Joining sweater parts at the underarm: Here comes the fun!

How to join sweater pieces at the underarm

I don’t know why I’ve been waiting for someone to have photos of this process, when I’ve got my world-class illustration skills to draw on! (This #fringeandfriendsknitalong has it all, people.) Ok, these may not be award-winning illos, but hopefully they’re good enough for our purposes here today, which is to talk about how to join your Amanda cardigan at the underarms. Granted, I’ve only been looking at sweater patterns for a few years, but this is actually the first one I’ve seen with this kind of construction. Typically (in my experience), a sweater that is joined at the underarms and worked seamlessly upward from there has been worked seamlessly up to that point as well. Meaning, the body would be knitted in one piece and the sleeves knitted in the round, so you’re joining three pieces instead of five. (Which is how our lovely panelist Jaime is knitting her Amanda.) Nevertheless, in this case — if you’re knitting Amanda as written — you’ve got five pieces to join at the underarms. You’ve bound off underarm stitches at the underarm edge of each piece and now it’s time to clothesline them all together in order to work the yoke in one piece. And that’s literally all it is: Whether you’ve got the pieces on five needles or holders or waste yarn, the pattern has you simply slip all of the stitches onto one long circular needle so that they line up, obviously, in the position in which they go together. I’ve drawn it two ways, above and below, in case one makes more sense to you than the other.

If your yarn is still attached to your right front, you’re good to go. Otherwise, you’ll simply attach a new ball of yarn and knit your raglan setup row all the way across these pieces — one long row — at which point they are united into one beautiful, flappy piece of fabric. Each of the joints (where the front meets the sleeve, the sleeve meets the back, etc.) is the starting point for a raglan seam. You’ll place a marker, as indicated in the pattern, at each of these four positions, and you’ll be decreasing at those markers to create the raglan “seams” and shaping. So your rows will get progressively shorter as you go. [UPDATE! @wendlandcd posted a pic overnight showing what this all looks like once the yoke is complete. So awesome!] For my money, the yoke is the funnest part of a sweater — it’s where all the action is, and where this fabric takes on the shape of a sweater! Which is one argument in favor of bottom-up sweaters: You have the yoke to look forward to when working the sleeves and body, rather than (with top-down) doing the funnest part first, with so much knitting left to do.

Speaking of arguments in favor of things, here’s another in favor of knitting this sweater in pieces. Bottom-up may mean saving the best part for last, but I really hate knitting the first few rows after the join with a seamless bottom-up sweater. I find it super stressful — to me and to the sweater — trying to get around the bend of circular sleeves in those early rows. Maybe I’m being fooled by my simplistic drawings, but I feel like that’s going to be much smoother with these flat pieces.

I’d love to hear thoughts on that from those who’ve done it already!

How to join sweater pieces at the underarm

Next week we’ll talk about neck shaping! Woohoo.


PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: WIP of the Week, week 5


Knit the Look: Danielle Bernstein’s cable beanie

Knit the Look: Danielle Bernstein's cable beanie

I love that We Wore What blogger Danielle Bernstein happens to be wearing a pin-striped coat with this little oatmeal-colored cable beanie. The overall androgyny of her look makes it that much more perfect that the best pattern I know for matching the hat happens to be a Jared Flood pattern from BT Men called Eno, which of course is perfectly unisex. To make it just like Danielle’s, use Brooklyn Tweed Loft in Woodsmoke and knit the ribbing to four inches, for a nice fold-up brim, before switching to the cable pattern. (If you’re one of the many knitters out there who has yet to discover the pure simple joy of cabling, this would be a great place to start.)

For more of Danielle’s outfit, see Vanessa’s original post.


PREVIOUSLY in Knit the Look: Marie Piovesan’s luscious scarf


Street style photo © Vanessa Jackman; used with permission

Our Tools, Ourselves: Jen Beeman (Grainline Studio)

In Our Tools, Ourselves, we get to know fiber artisans of all walks, ages, styles and skill levels, by way of their tools. For more on the series, read the introduction.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Jen Beeman (Grainline Studio)

All-around talented lady and founder of the wildly popular Grainline Studio — a sewing blog that grew into a bustling pattern business — Jen Beeman is one of my heroes. She sews, she knits, she blogs, she Instagrams, she runs an amazing business, and I just love her spirit and her style. (Did you know that before she releases a new pattern, she personally sews one garment in every size?) She holds degrees in both photography and fashion design, and is one of a dying breed of professionally trained pattern drafters, which you can listen to an interview about at Marketplace. And I’m super thrilled she’s agreed to give us a peek at her space and talk about her habits and her tools. Thanks, Jen!

. . .
Do you knit, crochet, weave, spin, dye, sew … ?

I’m both a knitter and a sewer. I always joke that I learned how to knit about a year or so too early. Back in college, I had a friend who worked at the photo checkout window with me who knit, and seeing her make these sweaters left and right made me want to learn. So when a friend and I decided to drive to NYC in the fall of 2001 to check out a few other art schools (we were thinking about transferring) I figured it would be the perfect time to teach myself. At that point I don’t even think the website Knitty was a thing, and I definitely couldn’t find any good books at the bookstore. I bought a really poorly designed and super basic knitting pamphlet at the local Champaign IL craft store, some metal needles, and what I’m sure was either Red Heart or Lion Brand yarn and took that on the road. By the end of the trip I had learned to knit!

I went about learning to sew in a bit of a more orderly fashion. My mom always sewed and made a lot of our clothes when we were younger and I used to love helping pick out the fabrics and patterns with her. When I was 12 she finally taught me to sew, and eventually signed me up for a sewing class with a friend.

In high school I stopped, but after getting a photography BFA I decided that I should go back to school to become a patternmaker, so I did. I then worked as a patternmaker until recently when I realized I couldn’t handle my work load between a job and my pattern business, so I began working on Grainline Studio full time.

I’ve tried crocheting, weaving, spinning, and dyeing but none of them really stuck with me. I’m absolutely unable to hold any sort of tension while crocheting despite help from my master crocheter mom. My hand just turns into one cramped up little claw. It’s horrible because I really dream of making a chunky black and white wool zigzag afghan. Mom, if you’re reading this, hint hint ;)

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.

I think I might be kind of weird about tools — I really have so few of them and they’re all pretty basic, in both knitting and sewing.

For knitting I mostly prefer wooden needles. I’ve always felt like they’re easier for my usually painful hands to deal with. I used to only use straight needles — I think because I already owned them — but recently I’ve been getting more into the circular needle. I think it’s easier on my wrists to have the weight of the sweater sitting in my lap rather than stuck out on the end of a straight needle. Besides needles, I have the same knitting kit I’ve had for about ten years. While I’d love to upgrade to some fancy tools, I can’t ever seem to justify spending money on a version of something I already own that works perfectly well. I’m now thinking about purchasing a swift and some blocking tools, though, so I’ll be adding to my tool collection soon.

In sewing, the same is true. When drafting patterns by hand I have a pretty basic tool set, things like steel rulers, an awl, pattern notcher, steel weights, Japanese punch and a really nice Japanese mechanical pencil that rotates the lead slightly while you draw so you’re never stuck with that one sharp edge. Mechanical pencil nerds will know what I’m talking about. I use 90lb kraft paper for my personal patterns and manila for any production patterns. I also have recently started using Optitex which is a CAD pattern-drafting software, in order to streamline my process, which is really helpful in getting patterns out more quickly without the kind errors that require going back to the literal drawing board while your pattern is in progress.

All of my sewing machines (sewing, serger and coverstitch/chainstitch) are Bernina home machines. While I love professional industrial machines, I feel that it’s important that I’m working on the same equipment that the people buying my patterns will most likely have. I don’t really have many special feet. The only feet I ever use are my 1⁄4″ foot, my invisible zipper foot, the buttonhole foot, and the button foot. That’s it really. Oh, and the walking foot when quilting!

Our Tools, Ourselves: Jen Beeman (Grainline Studio)

How do you store or organize your tools? Or do you?

Like my tools, my knitting storage is also pretty basic. I keep my needles in an old animal cracker tin I got at a neighbor’s yard sale growing up, and my tools are kept in a small leather pouch I made.

How do you store or organize your works-in-progress?

My project bag is, embarrassingly, a clear plastic drawstring top bag that a fabric purchase from Drygoods Design in Seattle arrived in, and I keep my finished sweater pieces in the dust bag from a pair of shoes while I’m working on the rest of the pieces. Oddly they’re both the perfect size for what I need. All of this sits on a bookshelf next to our couch. I’m really not very fancy. I always have dreams of getting one of those beautiful baskets with the expanding tops that people love, but in reality I know that it will just turn into an expensive cat bed.

Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?

Not really any in my tools since they’re all just basic things I bought myself. I do like them a lot, though — we’ve done a quite a bit of knitting together! I splurged on some Brooklyn Tweed Shelter to knit the Stonecutter by Michele Wang and I’m really glad I did that. It’s been a super fun knit so far.

Do you lend your tools?

I don’t typically lend my tools because I don’t really have extras of anything to lend or anyone to lend it to!

I do give away a lot of stuff I don’t need or use anymore, though. I just gave my assistant, Kendra, a basics book on knitting and a bunch of yarn I wasn’t using, and she’s already made slippers, a scarf and is now on to a hat. It’s great when you can give someone something to get them into a new hobby, plus giving them something rather than lending it doesn’t come with the stress of the “Am I keeping this too long? Do they need this back soon?” questions that I always get when borrowing something.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Jen Beeman (Grainline Studio)

What is your favorite place to knit/sew/crochet/whatever?

My favorite place to knit is after work on the couch hanging out with my boyfriend and cat. It’s a great way to just relax after a day of work, though often my cat thinks I’m just dangling yarn there for her enjoyment.

I also like to knit on road trips because it gives me something to do while stuck in the car. During the warmer months (and the cooler with a blanket) I like knitting out on the back porch with a cup of tea.

As for sewing, I sew at my studio during the day, so that never comes home with me. I was a little worried about this at first but I really like leaving my job at work (because sewing is my job) and coming home to work on my hobby, knitting, or just doing nothing at all. It’s wonderful! Since moving to my studio I’ve finished a sweater and I’m about to block and seam my second, it’s been super productive on both the knitting and sewing fronts!

What effect do the seasons have on you?

I sew year round, since it’s my job, but I find that I do mostly want to knit in fall and winter. This summer I went against my natural tendencies and did a fair amount on road trips, which was nice. I like the idea of knitting something over the summer so that it’s ready for fall, but in reality I’m not keen on wool in the humid Chicago heat.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Jen Beeman (Grainline Studio)

Do you have a dark secret, guilty pleasure or odd quirk, where your fiber pursuits are concerned?

I think I have a few quirks. I almost always prefer knitting sweaters with seams rather than in the round, which I think has to do with the fact that I sew and also that knitting pieces is lighter on the wrists than knitting an entire sweater at once. I hate knitting with cotton — it makes my hands hurt because there isn’t much give. Oh, and since I taught myself to knit from that weird old pamphlet I mentioned up above, a lot of the time when people see me knitting they think I knit really oddly, which I’m sure I do but it works, so I’m fine with it. I also don’t use a row counter, instead I make lists all over my pattern of what part I’m working on and tally off the rows. I’ve tried the clicking counters and ones on my phone and I just find I can never remember to click them off like I can with a pen and paper.

As far as dark secrets I think I’m in the clear. I do have a knitting machine under the bed though…

What are you working on right now?

Right now I’m about to block my Stonecutter and after that’s done I need to knit a new winter hat. There are about 4000 sweaters I want to knit, and I swear, every time Fringe pops up in my blog reader I add at least one more to that list.

As for business, just working on new patterns and posts and, fingers crossed, the first pattern collaboration, which I think people will totally be into!

Our Tools, Ourselves: Jen Beeman (Grainline Studio)

PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Jared Flood (Brooklyn Tweed)


Photos © Jen Beeman

Second sock swap

The second sock swap project

Two of the lovely people participating in the #fringeandfriendsknitalong — Instagrammers @lunarknits (in Sydney) and @wendlandcd (in Washington state) — have struck up enough of a friendship that they’ve cooked up a marvelous little co-knitting project for themselves. Both are susceptible to Second Sock Syndrome, so they’ve decided to each knit one sock, then send it and the yarn to the other person to knit the mate and keep. So they each knit two socks, but not the same sock twice. It’s brilliant, and possibly easier to talk a friend into doing with you than a Tag Team Sweater. The next time I have the urge to knit a sock, I may have to look for someone to swap with.

If you’re on Instagram, you can follow their progress under #secondsockswap.


WIP of the Week, week 5 (and other juicy bits!)

WIP of the Week, week 5

This was by far the hardest round for picking the #fringeandfriendsknitalong WIP of the Week. I can’t even tell you how much time I spent going through the Ravelry images and the Instagram hashtag — scrolling back and forth and forth and back and back and forth. Again, if I had three or four prizes to give it still wouldn’t be enough! But the image I kept coming back to was @idafwl’s WIP, above. Ida’s been a contender every week. She’s one of two known people frogging a sweater and turning the reclaimed yarn into a Hawser. (She’s frogging her Beatnik; Erica Smith is frogging her Stonecutter. And my utmost respect to the both of them.) So it’s been a joy watching Ida’s Hawser grow. But I just love this photo, captioned “Getting big enough to fold”, because that’s a tipping-point moment I think we can all identify with. We start every project with a skimpy little slip of stitches, and we turn those stitches into rows, and eventually those rows start to look and feel not just like a piece of fabric, but like a thing. You have that, “Hey, this is about to be a sweater!” moment. (Or hat, or sock, or whatever.) And if you’re like me, that’s when the adrenaline really starts to kick in. So this photo got me excited for Ida and for myself and for everyone who’s got a WIP on the needles that’s soon to be an FO.

Congratulations, Ida — you’ve won a $150 gift certificate to the freshly launched Tolt Yarn and Wool webshop! And huge congratulations to Anna and company on the launch of that shiny new web presence. Y’all should go check it out!


- If you are going to Vogue Knitting Live in Chicago this weekend, don’t forget to show me your tote on Instagram! Since I don’t get to go. Take a pic of yourself at the event with your High-fiber or Knit and Let Knit tote, tag it #fringeinthewild #vklive, and mention @fringesupplyco @karentempler. Some lucky person(s) will win a gift certificate from Fringe Supply Co. If you don’t already have one, or you do and someone asks you where they can get such a wonderful tote bag, they are for sale in The Yarnery’s booth, #221/223!

- The following Saturday, November 1, I will have a booth at Fiber in the ’Boro in Mufreesboro TN! If you’re anywhere near Nashville, hie thee to the show! You’ll get to meet my trusty sidekick, Amazing DG. And shop the movable Fringe shelves, of course.

- After that, I am headed to Seattle/Carnation WA for a little business and then a visit to Tolt Yarn and Wool. Anna and I are planning some kind of Q&A/meet-and-greet sort of thing, where you may ask me anything you want — about my background, the blog, knitting, blogging, whatever I actually know anything about — and I will do my best to be interesting and/or informative. It will most likely be Thursday evening, Nov 13, but I will confirm that date (and time) when it’s pinned down. Just wanted to give you a heads-up! I’d love to meet any of you who are in that beautiful area.

- And last but not least, there are some marvelous new gems to be had at Fringe Supply Co today: the prettiest little Italian scissors and the ever-popular Doane notebooks, now in striking colors! Go get’em.

New at Fringe Supply Co.

Have a great weekend!


PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: The button band conundrum

An unlikely story

An unlikely story

This is the tale of the most improbable thing that’s happened to me since that one time my Morse Code Cowl was on Stephen Fry’s TV show. But first, we have to flash back to May 4, 2014. I remember the exact date because it was the morning Anna and I woke up and got dressed for the trade show and found that we were both wearing army-green pants and a denim shirt. We thought it was funny — especially since we were doing our Tag Team Sweater Project photos that day — so off we went, dressed like twins.

You may be familiar with Sarah Hatton, one of the designers for Rowan, the illustrious British yarn and pattern company that crops up often in these pages. While Anna and I were sitting on a couch in the Rowan distributor’s booth that day, poring over upcoming patterns and partaking of the dime store candy on the coffee table (there were Jots!), Sarah spied us and said, “I know you two! You’re Tolt and Fringe. I follow you on Instagram!” Which was pretty astonishing, for Sarah Hatton to be recognizing us. But that’s not the story.

Flash forward to a few weeks ago on Instagram. Sarah posted this photo from her latest Rowan booklet, the one up top, and I hit the like button. As in, hey yo, congratulations! She responded and said — I hope she doesn’t mind my repeating this — “Glad you like it @karentempler – the model was kinda an ode to your good self.” To which I responded in my characteristically urbane fashion, “Whut?!” I’ve since seen other pics from the collection, on her feed and elsewhere, and it’s full of girls dressed in army-green and denim (and grey), which, being far from alone in my penchant for that palette, I would never have thought had anything to do with me, or with how Anna and I were dressed the day we met Sarah. After asking if that seemed creepy, Sarah went on to say that the styling on that first photo was “supposed to be a bit Karen and a bit Isabel Marant.” And there you have it: The first (and presumably last) time anyone ever put me and Isabel Marant in the same sentence. And a story so improbable, I had to share it.

The Rowan Loves Kidsilk Haze & Felted Tweed collection is now available, and you can see it in full at Ravelry. Pictured here are Vicky, Paula, Davina and Gemma. And for the record, I would be happy to have this whole outfit:

An unlikely story

The button band conundrum

The button band conundrum

When I wrote the Pullovers for first-timers post, I planned for it to be quickly followed by “Cardigans for first-timers.” I’ve basically been writing that sequel for a year. Obviously the difference between the two — what makes a cardigan a cardigan — is that a cardigan has an opening down the front. Which seems simple enough, but there are a thousand different approaches to that opening. Are the front selvages straight up and down (leading to a crewneck) or sloping (leading to a v-neck)? Are there closures — buttons, toggles, a zipper? Are those closures attached to a button band? And if so, how is that button band created? And not every cardigan has bands or closures — in the past few years, there have even been a flood of sweaters designed to be worn right-side up and upside down. In other words, cardigan construction is a little bit complicated to talk about.

When we kicked off the #fringeandfriendsknitalong, I debated about whether to address the button bands up front or at the point where they’re actually worked in the Amanda pattern, which is at the end. I decided on the latter — even though those of us knitting Amanda had to make a decision up front about whether or not to knit the bands as written. We’ve spoken of that decision in a couple of posts so far (meet the panel and progress report), and it’s been brought to my attention that for the thousands of you reading along rather than knitting along, you don’t know how it’s written.

I’m not sure what I was smoking last week when I said Anna was almost to the join and would hopefully be able to photograph it soon. She is working on her third body piece (she’s done with the back and one front; now knitting the other front) but still has sleeves to knit before she can join the pieces at the underarms! Duh. So while we all keep knitting, let’s pause for a minute and talk about those button bands.

Button bands, like I said, are complicated, but since the Amanda cardigan has straight fronts and a crewneck, this is the easiest type to talk about. Typically, with a straight selvage like this, you would do the bands in one of three ways: 1) Knit them at the same time as the body of the sweater, all of a piece. Generally in that case the “band” stitches — and inch or two of stitches at each front edge — are worked in garter or seed stitch or something relatively firm. Ribbing generally requires a smaller needle than the main fabric, so is not such a good choice for this approach. 2) Pick up stitches along the selvage and work 2×2 ribbing perpendicular to the sweater. For an example of that type of band, take a look at my Acer. 3) Knit two separate vertical bands of 1×1 ribbing and seam them along the fronts. Tightly knit vertical 1×1 ribbing is very clean-looking, and that seam provides stability, but not everyone wants to seam their bands on. (Of course, there are more than these three basic options. And a v-neck cardigan is a whole different can of worms.)

The way Amanda is written is a hybrid of 1 and 3. You cast on all of your front stitches and work the ribbing on the smaller needle. When you’re ready to switch to the larger needle and start working the main fabric, you set aside the button-band stitches on a holder. I asked knitalonger @dxlcarson if I could borrow her pretty photo above, which gives us a really clear look at this. Once the sweater is completed all the way up to the neck, you put those band stitches back on the smaller needle, work the bands to the same length as the fronts, and then seam them on. Again, the reason for not just knitting them concurrently with the body is that the smaller needle creates a tighter, firmer rib, and also creates a difference in row gauge, which you can finesse when you’re seaming them on. So the decision we were each making up front was whether to go ahead and cast on those button band stitches at the outset, or leave them off and do the bands a different way later on. Jaime is actually knitting hers along with the body. Kate and I both opted to leave them off. I think Kate is considering doing picked-up bands (#2). I’m doing separate vertical bands (#3) and am planning to back them with ribbon for a really traditional look, which will also negate the kind of gaping you tend to get with handknit button bands.

On a related note: Saturday I spent eight hours alone in my car, and I took it as an opportunity to listen to I had heard the first two episodes of Hannah Fettig and Pam Allen’s podcast last year, and loved it enough to have sponsored the first two eps this year, but had never gotten to listen to the rest. I had just listened to ep 3 on a walk last week, so I started in on Saturday at episode 4, which happened to be about button bands! If you’re new to the subject (or even if you’re not), it is worth a listen. The whole series is fantastic.

So that’s what I have to say about Amanda button bands. Button holes, we’ll address another day.


PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: WIP of the Week, week 4


Photo © @dxlcarson, used with permission