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Interview with Knitting Instructor and Author Sally Melville


Sally Melville is a widely published and highly sought-after knitwear designer who teaches a dozen different workshops across North America every year. A reassuring voice for knitters, she has the ability to make intimidating subjects both accessible and fun.

So how does she do it? CrafterNews prepared some questions for Sally so that we could all get a glimpse into her creative process. Sally was kind enough to share some knitting tips and tricks, her favorite garment, and even her ultimate craft fail!

Enjoy the below interview with Sally Melville, and for more from the acclaimed instructor and author, check out her new book, Knitting Pattern Essentials, on sale March 26th!

CrafterNews: You’re well known for your Knit To Flatter and Fit class that you teach around North America, and you’ve just come out with a new book, Knitting Pattern Essentials. What should every knitter know about knitting a garment that fits well?
Sally Melville: I was asked in Seattle what the most common mistake is that knitters make, and the words that flew out of my mouth were They follow the pattern. When I deliberated a little, I realized the absolute truth of the statement. (Isn’t that often the case with our most immediate answer?) There are places in any pattern where a knitter must adjust, length being the most important. After all, size is only about girth: the pattern-writer does not know how tall you are!

CN: Many knitters are often daunted by the math that’s involved in pattern drafting. Are there any ways to make the process less scary?
SM: I know many women think they aren’t good at math. But I believe the reason is that they were not taught properly. Women are the practical ones: men are the romantic idealists. Math is taught to the idealists, with the practical female asking Why in the world do I have to know this abstract stuff?!? Once we make it practical (and there’s nothing more practical than making one’s own clothes), the math makes sense. (Pythatorean Theorem is never better illustrated than in the cap of a sleeve, and my students see that.) But having said all that, when “math” is presented as one-foot-on-front-of-the-other and with no unnecessary theory, it is so not scary! My agent, who does not knit, said even she could understand and undertake the work of this book.

CN: How can you rescue a project if it doesn’t turn out the way you expected?
SM: Do not rip it out before sleeping on it, playing with it, learning a few tricks (which I present in the book). Above all, understand that most garments do not turn out as the designer expected the first time around. Happy accidents await the patient. (As Winston Churchill said Persistence is the hallmark of the creative personality.) And if it turns out that you do need to rip, realize that you just found what you were going for as soon as this project ended: more knitting!

CN: What are the easiest ways to lend a professional touch to a garment?
SM:Finishing, finishing, finishing. Sadly, these are the most limited instructions in most patterns: pick up and knit 101 stitches around the neck . . . evenly! Good grief! In this book I give a lot of time to these instructions: I sincerely hope knitters will look for that material . . . especially since a knitter who drafts her own doesn’t even have those horrible instructions to rely on!

CN: What is your favorite garment to knit?
SM: Something simple and classic with a twist. If I love it, I’ll probably knit it three times—in different colors and fibers and weights. I don’t do that with complex pieces, but I do with the simple ones.

CN: What is the garment you are most proud of that you made?
SM: I’d have to say the Einstein Coat (from The Knit Stitch) . . . since so many people have knit it and worn it. It does illustrate that simple can be lovely and that simple is what we wear most.

CN: What is a “craft fail” that you experienced when making a garment?
SM: I, like everyone else, can fail when I try to force the yarn to the project rather than letting the yarn be what it wants to be. We need to be sensitive not just to gauge but to the stiffness or softness of the yarn: stiffer yarns do things softer yarn don’t, and vice versa. We simply cannot expect one to do what the other does. (It’s like the difference between really lovely toilet tissue and paper towels. ‘Nuff said?)

CN: What is your favorite part of your new book Knitting Pattern Essentials?
SM: There’s a chapter in the book entitled Fabrics, Finishes, and Fixes. It is the result of 55 years of knitting . . . 55 years of experiments, mistakes, plays, rips, re-knits, and study. That chapter is written for the thinking knitter, and I hope she will find what she needs there. After all, anyone who spends the time and money to make her own clothes let alone draft her own patterns is worthy of the thoughtful information and instruction that will set her on the right path, help her through its most difficult obstacles, and offer her solutions when her path goes elsewhere than intended.



About the Book
Knitting Pattern Essentials
Adapting and Drafting Knitting Patterns for Great Knitwear
Written by Sally Melville
Category: Crafts & Hobbies - Knitting
Format: Paperback
On Sale: March 26, 2013
Price: $24.99
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