DESIGNER SWEATERS, FOR all their expense and exclusivity, are not necessarily difficult to create. While cabled and bobbled cardigans from Ralph Lauren are not a piece of cake to knit, the straightforward, clean lines of Calvin Klein and Perry Ellis sweaters are easily duplicated. (Kaffe Fassett's knits, however, look easy--just knitting and purling--but his use of dozens of colors in intricate designs should daunt all but the most determined knitters.)
Duplication is the major appeal of designer sweater patterns. Nancy Thomas, knitting editor at Vogue Knitting, which publishes instructions for sweaters by Klein, Ellis, Adrienne Vittadini and, most recently, Missoni, says there is little experimentation or individual creativity exercised by knitters on these particular designs. People usually make them in the same yarns and colors as the originals. After all, if one knitted a Klein original in a color not sanctioned by Klein, who would know its pedigree? "It's a status thing," Thomas says.
Ah, but is it status for less money? Yes. A Perry Ellis sweater that would cost $300 in a retail store can be whipped up at home, using the same yarn as the store- bought version, for less than half the price. For the insecure, kits are often available at stores and through mail order; such kits provide yarn, instructions, even the buttons. Rowan Yarns offers yarn packs for Fassett's designs, eliminating time-consuming searches for all those colors.