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Sweater Design in Plain English: Book Review

Updated on September 13, 2014
Girl Change Maker Knitting During Slow Moments at the Gilmore Self-Service Gas Station Allan Grant Find  at
Girl Change Maker Knitting During Slow Moments at the Gilmore Self-Service Gas Station Allan Grant Find at

Sweater Design in Plain English

Ever wonder how knitting patterns for sweaters are written? Want to learn to design your own sweaters? Or do you or someone you knit for have problems finding sweater patterns that fit? If so, read on to find out more about this book that covers all these topics, and more.

Book Details

Sweater Design in Plain English

Maggie Righetti

First edition © 1990, St. Martin's Griffin

Second Edition © 2011, St. Martin's Griffin

Sweater Design in Plain English: The Book

Sweater Design in Plain English: Step-by-Step Instructions for 13 Classic Sweaters
Sweater Design in Plain English: Step-by-Step Instructions for 13 Classic Sweaters

This is the second edition. The first is out of print, but still available used and in libraries.

Maggie Righetti [I don't know if she designed or knit the Aran sweater she's wearing.]
Maggie Righetti [I don't know if she designed or knit the Aran sweater she's wearing.]

About Maggi Righetti

Maggie Righetti started knitting back in the 1940s, when department stores had yarn departments with kind "knitting ladies" who could write custom patterns, translate foreign patterns, or give help to anyone with knitting problems. [My grandmother ran a knitting store during that time, and my mom told me stories of translating German patterns.] Maggie Righetti was a "knitting lady", and she's taken her experience and turned it into several excellent books on knitting and crochet.

Other Books by Maggie Righetti

(her last name rhymes with spaghetti, by the way)

Knitting in Plain English

Crocheting in Plain English

The above two books claim to be "the only book you'll need." They are excellent guides to take you from absolute beginner to intermediate level, if you learn wekk from lots of text and a few drawings and photos.

Universal Yarn Finder (1987)

Anout the Book

The first half of the book covers basic design principles, how various designs work with different (male and female) figure types, and the behavior of different knitted stitches. This section is very useful for evaluating regular patterns, even if you never do any designing. And the section on how different stitch patterns behave is something I haven't seen covered by anyone but Ms Righetti. For example, reverse stockinette tends to look uneven and stretched out.

She then takes you, very gently, through the process of designing many different sweaters, from an extremely simple T top, through drop-shoulder, set in sleeve and raglans, vests and jackets, both in pieces and in the round. By the end of the book, even complex shapings seem easy.

The sweater examples are shown on people from children through adults with different body shapes. She spends quite a bit of time explaining the design challenges for different plus sized body types, and also covers different male body types. Again, I've never seen this level of discussion elsewhere.

Ms Righetti also discusses adapting commercial patterns those shapes. A few reviewers on Amazon have complained about this, but Ms Righetti always gives information on how to not alter the shapes, though the reader sometimes has to work this out. And if you are, as Ms Righetti puts it, big and beautiful, the alterations are invaluable. [The set-in sleeve cardigan is shown designed for a size 52 woman.]

The book ends with a number of sizing charts, expanded to give you all the measurements you need for designing sweaters.

Sweater Design in Plain English
Sweater Design in Plain English

This is the out of print first edition (the one I own).


My Opinion

I really like this book. It is written in a slightly old-fashioned but chatty style that makes me think of grandmothers telling knitting stories. The information in it is very useful, and as I said above, the section on how stitch patterns behave is unique. I have not seen the new second edition, but I'd love a chance to sit down with it and see how the book changed. I'm sure it's gotten better.

Ms Righetti does not discuss knitting methods or shaping techniques, except in a minimal way. She also does not talk much about unusual fashion-forward styling.This makes sense, as her audience is not fashion designers but knitters who rarely want to put many hours into trendy sweaters.

Don't be distracted by the stress on "sweaters" — the book covers any uppr body garment: vests, jackets and coats as well as traditional sweaters.

Sweater Design Poll

Have you ever designed a sweater?

See results

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