We've all done it—finished a sweater, following the pattern to the letter. It fit! Hurray! It even looked great. But every time we see it we think, hmmm, if only the shoulders were a tiny bit wider, it would drape so much nicer. Or the button band could be just a tiny bit wider.
Published patterns, like recipes, are really good jumping-off points, and as a designer and a chef, I can tell you that I am never insulted when someone skews my creation to fit their own taste. Want to make my stew with chicken instead of veal? Go for it. Don't like the stripe I put in a sweatshirt? Leave it out.
That's exactly what one KNITS MEN WANT group member did with my striped hoodie from my book KNITS MEN WANT. Here's the original from the book:
It looks beautiful on her son in solid blue.
The basic pullover from my book is a classic design--as simple as can be:
One KNITS MEN WANT group member added strips for her guy. And it's lovely.
But some changes aren't so simple. I recently began a colorwork cardigan for Mark from Interweave Knits magazine.
I chose different yarn and colors than the designer--my colors are more subtle and I used a thicker yarn for the lighter color so it would give the color work a 3-dimensional quality. But I also made another subtle change to the pattern. Notice the solid bar of lighter color that begins the color work section. I knitted it so that the color work seems to come directly out of the basket weave pattern.
The original pattern requires a short section of brown stockinette before beginning the color work. While that looked nice, I thought it could be more finessed. So I ripped it out and began again. It was easy to do on the back, although I had to shape the arm holes within the color work section which otherwise would have been clear of it, and the right front required reading the color chart backwards.
It's possible that the designer tried the sample this way, maybe even liked it herself, but sometimes there's just no room to add more charts and more complicated instructions to a magazine page with limited space.
If you find a pattern that you like but think it could be enhanced by a little modification, go for it. Not sure how to do the math or make the changes? If you buy the yarn at your local yarn store for the project, they will most likely be happy to help you with the changes. Bought the yarn elsewhere? Then spring for a 30 minute private lesson--most LYSs offer them.
And by all means, share your changes with the designer (I for one love to see what folks are doing with my patterns) and with the knitting community on ravelry.com. We just never know where ideas will come from.