Top-Down Ideas for me and you

Top-Down Ideas for me and you

I’m so thrilled about all of the enthusiasm for the coming Top-Down Knitalong, and the sketches and swatches already starting to turn up on the #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 feed. I’ve had a couple of people ask what “improvised” means and whether you’re not allowed to have a plan for your sweater going in. Improvised just means knitting without a pattern, but you do that by having a plan — a plan of your very own! Which is based on two things: 1) the gauge you’ll be knitting at (which you derive from a knitted and washed swatch in your intended yarn) and 2) your desired sweater shape and dimensions. It’s not about flying blind, it’s just about making your own plan for a sweater in your own head versus having a pattern tell you what to do.

And on the subject of shape, I’ve also had people ask whether a top-down sweater or a sweater for this knitalong has to be a pullover. Absolutely not! As noted in the preview and the addenda — and the tutorial and the prologue to the tutorial ;) — it can be anything your heart desires. The sample in the tutorial is a plain old crewneck pullover just because that’s the most basic a sweater can get. If that’s what you want in your closet, or you’re nervous about this and want to keep it as simple as possible, that’s a great option. Or you can get all kinds of creative if you like! Make a v-neck or crewneck or shawl-collar; pullover or cardigan or coat; plain or embellished; fitted and fingering or superbulky and slouchy, or anything in between! The possibilities truly are endless.

I still don’t know what I’m going to knit for this (all those endless possibilities …), and thought we could all use a little extra inspiration, so I created a new board on Pinterest called Top-Down Ideas. The captions are full of suggestions about things to consider — from shape to interesting details to how to really think outside the box. The sweaters included are mostly neutral, so you can use your imagination to fill in color or texture or pattern according to your taste.

I hope it gets your wheels turning, and I’d love to hear what you’re thinking about!


PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: FAQ and Addenda


KTFO-2016.12 and 13: Adventure Tank and Seneca Skirt

FOs: Adventure Tank and Seneca Skirt

Having sworn to document all Finished Objects on the blog this year, as well as elaborating on how they fit into my overall wardrobe, I’m posting about these two aforementioned finishes today—

No.12: My first me-made t-shirt — and the first of many Adventure Tanks to come. As I mentioned in my summer sewing plan, this is a Medium and I love it but will make the next one (striped!) in size Small. This looks great with jeans and such on its own, but you can see above it’s a little big to be worn with the skirt and would look better scaled down in comparison, which would also be better for layering under other things. The only change I made was to lengthen it by 1.5″, and then I didn’t hem it (I’m liking it raw) so it wound up 2.5″ longer than the pattern calls for. I couldn’t love this hemp jersey any more than I do — it’s amazing.

No.13: My test sew of Seamwork’s Seneca skirt (designed for jersey), using the leftovers from my blue striped top to see if I would like it in a woven. The verdict: Eh, almost. I don’t think it’s outstanding in this particular fabric (I’ll like it better in something darker) and as previously noted, my plan for the next pass at it is to go up a size for the skirt front/back and gather them to fit the Medium waistband. This one is a straight Medium — only modification I made was to omit the side-seam insert panels and just seam the front and back together.

As with most every garment on earth, I like the skirt best with layers and boots. The question still remains whether I’ll ever really be a skirt person, but becoming a summer-clothes person seems beyond my capacities.

FOs : Adventure Tank and Seneca Skirt

Pattern: Adventure Tank (view B) from Fancy Tiger Crafts
Fabric: Black hemp jersey from Fancy Tiger Crafts bought for $20/yard
Cost: Free download from my CreativeBug account + $6 to print + $20 fabric = $26

Pattern: Seneca from Seamwork Magazine
Fabric: Unknown Japanese cotton remnant bought for $5/yard
Cost: $12 pattern + $7 to print + $7 fabric + $2 elastic + $1 grommets = $29

Also pictured:  black lopi raglan and off-black chunky turtleneck

NOTE: For those of you who were wishing for a pattern for my striped top, above, and its black precursor, I had mentioned that Amber’s Adventure Tank (muscle tank variation, view B) looked like it might prove to be the thing. And I think it’s safe to say it is — just look at the top two photos up there to see how similar they are! To make Adventure in a woven, you might need to go up a size — definitely make sure the neckhole goes over your head — and cut your bands on the bias. For the hi/low split hem, just straighten out the lower sides and hemline, making the front and back panels as long as you want them, and leave a split in the side seam to your liking. Add pockets if you want. Let me know if you try it!


PREVIOUSLY in 2016 FOs: Gathered Skirt, take two

New Favorites: Swans Island’s S/M/L cable scarves

New Favorites: Swans Island's S/M/L cable scarves

I know I don’t have to tell you how happy I am that the annual July seepage of Fall patterns has begun. In a rare deluge, Swans Island published an incredible number of patterns this month, but there doesn’t seem to be any way to see them all collected together. Don’t worry, though — I’ve mined their complete archive in search of the latest additions and will be doling them out for some time! But what better way to ease into the season than to start working on a cable scarf? They’ve presented us with three options:

TOP: At the small end of the scale is the Woodlands Scarf by Talitha Kuomi, narrow and unisex, with symmetrical stacks of thin wishbone cables running up the center

MIDDLE: Clocking in at mid-scale wrap proportions is the Algonquin Wrap by Michele Rose Orne, with a mix of open diamonds and dense braids

BOTTOM: And then there’s the large-scale Fireside Wrap by Leah Coccari-Swift, with its big doughy cables


Thanks so much for reading this week, everyone, and for all the enthusiasm about the upcoming Fringe and Friends Knitalong! I know I’ll be spending a chunk of time this weekend starting to sort out what I want to knit, and I hope you will too! Whatever you’re up to this weekend, I hope it’s a good one …

And if you need anything from Fringe Supply Co., we’re here for you!


PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Retro cable bliss

Top-Down Knitalong: FAQ and addenda

Top-Down Knitalong: FAQ and addenda

There have been some questions and suggestions on the Fringe and Friends Knitalong 2016 announcement — aka the Top-Down Knitalong — and I want to make sure everyone sees those, so I’m collecting them here (and will add to this over time as warranted). Forthwith:


Without a pattern, how do I know how much yarn to buy?

You can only guesstimate, and I usually do so based on the yardage of similar sweaters I’ve knitted in the past. Hannah Fettig created Stashbot for this, which is available both as an app and a printed booklet. You put in the general shape of the sweater you’re planning, your intended chest circumference, and your gauge, and it will estimate yardage for you. Or what I typically do is find a similar sweater on Ravelry — same gauge, volume and type of knitting (don’t compare a cable sweater to a stockinette one, for instance) — and check the yardage requirements on that. No matter which way you derive your estimate, buy more than you think you’ll need, just to be safe. Most yarn stores will let you return unused skeins, but I never mind having a leftover for future repairs/alterations or a hat or whatever.

Can we start planning and sharing now?

Absolutely! That’s why I announced it so far in advance. You’ll need to figure out what it is you’re making; knit, block and measure a swatch; and buy yarn. You can either start that on August 15th, or do the legwork now and be all set to cast on. If you do start dreaming and scheming, by all means go ahead and post it to the hashtag #fringeandfriendsKAL2016. I’m excited to see what you’re thinking about! You might base your sweater on a photo of something you love, or on your own sketch. And of course I highly recommend my beloved Fashionary panels (or the sketchbook) for working out your ideas. I find it HUGELY helpful to use that template when putting my ideas on paper — to tinker with where the hem falls (cropped? high hip? low hip?) and how long the sleeves are, and really zero in on what will look best. For me, it’s definitely a pencil-and-eraser exercise, and a big part of the fun.

Does it have to be a sweater?

It is a sweater knitalong, yes — the idea being to learn how to plan, plot and knit a garment, relying only on a swatch and some grade-school math. One of you asked if it could be a top-down onesie, and that sounds like a full-length sweater to me! (Hey, maybe that’s what I’ll make for myself!) I think as long as it is knitted top-down, without a pattern, and is a garment with a neckhole and sleeves, it qualifies. And again, it can be a pullover or a cardigan, plain or textured or colorwork (whatever you’re capable of planning!), long or short, narrow or wide, crewneck or v-neck or boatneck or turtleneck, cap-sleeved to long-sleeved, for yourself or a friend or family member.


As noted in the announcement, my tutorial covers top-down raglan construction and I don’t have plans to expand on that, but there are other top-down methods you’re welcome to employ — remember, the only rules are top-down and no pattern. If raglan isn’t your thing and/or you just want to try a newer method:

If you’ve never knitted a top-down sweater (or improvised a sweater) before and want to keep it simple, I’d say stick with the basic raglan method for your first time.



PREVIOUSLY in the Top-Down Knitalong: Fringe and Friends Knitalong 2016: Preview and plan

The momentary solace of sheep

Seeking beauty, seeking peace

I don’t know if you’re as stressed-out and alarmed at the state of the world today as I am, but I think it’s a pretty safe bet. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” I believe in peace and believe the only path to peace is acceptance. I believe that all of the shootings and terrorist attacks and discriminatory legislation and divisive rhetoric and condemnations and name-calling all have the same root: fear of otherness. I believe if we can’t learn to love (or at least live with) each other in all our brilliant variety, we’re doomed. And I have no idea how to work at that, as Mrs. Roosevelt said, other than to try to live it every day and hope it rubs off on someone a tiny bit. But most days lately, I find myself doing the opposite — pointing my finger and cussing about whose fault it is, who is inciting or acting out the hate today — and in those moments I’m part of the problem.

And then there are moments where I feel like the top of my head might actually pop off from the anxiety of it all.

What do you do at a moment like that? When you can’t change the world in a heartbeat and need to get your blood pressure down, I find sheep help. Trivial, I know, but also true. My friend Jen sent me a link recently to a site called Google Sheep View (get it?) and then on Mason-Dixon I read about the Instagram account called @sheepwithaview, which is a balm for the soul. It works a little like valium, but it’s free and there are no side effects.

In 100% seriousness, days like these I’m just that much more grateful for this community I find myself part of, and the fact that I get to spend so much of my time concentrating on seeking out and sharing little bits of beauty in the world. You people mean a lot to me.

These photos belong to @visitnorway and their @sheepwithaview account, and hopefully they won’t mind my sharing how beautiful their country is! Looks like a very peaceful place.

Make Your Own Basics: The marinière

Make Your Own Basics: The marinière

Close your eyes and picture every layout you’ve ever seen in a fashion magazine under the heading “10 Pieces Every Wardrobe Needs” or variations thereon. It’s always the perfect jeans, black ballet flats, a white shirt, a trench … and a marinière. Also known as a “Breton,” it’s a version of the original French Navy tee from way back: boatnecked, three-quarter sleeved, blue-and-white striped. While the official marinière hewed to exacting specifications with regard to the number and spacing of the stripes, modern interpretations vary. But perfectly authentic or otherwise, it’s true that no closet ever suffered from the inclusion of a striped tee!

TOP: For sewing your own, Liesl Gibson’s Maritime Top should do nicely — all you need is the right fabric

BOTTOM: If you prefer your marinière knitted, Jared Flood’s Breton pattern is just the thing


PREVIOUSLY in Make Your Own Basics: The tank top (knitted and sewn)

Fringe and Friends Knitalong 2016 : Preview and plans

Fringe and Friends Knitalong 2016 : Preview and plans

The pattern: Improvised top-down — no patterns allowed!
The schedule: August 15 through September 30, 2016
The hashtag: #fringeandfriendsKAL2016

This is by far the most advance notice I’ve ever given about a knitalong — and with good reason! I’m talking about the Fringe and Friends Knitalong for Fall 2016 here, and this one is a little different. Whereas in 2014 we knitted the Amanda fisherman-style cardigan (or other fisherman pattern of your choosing) and in 2015 we knitted the Cowichan-style Geometric Vest (or other Cowichan-style pattern of your choosing), this year there is no pattern. I don’t mean it’s a free-for-all — I mean we’re improvising top-down sweaters, no patterns allowed! So I thought it might be good to give you a little extra time to dream up your sweater, read my tutorial on how to improvise a top-down sweater if you haven’t done it before, and generally prepare for what’s bound to be one helluva fun challenge. Plus we’re starting a little earlier this year, so consider this fair warning!

While I’m insanely proud of the tutorial and the untold number and variety of sweaters that have been knitted from it over the past few years, the photos are horrendous! It’s long been a goal of mine to update the images and some of the text, and I’m currently working on that. It will all be spiffed up before the knitalong begins.


I’ll officially kick off the knitalong on Monday Aug 15 with a simple outline of how top-down works (a new companion to the full tutorial), followed by this year’s Meet the Panel post! (I’ve got a really fun group lined up.) After that, I’ll have a post each week exploring some variations or techniques not included in the original tutorial. We’ll wrap that up at by the end of September (in time for Slow Fashion October to kick off!) and I’ll show you the finished panelist sweaters as they’re completed.


There is no sign-up form or deadline (or Ravelry group to join) or anything like that. To knit along, simply knit along! It can be any sweater you have in your head that works as a top-down sweater — pullover or cardigan, plain or embellished, whatever yarn/gauge your heart desires. My tutorial covers raglan-style sweaters, but if you are familiar with other top-down approaches (such as contiguous set-in sleeves) and want to use those methods, that’s totally cool — as long as A) it’s top-down and B) there’s no pattern. If you’ve never done this before, here’s your chance to learn how to knit without a pattern, completely to your own shape and preferences, and to gain an invaluable understanding of how sweater shaping works in the process — which will make you a more confident knitter and enable you to tailor patterns to your liking in the future!

Ask questions and share your progress in the comments here, and/or use the hashtag #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 wherever you post. You’ll have a whole raft of people willing to help!


Yes, there will be prizes. For this one, I’m going back to the “WIP of the Week” idea from the first year. Post your progress photos between Aug 15 and Sept 30, using hashtag #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 (on Instagram, Ravelry or Twitter) and I’ll pick a winner each week, which I’ll also feature on the blog.

That’s it! I’m soooo excited to see the variety of sweaters that will materialize as part of this, as well as the friendships that always form among participants along the way. Are you excited? Do you already have ideas about what to make? Let’s hear it!

Yarn pictured is Lettlopi in color 1413; brass stitch markers from Fringe Supply Co.