The day has come when all of the Top-Down Knitalong panelists have completed their sweaters! I’m kind of sad to see it wrapping up — this whole event was so awesome — but I’m also thrilled to finally see and show you this handsome pullover that Jen Beeman of Grainline Studio knitted for her husband, Jon.
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Your sweater is such an interesting case. It looks like you knitted exactly the sweater you set out to knit, easy peasy, but in fact it was a circuitous journey. Most notably, you ripped out your first version (when you were just past the sleeve/body divide) and started over. Remind us all what happened there.
Originally Jon wanted a fisherman’s rib sweater, so I swatched in full fisherman’s rib, figured out my gauge, then got to work. I took the very early yoke out a few times to make small adjustments to the stitch counts but as I was only a few rounds in it wasn’t a big deal. Once I got that settled and the knitting began in earnest I had Jon try the sweater on every inch or two to make sure I was headed in the right direction. Everything seemed alright at first, but a few inches before the split I realized that the stitch pattern was obliterating my yardage and I also calculated that it was taking me approximately 45 minutes to knit one round of the sweater. I was knitting something like 350 sts in fisherman’s rib (did I mention that Jon has extremely broad shoulders yet? He does) and was starting to get a pretty bad feeling when he would try the sweater on for me. I decided to knit beyond the split about 1″ into the body before making any final decisions. When he finally tried it on, the sweater was extremely heavy, the knit pattern had way too much drape, and I was almost out of yarn. After a bit of texting with my knit crew, it was obvious I needed to start over in half fisherman’s rib.
After I switched rib patterns I actually did take the pattern back from after the split one more time. Since Jon has quite broad shoulders compared to the rest of his body he often has the problem where he has to go up at least a size to accommodate them, leaving him swimming in the rest of the garment. I was having that problem here and decided to adjust the increases a bit towards the bottom of the raglans which did the trick nicely.
I definitely think the switch in stitch was a great call.
Apart from the stitch pattern, this is a really straightforward top-down raglan, right? Did you ultimately stick pretty close to the basic top-down method — did you do any basting stitches, flat sleeves, any other diversions from the norm?
Other than the stitch pattern, I think it’s pretty straightforward! I did knit the sleeves flat, then seam because Jon is VERY hard on his clothes. I also left a basting stitch in each raglan to help keep the shape. That’s another weird story. When I tried to close the basting stitches I realized the mattress stitch was pulling apart the stitches next to it leaving a not so beautiful raglan seam in it’s wake. This is probably not the right thing to do, but I ended up joining the two stitches using a sort of duplicate stitch, which I think ended up doing the same thing. Sometimes I kind of just wing it when I’m knitting so I hope you by-the-book knitters aren’t cringing too hard right now!
Whatever works, I say! It pains me that your first top-down wasn’t just a total breeze. Between the starting over and the slowness of the stitch, the scale of the men’s sweater, the overall time it took … I worry it left you thinking top-down is onerous! Do you? Are you eager to try it again? I feel like I want you to cast on something your size and 3.5 sts/in, and have a quick fun win!
Umm … so I don’t think I’m the biggest fan of top down? I totally understand why it’s so popular, I’ve just never really been a knit-in-the-round person. I do think a lot of that is because [as a sewing pattern designer] I’ve been trained to think of 3D forms in 2D, so knitting in pieces just makes more sense to me. That said, I might try it again but I’m going to knit some sweaters flat to cleanse my palate first ;)
There was also one other delay, alluded to above, which is that you ran out of yarn. The stitch pattern just ate way more yarn than you’d estimated, right?
Yes, that was a downer for a bit. I originally calculated by taking my gauge, yarn weight and Jon’s measurements, and comparing them to a brioche sweater that matched these numbers, then ordering an extra skein on top of that yardage. Apparently either my math was bad or brioche and fisherman’s rib don’t quite translate because I ran out of yarn about ¼ of the way into the second sleeve.
The yarn for your sweater (and one of the WIP of the Week prizes) was generously provided by Jocelyn of O-Wool — thank you, Jocelyn! I’m on record as being a huge fan of Balance, this yarn, having knitted three sweaters and a vest out of it. There is one thing people need to know about it — and lots of yarns that are a blend of different fibers, organic cotton and wool in this case — which is that the fibers take the dyes differently, which is what gives the yarn its lovely heathered quality. But that also means dye lots really matter, as does alternating skeins as you knit. And O-Wool does a great job of emphasizing that on their site. But I think the importance of dye lots (and buying more than you think you might need) is a really important lesson for knitters to learn, and there’s also a great tale here about the knitting community, so I wanted to bring this up.
By the time you realized you needed more, the dye lot was sold out. So how did your yarn shortage get resolved?
Unfortunately, I realized too late that I was going to run out of yarn — although honestly, I knew it was going to happen; I just think I was in denial about it after everything else that happened with this sweater. I emailed Jocelyn as soon as I, let’s say, came to terms with the fact that I was short on yarn and sadly my lot had sold out. Since O-Wool is direct-to-customer only there wasn’t a lot that could be done. So I did what any knitter in this situation would do, harassed people on Ravelry till a kind soul with 5 skeins took pity on me. I traded her 5 skeins of the new dye lot for her 5 of the old dye lot and I was back in business! Thank you again, Summer!!
I love knitters. I’ve been contacted a few times by someone who had a yarn emergency and knew I had yarn in my stash that might help, and I’m always happy to help if I can. So I also want to say thank-you to the kind knitter traded with you!
So after all of that, the sweater is done! (With plenty of winter left in Chicago.) How do you feel about the finished sweater, and more important, how does Jon feel about it?
After everything was said and done, I’m happy with the sweater. The blend of wool and cotton is perfect for guys who are always overheating in wool, and the sweater fits Jon pretty well. I’m really glad I stuck it out and got it done because, as you can probably tell from the photos, Jon hasn’t taken the sweater off since it dried. One nice thing about knitting, or really making anything, for Jon is that he’s one of the most appreciative people I’ve ever met. He guards everything I’ve made him like it’s worth its weight in gold, so despite the long journey to the end of this sweater, I’m so glad I stuck with it!
Thanks so much to Jocelyn for providing me the yarn for this sweater, and thanks to you, Karen, for signing me up for this, even though at times you might have thought I wanted out. You ladies gave me the ability to give Jon this sweater that he absolutely loves!
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Thanks so much for playing along, Jen! So that’s a wrap. If you missed any of it or want to revisit it, you can scroll through the complete knitalong posts or scan the directory of them all here. Don’t forget to follow Jen, Brandi and Jess on Instagram for more of what they’re up to. And thanks again to everyone who participated for making this such a phenomenal event, with so many amazing sweaters having come out of it. I’m in awe.
PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: FO No. 3: Karen Templer