Here’s a cardigan that I have finished sometime ago, and it is a nice little study in how to adapt a pattern to your needs.
The original design, from Burdastyle magazine 09/2009 (they do have some nice knits once in a blue moon), was done to complement their folklore theme, and it is very folklore indeed.
I wanted just a bit less so, so, although I like the overall over-the-top style and actually considered making all the colorful bobbles (which are made and attached after the cardigan is completed), I must have known all along that I would prefer a more pared down version, so no bobbles for me.
There were other changes that I made:
Yarn: I was determined to use up some yarn in my tiny stash (I like it this way — I am almost scared by the amount of yarn some knitters have, I would be paralyzed into utter inactivity should I have had that much). I really did like the charcoal grey main color of the cardi, but it had to be sacrificed, because I had an otherwise very similar yarn but in marine blue: Le Fibre Nobili Extrafine Merino (long gone yarn; I have a penchant for those). Same content, same construction, nearly identical yardage to the recommended Lang Cool Wool.
For the contrast colors, I wanted to retain the boldness of the primaries used (white, black, red), but now that I changed the main, and because I didn’t want to spend an eternity looking for those perfect colors somewhere out there in the universe, I decided to be pragmatic and got Louet Pearl (now Gems Fingering) in cherry red, mustard, and silver cloud. Well, the silver didn’t go at all with the others (internet shopping), so I just dropped it and changed the striped colorwork to Fair Isle repeat (I think from some sweater from Rowan Vintage Knits). In some way, this did keep the boldness as well as the folklore character.
Design: You cannot see it in the original photo, and I discovered it only when I studied the pattern (I always study the pattern in full before starting on it), but the braids on the body converge at the waist and then diverge again towards the shoulders. Also, the back had only one center braid. I didn’t care for either of these features. So I totally recalculated the body (based on my swatch) to have two braids per each front and 4 braid on the back — you really have to recalculate the back in entirety and not just add braids, because the braid has a very different gauge from the surrounding stockinette. While at it, I also converted the body to a one piece knitting.
Fit: This pattern is very well written and, more importantly, has a detailed schematic. Since my gauge was spot on, I just went by the given finished measurements in deciding whether the size I would be knitting would result in the fit I wanted (with respect to ease) and needed (with respect to my body proportions). It was all good except for the waist: I am petite and always have to raise the waist (but I almost never adjust the armhole height, because in my experience, it is not worth it as is easy to overdo and can result in tight armhole). It really cannot be overemphasized that where waist shaping falls is crucial to the right proportion of a garment. The key here is that the waist of the garment should be approximately 2.5-3.5 cm (1-1.5″) above the natural waist. You can find the latter by tying a string around you waste, letting it settle naturally where the torso is at its narrowest. Then measure the distance from the string to the shoulder’s high point (where shoulder joins the neck base).
In my case, I had to redo the waste shaping by compressing the body vertically. If your pattern does not include the position of the waist (Rowan, anyone? very skimpy schematics) or if your vertical gauge is different from the recommended one (which, in my experience happens even if the horizontal gauge works out — I wonder why?), you have to calculate where the waist is and how it compares to your measurements. Yes, some extra work, but essential if you are not of ‘standard’ height or proportions.
At the end, despite all the preparatory work before and some changes during construction (mostly concerning finishing techniques), it was a straightforward knit and I was fairly sure that the outcome would be good while working on it. Nothing slows us down more than being unsure whether what you’re working on will actually work out. It is a lovely sweater, classic but distinctive: colorwork and texture is a great combination!
How much preparatory work are you usually willing to put into a pattern?