Wednesday, July 5, 2017

European versus North American Standards in Knitting

I’ve been knitting so long that I don’t remember learning. I have just always knit. For the longest time the only knitters I knew were related to me. I was in my mid-twenties when I first took a knitting class. It was a design class taught by a machine knitter who had a fashion school background. There was no Internet so we learned new skills by using books, magazines and classes. I was doing a lot of sewing as well and that's when I took pattern drafting training. Back then there wasn't the wonderful online knitting community that we have now. One of the things I was told was that European knitters were much more advanced than North American knitters. The story was they learned more about garment construction in school so they had a better overall understanding. I heard it from someone who did an internship at a UK yarn company. I also heard it from friends who visited Europe and brought home the single size patterns.  These were compared to our three size magazine patterns. If you compare those to modern six to eight size patterns it's pretty astounding how patterns have shifted in the amount of information they provide. Since I've been doing the interview series some of the European designers have mentioned they needed to build their pattern writing skills to be competitive in the North American market due to different standards.

I never really took this commentary seriously because I heard it in the sewing world as well. Many sewers were convinced European pattern fit was superior to North American and there was always talk about Asian garment makers who worked without patterns directly on the fabric. 

I added my patterns to the LoveKnitting site when Ravelry was scrambling to deal with changes in E.U. taxation. I got sales there immediately so now I continue to post all my new patterns there. 

Well surprise, surprise, my pattern sales there show something really interesting. I'm selling way more garments than accessories on their site. (It's in reverse on Ravelry.) When I look at my shawl pattern sales on LoveKnitting my most complicated lace pattern has the highest sales. 

So now I'm struggling to interpret this. Is it just about fashion? Shawls have been very popular here with first the lace craze and then the more colourful and textural versions of late. Is it about skills? Is that why more garment patterns are selling there? Are they really more confident or is it a more adventurous mindset? 

Any thoughts?


  1. I have knitted for decades and have only ever knitted one shawl, which I rarely wear other than if it turns cold in the late evening when I am watching tv. We don't see people wearing shawls here in UK. Scarves are very popular and cowls.

    When I see projects in Ravelry I have noticed that American knitters do make a lot of shawls and socks and that surprises me.

    I don't think it is a of technique either, should this be the case the other side of the coin is do shawl knitters not make garments because they cannot get them to fit.

    I suppose it does come down to local fashion, it is vaguley similar to sewers making quilts rather than making garments.

    All very interesting, Cynthia in UK

  2. Knitters here often tell me garment fit is a challenge and they often list technical challenges like buttonholes and picking up stitches.