Friday, 4 September 2009

Viral Knits

This week, in a fit of crazed startitis, I cast on a new shawl. Not just any old shawl, but a pattern I've meant to make for a long time.

This is the Swallowtail Shawl, just one of Evelyn Clark's many wonderful lace patterns and for the longest time, I've put it off because I had this crazy idea it was hard. Well pfft. It's not. Admittedly I haven't hit the nupps yet, and I'm not sure I'll include them, but so far, piece of cake. Even in Madil Kid Seta which will no doubt be a bitch to undo if I have to.


Note the absence of lifelines. I like to live dangerously.

Sure it's a viral knit (a popular knit as opposed to a virulent strain of head lice!). Lace lovers everywhere have made it but this doesn't detract from the pattern's worth at all, in my view.

So I was thinking about viral knits - those patterns that everyone seems to be knitting. If you show up at an event where two or more knitters are gathered, you're going to see multiple versions of those oh so popular knits. Some people find that disturbing. They don't want to make what everyone makes. I get why they might feel that way. We all have our ways of distinguishing ourselves.

I personally like to avoid, as a matter of personal taste, the music that 'everyone' is listening to or the latest reality tv that 'everyone' is watching but sometimes, something that's very popular seeps through all the garbage that's out there and I end up loving it - like Buffy. But mostly I don't get on those bandwagons. Knitting is different. If there's a pattern that 'everyone' is knitting, chances are I will at least consider it.

Personally, I've made loads of the most viral knits, like the ubiquitous Clapotis. Haven't heard of it? Which rock have you been living under? Here's mine, made well past the point where everyone was making them. Better late to the party than never huh?


I've also made Monkey socks, at least three times. I think maybe four. These are the ones I made for RoseRed for Christmas.


Why have I made this pattern so many times? Because it's a damn good pattern. That's why it's viral. It's simple but not boring. It's versatile. It works with many different kinds of sock yarn and the results are fabulous. For me, it was a great transition from plain socks to patterned. I know it's been the same for lots of knitters.

Also, I made the pi blanket, by Elizabeth Zimmermann. A gazillion knitters jumped on board with this one and I made it twice.

Pi Blanket

Oh and then there were the Fetchings. Four pairs at last count. I've just realised that several of my favourite viral knits have come from Knitty. I often think I haven't made much from Knitty but I think I ought to revisit that idea. It looks like I've made more than I think.


I love all of items things I've made, no matter how much they have been knit by others. Yes, they've been knit by thousands and thousands of knitters, but those knitters didn't knit these versions. I did! They're mine and that's all that matters!

I get kind of cranky when I hear people bemoan the popular patterns, as if it means that to knit them means you haven't had an original thought since 1993. Even if you knit the pattern without modifications, by choosing a colour you like, perhaps substituting a yarn you prefer, you have made it yours. It's unique.

Even RoseRed and I have both made, at the same time, February Lady Sweaters from red Cascade 220, but we made our own versions with the buttons we chose, the length of our sleeves or the body. I'm sure we'd probably avoid wearing them to the same event, but otherwise, we celebrated our shared good taste rather than whining about each other's lack of originality. Again, it's a good pattern. That's why it's popular.

Sometimes a pattern just captures the imagination of knitters everywhere. Ysolda Teague must be loving that her simple little Ishbel shawl is so amazingly popular as well she should. There's something exciting about stuff that works and let's face it, the internet has made our knitting such a shared activity now and I'm loving all the shared creativity and happiness.

There are many, many more viral knits in my future, I'm sure of it and every single one of them will be uniquely mine, just as yours will be uniquely yours. Let's celebrate the shared creativity!