The simple joy of seaming

How to work mattress stitch

Can I just take a minute to publicly say how awesome Kate Gagnon Osborn is? When she signed on as a member of our Panel of Experts for the #fringeandfriendsknitalong, she offered to share her seaming wisdom (and enthusiasm). In the meantime, she’s taught us all so much more: how to accurately measure gauge with a cable swatch, how to account for post-blocking changes in row gauge, how to work increases “in pattern,” and even how to rewrite neck shaping. She blows my mind on a regular basis. (And we’ve laughed a little over how few comments there have been on her ultra-detailed posts. Did she blow your minds, too?) And now it’s finally time to talk about seaming! Kate has an excellent tutorial on the Kelbourne Woolens site (in their ever-expanding Tips & Tricks section) and I can’t see any point in reinventing the wheel. So she’s updated that tutorial with Amanda photos and you can read it at the other end of this link: How to work mattress stitch. (Thanks for being you, Kate!)

Despite my ongoing issues with knitting sweater pieces (all of which boil down to ADD) I genuinely enjoy the act of seaming those pieces together. It is so easy and so magical, pulling that strand and seeing pieces come together to form a whole.

So after blocking your joined sweater and sewing up those side and sleeve seams, all that’s left is to finish off the button bands, including working the button holes, and pick up stitches for the neck band. For guidance on picking up stitches, particularly for the curved portions of a neckline, the best resource I know is Pam Allen’s passage on the subject in Knitting for Dummies, which I think everyone should own. I also love her discourse on button holes in that same book. For those of you who don’t own it, I refer you to the buttonhole/band episode of Well worth a listen!

From here on out, I’ll be checking in with our panelists as they finish their sweaters, starting with Jaime Jennings. And I also have more to say about the specific tiny mods I’ve made to my Amanda. And of course, we’ll all be watching the hashtag for as long as there are people using it!


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Photos © Kate Gagnon Osborn

New Favorites: BT’s best shawl collars

New Favorites: Brooklyn Tweed's best shawl-collar cardigans

When I was talking to someone recently (can’t remember who/where) about putting a shawl collar on my Amanda cardigan for the #fringeandfriendsknitalong, they said something about how on-trend that will be. And I suppose it will, but it got me thinking. There are definitely lots of shawl collars in the stores right now, but aren’t there always? I genuinely don’t think there’s ever been a year when there haven’t been amazing shawl-collar cardigans I’m dying to own. Certainly the shapes and details vary, and they may be more “in” one year than the next, but a shawl-collar cardigan is never out of style. And I think that timelessness is a big part of why I keep casting them on! It seems perfectly reasonable to me to invest large chunks of knitting time on a garment that cozy, and that I believe has a greater chance of wearing out than falling out of fashion. So that train of thought and yesterday’s Wool People release got me looking at the Best of Brooklyn Tweed shawl collars:

TOP: Field by Kazekobo, the newest entry, from Wool People 8. Honeycomb on the body, reverse stockinette sleeves, and compound raglan shaping — a total classic. Plus based on the gauge, it appears to be the perfect pattern from which to borrow the neck shaping and collar method for a shawlified Amanda. (Was there anyone at BT reading these posts thinking “Hold on! We have the perfect candidate!”?)

ROW 2 LEFT: Channel Cardigan by Jared Flood, from BT Winter ’14, knit-purl splendor already on my needles. Even though I’m planning to leave out some of the details that make it so exceptional, I think this is the Sweater of the Year.

ROW 2 RIGHT: Timberline by Jared Flood, from BT Men. I could stare at those intricately branching cables all day, and think the collar on this one is perfection.

MIDDLE: Little Wave by Gudrun Johnston, from Wool People 6, textured stitch panels with garter-stitch accents. And pockets! This one didn’t make that huge of an impression on me until I tried on the sample and fell in love. (I’ve also been taking a second, third and fourth look at Persimmon lately.)

BOTTOM LEFT: Burr by Veronik Avery, from BT Fall ’12, in stockinette with stylized shaping. Looks like such a simple sweater, and then you start to notice all the amazing, subtle details.

BOTTOM RIGHT: Bellows by Michele Wang, from BT Fall ’14, allover texture with cable accents. Seriously, it’s all I can do to not cast this on before finishing Amanda and Channel. And actually, my all-time favorite BT shawl collar might be another Michele design: the Arlo kids cardigan.

I wish I had every one of them in my closet right now and forever.


PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Offshore

Amanda neck shaping, part 2: Kate reworks the crewneck

Amanda neck shaping, part 2: Kate reworks the crewneck

As promised in neck shaping part 1 yesterday, I’m talking to panelist Kate Gagnon Osborn (aka @kelbournewoolens) today about the mods she’s made to her Amanda, which are extensive and stunning, including how and why she reshaped the neck — and how you can too, if you’re so inclined.

. . .

Dearest Kate, you’ve made a few changes to your Amanda. Tell us about them.

I went off the rails a little bit with this pattern. I agreed (was honored, really), to participate in this knitalong as a panel member, as it provided me with the opportunity to knit a sweater for me — something I have not done since, well, I really don’t know when — and I loved the idea of an open-ended yet educational knitalong. My intention from the start was to treat it as my “mindless project” — to follow the pattern as written, not worry too much about it, and end up with a sweater. With the added bonus of not having to write, size, edit, and publish a pattern at the end of it all.

And I knit the sleeves as written. Almost. I cast on a few less stitches for the cuff, as I was worried they flared as written. But that was it. No other mods. And then I jumped into the back, and had every intention of knitting it as written, too. But I find odd numbers to be exceedingly pleasing, so I tweaked it a bit to give myself three diamond cables. Which meant that the patterning was wider than the raglan would allow (a really lovely design element in the sweater as written — if you look at the raglan shaping on the fronts and back in relation to the diamond panels, they all work together beautifully) so set-in sleeves it was. Then came the fronts. I was really enamored of the braid, so I added a few of those, and went on my merry way. After the armhole shaping to match the back, I got to the neckline. At this point, I felt like a rogue panel member high on wool fumes — I had modified so much, I needed to work the neck as written. But you had mentioned you thought the neck was a little floppy and too high. A perfect opportunity for more mods, yes? So modify I did!

I should state that this is a matter of personal opinion; there’s nothing empirically *wrong* with the neck as written. But if you agree with me, what do you think is the issue?

The pattern has you work 2 yoke setup rows + 1 raglan decrease row + 34 (36, 36, 38) additional raglan rows (decreasing every other row), for a total of 37 (39, 39, 41) rows — or 5.5 (5.75, 5.75, 6)” — before the neck shaping begins. You then work the remaining raglan decreases and neck shaping over 12 rows, or 1.75″, for a total raglan depth of 7.25 (7.5, 7.5, 7.75)” After the yoke is complete, a 1.25″ neckband is worked, leaving a mere .5″ (1.75 minus 1.25) between the top of your front neck and shoulder height.

This is very classic, but one of the issues I have with raglans (primarily top-down) is that many do not account for the necessary difference in front and back neck height (depth). Without the space between the neck ribbing and your physical body, the fabric has no where to go if not secured (buttoned) at the highest point, and will naturally flop out when worn.

What did you do differently with your neck shaping?

My back armhole depth is 8″, plus I worked .75″ of short-row shaping at the shoulder, for a total of 8.75″ length at the neck edge, measured from where the armhole shaping begins. I wanted about 3.25″ difference between the top of my shoulder and the top of my front neck after working the 1.25″ ribbing, so that meant I needed to begin my neck shaping 3.25″ + 1.25″ = 4.5″ before my armhole is complete. Since I knew my depth already from working the back, subtracting my neck shaping depth from my armhole depth at the neck edge, I got 8.75″ – 4.5″ = 4.25″. Meaning I needed to begin my neck shaping after working 4.25″ up from the start of my armhole.

That is quite a bit lower than the Amanda pattern begins its shaping. Amanda has you bind off (or set aside, rather) 10 stitches, then bind off 3 stitches at the beginning of the next 10 rows (i.e. 5 times on each side of the neck). So it’s sort of terraced. Do you have a preferred tactic for shaping a crewneck?

I recommend binding off about 1-2 inches of stitches at the neck edge, then I decrease at the neck edge every row a few times, then every other row a few times, then work straight to the end. Since I’m working set-in sleeves, not a raglan, I don’t have to worry about “eating up” all of my stitches at the end of the shaping. This makes things a little easier when messing around with the neck stitches, so I usually decrease until I like the curve, then knit straight up to the end. (It is basically like working a deeper, more pronounced set-in sleeve armhole, but at the neck!)

So for those who are knitting a seamless raglan yoke as written, but wanting to lower the front neckline, would it work to just knit the neck shaping as written but start it a couple of inches sooner?

Short answer: yes.

Long answer: yes, but the shaping as written is designed to eat all the neck stitches over those few rows, so you may have shallow, wide shaping, then a long bit of working straight. It’s all a matter of personal preference.

And for the more intrepid among us who might want to give the front neck a curve more like yours, what would you advise?

As I mentioned, it is a little harder to figure out the neck shaping when it comes to raglans, because you need to eat up all of the neck + raglan stitches in order to have a smooth neckline shape, and the specific numbers directly relate to which raglan row you decided to begin your shaping on. (This is another reason why many raglans do not have neck shaping – the front is just left straight across to mimic the back, and the flat fronts, sleeves, and flat back create a nice oval shape.)

In order to sort out a deeper neck and the corresponding numbers, you need to work some basic arithmetic to figure out your shaping:

I’ll use the second size as an example. Say you want your neckline to begin 4.5″ from the tops of the shoulders, and you’re working a raglan depth of 7.5″ as written, you need to begin your neck shaping at 7.5″ – 4.5″ = 3″ after the armhole join. At a gauge of 7 rows/inch, that’s 21 rows from the join till you start shaping. So you would work the 2 yoke set-up rows, the raglan decrease row, and then 9 more decrease rows (decrease rows being every other row).

Still using size 2 for our example, we know from the pattern that each front has 43 stitches at the join. Over those first 21 rows, 1 stitch on each front is decreased in the set-up row, then 1 additional stitch on each front 10 times at the raglan for a total of 11 stitches decreased. So at the start of your neck shaping, you would have 43 – 11 = 32 stitches total on each front. If you read through the rest of the pattern, it calls for a total of 51 rows in the yoke (2 yoke setup, 37 raglan shaping, 12 neck shaping), of which you’ve worked 21 so far. So you have 30 rows to go, half of which (15) are raglan decrease rows.

With 32 stitches left and 15 of them going to raglan decreases, you have 17 stitches to use for neck shaping over your 30 remaining rows. I would divide them into thirds: 5 + 6 + 6. Bind off 5 stitches, then decrease 1 stitch every row 6 times, then every other row 6 times, working all of the neck shaping over 19 rows. For the last 10 rows, work only the raglan decreases.

. . .

Kate, you’re awesome.

One last thing I want to stress about neck shaping is that it’s largely a matter of personal preference and personal body shape. Amanda (or any sweater) might be perfect for you as written, or it might take some tweaking and retrying. Same goes for Kate’s scenario, above. Props to @wendlandcd for trying this one as written, finding it lacking for her body shape, and being undaunted about ripping back and trying a v-neck instead. This is the beauty of knitting! It’s not like sewing, where once you’ve cut the fabric, your options are limited. With knitting, you can always rip and adjust — especially when it’s only a few inches of knitting, like a neck or yoke. When you put so much into a sweater, take the time to get it just right. For you.


PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: Amanda neck shaping, part 1: Karen plots a shawl collar

Amanda neck shaping, part 1: Karen plots a shawl collar

Amanda neck shaping, part 1: Karen ponders a shawl collar

When I’d been knitting for about three months, I signed up for a full weekend of classes at Stitches West, ranging from one-hour workshops on fixing mistakes, knitting backwards and continental knitting, to a half-day class on Tunisian crochet and a full-day class on the top-down sweater method. I’m pretty sure it was the fixing mistakes teacher I’m remembering having opened up the floor to questions at the end. Someone asked, “What do you think it’s really important to get good at?” Which was an interesting question, I thought. And the teacher responded, “Neck shaping.” Which seemed completely out of left field to me, being a total newb in a room full of newbs. I couldn’t imagine why I would ever need to know how to do that myself, and had no clue how one would go about learning it. OMG. Of course, I wound up inadvertently learning the basics of it in that top-down sweater class, and I’ve drawn on that ever since. I’m comfortable calculating the rate of increase on a top-down sweater, based on whether I want a crewneck or V-neck or whatever, and can turn that around for a bottom-up. Which is about to come in handy.

I mentioned back in our Meet the Panel post that I was concerned about the neck shaping on Amanda. There is only one photo of the sweater in the book (!) and the model’s hair is obscuring the neckline, but it still gave me pause. I looked at the project photos on Ravelry and it does seem to be a case where the neck doesn’t sit quite right on some people, with the tops of the button bands wanting to flap forward and outward. It’s because the neck shape is high, wide and shallow — almost like high boatneck. Buttoned all the way up, it sits the way a high boatneck would. But split open into a cardigan, those high fronts have nothing to anchor them.

We’ll get into more detail about this tomorrow, in part 2. But meanwhile, I’m here to tell you that it won’t be an issue for me after all, as I’ve decided to make my Amanda into a shawl-collar cardigan instead! Reader Callie C asked in the comments recently whether it would be “easy” to make this alteration — specifically, to give Amanda a Bellows collar — noting that she has not knitted a cardigan before. Easy is in the eye of the beholder, but I responded as follows:

I wouldn’t say it would be “easy” but it could certainly be done. The biggest trick is you’d have to change the neck shaping. If you look at the shape of the main fabric on Bellows, it’s a v-neck shape, with the fronts gradually sloping away from each other. You’d have to create that curved edge in order to do a Bellows-style band. For a shawl collar like that, you pick up stitches all the way up one front, around the neck, and back down the other front, and work your ribbing outward from there, and the shawl-collar part itself is created with short rows.

Given that they’re both worsted-weight sweaters, I would buy the Bellows pattern and compare the row gauges (its, Amanda’s, yours) to see if you could just use the neck-shaping numbers from Bellows and then work the collar from that pattern, too. But even if it’s not a perfect 1:1, you could see how Bellows is done and then apply that same thinking to Amanda.

… I should note that you’d be applying that shape to a raglan yoke (Amanda is raglan; Bellows is set-in sleeves), so it wouldn’t be worked exactly the same way as the Bellows fronts. …

Once she got me started, I couldn’t stop thinking about how great a shawl collar would be. Of course, no two shawl collars are alike: There are deep-V, narrow, professorial types, and high-V, super-round Peter Pan-ish types. I’m doing this despite the fact that the other two sweaters I currently have in progress — Channel and Slade (the poor thing) — are both shawl collars, but they’ll all be quite different. I think the shaping on Bellows is pretty perfect, but bought the pattern and the gauge is drastically different than mine/Amanda’s. I hadn’t realized it’s two strands of Shelter (worsted) held together and knitted at bulky gauge. Still useful for seeing the rate of the slant and where it begins and ends. (And I imagine I’ll be knitting Bellows one day anyway — especially knowing it’s bulky!) So I’m on the hunt for other patterns with good shawl shaping and a more similar row gauge — e.g. The Shepherd Cardigan! — but I’ll probably wind up just winging it, and redoing if need be. (Why row gauge, you ask? Because to make this mod, we need to concern ourselves with how many rows are worked within the yoke section, and figure out how many decreases to distribute at what rate amongst those rows. Plus picking up stitches along the selvage is about how many stitches you’ll pick up into the ends of how many rows.)

It’ll be awhile before I get to the neck shaping — I still have half my sleeves plus my back to do — but once I get to it, assuming it works out, I promise to share my notes.

Tomorrow I’m talking to Kate about her many mods, how they led to her set-in sleeve alteration, and what she suggests for tweaking Amanda’s neck shape.


PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: WIP of the Week, week 6

New Favorites: Offshore

New Favorites: Offshore

Swans Island released a little pattern collection a few weeks ago called The All American Collection, and I can’t get this Bristol Ivy pattern, Offshore, off my mind. Slouchy and unisex, it has some handsome cables up the front of a simple stockinette sweater, and another one running up one sleeve, across the saddle shoulder (love a saddle shoulder) and back down the other sleeve. It looks like a such an easy but engaging knit, and the slouchy, unisex, sweatshirt-y shape looks so perfectly cozy to me right now — great for weekdays and weekends alike.

See also: Oranmore.


p.s. In case you haven’t already seen it, I added a photo to the end of Thursday’s post about joining Amanda parts at the underarm — a spectacular photo of a just-joined Amanda. Go look!


PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Uncommon cables

WIP of the Week, week 6

WIP of the Week

We’ve still got a few salient matters to discuss for the #fringeandfriendsknitalong — this whole thing has gotten more in-depth than I imagined! — but nevertheless, today is the last of the WIP of the Week prizes. This one is going to Tracey Alice Cox, aka traceyalice on Ravelry and @knittertraceyalice on Instagram. Tracey is knitting an Alice Starmore pattern called Na Craga, and has posted a slew of the most beautifully lit photos, week after week since this all began. She’s also making a slew of interesting mods — turning the boxy, late-’90s, drop-shouldered men’s pullover into a saddle-shoulder cardigan for herself, by way of a steek. I can’t wait to see the transformation!

And what has Tracey won? Well, Purl Soho’s Worsted Twist — the yarn at the center of my personal peak knitting experience — got even better this week, when it was released in softly heathered colors. It’s called Worsted Twist Heather, and Tracey has won 10 skeins!

Congratulations to Tracey on the win, and to Purl Soho on the release. And thanks again to all of our generous prize donors: Purl Soho, Tolt Yarn and Wool, Tonofwool, Fancy Tiger Crafts, Kelbourne Woolens and, of course, Fringe Supply Co. This may be the end of the weekly prizes, but I’ll be continuing to spotlight the incredible garments that are coming out of this knitalong, as I continue to be blown away by you all.

. . .


— Don’t forget I’ll have a booth tomorrow at Fiber in the ’Boro, in Murfreesboro TN. I’m hoping to see some of you there!

— It’s official: I’ll be at Tolt Yarn and Wool’s Stitch Night on Thursday Nov 13, in Carnation WA, from 6-8. Come knit with us and ask me whatever you want and check out Anna’s amazing store.

— There are some very sweet new buttons at Fringe Supply Co today, and I’m happy to report than the beloved little red row counter is back in stock! As are a few sizes/colors of the narrow-rim buttons and the concave horn buttons. So pretty! If the size or finish you’re wanting in these latter two buttons is out of stock, never fear — there are more being made just for us!

Have a wonderful weekend, everybody—


PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: Joining sweater parts at the underarm: Here comes the fun!

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 a non-issue 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

. . .

UPDATE #2: After this post went up on Thursday morning, Simone/@waldorfmanufaktur commented that she was ready to join her pieces, and this morning she posted the most amazing photo, and gave me permission to use it. So here it is in living color, the five pieces joined into one:

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

Unlike my scribbles, here you can actually see the bound-off underarm stitches, which get seamed closed once the sides and sleeves are seamed together. Thanks, Simone!

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


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