For those of you wanting to incorporate a stitch pattern into your improvised top-down sweater, I’m going to do my best to explain how to do so. As much as I believe I have a grasp on the theory, I have only just done it for the first time (see above), so if anyone among you has superior sage advice to offer, please do speak up in the comments!
However you go about this, the tricky bit is “increasing in pattern,” right? If you establish a stitch pattern at the start of your neck, each section of the sweater (two arms, a front and a back) will get wider (more stitches) with every increase that you do. So you need to be able to figure out what each new stitch wants to be when you work it on its first row of existence. (Depending how you’re doing your increases, it may just be an increase stitch — i.e. a kfb — on the row where you create it, and you don’t need to decide what it is until the next row when you come back to it.) If you’re doing a really simple, symmetrical, 1-row pattern — like, say, 1×1 ribbing — it’s easy to figure out what each new stitch is, because it’s binary. If it’s next to a knit stitch, it will be a purl, and vice versa. Seed stitch, moss stitch, other simple repetitive patterns can be determined like that — just by looking at what’s sitting on your needles and deciding what the adjacent stitch should be.*
However, it gets more complicated if you’re using a more complex stitch pattern and if you’re doing neck shaping. I’m gonna break this down by difficulty level—
The easiest way of all to use a stitch pattern on your sweater would be to not start it until after all of the shaping is complete! You could definitely have a plain yoke with patterning around the lower parts of the body and sleeves.
The easiest ways to incorporate a stitch pattern on your yoke are: A) do the Reversible method described in the tutorial so you’ve got your full compliment of stitches in all four sections of your sweater and can simply establish your stitch pattern on the very first row, then all you have to think about with each increase is what those new stitches at either end of a section need to do. And B) stick with a simple repeat stitch pattern as noted above. As far as establishing the stitch pattern on row 1, unless there’s some reason to do otherwise, always center your stitch pattern within your stitch count and make it symmetrical. For example, if you’re doing 1×1 ribbing, start with an odd number of stitches in each section, so you can begin and end on a knit stitch. (Then think about what kind of raglan sts you may want to use to separate the sections visually.)
The easiest way to use a stitch pattern with a shaped neck (or more specifically a crewneck) is to restrict the stitch pattern to the center front panel of the sweater. Figure out your neck depth, how many increase rows it will take to get there, and how many additional stitches you’ll be casting on when joining in the round. Then center your stitch pattern within those cast-on stitches. At that point, there’s no increasing to worry about — you just have a set number of stitches within which you establish your pattern, then just carry on with it.
If you’re using a more complex stitch pattern — something charted and/or that plays out over a repeat of several rows — again, the easier way to do that would be to use the Reversible method so you’re working with a full set of stitches from the start. You may find it useful (or even necessary) to chart out exactly how the stitch pattern falls within your determined cast-on counts for each section of the sweater, and what will be happening as the stitches widen with each increase round. But again, in this scenario each section is only widening outward, so you only have to think about what happens as you add one stitch at each end.
Not difficult, necessarily, but the most difficult scenario is if you’ve got a more complex, charted stitch pattern and are planning to do neck shaping. In the scenarios above, the front and back are identical and all of the stitches exist as of cast-on. In this scenario, they are eventually identical — the front is the same as the back, only with a big chunk missing in the middle at the start. The two front neck sts at cast-on are the same as the stitch at each end of the back neck. But as you increase at the front neck and the front raglan at the same time, that section of your knitting is getting wider in two directions, forming a V shape as you increase, with the bottom of the V being that first stitch you cast on.
If your stitch pattern is a fairly straightforward vertical repeat like mine shown here, you might be fine simply charting out how the stitch pattern falls within the cast-on number for each section and then increasing in pattern. I wanted to be sure the front of the neckline (the additional cast-on sts at the join) wouldn’t hit at a weird spot in the cable pattern. I’m cabling every 12th row/round, so I took a minute to calculate how many rows my neck depth would take, how many increases would have been done in the back at that point, and thus how many sts I’ll be casting on for the front/join and on which row. What my math tells me is I’ll be casting on and joining in the round on the 26th row. So rather than doing the first cables on rows 12 and 24, I’ve decided to do the first one at row 8, then 20, then 32, so my front neckline (at row 26) falls comfortably between the cable rows.
Hopefully you can see in the image above that I also charted out the whole thing up to that point, just to be safe — centering my stitch pattern within the cast-on count for my back section (44 sts), which will eventually be mirrored on the front. The darker outward zigzags are the raglan increases for both back and front. The lighter inward zigzags are the neck increases on the front section only. (Getting one stitch wider at each increase point, every other row.) Where you see the cable symbol as half dotted, that’s where I’ll work the cable on the back on that row, but not on the front, because I don’t yet have enough front stitches in that spot to work my 6-stitch cable. (I use my trusty Knitters Graph Paper Journal for charting stuff like this and for keeping all my assorted notes and calculations and doodles.)
The hardest part is establishing the stitch pattern for the front stitches in the beginning while you have only 1 and then 2 and then 4 sts. So here’s my best tip: To keep this manageable, use the same stitch pattern on the front and back of your sweater and remember that they’re identical. When you’re wondering which 4 stitches those are, because you’ve increased both directions from that single first stitch and maybe feel a little confused, consult the first four stitches on the back and make the front stitches a mirror image of them. Once you build up a few more rows, you’ll be able to see your stitch pattern and know how to keep increasing until your neck is complete.
There’s one more thing to consider before you cast on. If you are using an allover stitch pattern that will continue beyond the yoke and onto the body, you need to think about how your stitch pattern will play out where the back meets the front at the side seams — especially if you’re doing colorwork or a large and distinct repeat like I’m doing. My stitch pattern is 12 sts wide, and I do want it to fit perfectly into my body stitches. My target circumference is about 36.5″ and my stitch gauge is 6.5 sts/in. That’s 237 sts, or 118 each for front and back. If I round that up to 120 each for front and back (240 total), my 12-stitch repeat fits perfectly into it. (12 x 10 = 120) So you either need to tweak your stitch count, or figure out the most optimal non-perfect side seam match, and/or put a contrasting panel of some kind at each side so that the two stitch patterns don’t actually meet. There’s no right or wrong — just whatever feels best to you, for your sweater. If you’re working side-seam increases/decreases, keep that in mind too.
(It’s less of a concern on the sleeves since they’re funnel shaped — you’ll be decreasing down the length of them anyway — and are much less visible than the body of your sweater. Most likely, it won’t really matter how the stitches meet in the middle, only that they were centered in your sleeve-top stitches to begin with.)
If working out what happens on the body is more than you want to think about, plan on doing the patterning on the yoke only and work the body plain.
– Center your stitch pattern within the stitch count for each section of the sweater (sleeves and back/front) and make it symmetrical — unless you’re being deliberately asymmetrical, of course
– Increase in pattern, either by reading the adjacent stitches or charting it out ahead of time, depending on the complexity of your pattern
– If you’re doing neck shaping, use the back stitches as a crutch to help you know what to do with the first few front ones
– Be mindful of how the stitch patterns match up at the side seams
Again, if anyone has any contrary or additional advice, please share it below. There are a lot of people planning stitch patterns on the #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 feed, and I can’t wait to see them all take shape!
*If you’re not comfortable reading your knitting, I don’t advise incorporating a stitch pattern.
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