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.
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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.
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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