I am going to let you all in on a little secret; I don't really follow patterns. I am not sure why. I just don't. I see the pattern in the book, and I think "Boy, that zippered hoodie would look great on DD." I buy the yarn to make said zippered hoodie, but the hoodie gets lost in translation. I started making a hoodie, but my DD is wearing a cardi (and I have three un-used balls of the yarn that would have made the hoodie and pockets).
I had a wonderful (and unfortunately discontinued) color of Wool-ease chunky. I had a wonderful cardi pattern all picked out. I was supposed to knit 5 pieces and seem them together. I was feeling lazy when I started that sweater, so I just knit it in one piece. No one can really tell the difference between the sweater in the photo and the one I made. Mine just doesn't have side seems.
For me, socks, hats, mittens and so on are more about proper construction. When one knows HOW these items are made, no pattern is necessary. When I make socks, it takes me longer to decide on the yarn than the pattern. Often, the pattern just springs to life as I knit. I don't really think about what kind of heel I want until I get to the heel.
The question of standard sizes, and modifying patterns to fit has been in my inbox a lot in the past few days. I thought I would share some guidelines that I posted to a group.
Here are some of my general pointers for knitting without a pattern. To make stuff that fits, get over the idea of "standard sizes." Standard sizes are not even standard from one manufacture to another. To make a sweater, the only thing a knitter needs to know the measurements of who will be wearing the sweater and gauge. Once the gauge and measurements are known, it is very simple make your own sweaters without a pattern.
Ease is important to consider too. Ease means will the sweater be a tight fit or a loose fit? In general 2 - 4 inches of ease need to be added to the measurements to figure out how many to cast on. If a really loose fitting garment is needed, add 6 inches to the measurements. Actual body measurements and stretching yarn are for a snug/tight-fitting garment.
The notion of "standard sizes" is only useful when a robot is making clothes. When making the clothes, throw sizes out the window and make garments that fit the person who will wear it.
There are several books that will help the newbie to patternless knitting. Elizabeth Zimmermen, Knitting Without Tears (be warned, she does rather like math). Ann Bud The Knitters Handy Guide to Knitting Patterns and The Knitters Handy Guide to Sweater Patterns are must haves (these books do the math)! I would also suggest that everyone have at least one of those 6,000,003 knitting stitch pattern books (I like this one, but I have several). These books help with designing sweaters with textured stitches, cables, Fair Isle and more. Lastly, Ann Bud also has a Handy Yarn Requirements Guide that will fit in the well-stocked knitting bag or purse.