My First Sweater: Marlee Grace

My First Sweater: Marlee Grace

I’m kicking off a new interview series today that’s been on my mind for a bit. My favorite thing I hear from you all is “I got up the nerve to knit my first sweater because of your blog!” That’s a momentous occurrence in any knitter’s life that I want to encourage in any way I can! So I thought it would be fun to talk to a wide variety of knitters about their first sweater — from seasoned vets who might have knitted their first one decades ago to newer knitters who’ve just cast off. When my good friend Marlee Grace of Have Company finished her first sweater two weeks ago, I knew I wanted her to go first. So here she is! Hope you love this, and thanks Marlee!

If you’re still contemplating your first sweater, check out Pullovers for first-timers for my overview and recommendations. And if you missed Marlee in Our Tools, Ourselves, take a look at that too!

. . .

How long had you been knitting when you decided to cast on your first sweater? And what drove you to do it?

I’ve been knitting on and off since I was 10 or so, but always rectangles — ya know, just scarves really. About a year ago, I bought some Lopi from Tolt Yarn and Wool and made the Nordic Wind shawl by cabinfour. That was the first pattern I ever knitted, first ever non-rectangle. It was part of what drove me to want to carry yarn in my shop, which certainly helped drive me to want to make a sweater. In the past year I was able to make hats, socks, more shawls, but the idea of a sweater was still so scary.

What pattern did you choose for your first sweater (if any), and how did you choose it?

I chose the top-down version of Lila by Carrie Bostick Hoge, I was pretty in love with the sloped nature of the bottom and was encouraged by the hashtag on Instagram, #lilakal — it’s inspiring to see so many rad people making the same sweater but with their own yarn/color/style choices. BUT that was scary like HOW WILL I MAKE A SLOPE, what if I mess up, how will I learn the skills needed?!

I also chose top-down because it felt the most intuitive to me. I knew I could decrease and increase, add stitches, pick up stitches, a lot of the language made sense to me after having made socks and shawls.

What yarn did you use, and why?

I used Quince & Co. Lark (worsted weight) in the color Petal. Have Company (the shop/artist residency/gallery I own) started carrying Quince & Co. last July, and it’s been staring at me, whispering ‘turn me into clothes Marlee‘ and I’ve especially wanted to make a sweater out of it. I love their colors, patterns, USA-sourced wool magic, and feel grateful to have a lil shop filled with it.

What size did you knit? And did you feel like you knew how to choose the right size, with regard to intended ease and all that?

Definitely still navigating this side of knitting, and was part of why I was always so hesitant. I am a pretty loose knitter, often needing to go down one to two needle sizes from what is suggested on a pattern. The pattern called for size 7 needles and I made a swatch with size 6 and was right on! I even knit it in the round and blocked it like a pro, but once I got into it and started knitting I was off [gauge]! I had 20 sts per 4″ instead of 19. However I like things baggy and picked a size with a lot of room, so knowing it would be a tad smaller [due to my smaller stitches] was fine. And in the end the fit was literally perfect so I guess it worked out!

Lila is knitted in the round. Had you knitted your swatch flat, or did you know to knit it in the round? 

I did knit it in the round.

My First Sweater: Marlee Grace

Was there anything that surprised you about the pattern or sweater along the way? What was the most challenging or interesting part for you?

I think the most challenging part was that the sweater didn’t match my swatch, even though it was literally the exact same yarn, needles, etc., that I swatched with. It made me feel a little defeated, like come on universe I finally did this thing you told me to do and it wasn’t really right.

The other part that’s hard for me, partly I think because I knit so loose and because it’s new to me, is when you go to pick up stitches to make the sleeves. It felt like I was going to have huge holes in the underarm, so I picked up a few extras and then just knit them together. This definitely seemed to help, but in terms of construction/technique that was definitely the most awakward part for me.


1) It’s not uncommon for your sweater gauge to vary slightly from your swatch gauge — especially with top-down where you have so much fabric on the needles. It could be that, your stress level, lots of things. It’s always a good idea once you’ve knitted a few inches to stop and measure your sweater gauge so you can make any adjustments if needed. Also, hopefully you blocked your swatch before measuring it, whereas you haven’t blocked your sweater yet.

2) Gaps at the armholes are perfectly common in seamless sweaters and thumb gussets. What Marlee did intuitively is the standard fix: Pick up an extra stitch at each end and then decrease them out on the next round. When you weave in your ends, use them to do any further cinching up that might be needed.

Did you make any modifications, or did you knit the pattern exactly as written?

I did! I cropped that baby up! I prefer to wear high-waisted pants or dresses, so I like to wear my sweaters short. I cropped it maybe 2 or 3 inches. The cool part about making the top-down version of Lila is you can just try it on to see how long you want it.

Also holy empowerment to make a sweater and have it be the EXACT length you want it to be.

Were there any particular people or resources you leaned on in tackling this sweater?

To learn how to pick up the stitches for the sleeves I used YouTube — my go-to knitting teacher. And I was lucky to be finishing it when Jaime Jennings of Fancy Tiger Crafts was in residence here. Jaime has an incredible collection of handknit sweaters and is just a generally beautiful and encouraging friend. She was working on a sweater while she was here and kept helping me stay excited. Once you finish that first sleeve it’s easy to feel bored knowing you still have another one to make :)

And I had trouble reading the part of the pattern for the sleeve. Like you knit normal 7 times, then do an increase round, then you repeat that series 9 times, but I just increased 9 times in a row and had this funny little pleat and a sleeve made for a doll. Jaime set me straight.

How did you feel when you finished — and how did it turn out, as compared to your goals and expectations for it? Do you wear it?

Finishing my sweater was a powerful moment in an otherwise really difficult week. My dad was in the hospital (he is home and healing now) but it was really scary, and I was hanging with him a lot and knitting in his hospital room. His mother, who passed away before I was born, was an incredible knitter and I’ve always felt a connection with her spirit through my own knitting and quilting practice. She knit dozens of sweaters, cables galore, some of the most immaculate garments I’ve ever seen.

So casting off sitting with him was exciting for both of us. I got to try it on and spin around and show it off, and we both relished in this legacy passed through her blood to him and into me.

AND it fits like a dream! Like I said, I knit for the 40.5 size but it ended up being 38, which was perfect! So see, no mistakes, just the universe looking out.

Would you recommend this pattern to other first-time sweater knitters?

YES! The pattern is well written and easy to follow. Plus it’s simple, knitting and purling, and learning Sunday Short Rows is WAY easier than expected and makes you feel like you are a brilliant and fancy knitter.

I love Sunday short rows. So do you have your next sweater picked out?

Yes! Since I finished this one while Jaime and Lizzy House were residents we decided to all cast on the same sweater and host a knitalong together! We’ll be casting on the Agnes Sweater today [February 1st] in Quince and Co. Puffin. Folks can join in and follow along with the hashtag #havefancyhouse — and there will be prizes ;)


Thank you, Marlee! For anyone wanting to read more about how top-down sweaters work, see How to improvise a top-down sweater.

My First Sweater: Marlee Grace

Anna Vest KAL: pattern details

Anna Vest Knitalong: Pattern details

Hey, happy Saturday — just popping in with a quick addendum to Thursday’s official plan for the Anna Vest knitalong. There’s less pattern detail on the Ravelry page than I had realized, so for those who don’t already have the book to refer to, here are the vitals:


Approximately 520 (603, 688, 774, 873, 968) yd / 476 (552, 630, 708, 799, 886) m worsted-weight yarn

Shown in Thirteen Mile Worsted (100% Organic Wool, 210 yd / 192 m per 100 g skein). Color: Light Gray Heather; 3 (3, 4, 4, 5, 5) skeins. (See Thursday’s post about a yarn discount from Tolt.)


Needle sizes are recommendations only. Always use needle size necessary to achieve given gauge.

Needle A: Main Fabric
US8 / 5.00mm straight or circular needles; optional DPNs for pocket linings

Needle B: Ribbing
US6 / 4.00mm straight or circular needles (two sizes smaller than Needle A) and 16-in circular for armhole edging

Needle C: Button Band
US5 / 3.70mm straight or double-pointed needles (three sizes smaller than Needle A)

2 stitch markers, blunt tapestry needle, 5 18-20mm buttons and matching thread and needle to attach


20 sts / 27 rows = 4 in / 10 cm in Andalusian Stitch with US8 needle


Womens’ Sizes S (M, L, 1X, 2X, 3X); shown in size M
Chest Circumference: 34 (38, 42, 46, 50, 54) in / 86 (96.5, 106.5, 117, 127, 137) cm
Intended Ease: 1–2 in / 2.5–5 cm for a tailored fit; 4–6 in / 10–15 cm for a slouchier look

The model is wearing the size M/38″ with 3″ of positive ease.

ALSO: I thought the book was available as either a print or ebook, but it turns out the digital version is included with purchase of the print book and not sold separately. My apologies for being misleading/confusing on that point. For those of you concerned about the Canadian conversion rate,  there are a couple of Canadian stores that have stocked the book, so check to see if you can order it from them — Bad Anna’s in Vancouver and Beehive in Victoria.

The official plan for the Anna Vest knitalong

The official plan for the Anna Vest knitalong

Ok, lovelies — I’m thrilled so many of you have piped up to say you’re psyched about knitting the Anna Vest with me next month! So here are all the official knitalong details—


We’ll be knitting my Anna Vest pattern, which is contained in the book Farm to Needle, published by and available through Tolt Yarn and Wool. It’s a really beautiful and important book full of several fantastic patterns along with profiles of the yarns and the farms they come from. And it’s available as a print book or an e-book. For pattern sizes and yardage, see Ravelry.


The pattern is written for the remarkable undyed worsted from Thirteen Mile (which you can read all about in the book!) and my friends at Tolt have kindly offered 10% off purchases of this yarn (undyed or plant dyed) for knitalong participants. Use code ANNAVESTKAL at checkout — offer good through 02.03.16.


Official cast-on day is February 15th, and I’ll kick things off that day with a blog post about how to knit the inset pockets. Other than that, this is a super casual knitalong — no deadline, no sign-up process, no prizes, no panelists. Just some knitters happily knitting together, and winding up with great garments!


Tag your pics and projects with #annavestkal on social media and Ravelry so everyone can see what you’re up to.


Please note that there’s an error in the print book: “Page 73, Next row (WS): BO 6 sts, work in pattern to end of row, continuing neck shaping as follows:” — should be deleted. It seems to only be a problem for the Right Front (Left Front is okay).”


One thing I want to note about choosing a size for this pattern: When I finished the predecessor to this vest and wore it to Stitches South, countless people of all heights, shapes and bust sizes came into the booth and asked to try it on, and it looked awesome on every single person! It looks good slouchy, with positive ease, and just as good fitted, with negative ease. I almost didn’t have the pattern graded for that reason, and have now seen the Anna sample on a range of bodies as well, and witnessed the same phenomenon. So while the pattern does offer a range of sizes, I’m mentioning that you almost can’t go wrong with the size 38.

So that’s it —I’m really looking forward to knitting this with you all!

Knit the Look: Charlotte Groeneveld’s cozy turtleneck

Knit the Look: Charlotte Groeneveld's cozy turtleneck

How pretty does fashion blogger Charlotte Groeneveld look in this big shell pink overcoat wrapped around a simple grey turtleneck over ivory culottes? I know a lot of people recoil from this shade of pink (I personally love it) but who can argue with the sweater? To knit your own, all you need is Michele Wang’s new Cadence pattern — just skip the textured stitch on the body if you like. And it’s written for Brooklyn Tweed’s Shelter, which offers the perfect icy-pale grey in Snowbound. I did a little bit of Google image searching to try to get a better look at the neck on Charlotte’s sweater, and it’s either a mock tneck or just a snugger, skimpier turtleneck. So if you prefer that look, knit to the smallest neck size your head will allow and cut down the height of the ribbing by a couple of inches. Then extend the cuff ribbing by few inches as well.

See Vanessa’s original post for more get-the-look suggestions.


PREVIOUSLY in Knit the Look: Ultra-stockinette scarf


Street style photo © Vanessa Jackman; used with permission

Queue Check — January 2016

Queue Check — January 2016

This whole Queue Check series of posts started rather spontaneously last year, but reading this IG post by Sara yesterday I realized how truly helpful it’s been in keeping me organized and on track and accountable to myself. Not that I’ve finished everything I’ve started, or never ventured off course, but at least there’s a record of it all to refer back to! So here’s where things stand in this first month of the year—

Bob’s sweater — there’s light at the end of this tunnel; hoping to finish within a week
Seathwaite Hat — waiting for me to have a quiet daylight moment to do the join round on the brim
1898 Hat — waiting for me to finish Seathwaite
My grey sweater — on hold until after the quickie black raglan

– The quickie black raglan Lettlopi — casting on the instant I finish Bob’s (improvising it)
– The Penguono x Joseph cardigan — delayed by the snowstorm, but it should be cast on this Saturday
– Version 2 of my modified Hemlock Tee in this salt-and-pepper Italian wool
– Blue-and-white stripe cotton tunic — i.e., first of several sleeveless band-collar Gallery Tunics

But wait! You may recall there’s one more WIP on the shelf — the black vest I cast on last fall from my own Anna Vest pattern. I mentioned before I’d love to do this as a (totally casual) knitalong. If I set a date for sometime in mid/late February, how many of you would want to join me? It’s a perfect winter-into-spring garment!

p.s. I’ll be knitting and available to offer advice at Craft South tonight from 5-7. If you’re in the Nashville area, come knit with me!


PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: Queue Check Deluxe: Holiday 2015

New Favorites: Welcome basics, part 2

New Favorites: Welcome basics, part 2

The second big collection this month featuring some good ‘ol hardworking basics is Kelbourne Woolens’ Acadia Collection, built entirely around the undyed colors of The Fibre Co’s Acadia yarn. Great hat, great scarf, great vest, and these two simple beauties—

TOP: Echo Lake by Courtney Kelley is the perfect blank canvas of a set-in sleeve sweater

BOTTOM: Beech Hill by Leah McGlone is a lovely, simple ruana that would also be fun to play with


PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Welcome basics, part 1

Idea Log: Penguono x Joseph

Idea Log: Penguono x Joseph

Early Wednesday morning, I got a text from my sweet friend Rebekka, who was all lit up about knitting Stephen West’s Penguono cardigan and wanted to know if I would knit it with her. Like, starting tomorrow. Since I’ve long wondered what an understated version of this sweater would look like, I was quick to say yes, and the more I redrew and rearranged and recolored it in my head, the more I realized my version would be heavily influenced by these Joseph pants from the Pre-Fall 2016 collection that I cannot stop thinking about. (I might be starting a fund in the hope of having however much money they cost by the time they hit stores this summer. If, god willing, they do.) (Note to the reader who asked: Net-a-Porter carries Joseph.) I’m imagining the sweater all in ivory with slightly darker side panels and a big black patch pocket on the front. Possibly knitted; possibly boiled wool, with a flap. It’s fun to daydream about.

So in that moment, I got all excited about the idea of this sweater. And then I remembered I’m not supposed to be casting on sweaters willy-nilly. There’s Bob sweater still with hours upon hours of its stockinette body to be knitted. There are two unfinished hatalong hats waiting patiently in my Field Bag. There’s my very real need and very strong desire for that black pullover that’s supposed to be next. And there’s this crazy Penguono idea that could be a lot of much-needed fun or could be a lot of valuable knitting time poured into an idea that doesn’t pan out. And it’s soooo much knitting.

There’s the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other, and this is the conversation they’re having. I’m in the middle, thinking I’ll most likely cast on, knit it in the designated hours with Rebekka and in the gaps among other things after that (for the next two years, prolly!) and see if anything ever comes of it. I mean, it’s a stash-buster and my stash needs busting, right?

IN EXCITING SHOP NEWS: We’ve got fresh stock of the Stowe Bag sewing pattern and the Maple Hand Loom Kit, as well as the elusive grey Field Bag (also in black and natural). Along with all the other beautiful things at Fringe Supply Co.!

UPDATE: We’re having major snowstorm in Nashville today and won’t be driving to the studio or anywhere else. We’ll resume shipping just as soon as road conditions allow!