How to knit a compound raglan

How to knit a compound raglan

For this week’s Top-Down Knitalong post, I want to address the notion of a compound raglan, even though I know a lot of you are already past thinking about your yoke! But it’s interesting to think about and maybe play with on your next sweater, if not your current one. (I definitely think you want to have a grasp on the standard raglan method before messing around with this!) Shaped raglans are one of those things I started tinkering with when I was first knitting, just pondering how sewn patterns come together as opposed to how top-down raglans are created, and long before I heard the term “compound raglan.” What does it mean? When you knit a raglan the traditional top-down way (as detailed in my tutorial), what you’re making for the yoke is a flat rectangle with a hole in the middle for your head and mitered corners, which are the raglan “seams.” By increasing evenly in all four sections of the sweater, you’re creating raglans at a 45° angle to the neck, which isn’t necessarily the most flattering line running across the body, depending on the body in question and how high/low those angles start and so on. With a compound raglan, you increase at different rates in the sleeves and body, allowing you to create more of a curved raglan line.

My first attempt at it was just spacing out the raglan increases and then varying the rate of increase toward the bottoms of them, so that the fabric would sort of bend toward the underarms more gracefully, as explained in this old post. When I went to knit my black lopi pullover earlier this year, I wanted the ease of the raglan process but a look that was more like a saddle shoulder. I took a good look at (and some measurements from) a saddle-shoulder sweater in my closet, and wondered why I couldn’t just start out with a higher proportion of sleeve stitches than tradition calls for, and not increase them as quickly or as much. That would mean the sleeve-top sts would stay fairly constant in the beginning while the front and back sections got wider at a faster rate. Then I sped up the sleeve increases (to every-other row) while slowing down the body increases (to every fourth row), causing the seam to bend downward and creating something in between a raglan and a saddle shoulder. You can see from the stitch markers in the image above where I was increasing only every fourth row vs every-other row in each section, and what the resulting raglan seam looks like. There are precise details in the FO post about this sweater, but the key thing is that if you’re going to try this, you have to be really meticulous about your increase math, making extra sure you can fit all of your increases into the number of yoke rows you have available.

When I sat down to write this post yesterday, I thought about the fact that I now know there is this term out there, compound raglan (which I first heard on a knit.fm episode a couple of years ago), and I wondered what sort of norms or standards are reflected in people’s use of the term. So I googled it, which you’d think I would have done a long time ago! Apparently credit for the term goes to Maggie Righetti, who wrote about it in her book Sweater Design in Plain English long before I learned to knit. From what I can tell from the few blog mentions that come up in a Google search, her method involves increasing every fourth row vs every-other in certain places! Which means now I’m dying to know how close my approach is to hers. So if, like me, you want to know more about how to calculate for compound raglans, get your hands on a copy of her book.

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PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: WIP of the Week No.1

 

WIP of the Week No.1: Ashley (aka @callistoknits)

WIP of the Week No.1: Ashley General

You all know what a nerd I am about the planning parts of sweater knitting, so you can imagine my joy at this phase of the Top-Down Knitalong — seeing everyone sketching and swatching and calculating. Oh, my heart! There are already over 400 posts on the #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 feed at Instagram, and so far 82 projects linked to the Improv pattern page at Ravelry, most of them “In progress August 2016.”* Some people are still swatching, while others have already separated their body and sleeves, and I keep seeing people saying they’re “behind schedule” — but there is no schedule! Dive in whenever you want; finish whenever you finish. The only part that’s on a schedule is the weekly prizes, which run through the end of September — and today I get to hand out the first one!

Among the many amazing plans, I’ve been super impressed with Ashley, who is @callistoknits on Instagram and ashleygeneral on Ravelry, and whose sweater I’ve chosen as our first WIP of the Week. Ashley is making a boatneck pullover with a pretty little lace pattern around the yoke, in charcoal grey Lettlopi. She posted her first swatch and sketch a couple of weeks ago and has been savoring the process — trying different needle sizes for her lace motif, doing the math to fit her measurements and her stitch pattern, casting on and trying on. It’s been extremely fun to watch, and I’m eager to see how it all turns out! Definitely go check out her feed and her Ravelry projects, and don’t miss her adorable Pineapple Socks pattern while you’re there!

So congratulations, Ashley — you’ve won 12 skeins of Shibui Pebble in the color of your choosing! Please email me at contact@fringesupplyco.com to collect your prize! And thank you SO MUCH to my friends at Shibui Knits for providing this week’s incredible prize.

Next week’s WIP will win 7 luscious skeins of Purl Soho Flax Down, so keep those projects coming! Photo quality counts, of course (in focus and natural light, preferably!) but so does a good sweater plan and a good story, so tell us about your sweater on Instagram or Ravelry, or if you’ve blogged or posted elsewhere, leave a comment on the blog during the week so I can see! And tag it #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 wherever you share.

Have an amazing weekend, everyone — more on the knitalong (and NOT) next week!

*If you’ve knitted a sweater from my tutorial in the past, please take a second to link it to the Improv page so I can see them all!

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PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: How to incorporate a stitch pattern in a top-down sweater

New Favorites: the Arranmore collection

New Favorites: the Arranmore collection

Do you guys remember those gorgeous skeins of charcoal and teal tweed yarn I posted about a few months ago and couldn’t say what they were? It can now be revealed that it’s the new Arranmore from The Fibre Co. — a yarn I cannot wait to knit with. (If only I could pick a color!) But what’s even better than the yarn is the collection of patterns that my friends at Kelbourne Woolens designed for it. The weirdly lit photos are bumming me out, unfortunately, but I saw these pieces in person at the trade show and there isn’t a single sweater or accessory in the whole collection that I wouldn’t want in my closet. And how often do you hear me say that? Pictured are the Killybegs cardigan and Swilly scarf by Meghan Kelly and Rosses hat by Courtney Kelley, but go look at the whole shebang. So good.

UPDATE: Check out the alternate colorway samples that went up on their blog late last week. GORGEOUS.

UNRELATED: I keep meaning to tell you the new autumn issue of Pom Pom has landed at Fringe Supply Co., chock full of good patterns and ready and waiting for you!

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: from Interweave Knits’ 20th extravaganza

How to incorporate a stitch pattern in a top-down sweater

How to incorporate a stitch pattern in a top-down sweater

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—

EASY

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.

MODERATE

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.

How to incorporate a stitch pattern in a top-down sweater

DIFFICULT

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.

But wait!

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.

In summary:

– 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!

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*If you’re not comfortable reading your knitting, I don’t advise incorporating a stitch pattern.

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PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: Meet the Panel!

Top-Down Knitalong: Meet the Panel!

Top-Down Knitalong: Meet the Panel!

Ok, so which fabulous knitters have I selected for this year’s Fringe and Friends Knitalong panel? Well, for starters I’ve kept the panel smaller this year — just me and three Friends — to make sure I have time for all of you and whatever help you might need. (Although I’m also counting on you to help each other!) And hopefully the smaller group will also mean no cliffhangers this year. ;)

We’ve had a great time already behind the scenes plotting out who would be knitting what, and I’m thrilled to finally share it with you all. All three of these ladies are known to be very talented knitters, but none are industry insiders, per se, and — most important — nobody has improvised a top-down sweater before! I’m the only panelist who’s ever done this, so you’re watching people do it for the first time right along with you. Full reveal below—

Special thanks to my friends at Shibui, YOTH, Purl Soho and O-Wool for providing the yarn for our sweaters, as well as four of the weekly prizes coming up during this knitalong — an additional sweater’s worth each! The three remaining sweater-quantity prizes are coming from Brooklyn Tweed, Woolfolk and Kelbourne Woolens, bless their soft and woolly hearts. (For more on the prize situation, see the kickoff notes.)

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KAREN TEMPLER of this here blog (Instagram: @karentempler)

Sweater plan: I should note that I already have two top-down sweaters on the needles that I would really like to finish — the purple tutorial sweater and my black cardigan — in addition to casting on this new one. Both those will be wildly useful sweaters, but they’re both pretty dull knitting. For the new one, after debating a thousand different ideas (and wanting all of them in black!), I decided I really wanted a thin, supple, light-colored sweater with some sort of subtle allover cable or other stitch pattern. (Inspired largely by this and this.) I went to pull a sweater out of my closet to evaluate its cables and my hand landed instead on my all-time favorite cardigan — a 10-year-old camel-colored J.Crew number that’s starting to look its age — which is just very basic cables between columns of knit stitches. I pulled it on backwards to see how it would look as a pullover and knew immediately that’s what I wanted to do.

Sizing: I’m going to base it on the dimensions of the same cardigan I’m borrowing the stitch pattern from.

Yarn: I’ve been wanting to knit with Pebble ever since it came out (or since Shibui sent me some before it was released, actually) and haven’t found the exact right project. I’m using the ivory color (which has really nice depth and variation to it due to the different fibers) and holding it double for this. I love it because even held double and knitted on US6s, it still has the feel of a much thinner sweater than the many worsted-weights in my closet, without my having to knit a sport- or fingering-weight sweater! Thanks hugely to Shibui for providing my yarn for this one, along with this week’s WIP of the Week prize!

Swatch: I’m still fascinated at how different my Amanda swatch was when knitting with versus without a cable needle. For this one, I swatched a little ways flat and the rest “in the round” to make sure I wouldn’t have a major discrepancy in gauge when switching back and forth in my sweater, and I’m reassured that all is well in that regard. My blocked gauge is 6.5 sts and 8.75 rows per inch. (26/35)

Seams/seamless: I will be adding a seam everywhere a seam should be — so a basting stitch in the center of each raglan, sleeves knitted flat, and a basting stitch again at each side seam.

Hesitations/trepidations: Unfortunately I don’t have any, which is not how I like to knit! I’d always rather be trying something new, taking chances. I’m SUPER intrigued by Cocoknits’ English-tailored, set-in, top-down sleeves method and might have to try it, since I can knit top-down the old-fashioned way in my sleep. But it depends on whether I have time to actually read her tutorial. So we’ll see. Meanwhile, I’ve mapped out the sweater for raglans.

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Top-Down Knitalong: Meet the Panel!

JEN BEEMAN of Grainline Studio (Instagram: @jen_beeman)

Sweater plan: I’ll be knitting a fisherman’s rib pullover for my husband, Jon. Ever since I mentioned a few months ago that every sweater I knit didn’t have to be for myself (crazy, I know) he’s been asking me for this sweater. When Karen approached me about the knitalong I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to make his sweater a reality.

I spent a little time gathering images of traditional fisherman’s rib sweaters before Jon and I started talking about the details of the sweater. We had a bit of back and forth deciding on what the details the sweater should have — fisherman’s rib was a given, as was the fact that it was top-down. Luckily for me, Jon is quick with decisions, so after about 15 minutes of looking at the photos I’d gathered we settled on raglan-style sleeves, a crewneck, and 1×1 ribbing at the hem, cuffs and neck edge.

Sizing: Funnily I haven’t even asked Jon about how he wants the sweater to fit. I do know how he likes his clothes though, so I’m going to run with my intuition on this one. I took some basic measurements to work off of, so rather than comparing to another garment I’ll likely work off those. I’ll have to add in some wearing ease as Jon isn’t into skin tight sweaters but since I’m a pattern maker by trade I don’t predict getting the ease right will be that difficult.

Yarn: I’ll be using O-Wool Balance in Talc. I chose this yarn for a few reasons: first is the fiber content. Balance is a 50/50 wool and cotton blend which means Jon won’t overheat wearing this sweater. I don’t think it’s possible for him to wear a 100% wool garment without being very uncomfortable. Second, the care instructions of Balance are perfect for him as the yarn is machine washable. I don’t predict him hand-washing a sweater, so this was a must! Last, I’ve wanted to knit with Balance for a while now. In all honesty, I actually didn’t give him another choice — with good reason though, as you can see above! Luckily he trusts my fiber decisions wholeheartedly, and he did pick the color. (Editor’s note: Thanks again to O-Wool for providing Jen’s yarn!)

Swatch: I cast on 31 sts for my swatch using US7 needles and love the finished look. It’s also gotten the seal of approval from Jon. My gauge is 16 sts x 40 rows = 4 x 4″.

Hesitations/trepidations: My biggest trepidation is actually just the scale of this sweater. I’m used to knitting for myself, which usually entails knitting the second smallest size for a 5’6″ person. Jon comes from German/Norwegian stock, which means he’s tall with very broad shoulders, so I feel like I’ll be knitting the equivalent of two sweaters with this one. I’m definitely grateful right now that he’s the smallest one in his family!

Besides that, I’ve never knitted a top down sweater before and only one sweater in the round — an Icelandic bottom-up sweater. I’m typically more comfortable making sweaters in pieces and then seaming, since it most closely resembles the type of garment construction I’m used to and that I deal with on a daily basis. I’m excited to try something new though!

Seams/seamless: I will definitely include either basting stitches or splitting the garment after the yoke to knit those sections flat. I firmly believe that this sweater is going to need some sort of added structure based on the way Jon wears his clothes (aka to a very quick death). I hate knitting sleeves in the round so those will be flat for sure. Other than that, we’ll just see what happens as I’m knitting!

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Top-Down Knitalong: Meet the Panel!

JESS SCHREIBSTEIN Fringe Association columnist (Instagram: @thekitchenwitch)

Sweater plan: I’m knitting an oversized, ribbed, armygreen raglan turtleneck. It will actually probably be more like a wide mock neck, although I’m not sure yet how wide or how high it will be. I foresee a lot of trial and error in my future to get it just right! Since the sweater is for me, I wanted to add a piece to my wardrobe that will be a versatile, basic staple. I’ve never knitted a turtleneck before and don’t own too many of them, so think this is the perfect opportunity to change that. I can already envision wearing it with black jeans and boots, over a silk dress, or with a black leather pencil skirt (not that I own one – yet). Plus, this is my first go at making a top-down sweater without a pattern, so I wanted to keep my approach simple, allowing me some wiggle room for mistakes and a chance to focus on the construction details.

Sizing: I have a cream, set-in-sleeve, mock neck sweater that I love, which I picked up at Gap a few years ago. I think I wear this thing almost every week during the winter. It’s sufficiently oversized without being huge. I also recently finished knitting my Abbott sweater, an oversized V-neck tunic, which coincidently has the same bust measurement and length of my beloved Gap sweater. I’m taking that as a sign and loosely basing my own sweater’s dimensions off of this sweater, especially for the bust and neck circumference measurements, while also going a little generous on the armhole depth.

Yarn: I’ve chosen YOTH Yarns’ Father in the Olive colorway, a stunningly perfect army green. It’s worsted weight, which I thought would be a good fit for this classic sweater, and made from 100% domestic Rambouillet wool. Knitting with American-sourced wool yarn has become increasingly important to me over the years, and I’m excited to work with YOTH yarns for the first time. It’s really soft and will feel great around my neck, while still remaining sufficiently “woolly” and a little toothy. It’s a bouncy 3 ply, lending the yarn a round shape and giving the stitches a crisp, clean look. (Editor’s note: Thanks again to YOTH for providing Jess’s yarn!)

Swatch: I knit a few swatches before I landed on a 1×1 rib worked on size US7 needles. The gauge is 24.5 stitches / 29.5 rows = 4 inches in a knit 1 purl 1 rib. Since the rib is identical on both the right and wrong side of the fabric, I didn’t bother knitting the swatch in the round. The fabric is chewy and bouncy, but still has a nice drape to it. I think I might work the neck in a smaller gauge, on size 5 or 6 needles, for added stiffness and structure. I plan for the entire sweater to be knit in this 1×1 rib, including the raglans. I sketched this out a bit, and am envisioning extra-wide raglans worked in rib to add some nice visual interest to the front and back.

Seams/seamless: Definitely seams. I think it would be really easy for an oversized sweater like this to become heavy and baggy after a season of wear without the added structure that seams provide. I plan on knitting the front piece and back piece flat (starting at the underarms) and the sleeves flat, and seaming them. I’ll also see how the raglans hold up to the weight of the sweater, and will probably add in some basting stitches to reinforce them.

Hesitations/trepidations: The trickiest thing for me might be nailing the gauge with the ribbed stitch pattern, as I’ve never knit a ribbed sweater before – I’ve made plenty of ribbed hats, but those account for the elasticity of the ribbing to sit snug on your head. I’ve measured my swatch flat, without stretching out the ribbing, to determine my sweater dimensions, and hope those work out.

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Top-Down Knitalong: Meet the Panel!

BRANDI HARPER of purlBknit (Instagram: @purlBknit)

Sweater plan: I’m making an allover lace top-down cardigan with raglan seams, and this sweater is so mine! I originally planned to make a wide scarf, which I was creating during my 30th-birthday trip to Europe. When I returned home, Karen had just announced this knit along. I ditched those 6 inches of lace scarf so fast and turned it into a turtleneck for a top down sweater. No swatch, no planning, no sketches involved. I was a very naughty knitter!

Sizing: When I knit sweaters for myself, I always design around my bust line. I have never been a member of the itty-bitty committee and always have problems finding clothes that fit me well. Like, a small V-neck pullover is too revealing and a large is too big in the sleeves. With full coverage, I wear a 38DDD. So I simply planned to increase every other row in the body until I had enough stitches to close the cardigan around these babies! At some point, the sleeves were getting too big and the arm depth too long, so I stopped to separate the sleeves from the body. I slipped all the stitches onto a yarn stitch holder for a fitting and low and behold there is no ease in the chest area. I’ll be adding some kind of border at the front to allow 2-3″ of ease. Also, the scarf-turned-turtleneck doesn’t close, so I can solve that problem, too, with some additional width. This border will likely be made up of short rows, so I can control the amount of width I add to the neck, bust and waist. Figuring this stuff out is my favorite part, guys.

Yarn: Just thinking about my yarn makes me feel like I’m lying on a bed of fluffy clouds. I’m using Purl Soho Flax Down, a 43% Baby Alpaca, 42% Merino Wool, 15% Linen blend. The drape is incredible. I’m so excited to wash and block it! I wanted a fiber soft to the touch that can be worked on a needle no smaller than US7. Plus, I’m just a sucker for mauves and light pinks, and this color is right up my alley. (Editor’s note: Thanks again to Purl Soho for providing Brandi’s yarn!)

Swatch: I did not swatch. I haven’t even checked the tension yet. (Yikes!) I’m just following my intuition on this piece, trying it on as I go along. What you see is the scarf I started. Trims and borders are very important to me. I tried 4 different cast-on methods/borders: the tubular cast-on, garter stitch border, rolled stockinette trim and no border at all before the picot cast-on popped into my head. The picot trim was a winner! I added 2 stitches of garter on each side as a selvedge, slipping the 1 stitch on every row to neaten it up.

Hesitations/trepidations: This is the first garment in over 4 years I’ve designed for myself since launching my knitwear brand, purlBknit. Joining this KAL is a passion project, but with my selling season so near I really don’t have too much time for excessive ripping out. I have 4 balls at 217 yards each and I plan to make a sweater with what I have, just to keep it time efficient. Let’s see how that goes. I will likely crop this sweater at the waist and make long fitted sleeves. As I write, this KAL hasn’t officially started and I’m halfway done!

Seams/seamless: I am knitting the body in one piece and the sleeves flat. I LOVE sewing seams. Also, looking forward to picking up stitched on the front for that border I was talking about. It will change the sweater entirely. I don’t know how it will look in the end. I feel as though I am knitting in the wild. What will come next? I have no clue and boy does that feel fantastic.

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We’re all sharing generously on Instagram so follow along with our progress and everyone else’s! I’ll be back tomorrow with a post about how to incorporate a stitch pattern, for those of you wanting to give that a try.

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PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: Kickoff and PRIZE notes!

Top-Down Knitalong: Kickoff and PRIZE news!

Top-Down Knitalong: Kickoff and PRIZE notes!

Happy Top-Down Knitalong kickoff day! I have so many important points to make, I’m resorting to a bullet list!

PLEASE READ!

– First things first: Let’s talk about PRIZES! I’m returning to the WIP of the Week format this year, where I’ll feature one sweater in progress from the community on the blog each Friday, and that person will win a jaw-dropping prize, y’all. There are seven Fridays between now and the end of September, and each Friday I’ll be awarding a sweater quantity of yarn from one of my favorite yarn companies. This week’s prize comes from my friends at Shibui and comprises 12 skeins of Pebble in the color of the winner’s choosing. (That’s mine in the photo, hands off!) So make sure you’re posting your progress somewhere publicly online, and either use the #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 hashtag at Instagram (which I’ll be monitoring most closely) or leave a link in the comments below if you’ve posted anywhere else. (For this particular week I’ll be pulling from everything posted so far, not just this week.) Thanks so much to @shibuiknits for this week’s prize!

– The top-down tutorial is now completely updated with new photos and more up-to-date thinking (most importantly how to add basting stitches and/or knit flat along the way, if you like!)

– As of yesterday, there’s a new front-end on it which is a concise outline of the process, in the form of a “pattern” called Improv, where every step is linked to the corresponding section of the tutorial. So you can see the whole process at a glance and dig in deeper wherever you need to.

– This is now also a pattern listing at Ravelry, so if you’re knitting along or have ever knitted a sweater from the tutorial in the past, please link your project to the new Improv pattern page so I can see everything! And it would mean the world to me if you’d Favorite that listing!

– For those about to ask: As long as you are knitting a sweater in one piece, from the neck down, and doing all of your own planning and calculations, you qualify for this knitalong! There are no other rules or sign-up procedures. Just knit and share.

– I’ll be introducing the panel tomorrow! (I know, it’s so hard to wait! We all feel the same.)

– The next day I’ll have a post on how to incorporate a stitch pattern, so if you’re planning to do anything but stockinette, look for that on Wednesday.

– If you’ve never read Hot Tip: Save time at try-on, do it now! And if you missed How to knit the right size sweater last week, give that a minute, too!

– Don’t forget to use the hashtag #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 across social media so everyone can find you. There’s already a lot of great planning and discussion happening on the feed over on IG.

– And we’re overlapping with Shannon’s #sskal16 this year. For more on how to participate in that and this at the same time, see her knitalong page.

I’ll be back tomorrow with our Meet the Panel post for this year — and see you on the hashtag in the meantime!

(Yarn notes: The Pebble was given to me by Shibui. The purple pullover is Lettlopi Color 1413 purchased from Tolt; the black cardigan is Purl Soho Linen Quill given to me by Purl.)

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PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: Improv: A basic pattern for a top-down sweater

Improv: Basic pattern for a top-down seamless sweater

Improv: Basic pattern for a top-down seamless sweater

When I first published my top-down tutorial in early 2013, I’d only been knitting for about 17 months, hadn’t yet struck on my basted knitting theory, and didn’t take much care with the tutorial photos. In the interim, I’ve published many related posts about various details of the process. And I also never imagined how popular the tutorial would be or how many countless sweaters would be knitted from it! So in 2016, I felt like I owed it an update — factoring in some deeper thinking and linking — which is now in place. (And which also feeds into the Top-Down Knitalong!)

I also realized what was missing was a short and sweet outline/pattern for how to knit a seamless top-down sweater — without all the explanation and elaboration — which would be sufficient for sweater knitters who’d simply not done it from scratch before, while also serving as a gateway to the full tutorial for those who need it. So that’s what follows. And both the short-form version below and the full tutorial now contain specifics on how to incorporate basting stitches and/or flat knitting for those (like me) who choose to add seams to their seamless knitting, to get the benefits of both!

I can’t wait to see what you make with this pattern and tutorial! Please link your Ravelry projects to the new Improv pattern page. And if you’re participating in the knitalong, please use #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 wherever you share. Enjoy!

Improv: Basic pattern for a top-down seamless sweater

Improv: A basic pattern for a top-down seamless sweater

Knitting a basic sweater from the neck down is one of the easiest ways to gain an understanding of how sweater shaping works, which builds your confidence as a knitter and enables you to begin modifying published patterns to your liking or to knit without a pattern. And it’s so simple that, as I said in the original tutorial intro, if you can knit a fingerless mitt, you can knit a top-down sweater.

For this pattern, you may use any yarn and needles you like; you may choose between a pullover and cardigan, as well as the specific details thereof; and you’ll establish your own stitch and row gauge.

First: With the exact yarn and needles you intend to use, knit a large swatch (swatch “in the round” if you’re knitting your sweater in the round), measure your stitch and row gauge once, then block the swatch and measure it again. The blocked dimensions are what you’ll base your sweater on, but if your counts changed with blocking, bear that in mind when trying on your sweater as you go. (And if so, you might find it worthwhile to steam your sweater whenever you’re trying it on.)

Read through the entire pattern below before starting. Reference the “Target Stitch Counts” section below that for calculating the numbers used throughout the pattern, see the notes below that for including optional basting stitches, and click through the linked pattern subheads as needed for the corresponding tutorial for that step.

Materials:

  • A sweater’s worth of your choice of yarn (see yardage requirements for comparable sweaters or consult a source like Stashbot)
  • Needle Size A: in size needed to achieve your main fabric gauge, one 24″ circular needle for neck/shaping and start of yoke; one circ slightly shorter than your intended body circumference for yoke and body; DPNs or preferred method for small-circumference knitting in the round for sleeves
  • Needle Size B: in size needed to achieve your edging fabric (ribbing, or as desired), one 16″-24″ circular for neckband; longer circ for hem edging; DPNs or preferred method for cuffs in the round
  • Optional Try-On needles: Second long circular needle gauge or smaller than Needle A for trying on sweater in progress (See: Save time at try-on)
  • stitch markers
  • waste yarn
  • tapestry needle

Note: If you are knitting a cardigan and are a Magic Loop knitter, you can knit the entire sweater with one long circ

Gauge:

  • Taken from blocked swatch, see headnote above

– – –

DIRECTIONS

1. CAST ON AND MARK RAGLAN POSITIONS
CO [A] sts for neck edge, placing markers for raglan positions (and any “seam” stitches if desired) on this or the next row. (See Basting Stitch section below if using)

2. WORK NECK SHAPING ROWS
Improv: Basic pattern for a top-down seamless sweater

Work back and forth in rows, increasing on both sides of each raglan on every right side row (or as desired) and at front neck as needed for your intended neck shaping (every other row for crewneck or shallow V; every fourth row for deeper V; or as desired).
(8 sts inc at raglans, 2 at front neck, per inc row)

For crewneck pullover: Continue neck shaping until you’ve worked to your desired neck depth [B] and have completed a RS (inc) row. Count back neck sts and front neck sts (combining the two fronts), and subtract to get the difference — this is your additional CO count. Placing a marker (BOR) in the center of them, CO the number of sts needed to make front and back equal, then join in the round.

For V-neck pullover: Continue until your front sts combined equal the number of back sts. At end of the inc rnd that brings them equal, place a marker (center front neck, BOR) and join in the round.

For cardigan: Work neck shaping as above but do not join in the round; continue working back and forth in rows.

3. COMPLETE YOKEImprov: Basic pattern for a top-down seamless sweater

Continue working in the round (for pullover) or back and forth in rows (for cardigan), increasing at raglans as needed until desired st counts are met for front and back [C minus F] and sleeves [D minus F], then work even until desired yoke depth [E] is met.*

4. SEPARATE BODY AND SLEEVESImprov: Basic pattern for a top-down seamless sweater

Dropping raglan markers as you come to them, and dividing any sts within the raglan seam between body and sleeves as desired, work to first raglan marker; transfer left sleeve sts to waste yarn; CO underarm sts [F], placing a marker at the center of the underarm; work across back sts to next raglan marker; transfer right sleeve sts to waste yarn; CO underarm sts [F], placing a marker at the center of the underarm; work to BOR marker (for pullover) or end of row (for cardigan).

5. COMPLETE BODY AND SLEEVESImprov: Basic pattern for a top-down seamless sweater

Body: Continue knitting the body with shaping as desired until intended length before hem treatment. Work hem treatment and BO.

Sleeves: Return sts to needle, making sure you’ve got the correct number. Pick up and knit one st in each underarm-cast-on st, placing a marker at the center of the underarm, and join in the round.** Continue knitting the sleeve with shaping as desired until intended length before cuff treatment. Work cuff treatment and BO. Repeat for second sleeve.
(To minimize holes at the corners of the underarms, pick up and knit one extra st in the gap between the cast-on and held sts, then decrease it out on the next round.)

6. FINISH AS NEEDED
Block your completed sweater and finish as needed for your specific sweater:

Neck: Pick up sts and work as desired for your preferred neckband/buttonband treatment. BO.
(This can be done at any point after the neckline is complete — for a pullover, I prefer to do it shortly after the neck is joined.)

Weave in ends; close up any gaps at corners of underarms with a tail of yarn; seam anywhere you included a basting stitch or knitted a sleeve flat. Wear with pride!

– – –

TARGET STITCH COUNTS AND DIMENSIONS

A / CAST-ON COUNT
[back neck width x sts per inch] + [~30% of that number for sleeve top x 2] + [1 front neck st x 2] = CO
(See how to subdivide with markers for raglans in the tutorial.)

B / NECK DEPTH
desired drop from back to front neck edge x rows per inch = neck depth
e.g. For 3” neck depth at 5 rows per inch, you’d work 15 rows

C / FRONT AND BACK ST COUNT (at underarm/chest)
1/2 chest circumference x sts per inch = front or back st count***
e.g. A 44”-circumference sweater is 22 inches across; at 4.5 sts per inch that would be 99 sts for the front and 99 for the back
NOTE: subtract F from this number to get the number you are increasing to during the raglan shaping. E.g. if you’ll be casting on 16 underarm sts, you’ll work raglan increases in the front/back until you have 83 sts, then 16 will be cast on at the underarm, giving you 99.

D / SLEEVE ST COUNT (at underarm/upper sleeve)
desired sleeve circumference x sts per inch = sleeve st count***
NOTE: subtract F from this number to get the number you are increasing to during the raglan shaping; see above.

E / YOKE DEPTH
desired distance from shoulder to underarm x rows/rounds per inch = yoke depth****

F / UNDERARM CO COUNT
desired underarm width (rule of thumb is ~8% of body circumference) x sts per inch = underarm CO count

For how to calculate sleeve shaping and body shaping, see the sweater shaping math section of the top-down tutorial.

– – – – – – – – – –
FOR BASTING STITCHES (optional)
Yoke: Add one stitch in center of each raglan (do not include in any target stitch counts), work in reverse stockinette for duration of yoke
Sleeves: Give the extra yoke stitches (above) to the sleeves on the separation round; use them as the two extra selvage sts needed for flat sleeves, or decrease them out right away for circular sleeves
Sides: Work one stitch at each side seam marker in reverse stockinette
– Mattress stitch after blocking finished garment. For the basted seams, work mattress stitch back and forth under the bar on either side of the basting stitch for the length of the “seam”
– – – – – – – – – –

ABBREVIATIONS
BO = bind off
BOR = beginning of round
CO = cast on
circ = circular needle
inc = increase
rnd(s) = round(s)
RS = right side
st(s) = stitch(es)
WS = wrong side

*You may reach your desired counts in the sleeves before the front/back, or vice versa. As desired counts are met, simply work even in that portion of the sweater.

**Or for seamed sleeves, knit flat as described here.

***You may need to round up or down on either your target count or your cast-on count, so that both are either even or odd numbers. Every increase is an even pair (2 sts) and you can’t increase evenly from an odd number to an even number, or vice versa. Use whichever your stitch pattern requires, if applicable.

****Make sure you have enough rows to work the number of increases it will take to get from your cast-on counts to your target-minus-underarm counts.