Basted knitting: Or, how (and why) to seam a seamless sweater

Basted knitting: Or, how (and why) to seam a seamless sweater

So as I mentioned yesterday, I seamed the seamless yoke of my Amanda cardigan, and I want to talk about both how and why I did it — about the the idea of including what I’m going to refer to as a “basting stitch” in seamless sweaters to combine the best aspects of knitting seamlessly with the best aspects of seamed garments.


This is the central conflict of knitting, as far as I can tell. Knitters love seamless sweater patterns, for a multitude of arguably legitimate reasons: ease, speed, increased control over the outcome. But what’s best for the knitting process might not be best for the sweater. In most cases, a garment will wear better — hold its shape longer, and look better doing it — if it has seams to lend it structural support. A sweater without seams is sort of like a tent without poles: you can still climb in there and it will protect you from the elements, but it’s a pretty different experience. I have a beloved, much worn, navy top-down sweater in my closet that, even though it was knitted with neck shaping and the neck band was picked up and knitted from the cast-on edge (that picked-up edge being the only undergirding in that sweater), the yoke has mushed around and settled enough over time that I can now barely tell the difference between front and back. In fact, when I wore it on a flight to Seattle in November, I became convinced I had it on backwards.

As we were working our way through the Amanda knitalong, a lot of discussion arose about the relative merits of seamed vs seamless knitting and, combined with turning that navy sweater around that day before realizing it was on right the first time, I got to thinking about this conflict pretty nonstop.

I love a top-down sweater. I’ve had this debate with numerous people, and I maintain that top-down knitting is the gateway drug to sweater knitting — certainly it was for me. Top-down or bottom-up, I’m not opposed to the act of seaming; I genuinely enjoy it, and it doesn’t even take that long. When I was a brand-new knitter, though, the idea of knitting four or five large pieces (a big time investment) and seaming them together (further investment) and only then knowing how I had done — whether it fit and whether I liked it — was unimaginable. It was just never going to happen. Through top-down, I learned how shaping works, how row gauge especially factors into it … in short, how to exert control over my own sweater. Once the notion of knitting a sweater was no longer daunting, and with that gained understanding of how they basically work, I felt more comfortable tackling bottom-up and pieced sweaters, and more confident that I could get the right fit. (Although even now, I have no idea how an armscye is calculated or how to tamper with it, so set-in sleeves are still not malleable for me. Yet. And since I’m apparently incapable of simply following a pattern, malleability is important to me.) I see real value in seamless knitting, in other words, even as I see the value of seams. So what’s a knitter to do?


As I was nearing the yoke of my Amanda cardigan — having chosen to knit the pattern in pieces as written, prepared to seam the sides and sleeves — I became increasingly preoccupied with the seamless yoke on the horizon. Why would I put all that effort (and seaming!) into a glorious handknit sweater and have it lack that critical underpinning of seamed shoulder construction? And I kept thinking about that trusty blue sweater and pondering the notion of reinforcing it. First I thought about adding something simple and austere like a row of single crochet along the inside of the raglan to shore it up. But it got me wondering why you couldn’t knit a seamless garment in such a way that you built in stitches that were meant to be seamed out later, the way you design steek stitches into a garment you’re going to cut open. Or like in sewing where you baste pieces together temporarily knowing you’re going to go back and add the finished seam later. And, falling more and more in love with the idea, I pondered what the right combination of stitches would be for that built-in seam allowance. But then once I started knitting the Amanda yoke, I realized the answer was right in front of me.

Amanda’s raglan “seam” is a single stitch of reverse stockinette — 1 purl stitch, in other words. It seems to me too weak a stitch to hang a whole sweater on, but it’s the ideal basting stitch. The number one benefit of seamless knitting, in my opinion, is being able to gauge and adjust fit as you go. So if you’re going to work seamlessly and then remove stitches at the end, you want to remove as few as possible, since that’s going to be an adjustment to the fit. Four stitches — one per raglan — is the smallest possible number for a yoke. One stitch per side seam is a total of only two stitches removed for the whole body. A single stitch per sleeve. All you have to do to seam this basting stitch closed is pick up the running thread on either side of that stitch and work it just like standard mattress stitch. And in doing so, you’ve just given yourself the perfect seam in which to bury the ends once you’re done. As far as I can tell, it’s flawless.

Basted knitting: Or, how (and why) to seam a seamless sweater


Here’s the blow-by-blow:

Step 1) Take a piece of yarn about one-and-a-half times the length of your seam and thread it through a tapestry needle. Start at the first stitch at the bottom of your basted seam. (I’m using my Amanda raglan seam to illustrate, so that’s the first stitch up from the underarm seam.) Pick up the running thread to the right of the basting stitch — see upper left photo above — and pull your yarn through, leaving a tail to weave in later.

Step 2) Pick up the running thread to the left of the same stitch — see upper right photo above — and pull your yarn through, but don’t pull it tight yet. Leave it just wide enough to reach across the basting stitch.

Repeat steps 1 and 2 — lower two photos above — picking up the right and then left thread on either side of each stitch, until you’ve worked about an inch of stitches. Gently pull on both ends of the working yarn to pull the seam closed. The adjacent stitches should nestle up against each other naturally — don’t pull them too tight or they’ll bunch. This is all exactly like standard mattress stitch.

Keep working your way up the seam, pulling the stitches together every inch or so, until you reach the top of the seam. When you’re done, run both ends through to the wrong side of the work and weave them into the seam you just created. (I did it just like I do on the wrong side of ribbing.)

Basted knitting: Or, how (and why) to seam a seamless sweater

This took me all of eight or ten minutes per raglan, and increased the appearance and the lifespan of my sweater exponentially.

As I said, I’m certain I’m not the first person to ever add a seam to a seamless garment — likely far from it. But for me personally, this is an epiphany. I recognize the benefits of knitting in pieces — namely the portability. But since I do 95% of my knitting on my couch (and because I like to change things to suit myself, and because I dislike starting back at the bottom again for each piece) seamless knitting has undeniable appeal. But I believe wholeheartedly in seams. Now that I realize all I need to do when knitting seamlessly is insert a single column of purl stitches wherever a seam should be, and seam it up at the end, I feel like my whole knitting world may have changed.

Can it really be that easy to have it both ways? I’ll be testing the theory ASAP.


PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: FO No. 4: Karen Templer

Knitalong FO No. 4: Karen Templer

Knitalong FO No. 4: Karen Templer

This is pretty silly, but since I’ve been doing all of the other #fringeandfriendsknitalong panelist FO posts as interviews — and to help me organize my copious thoughts on this — I’ve interviewed myself for today’s post! Please forgive me—

Your sweater looks a lot like the pattern photo but you actually made several modifications. Can you summarize them?

– Minor details: tubular cast-on, and I worked the diamond cables so they twist toward each other instead of all one direction
– Knitted it at a tighter gauge, so I knitted a larger size to get the finished dimensions I wanted
– Added a pair of reverse-stockinette stitches flanking each diamond panel (in other words, one stitch to the outside of each of those slipped-stitch borders) to give me a little more wiggle room in my final measurements
– Also added extra stitches in the lower back, to give me the extra width I need across the hips
– Because my row gauge was also smaller, I re-charted the yoke to give me more rows (to meet the schematic’s yoke depth) and re-charted the neck shaping while I was at it
– And I did not cast on the button bands along with the waist ribbing — I left that out and did picked-up button bands instead

Weren’t you hell-bent on doing vertical button bands with a ribbon backing and all that?

I was. Then I knitted this sweater — and nothing but this sweater — for four straight months, and to be honest, I wanted to be done. And specifically I wanted to wear it to TNNA, the trade show, and the only way that was going to happen in the time allotted was to pick up the bands rather than seaming them on. I can always pull them out and change them, but I’m actually really happy with how they turned out.

With all the stitch patterning, I thought it would be nice for the bands to have a distinctive edge, so instead of binding off in pattern, I bound off all stitches knitwise from the wrong side, so what you see is just the edge of that row of bound-off stitches. I love it.

What happened to that whole shawl-collar idea?

I’m super jealous of all the shawl-collar versions that came out of this knitalong — Meg really should lock hers up when I visit. But it became clear that this sweater was going to be somewhere between fitted and too small, and I think a shawl-collar sweater wants to be a little slouchy. Plus I thought back to the impetus for all of this and what I wanted was an ivory crewneck cardigan to replace a retired one, so that’s what I did.

You were knitting for Team Seam, yeah? Are you happy you chose that path?

Yes, I knitted the five separate pieces (two fronts, two sleeves, one back) and then, as written in the pattern, joined them at the underarm and worked the yoke seamlessly. Like Kate, I’m a little puzzled at this approach, since the raglan seams are maybe the most important ones, structurally. And if you’re seaming, why not seam the whole thing? But I was planning to rewrite the neck shaping and, if I didn’t get it right on the first try, it was going to be a million times easier to rip back and adjust if it was one seamless piece. So I went ahead and did that. But then I did something I’ve never done before (although surely someone, somewhere has) — I went back in and seamed the seamless raglan.

Sorry, you did what now?

The raglan “seam” for this sweater is just one stitch in reverse stockinette, which seems really vulnerable to me. It looks nice as you’re knitting it, but I could just imagine it stretching out and looking, um, less good over time. I think it’s more a concern with my fabric than for those who used light, fluffy wools at pattern gauge. Rather than go any further into how or why I did that, I’ll save it for a separate post, because it’s a concept I’m really excited about and will be doing some pontificating about.

But meanwhile, yes, I’m very happy the sweater is fully seamed because I want it to last and keep its shape as long as it possibly can, especially given the time I’ve invested. Like, I hope my great-nieces wear it someday.

You mentioned your fabric — you opted to knit this is in a wool-cotton blend, O-Wool Balance. Are you happy with that choice?

Totally! I wanted this to be a 3-season sweater, and I’m so glad I did that because I would hate to be limited to wearing this only in the depths of winter. It’s too good to be packed away! Cotton is weightier and less elastic than wool, and because I also knitted it at finer gauge, my sweater looks really different from the wooly ones. I might need a wooly one someday. But I love the Balance and how it turned out — the fabric is cozy and lovely without being dense or hot. Exactly what I wanted.

So is there anything you’d change?

If I had it to do over again, I would have been less impatient by the time I got to the neck. I specifically charted the neck shaping (see below) in such a way that the slant of the decreases could be maintained beyond the fronts and into the sleeve tops. So if I felt like the neck needed to be higher and smaller, I could just keep knitting and decreasing. I don’t like it when the back neck of a sweater is too wide — I think that’s when it slides around while you’re wearing it. I’m happy with my neck shaping — the actual curve of it — I just wish I had kept going for a few more rows to keep raising and narrowing it at the back. But it’s a minor complaint in the grand scheme of how happy I am with this sweater.

I learned to knit so I could make this sweater — this is what I wanted to be able to do. The fact that it was knitted in the virtual company of so many good friends and readers is icing on the cake. As I was binding off the neck in a hotel room in Phoenix, I became aware of the fact that the sweater started with Anna and me accosting a stranger at Midway last summer on our way to Squam, and ended with me knitting the neck while at TNNA again with Anna, with lots else in between. So I really don’t have words for what all is knitted into this sweater. The difference between it and some anonymous factory-made sweater is genuinely indescribable.

Knitalong FO No. 4: Karen Templer

There are more photos on my Ravelry project page. And Anna and Rebekka are still knitting, so stay tuned! (I can’t believe I’m not last!)

Bleached horn buttons and Knitters Graph Paper Journal from Fringe Supply Co., of course. Photos by my darling husband.


PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: A different way to shape a sweater

Hot Tip: Keep your cables straight

Hot Tip: Keep your cable directions straight

It occurs to me this might have been a useful Hot Tip to offer up at the start of the Amanda knitalong. (Oops.) I’m always encouraging people to knit cables early and often — such an insanely simple thing with such a huge effect. All you do is slip a designated number of stitches onto a cable needle or spare DPN, knit the next stitches from your working needle, then knit the stitches from the cable needle. And voila, a cable! That’s all it is! In my world-class illustration above, you would need to do this exactly two times to create the fabric pictured, and the world will think you’re a savant of some kind. The only trick is remembering whether to hold the cable needle in front or back of the work while doing this, as that determines which direction your cable will twist. Hold it in back for a right twist. Hold it in front for a left twist. I’ve never heard a really perfect tip for remembering which is which, but I once heard Josh Bennett say that the best thing he’s ever come up with is to say to himself, “I’ll be RIGHT behind you.” Meaning if the held stitches are behind the work, the cable will twist right. Right = behind. After hearing that, I mentally added “wouldn’t want to get LEFT out front.” And I’ve never struggled with cable directions since, even though this pair of sayings is relatively random. So I’m offering them up to you in case you find them useful, and fully expecting many of you to have other/better suggestions on top of that. Bring it on!


PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tip: Annotate your charts

The outlook for 2015

The outlook for 2015

So we’ve talked about the top posts of 2014, my favorite New Favorites of the year, and my paltry but meaningful list of FOs. That leaves only the matter of the resolutions I made for 2014, which, um …

1. Knit less, crochet more. If I crocheted a single stitch this year, I don’t recall it.
2. Give it away. Sum total: one pair of mitts.
3. Specifically, knit my husband a sweater. Fail.
5. Publish more patterns, here and elsewhere. Sum total: zero.

But what about number 4, Continue to push myself? That one I feel pretty good about, although the new skills I tackled weren’t the ones I specified in that post. But I’m definitely knitting on a much higher level than I was a year ago. As evidence of this, I offer the fact that I’ve been knitting a cable sweater while watching a Netflix series that features a steady stream of subtitled Norwegian dialogue. My definition of “mindless knitting” now encompasses 40-row cable charts. Easily memorized, as cable charts go, but still — subtitles!

As for failing on the other four — in my defense, life and Fringe both took off in directions I couldn’t have predicted a year ago. The growth of Fringe Supply Co. is the absolute highlight of my year, but it left me with less knitting time, for sure. And then there’s the fact that Bob and I decided to move ourselves and Fringe from Berkeley to Nashville, an enormous undertaking, and one that derailed all sorts of other plans, not just my knitting list. The new Fringe HQ is a about twice the 200 square feet I had in CA, and my trusty shipping manager, DG, now works with me five days a week — and we’ve already outgrown this space and are looking for a new one. I have hopes of paying myself some semblance of a living wage this year, if not of having any more knitting time than in 2014. But that’s a pretty wonderful “problem” to have.

So my goal for this year is to choose wisely. I feel like I’ve gotten much better about picking projects and materials that are worthy of my precious making time. I want to make better, not more. And now that I have the space to do it, I want to really, truly sew. The biggest personal shift for me this year was the crystallization of a desire to know where my clothes come from, whether I’ve made them myself or bought them from small-batch producers. But most of all, I want to make them — to the extent that life will allow.

And I also have goals for the blog in 2015. There’s a roundtable idea I’ve been talking about for over a year that I vow to launch this year. And for those of you clamoring for more knitalongs, there’s another idea that’s gone from a simmer to a boil in the past few days, so expect an announcement about that very soon. It’s lovely that you guys apparently enjoy the sound of my voice, but I want to make sure you hear from others here even more than you have in the past — meaning more installments of Our Tools, Ourselves, the aforementioned roundtable, and more people writing about subjects that are beyond my skills and knowledge. I’m so grateful to everyone who contributed to making this blog what it’s been in 2014, most notably the Amanda panelists, who’ve so exceeded whatever I imagined when I first cooked that up.

It’s been such a pleasure to knit with you all, so here’s to much more of that in the new year!


Q for You: How many needles/hooks do you own?

Q for You: How many needles/hooks do you own?

Merry Christmas to all who are celebrating today, and happy peaceful quiet day to everyone else! I thought this would be a good day to ask a question for which the answer might well be changing for many of you at this very moment. It’s a pretty simple but meaty one, so anyone who misses it today can weigh in over the long weekend, and I hope everyone will enjoy checking back to see all of the answers. The Q is: How many needles and/or hooks do you own, and more so, how do you store them?

To be perfectly clear: I totally have an ulterior motive in asking this one. It’s a problem I’m personally always trying to solve — and am at it again while setting up my new workroom — but it’s also something I get asked constantly with regard to Fringe Supply Co. We’re all looking for the perfect needle storage product, and I have multiple ideas of things I want to develop, but is there even such a thing as perfect needle storage? There are just SO MANY variables, as I’m sure will be evident in the answers to this one. It’s a true conundrum.

Me, for instance, I own all of two pairs of straight needles — one size 50, which have been used once, and one size 17 which were just recently sent to me by my friends at Wool and Gang. What I have loads of are circular needles and DPNs. I own two sets of Dreamz interchangeable circular needles, along with a booster set of the big tips. I love love love them, and those are what I use almost exclusively, but they’re spilling out of the plastic zip pouch they came in, which also won’t last forever. I keep that in my knitting bag with my works-in-progress.

Then there are all of the circs I had accumulated before my sister gave me the Dreamz, which have become my gap fillers and loaners. I found the old metal card-catalog drawers pictured above at the Nashville flea a few months ago and recently sorted this particular motley crew into it. They’re all still in their original packages, so I know what the gauges and lengths are, and are sorted into the drawers by size. (I still need to label the drawers.) There are 39 of them that I can locate at the moment. (Not counting whatever might currently be in use or tossed in various project bags.)

Then there are the DPNs. I own at least 32 sets (same caveat), of just about every type known to man. I also keep them in their original packages, again so I can see the sizes at a glance. I love seeing pics of people’s needles all plopped down in a jar together, but it seems like it would be a nightmare to find four of the same size when you need them, no? I’m toying with the idea of rubber banding them all together and putting them in this Mexican candleholder also seen in the photo up top, so at least they’re in sets. But even then, knowing how the numbers wear off the shafts, I dread the idea of getting out a needle gauge every time I’m trying to locate a size. I’ve toyed with various means of tagging them, but always resort to putting them back in their packages and keeping them all together in a box. But I love the idea of having them out where I can admire them! Along with all of my crochet hooks and Tunisian hooks. So I’m hoping one of you has some brilliant solution for this.

So that’s my two-part question: How many needles/hooks? And are they in a box, a jar, a tool roll, their store packaging, what? What works (or doesn’t) for you? If you’ve posted pictures on the interwebs somewhere, be sure to include a link, please!


PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: What are your odd habits?

Knitalong FO No. 3: Kate Gagnon Osborn

Knitalong FO No. 3: Kate Gagnon Osborn

As you know, Kate Gagnon Osborn is the #fringeandfriendsknitalong panelist who took the most liberties with the Amanda pattern as we went, and I’ve been as eager as the rest of you to see how it turned out. It’s awesome to see that it’s still Amanda and yet not Amanda — and such a good example of how a pattern can be just a jumping off point for an intrepid knitter. Here are Kate’s final thoughts on the project—

. . .

Kate, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m so glad I asked you to be a part of the official panel for this knitalong because you’ve contributed so much to it — not only in the form of blog posts but by completely reinventing Amanda in front of our very eyes. Can you first just briefly summarize the modifications you made?

I’m so glad you asked me! I felt a little bad when I was going rogue, so I’m really glad my contributions were helpful.

“Briefly summarize”? Courtney would argue that’s never possible for me, but I’ll try!

• Cast on fewer stitches for the cuff, increased more sleeve stitches in arm to match the number for the Size M

• Added a braid on either side of the diamond cable pattern, reduced the honeycomb stitches on the sides
Lowered the neck shaping

• Added 1 more diamond cable and one braid for a total of 3 diamonds and 2 braids, reduced the honeycomb stitches on the sides

• Worked set-in sleeve instead of a raglan
• Picked up stitches for the buttonbands
• Lengthened body and sleeves by 1/2 repeat
• Worked all 5 pieces separately and seamed

That’s a lot of mods. And it turned out beautifully. Were there any points in the knitalong, watching others knit the sweater differently, where you wished you had done something a different way?

Gah … I know! And half of them weren’t intentional! Besides adding more cables (which many may not notice at first glance), the biggest structural/visual mod I made was to convert from a raglan to a set-in sleeve. This was actually totally unintentional — I meant to do a raglan all along, but I discovered deep into the back raglan shaping that the addition of the third diamond cable made for really wonky raglan decreases, so set-in sleeves were a much better aesthetic option. A really lovely element of the original design is the way the cables on the sleeves and body beautifully connect at the raglan seam, so a part of me regrets not having this in my sweater to honor Lene’s vision. While I really love the finished product, a small part of me does still wish I could have just left well enough alone and knit the sweater as written!

Adding those extra diamonds and braids (which meant subtracting a lot of honeycomb) gave it a very different look from the average Amanda. Are you happy with how that worked out?

In the long run, yes, I am. I like odd numbers, so I love the three diamonds on the back, and love the look of a braided cable, so I’m happy I added more of them. It definitely caused me more difficulty in sorting out the sweater — there were long stretches where I never consulted the pattern — but I really love the end result.

The other significant design departure you took was with the button bands. The pattern is written for vertical 1×1 ribbed bands. Why did you opt to pick up stitches for horizontal bands instead, and can you also tell us about your decision to increase the number of buttons?

You and I have spoken a lot about the way the button bands are written in the pattern. In all of the images, the seaming appears to be a non-issue, but I was, admittedly, concerned about the way the button band would join to the body without being seamed all the way down. Others with more foresight than I thought to work the button band simultaneously on a smaller needle, which is genius, but I was too far deep into my fronts before considering this as an option. Once my sweater pieces were complete and it was blocked and seamed, I still had the option of doing the button bands vertically and seaming them on. I tried a few different methods of working the selvage stitch, but nothing looked “perfect” enough, so I ended up picking up stitches and working each band, then working the neckline. I chose to work more button holes because I knew I was going to want to button it up at times, so I wanted to avoid the gaping at the bust that sometimes occurs when not enough buttons are used.

By the way, many people say they don’t love picking up stitches for a button band because of the risk of it waving or being stretched out and causing “ruching” on the sweater body. For a fail-safe button band, all you need to know is your stitch gauge (S) and row gauge (R). The ratio of S/R = the ratio of picked up stitches. As an example, if you have 16 sts and 20 rows to 4″, your ratio is 16/20, or 4/5, so you’d pick up 4 stitches for every 5 rows along your front edge.

You were one of the most vocal members of Team Seam, so you were always planning to knit the sweater in pieces, as written. But the pattern has a seamless raglan yoke, which I think you were originally planning to work flat and seam as well, before you decided to switch to set-in sleeves and seamed shoulders. You were averse to the seamless yoke no matter what, correct?

For the Amanda, I didn’t quite see the point of knitting the body in pieces and the yoke in one piece, so it was my intention all along to do the raglan yoke in pieces. When I made the change to a set-in sleeve sweater, keeping it seamed was a no-brainer.

Despite my love for a classic Lopapeysa yoke sweater, I am a firm believer in sweaters with seams, especially at the armholes/shoulders, where garments are stretched out a lot when worn. Some of my love of seaming stems from the yarns I use most frequently — the Fibre Company yarns have a lot of drape, so a good seam is a really key ingredient to a long-lasting garment — but it is mostly because of my sewing background and how I see most garments constructed. I also much prefer knitting smaller pieces, as so much of my knitting is worked on the go. I know (and really respect) people who are not as seam-obsessed as I am, so I do try to stay open-minded and see the benefit of that way of sweater construction. (I think Jaime’s answer to her choice to go full-seamless is really thoughtful and intelligent and a good lesson on how yarn choice and desired end result can go a long way to inform process. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a sweater quantity of Heirloom waiting to be knit up!)

You’ve also said you loved this project because it gave you a chance to knit a sweater for yourself, as opposed to a pattern sample that will travel around to shows and shops instead of living in your closet. Are you happy that sweater was Amanda? And do you have any idea what your next personal knit will be?

Yes! It was complicated enough that it kept my interest, and the end result is very “me” in style. I went through a phase where I exclusively wore cardigans, but (inexplicably) switched to pullovers a year or two ago. Now I’m trying to meet in the middle, and Amanda is the perfect balance, as I can wear it open, but I can also button it up all the way.

My next personal knit? Oh my … I haven’t actually thought of one yet! After an eight-year hiatus, I recently got back into spinning, so I think I am going to try to spin enough yarn to knit myself a sweater.


Thanks again, Kate! And you can also see/save Kate’s sweater and notes on Ravelry. I so love how different our three finished panelists’ sweaters are so far — Jaime’s, Meg’s and now Kate’s. Anna, Rebekka and I are all still cranking along — and ironically, our three sweaters are the most alike so far — but it may be a few weeks before I have any more finished sweaters to show you! The #fringeandfriendsknitalong hashtag is still going strong, so keep on knittin’ on!


PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: FO No. 2: Meg Strong

Knitalong FO No. 2: Meg Strong

Knitalong FO No. 2: Meg Strong

Knitalong panelist Meg Strong dropped by my studio yesterday so I could take the finished photos of her Amanda (in the grainy rainy-day light) and it was all I could do to let her have the sweater back after she kindly permitted me to try it on. As I told her, if I saw this sweater walking down the street, I would totally accost the wearer, ask if it was hand-knit, take a photo, text with Anna about possible pattern choices, and inadvertently launch a whole knitalong in pursuit of that sweater. So there you go!

Meg kindly answered a few questions for us all—

You were sort of playing for both teams — Team Seam and Team Seamless. You knitted the body in one piece but then worked the arms flat, right? What was your reason for not knitting the sleeves seamlessly as well?

In my early days of knitting, I would consider patterns only that were written top-down, for one reason: terrified of seaming!  After knitting many a sweater that met that one requirement, I found they all would tend to fall off my shoulders as the day wore on.  With a little research and many a discussion with knitters that had many more years experience than me, the verdict was that seamed sweaters give your garment structure.  I wanted to keep the sleeves seamed for that one reason, structure. The seam will help keep the sleeve shape with all the tugging that goes on when putting a sweater on and pulling it off.

The decision to knit the body in one piece as opposed to seaming, as the pattern dictates, was made for a few reasons. In a previous post, I explained that I tend to not be overly excited about knitting the same thing twice. So I tend to work both sleeves at the same time.  Same for left and right fronts of a cardigan. The Amanda pattern incorporates these panels of the honeycomb cable, which creates a very rigid, dense fabric.  Knowing the fabric produced would be rigid, I decided to cast on for both left and right fronts along with the back, and worked the body in one piece.  The gamble paid off — the sides are stable, due to the stitch, and the sweater body isn’t “walking” around my body.

Are you happy with your choices? Were there moments in the knitalong where you wished you’d done something the other way around?

Absolutely! Happy with every decision I made!

You’re also the first of the panelists to have attempted a shawl-collar modification, which worked out stupendously — I am totally coveting this sweater. (And it fits me perfectly!) For those like you who had cast on the button-band “tab” along with the waist ribbing, and were thus committed to a vertically knit button band, do you care to share how you did it?

First, love this method of working a button band! The first sewn button band I worked was the Linney Cardigan from Amy Christoffers. I had no idea why I was doing what I was doing, just following directions, but after I wore the sweater numerous times, I knew why that button band was sewn on. It all goes back to structure — again, all the tugging that goes on when putting on a sweater and pulling it off. That button band looks every bit as good today as it did fresh off my needles.

My modification for the shawl collar began on the sleeve joining row. For specifics, definitely take a look at my project page on Ravelry. In general, I decreased 1 stitch at each edge, every other row, until I reached the “neck shaping” directive in the pattern, then continued working the pattern as directed. The actual shawl collar grew out of the button bands. I worked the button bands up to the point that my v-neck modification began, then began to increase 1 stitch, after working the established edge stitch, until I was satisfied with the width of the shawl. For me, that was after I had increased to 31 stitches.

You mentioned to me when we were taking these pics that you realized along the way that you don’t really wear crewneck cardigans, so it’s good that the notion of a shawl-collar mod came up as we were knitting. Are you happy with how it turned out? Anything you’d do differently if you had it to do over again?

I absolutely love my Amanda! I tend to knit items for the meditative aspect of our craft and rarely knit for the challenge. For some people, knitting miles and miles of stockinette fabric absolutely drives them nuts. I, on the other hand, am in absolute bliss. For me, Amanda was a challenge knit — not from a difficulty perspective, but it’s one that required brain power that I usually don’t bring to the knitting table. I will say, however, by the time I got to the yoke, I had the chart memorized and was able to allow my brain to wander and enjoy. I have this overwhelming sense of accomplishment when I look at this sweater. Seventy-five days ago, this sweater was nothing more than yards and yards of yarn — beautiful yarn, but yarn! I am always amazed at what one can create with two sticks, some string and desire. Amazed.

Oh, to the “anything I would do differently” question: yes, how about neglecting to do the first buttonhole and mis-crossing a cable? I would like a do-over on both of those. Who has a magic wand?

And will you be cabling again anytime soon?

Ha! I treated myself to a sweater’s worth of Windham from Jill Draper Makes Stuff, and thought for sure that I would cast on today for a nice relaxing stockinette sweater. I have spent the better half of the day perusing patterns, and every one I have considered for this yarn is, you guessed it … cabled!!


Thanks, Meg! You can see more pics of Meg’s finished sweater on her Ravelry project page. And by the way, there are two more completed shawl-collar Amandas, that I know of: Trm26 on Ravelry and @wendlandcd on Instagram (and Ravelry) — both gorgeous!


PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: FO No. 1: Jaime Jennings