Swatch of the Month: Fun with stockinette

QUICK NOTE: I’ll be on a plane to France this afternoon, but never fear — I’ve got blog posts queued up in my absence and DG is manning the Fringe Supply Co. shipping department as usual, so order all you want! Please forgive any delay in comment moderation (new commenters) though, and I expect to be sharing liberally on Instagram while I’m away, so follow me @karentempler. Now here’s Jess!
—Karen

Swatch of the Month: Fun with stockinette

BY JESS SCHREIBSTEIN | Back in November, I wrote about my trip to Rhinebeck and the gorgeous Hudson Valley Fibers yarn I brought home with me. I also wrote about how I wanted to “get back to basics,” knit that cream-colored “throw-over-anything, cropped and boxy cardigan” that is somehow a deficit in my handmade (or store-bought) wardrobe.

And that got me thinking about the rest of my wardrobe, the things I desire most, the things that I feel are missing, the things that are hardest to find – pre-made or otherwise. I really want a few pairs of high-waisted pants, some classic trim trousers in a structured wool for winter, or wide-leg sailor pants for spring and summer. (Psst … Emily Wallace sewed up her own Kamm pant lookalike in a must-see sherbet pink, for a fraction of the store price. Adding that to my “someday” to-do list!) I’d also love to have a select few boxy, seamed, set-in-sleeve pullovers knit up in a DK or worsted weight, with a snug, foldover neckband. I could imagine those sweaters being just as dreamy and necessary in a tweedy toffee brown or a bright, speckled colorway. And of course, I long for that basic cream cardigan. You can check out my Pinterest “Spring” board to get a better picture of what I’m envisioning in my head.

I list all of this out because I’m seeing a discernable pattern here. I’m thirsty for well-constructed, timeless but modern basics. I love juicy cables and an Icelandic yoked sweater as much as the next knitter, but those sweaters ultimately aren’t the ones I usually reach for when I’m getting ready in the morning.

There’s something about “basics” that sounds dull and ho-hum to a knitter looking for a challenge, but I think there’s a way to bridge that gap between “I want this thing” and the perceived snoozefest factor. Knitting in straight stockinette or rib can be dull knitting, sure, but it can also zip up pretty fast and be meditative and gratifying in its own way, especially if the yarn is a dream and you’re designing or modifying your own pattern to make it really yours. I’m also finding that it pushes me to be more attentive to shaping and finishing details that set a handmade garment apart from my earlier work.

So, back to that cream dream cardigan – I put it on my 2017 to-do list, and here we are, five months later and at the start of spring. I’ve swatched and cast on my second top-down sweater using Karen’s tutorial, and quite frankly, I’m in love. I carry this project with me everywhere and the knitting has been addictive.

Swatch of the Month: Fun with stockinette

MY PLAN

I’m knitting a slightly oversized, boxy, cropped cardigan. I want to keep the lines and visual interest minimal, having this sweater be a truly throw-over-anything kind of piece. I cast on a total 56 stitches for the neck to start, breaking up the stitches as follows: 2 | 1 | 9 | 1 | 30 | 1 | 9 | 1 | 2. That means 1 stitch for each side of the front of the sweater with 1 selvedge stitch each, 30 stitches for the back, and 9 stitches each for the sleeves. I’ll use a basting stitch to seam up that 1-stitch raglan across the yoke. I’m working the entire sweater in stockinette, with the exception of some ribbing for the sleeve cuffs, bottom hem and a neckband.

To work my increases, I increased on either side of the raglans every other row a total of 23 times for the sleeves, and 25 times for the body. I also increased a stitch on either side of the front of the cardigan every 8 rows to give a steep sloped “V” in the front. Since this is such a simple pattern, I wanted to be extra mindful of my choice of increases, so I opted for the following method that I picked up from Julie Hoover’s Cline pattern:

Inc-R (Increase – Right Leaning): Lift right leg of the stitch below the first stitch on the left needle onto left needle and knit it, then slip the first stitch on left needle purlwise

Inc-L (Increase – Left Leaning): Slip next stitch from left needle purlwise, then lift the left leg of the stitch below the slipped stitch onto left needle and knit it though the back loop

Once my increases were complete, I cast on 15 stitches for the underarm on each side, and will continue working the rest of the sweater flat, without shaping, to achieve that boxy look.

Sizing: With the increases I just laid out, the cardigan should be around 38″ at the bust with some generous sleeves, a 14″ diameter around the top of the sleeve with an 8″ armhole depth. After I made it through about 1″ of the body, I put my live body stitches on some waste yarn and blocked the whole thing, to really make sure that the fit was what I wanted. So far, so good!

Yarn: Oh, let me tell you about this yarn. I picked up a few skeins of Blue Sky Fibers’ new Woolstok in Highland Fleece (undyed) colorway over the winter, and it has a really unique balance of softness and tooth. It’s a worsted weight, 2-ply yarn produced out of Arequipa, Peru. You can read more about the origins of Woolstok (and see lots of stunning photos of Peru and the production process) on Blue Sky Fibers’ blog. It’s bouncy, bright and blocks beautifully.

Curious about those other swatches in my photos? I’ve been knitting up a lot of stockinette swatches lately with pullovers and baby sweaters in mind (for lots of friends and my new niece — don’t get any ideas). The speckled yarn is Madelinetosh’s Tosh DK in Filtered Light, and that gold swatch is Plymouth Yarn Company’s Merino Superwash in 0061 Gold colorway.

Swatch of the Month: Fun with stockinette

THE SWATCH

This swatch is as simple as they come. It’s a basic stockinette stitch pattern (knit on the right side, purl the wrong side) with a garter stitch border.

Yarn: Blue Sky Fibers Woolstok in Highland Fleece (undyed)
Needles: US 6 / 4 mm metal needles
Gauge: 20 stitches / 32.5 rows = 4″ in stockinette stitch

Swatch of the Month: Fun with stockinette

M E T H O D

Cast on 40 stitches. Work six rows in garter stitch (knit both sides of work). Begin stockinette pattern as follows:

Row 1: Knit

Row 2: Knit 3, purl until 3 stitches remain, knit 3.

Work until desired length, then repeat six rows of garter stitch to finish border. Bind off loosely.

Jess Schreibstein is a digital strategist, knitter and painter living in Baltimore, MD. Learn more about her work at jess-schreibstein.com or follow her on Instagram at @thekitchenwitch.

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PREVIOUSLY in Swatch of the Month: The politics of knitting

13 thoughts on “Swatch of the Month: Fun with stockinette

  1. Stockinette sweaters are one of my favorite things to knit. I love the chance to really focus on shaping and fit and the meditative quality of a sea of stockinette. I’ve been dreaming of a white or cream cardigan but am scared I’ll spill things on it. Any tips for cleaning white sweaters?

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    • I would treat a cream sweater like any other sweater – cleaning up any spill and spot treating and washing it as soon as possible. Luckily, any food I’ve ever spilled on my light-colored sweaters (including tomato sauce) always come out!

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  2. Paris – Marais district has wonderful yarn/trimmings store called le drogerie? (sorry, spelling) worth visiting. Enjoy ur trip to Paris

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  3. Such a cute cardi! Now I want one too, maybe with wide stripes, like a vintage one that got snapped up quickly on IG and is stuck in my brain. The cream is so lovely, can’t wait to see more.

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  4. I noticed your stockinette knitting looks like mine sometimes. Where a row is raised or higher than the row below. I have tried playing with tension and not knitting continental which sometimes solves the problem. What do you suggest? Is it just the yarn? Does blocking ever help?

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    • Hey there! I didn’t realize I even had a tension issue until I started knitting in straight stockinette – so interesting how basics can teach you so much. Blocking helped a bit, but these photos were taken after blocking, so it didn’t resolve the problem completely. I’ve tried paying closer attention to my tension while I knit instead of just going on autopilot, and I think that’s helping.

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    • Have you tried searching on Ravelry for posts about “rowing out”? Paying careful attention can help for some people, or wrapping your purls the opposite direction (combination knitting). Some people even use two different size needles, one for purling and one for knitting, which obviously only really works with stockinette, and not with fixed circulars.

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      • Emily I thought your raised purls were a pattern and thought how nice it looked. Now I am thinking if I used a larger needle size for the purl row, maybe I would get the same effect. It adds interest to the simple stitch

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    • I second the suggestion to try “combination” knitting if you are knitting stockinette flat, although it is both knitting all stitches through the back loop AND wrapping purl stitches the opposite direction. I find that my stockinette is so much smoother than when I knit “normally.” Check out Annie Modesitt for good instructions. The one thing I will caution is that it makes me a much tighter knitter, so I generally have to go up two needle sizes.

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  5. Jess, you have articulated exactly how I feel about basics. For the longest time, I knitted gorgeous, fancy sweaters that I didn’t wear often enough. Now that I’ve started knitting and designing simpler garments in silhouettes that work with the rest of my wardrobe, I find myself reaching for them every day! This cardigan is going to be gorgeous.

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  6. I too noticed your tension change between knit and purl rows and had to have a close look to see that it wasn’t caused by working into the back of the stitches on alternate rows (as in Eastern crossed knitting). There are various remedies available, but why not just live with it. As EZ pointed out, a “mistake” repeated becomes intentional design.

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  7. There are lots of methods to fix rowing out, such as wrapping the yarn one extra wrap around a finger (for tighter tension) or using a smaller needle size for purl rows. However, your stitches are generally uneven in tension. Practice knitting with a tighter tension on the yarn, perhaps adjusting how you hold your yarn. Extra wrap around fingers, or wrapping around different fingers is a good starting place.

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  8. Pingback: Swatch of the Month: Finding inspiration in Georgia O’Keeffe | Fringe Association

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