This is a plain-as-can-be Improv top-down raglan, knitted with two strands of Purl Soho’s Linen Quill (50% fine highland wool, 35% alpaca, and 15% linen), and it is pretty much the simple black cardigan of my dreams. Purl had sent me five skeins of this yarn, unbidden, and I was determined to get the whole cardigan out of it. There is a LOT of yardage on those skeins! I was holding it double and made it nearly from the cast-on to the waistband before I needed to join a new pair of strands. I completed the sweater with 26 yards left of the second pair of skeins and only had to break into the fifth skein to knit the button band. So it turns out I could have made it a bit longer and still had plenty of yarn! But I was modeling this after a beloved blue cashmere J.Crew sweater, which hit just a couple of inches below my natural waist like this, and I wore that thing to bits. So I have no doubt about how much wear I’ll get out of this. And the fabric is utterly amazing — I wish you could pet this sweater through your screen.
It took me months to knit this one only because I kept setting it aside for other projects, although I did feel slightly apathetic about it along the way. I had a pervasive dread that I’d made the back neck too wide, which to me is the death blow of a sweater. It’s all about the back neck width, in my view. Once I blocked it and put it on, I was even more concerned. I did basically the same thing as I had with my black lopi pullover — starting with a higher percentage of sleeve stitches and shaping the raglans. But the result of all those sleeve stitches was that they draped over my shoulders and left the back neck sitting perilously low. All I could do at that point was hope it all worked out when I picked up stitches for the band.
This sweater is the first where I was constantly thinking of sewing tricks and wishing for knitting equivalents. The fabric is quite drapey by my standards (thanks to the alpaca content) and I also didn’t knit it as tightly as I normally knit stockinette. I actually felt scared to put it on before I did the finishing — like I could feel the neckline stretching, and wished I could stay-stitch it. I was SO GLAD I had done basting stitches in the raglans, and amazed at how different it felt putting it on before and after seaming those up. And then I did treat the neckband a little like a bias strip, “pulling gently” around the curve of the back neck (by which I mean picking up 2 out of 3 sts across the back instead of 1:1) to slightly cinch it up. And it worked like magic! The neck sits beautifully. For the band, I wound up doing picked-up garter stitch, mostly because I’d never done garter for a button band before, and I adore it. The only challenge was the bind-off: I wanted it to be firm enough to prevent the band from stretching any, but not so tight that it pulled the sweater up in the front. I think I got it a hair too tight, but will wear it awhile and see how it does. Redoing that bind-off wound be the easiest tweak in the world.
I’m including all of my numbers below for anyone who wants to do this top-down Improv-style themselves, but if you prefer a proper pattern for a super-basic cardigan like this, see Carrie Hoge’s Uniform. I don’t know how all of my measurements and shaping compare to her pattern, but they’re obviously very similar sweaters!
Yarn: Linen Quill from Purl Soho
Cost: no pattern + $10 horn buttons from Fringe Supply Co. + comlimentary yarn = $10
(yarn would have been about $65 had I paid for it, for total cost of $75)
4.5 sts and 6 rows = 1 inch (measured over 4″ = 18/24) knitted on US8
42″ chest = 189 sts
14″ upper arm circumference = 64 sts (more like 12″ after seaming and blocking)
7″ cuff circumference
20″ total length
9″ yoke/armhole depth (54 rows)
11″ body length (2″ hem ribbing)
17″ sleeve length (3″ cuff ribbing)
— Co 83 sts divided thusly: 1 | 3 | 20 | 3 | 29 | 3 | 20 | 3 | 1 — worked center raglan st as basting stitch
— Planned for 14 sts cast on at each underarm, and divided the raglan stitches evenly between sections when separating sleeves from body
— Worked raglan increases as kfb on either side of the raglan stitches, varying increases roughly same as black lopi raglan
— Increased at front neck every 4th row until front sts added up to back sts minus about 1.5″ to account for width of button band — pretty sure it worked out that my last neck increase row was the same as my sleeve/body separation row
— Worked center stitch at each side as a basting stitch
— BO/CO sts for one inset pocket at 6.5″ from separation row (4.5″ before end of body)
— When body was complete, picked up along upper pocket edge on US5 needles and worked a few rows in garter stitch for pocket edging, seamed to adjacent sts from body along both sides; put live sts for pocket lining back on needle and worked in stockinette for 2.5″ (bottom of pocket lines up with first row of waist ribbing); whipstitched to reverse of sweater body after blocking
— Worked sleeves flat, decreasing on 20th row then every 8th row 8 times for 47 sts; knit till 15.75″; switched to US6 and decreased evenly to 42 sts while working first row of cuff ribbing
— All ribbing is k3/p2
— Blocked finished sweater and picked up sts for button band on US6: 42 sts along fronts (2/3), 32 sts along slopes, 15 sts along sleeve tops (2/3), 20 sts along back neck (2/3); worked in garter stitch for 1/5″ with double-YO buttonholes on middle row; BO from WS on US8 needles
PREVIOUSLY in 2016 FOs: 3 Lakesides + 2 Fens = 1 new wardrobe