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.
Among the many yarn shops in Southern California providing group or individual knitting instruction are Weaving West in Santa Monica, Darn Yarn in Beverly Hills, Christel's Yarn Shop in Anaheim, Village Yarn Shop on 3rd Street in Los Angeles, Let's Knit in Gardena, Knack for Knits in Burbank, the Fiber and Printworks in South Pasadena, and the Knitting Bag in Encino.
Vogue Knitting, P.O. Box 1072, Altoona, Pa. 16603-9972 ($10.95 for three issues), regularly publishes instructions for designer sweaters. Kaffe Fassett's designs are in his book "Glorious Knits" (Crown; $22.50). Rowan Yarns are available at Nettie's Needlecraft in West Los Angeles, L'Atelier in Redondo Beach, Susan's Needle 'n Knit in Santa Monica, Yarn Boutique in Torrance, the Needle Nook in Glendora, Laguna Needlework in Laguna Beach, and Velona Needlecraft in Anaheim Hills.