see how much you've changed your vision?


A few months ago, Jen B shared some thoughts about some modifications she’d made to a sweater just off the needles:

“No designer can make a pattern that will fit *everyone’s* body perfectly, but even so I used to feel bad modifying a pattern because I thought it would be insulting to the designer."

“Now I have a different perspective and see a pattern as the foundation of a great design that I can tweak as needed. All our bodies are unique, and learning to make something for YOUR body, that fits the way YOU want, is one of the best feelings in the world. This sweater now feels like a collaborative piece of art.”

Making modifications is the default

We don’t have clone bodies. None of us will exactly match the size chart a pattern is written for. We aren’t all 5’5.5” tall, we don’t all have the same cup size, I don’t have a waist, and maybe your arms are rounded than mine. And why do we make our own clothes?

So they’ll fit.

Knitting patterns used to come in one size. You were expected to make all the modifications to bring the pattern to your size.

We expect a lot more from our patterns now. All the abbreviations in every pattern, shaping written out row by row (for both sides of the garment). Links to tutorials, plenty of sizes, options for modifications.

Even with all those additions, the truth remains - we almost always will get a better fit by tweaking at least one thing. And some knitters will get their best fit making several mods.

And it's not just about fit, right? It's about style. It's about preferences. It's about what we prefer to knit.

As I designer, I expect you to make modifications. In fact, more than half of my non-pattern work is based around giving knitters the confidence and tools to do just that!

The designer isn’t the only artist in the house

A pattern is just one of the tools you use to create a sweater, the same as your knitting needles and yarn. It’s a recipe. Your job is to translate the tools and materials into the finished art object. Your role is active, not passive.

Dig into this with a blog post from Lauren Rad: Hey Knitter - You're Being Creative, Too

You don’t have to make mods if you don’t want to

Listen, I have plenty of garments I’ve made for myself that could’ve fit better if I’d made a modification. I still love and wear them. Making mods can be intimidating if you’re new to it. And also, let's be real: we knit for pleasure. If the idea of making a mod sucks the joy out of knitting for you and you like your finished objects, great!

You don’t have to learn it all at once

If, on the other hand, you’d like to make some mods but it feels overwhelming, start small. Maybe add some a-line shaping on your next garment and see what you think. Then you can add some bust darts to the one after that. It’s totally okay to make things that aren’t perfect - they’re still worthy!

Pssst - you can read an older blog post about building skills confidently here!

A chat with Lily

I recently sat down with Lily from the Untangled Podcast, and we talked about modifications. (Specifically, we talked why and how to add neckline shaping to a raglan sweater). This talk is a beautiful ramble through feminism, healing our relationship with math and our bodies, and how making modifications brings us into relationship with other makers. I hope you love it too! You can watch it here.

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