Having grown up around textiles, my daughter knows how to spin (even at a festival competition level), is comfortable with a loom, and has learned to knit several times over the years. I think the number she puts on those learning-knitting events is five. Sometimes she learned from me, sometimes from other experienced folks, none of whom has had any particular Must Be Done This Way attitude, so she had no arbitrary stumbling blocks set in her path. But she never got to the point of wanting to actually make something.
She's now in her late 20s, and it was only about a year and a half ago that she came up with an idea that she wanted to knit strongly enough that it carried her past how-the-stitches-work and into actual planning and implementation.
She decided she wanted to knit a sweater. With a Celtic knot on the upper body. She was smart about her concept: lots of stockinette (to get her chops together) before she began anything intricate. We went together to pick yarn, and she selected Cascade 220 in a heathered dark blue. She knitted swatches, and decided she liked the fabric worked tightly, at 6 stitches/inch (24/10cm). (Cascade 220 is normally worked at 5 stitches/inch (20/10cm).) We worked out measurements together, using Priscilla Gibson-Roberts' Knitting in the Old Way, thinking about what sort of ease and lengths she wanted.
First she made the sleeves, working in the round on a combination of double-pointed and circular needles. That let her get comfortable again with forming stitches and using different types of tools, and gave her a swath of fabric with which to re-check her gauge before starting the body.
Then she began the body, again working in the round from the bottom up. As she proceeded upward in stockinette, she contemplated how she might create design separation between the lower and upper body portions (decision: a few rows of welting), and where she wanted that separation to lie in relation to the armholes and her motif. She divided at the armholes and worked the back upper body in reverse stockinette, back and forth. Still practicing, but now back and forth, which throws new tricks into the mix. Her gauge stayed rock solid.
Now it was time for the front upper body, with its cabled motif. She'd selected an intricate knot from Elsebeth Lavold's Viking Patterns for Knitting.
It's the three-bight happiness sign on page 33 of the English edition of the book. This is advanced cabling, not introductory, so I suggested that first she knit a swatch of the entire pattern, partly for practice and partly to double-check the size of the knot and make sure that it would fit in the area where she wanted it, which was fairly close to the neck opening. Plus she could make sure it was going to be the type of design she wanted and that she enjoyed knitting it.
It was and she did.
So she worked the front upper body, back and forth again, just like the back . . . except with the motif added. She modified it slightly, because she's quirky and does things like that.
The neckline is a boatneck, with about an inch of facing in stockinette at the top of each upper body section. She sewed the facings in place, then joined the shoulders, testing how much shoulder area to join by trying it on. She reinforced the ends of the neck opening beautifully (lots of years as a theatrical costumer). And she attached the sleeves by crocheting through the open stitches of the tops of the sleeves and the edges of the armhole openings, using a supplementary yarn (instead of just crocheting the open stitches through each other).
If you are on Ravelry and want to see my daughter's first entry there, you can. The photos are the same ones I've got here, minus this one, which ended up with exposure problems because of the snow that's currently falling, but which I like anyway. It shows the way she shaped her sleeves, a design decision that gives quite a straightforward drop-shoulder sweater a sense of no-nonsense but graceful style—which definitely suits her personality.
And here's one last picture—this one and the first picture show the color most accurately:
I'm really proud of what she's done here, and I hope (and trust) that she's even prouder of herself.
Knitters who want to work with Knitting in the Old Way concepts and would like an in-house coach: check out Donna Druchunas' Ethnic Knitting Discovery (drop-shoulder sweaters, like my daughter's) and Ethnic Knitting Exploration (raglan, circular yoke, and saddle shoulder sweaters).