Sunday, June 5, 2011

Top Down? Bottom Up? Got a Preference?

Before I get to today's question, here's a pre-question: How do you interpret the above picture? To me, it looks like my son and I have just released our first CD together (maybe it's called Son of a Knitter) and this is the cover art. Actually -- total shocker (not)-- my son has not yet invited me to perform music with him. But this photo is not just randomly selected. I picked it because it clearly demonstrates the fashion versatility of the sweater I'm wearing.

For example, this picture was taken on my most recent birthday. So the sweater works for big celebrations. I also use it as my kick-around in sweater, my errand running sweater, my hiking sweater... the list goes on. Yes, I do sometimes wear other sweaters I've knitted, and I continue to work on knitting still more sweaters to be worn in the future. But this sweater-- (made from Grinch Green (I made that color up) Manos de Uruguay) is the one in which I spend, by far, the most time.

I've put the sweater away for the summer but was thinking about it the other day when I received a Rowan newsletter. Inside, an article was taking on the debate: Top Down vs. Bottom Up? I think it was supposed to be tongue in cheek but I'm not positive. Do people really feel so ferociously dedicated to one technique or the other that they're willing to spend time arguing the superiority of their choice?

Most of the sweaters I've made have been bottom up-- true of the sweater I'm currently working on (the one that I'm working on size 6 needles, and have been working on for 17,000 months now, and that has me swearing I'll never work on needles smaller than 24 ever again). But that green sweater in the picture? (Aside: did you notice I'm also wearing my headlamp-- the one Eva made fun of the first time she saw it, but then immediately borrowed it?) That is a top down and it's the first top down I ever made. The process amazed and delighted me. I learned it in a class where the instructor was so patient and kind with me, and stood behind me much of the time (reaching in to help when I needed it) putting me in mind of jump instructors who strap themselves to the back of first time plane jumper-outters.

I've made a couple of other top downs since that first one, and the process delights me anew every time-- oh to knit without having to do tricky finishing! That said, I'm also cool with making bottom up sweaters, even if the seaming takes forever once the pieces are done.

What about y'all? Do you have a strong preference? Got any good patterns to recommend for top-down? Ever read the Barbara G. Walker book? (I've got it but haven't read it yet, though I know at least one knitter who swears by it.)

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