Top-Down Knitalong FO No. 4: Jen Beeman

Top-Down Knitalong FO No. 4: Jen Beeman

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!

Top-Down Knitalong FO No. 4: Jen Beeman

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.

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PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: FO No. 3: Karen Templer

FO-2016.21 : Striped pullover

Striped Pebble sweater (2016 FO 21)

All of my thoughts and knitting process notes for this fantastic pullover (my last finish of 2016) are covered in my Q&A post about it, but for those of you who want all of the stitch counts and other nitty-gritty details, those are below. And in addition to “modeled” shots for FOs this year, I’m making an effort to do outfit ideas for them too — so here’s the first round of that (below)! For these photos, though, I opted to throw it on with my oldest and dearest.

The only thing not noted previously, I think, is that my starting point was that I wanted the neck and cuffs and hopefully the waist band to be black. Ideally, the underarms would also have been black, but there was no way for that to work without some less acceptable compromise on another factor, so I just kept the armholes deep enough that the fabric is not up against my underarms at all. Also, technically, I should have been switching to an ivory stripe at the point where the cuffs happen, but decided to just extend them in the black, and I love the way that worked out. I wish I had gone a tiny bit longer on the final waist/hem stripe to lend a little more visual weight there, but it’s all good!

I want to say thank-you one more time to Shibui for giving me this yarn for the Top-Down Knitalong (plus one of the WIP of the Week prizes). This fabric is just incredible — light and thin and soft and warm all at the same time — and I am thrilled to have this sweater in my closet.

You can scroll through all of my posts on this sweater here, Instagram posts here, and fave it on Ravelry if you’re so inclined. Again, process notes are here, and stitch counts and other blow-by-blow details are below.

Pattern: Improv (top-down tutorial)
Yarn: Pebble from Shibui, held double; approx 6 skeins Ivory and 6 skeins Abyss
Cost: free pattern + complimentary yarn = $0
(yarn would have been $228 had I paid for it; the most expensive sweater in my closet, and I would consider it money very well spent)

Striped Pebble sweater (2016 FO 21)

GAUGE

5.75 sts and 8.5 rows = 1 inch (measured over 4″ = 23/34) knitted on US6/4mm

TARGET MEASUREMENTS

42″ chest = 242 sts
13″ upper arm circumference = 74 sts
9″ yoke/armhole depth (76 rows)
12-stitch underarms
13.5″ body length (includes 2″ hem ribbing)
22.5″ total length
16.5″ sleeve length from underarm (includes 2″ cuff ribbing)
8″ cuff circumference

DETAILS

— Co 68 sts divided thusly: 1 | 14 | 38 | 14 | 1

— On row 1, increased one stitch at each raglan marker for a basting stitch

Increased (kfb) at front neck and in pairs at each raglan on every other row

Worked neck shaping until 2″ of depth, cast on to bridge the gap and join, then worked a few more rounds so first stripe was 2.5″ at the back (and neckband would be fully enclosed in a black stripe)

Continued increasing sleeve and body sections to 12 sts short of target counts, worked even to intended yoke depth, then cast on the 12 sts at each underarm

— Each yoke/body stripe (in the round) is 21 rows; but sleeve stripes are 22 rows each — to add some length and because sleeves were knitted flat

— Increased a few times along the side seams for A-line shape (and included basting stitch at each side seam)

Decreased sleeves gradually from 74 to 68 sts, then on final row before starting the cuff ribbing decreased to 50 sts

— Picked up 88 sts for neckband (approx 3 out of 4) on US5/3.75mm, worked to double length for foldover band; to ensure no tightness due to fairly small neck hole, worked final two rib rounds on US9/5.5mm then did sewn BO, before loosely whipstitching to the cast-on edge on the inside

Striped Pebble sweater (2016 FO 21)

PREVIOUSLY in FOs: My sewing year in review

Top-Down Knitalong FO No. 3: Karen Templer

Top-Down Knitalong FO No. 3: Karen Templer

With the big Fall knitalong each year (Amanda, Cowichan and now Top-Down) I always interview the panelists about their finished sweaters — and I have this silly tradition of including myself in that. But with my top-down sweaters generally, I always give you guys all of my numbers and details. Which means you’re getting two posts from me about this sweater: the q&a today and the details in a week or two. [UPDATE: Here are those details] In the interest of full disclosure, I still have one side seam to finish, the neckband to sew down, and the ends to weave in, but I’ll take proper modeled photos and have those along with the detail post soon. Cool?

Of the four panelists, your sweater is the most unlike what you were planning at the outset, which was an ivory cable sweater. What happened there?

I wrote about how I got from the one plan to the other in I’m joining the start-over club, but the short version is no matter how great that ivory sweater was going to be, it wasn’t the right addition to my closet. So I scrapped it and started over.

And how are you feeling about that decision in retrospect?

It was probably the smartest decision of my knitting life so far. Especially after doing that whole wardrobe planning week recently — where I looked at what I have in my closet, what’s missing, and what I could make for myself that would have a real impact — I feel really great about adding this striped sweater to the mix. Stripes are a minimalist/introvert’s version of color and pattern, and I love how bold I went with these stripes. It’s a sweater you’ll see coming a mile away, and yet it still feels like me. And it will really jazz up my outfit options in the same way my Cowichan-ish vest does. They’re the two things I’ve made that light me up the most — and that light up my closet.

How does the yarn feel about that decision in retrospect?

The yarn couldn’t be happier! It was making really beautiful cabled fabric — a little bit to my surprise, honestly. When I was thinking about sweater concepts for this knitalong, I started from the question of what yarn would I like to use, and I’ve been wanting to knit with Pebble since its inception. When I swatched for the cable sweater idea, I was thrilled that the Pebble seemed to lend itself to that so nicely. But when I switched to stockinette, I could really appreciate the character of this yarn. It is just so light and soft and fascinating, really, and in stockinette it gets to be just that. The sweater is a dream — it’s the thinnest and nicest sweater I’ve ever made, but warm and cozy. Every time I tried it on along the way, I couldn’t stand having to take it off. And it couldn’t be more perfect for this stripe concept — it’s a beautiful (read: non-yellow) shade of ivory and the most gorgeous soft black, both with some depth due to the heatheriness that comes from the different fibers taking the dye slightly differently. Together they are just heaven. And I love that it’s partially recycled fiber. So enormous thanks to Shibui for providing me with this yarn and also for donating one of the prizes for the knitalong.

It looks like an extremely straightforward top-down raglan sweater — like, textbook example. Are there ways in which you diverted from the basic top-down recipe?

Of course! I didn’t do anything tricky with the raglans themselves because I wanted a really clean miter on the stripes, so I just increased at all points every other row for a straight 45° raglan. But of course I did baste them — so I just worked one basting stitch at each raglan, with a kfb in the stitch on either side of the basting stitch. And because those increases were going to meet at the seam when I sewed it up, I didn’t want to risk any looseness or sloppiness at all in switching from a purl to a kfb — so I did the basting stitch in stockinette rather than my usual reverse stockinette stitch. That meant (especially in the black parts!) it was harder to see that stitch to seam it up, but I think it was worth it.

I also took advantage of the basting stitch and did my color change on that stitch, so it disappeared into the raglan seam and I didn’t have to worry about “jogless stripes” or anything. And I did a folded neckband, which I love — it looks so polished, especially in this yarn.

I did a basting stitch (reverse stockinette this time) at each side seam. And I worked the sleeves flat, which was especially great in this case! The stripes made for the perfect opportunity to go back and forth between the two sleeves, since I was breaking the yarn anyway. So I’d work an ivory stripe on each sleeve, then a black one on each sleeve, etc. Two-at-a-time sleeves mean less need to keep track of what you did because you’re just going to go do it on the other sleeve a minute later. And with that and the stripes, they felt like they went super fast!

So why did it take so long? Didn’t you cast on for this in mid-September?

I think so, yeah. I was making really fast progress on it initially, and then with Slow Fashion October and extreme holiday-prep madness (I’m a retailer, you know) it got very little attention between mid-Oct and early December, at which point it really picked up steam. But also, this is the most stitches I’ve ever committed to one sweater for myself. It’s a lot of knitting at that gauge and my size. (5.75 sts/8.5 rows per inch — I know that seems huge to some of you.) I definitely had major project fatigue after three-ish months of dinky stockinette, but it was totally worth it. This sweater is magnificent. Now if only I had the patience to do it again in all black …

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I’ll be back soon with all of the top-down stitch count specifics and so on, and Jen is still knitting! So we’ve got one more FO to go. Keep sharing your own progress on the #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 feed, and if you’re using my tutorial, make sure to link your project notes to the Improv pattern page on Ravelry!

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PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: The WIPs of the Week that became FOs

 

 

 

The WIPs of the Week that became FOs

The WIPs of the Week that became FOs

I was really hoping to show you my finished Top-Down Knitalong sweater this week, but I haven’t had a chance to seam it yet! Regardless, I thought it would be fun to follow up on the WIP of the Week winners that were featured here along the way, since many of those WIPs are now garments.

There were 7 weeks but 9 winners, since I picked two twice. Two of the winners’ sweaters were finished by the time they were featured, Paige from Week 6 and Orlane from Week 7. Three have yet to post FO photos, so you can see the most recent images from Beth @beththais (from Week 2), Ashley @callistoknits (Week 1) and Kelsey @kelseyknits (Week 7). But what about those other four? Such brilliance:

TOP: Week 5 was Brigit @thewoolwitch frogging her completed mega-cardigan to try to get a better overall fit — and she nailed it! So worth the effort. (And look, I think she’s wearing it with a L’Arbre Hat!)
(WIP of the Week post / Ravelry project page)

MIDDLE LEFT: Week 4 had two winners, the first of which was Ding @halfcrystalline experimenting and tweaking her stockinette pullover with cables along the raglans and sides, which turned out beautifully!
(WIP of the Week post / Ravelry project page)

MIDDLE RIGHT: also in Week 4 was Sari @sari_n_ with one of the biggest crowd-pleasers of the event, her gorgeous ivory boatneck pullover with cables on the front and back.
(WIP of the Week post / Ravelry project page)

BOTTOM: Week 3 was Jess @jess_b_daniels frogging an underwhelming sweater for her beloved, Jenn, to make something custom. The finished henley is fantastic and well-loved by both parties!
(WIP of the Week postRavelry project page)

It’s really thrilling and stunning for me that all of these very different sweaters (and countless more on the #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 feed and on Ravelry!) came from my Improv pattern/tutorial. I’ll be back with my FO soon, to be followed by Jen’s!

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PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: Panel FO No.2: Brandi Harper

Top-Down Knitalong FO No. 2: Brandi Harper

Top-Down Knitalong FO No. 2: Brandi Harper

Good news! Our second panelist from the Top-Down Knitalong has finished her sweater! Here’s the eternally sparkly Brandi Harper of purlBknit to tell us about her truly improvised cardigan—

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You were the panelist being the most artistic and improvisational about this whole thing, literally making it up as you went. As you said in the introductions “No swatch, no planning, no sketches involved.” You were working on a scarf when I announced the knitalong and decided to turn the scarf into a cardigan. Then at the midway check-in, you were changing the sleeve length and side panels, and even talking about converting the cardigan to a pullover. Tell us about the shape the sweater eventually took.

Hiiii guuuuys! I fell completely and totally in love after I did the final fitting. It was a cardigan through and through. I was worried it was going to be too “busy” and detailed to be a cardigan. So wrong. The color and shape makes for the perfect layering piece and I can dress it up or down!

After the last panel update I had to rip back to where I separated the yoke from the sleeves. The decision to cast on 8 sts under the armhole to create a gusset was not rooted in any math — it just felt good in the woo woo sense. I have a thing for certain numbers. Lesson to all my knitters out there: check that gauge, baby! I don’t know why I’m being so stubborn, but I still haven’t checked my tension. Everything you see is literally the result of me just winging it, trying it on, ripping out, taking educated guesses on shaping to fit my body and doing what looked right.

In the end, it is a cardigan with no official closure yet (and I am in no rush to make those decisions since I want to wear it NOW), slightly belled sleeves, A-line shaping to accommodate my hips and a large shawl-like collar.

The sweater began with traditional raglan shaping, correct? But then you got creative with the rest of the construction. What are some of the less traditional (or more inventive) construction methods you employed along the way?

The neck, body and sleeves up until the underarm are knit in one piece from the top down, using traditional raglan shaping. I increased 8 sts every other row using yarnovers. The rest of the body and the sleeves are knit flat. I like the structure and look of mattress stitch seaming.

I picked up hundreds of stitches around the fronts and bottom edge, going two needle sizes down and *picking up 3 sts, skipping 1 space; rep from * till all stitches were picked up to avoid buckling. If you look closely, you’ll see a ridge between the body and border. That’s 2 garter stitches! When you pick up stitches, sometimes there will be a seam on the wrong side. I instead picked up behind those stitches to add an extra detail to the right side. I worked about 2 inches of border before starting the short rows to construct the collar. After I bound off, I accented and reinforced the entire trim with a row of twisted slipstitch created with a crochet hook.

On the side panel of the body along the increases, I picked up and made a stitch between the reverse stockinette and lace pattern using a small crochet hook. I use this technique often in my patterns to neaten up areas. It also affects the overall structure of a piece and sometimes creates a wavy edge at the bottom!

I played around with a few sleeve trims and really liked the look of a few rows of single crochet topped off with crab stitch.

Top-Down Knitalong FO No. 2: Brandi Harper

How do you feel about your process — listening to where the sweater seemed to want to go rather than trying to impose an idea on it? Good times? Good results? Did it leave you wanting to knit that way more often, or just the opposite?

I tend to have a love/hate relationship with many of my ideas during the design process. I play around a lot with construction and rarely follow patterns, so there is a lot of trail and error. It can get annoying to have to keep ripping out, but that is what I love most about knitting too. I can fix and learn from my mistakes. I had a lot of good times with this piece — especially since it started off in Portugal, followed by the Netherlands in celebration of my birthday —but there were also times when I literally threw it to the side mad like “just look nice already dammit!!!” LOL. I’m looking at it now and I couldn’t be more excited about it. Looking forward to more freestyle knitting definitely.

Our friends at Purl Soho provided the yarn for your sweater (thank you, Purl!), which is their Flax Down, and you’ve knitted it into a beautiful allover lace. And you wound up knitting more sweater (more yarn) than you originally envisioned. Do you feel like the yarn has turned out to be the right match for what the sweater grew into? And for the stitch pattern you employed?

Give me all the Flax Down give it to me now! Thank you Purl! I ended up using about six and a half balls. I am totally impressed with the yardage given the size of this sweater. After blocking it and steaming the border, I was literally hopping on my toes with a very giddy ahhhhhhh!!!!! I love this yarn so much. Knowing it will wash and wear well is the best part. The drape is really flowy (that’s a word for sure spell check) and silky. ADORE.

I know you’ve got holiday knitting to do for purlBknit, but you mentioned in the intros that this was the first sweater you’ve designed for yourself in four years. Will you be doing it again soon?

I definitely won’t be selling this sweater, since I’m really excited about writing the pattern! It won’t be published anytime soon due to all the details and the time it takes to scale for different sizes, but it’s on the to-do list. In the meantime, I am doing research on macramé techniques that will make for a sturdy belt to close it up when needed. Also envisioning three dusty pink mother-of-pearl post buttons to bring the collar up into a turtleneck. The eyelets will make for great buttonholes. I have another sweater already in the works that came about during the proofing of my Shawl Collar pattern, so yes yes yes, sweater knitting is definitely in my near future. Thank you so much, Karen, for making this piece possible! You are made up of unicorn magic.

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Aw, shucks. ;) Thank you so much for joining the panel, Brandi! For more photos (and a teaser video!) of Brandi’s killer cardigan, follow @purlbknit on Instagram.

Jen and I are still knitting — as are lots of others on the #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 feed — so stay tuned!

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PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: FO No. 1 Jess Schreibstein

Queue Check — October 2016

Queue Check — October 2016

The only thing that’s changed since my last Queue Check is there are a whole lot more stripes to my striped sweater than there were a month ago. I’ve got just a few inches of body left, then neckband and sleeves. I haven’t touched my Channel cardigan in the meantime, so it’s still just the one part-sleeve, but it won’t be long before I’m wearing the stripes and knitting the Channel. And I continue to believe these will be the two best sweaters I’ve ever owned, handmade or otherwise.

I made a point on Instagram the other day about listening to the knits I’m able to neglect. That’s not this cardigan — it is patiently waiting and I can hardly stand not knitting it — but the grey sweater I started with my Sawkill Farm last Nov does fall into this category, compounded by my trio of gorgeous grey yarns for which I need to come up with just the right long-term uses. So between now and next check, while I knit away on Channel, that’s what I’ll be pondering.

YARNS: top is Pebble held double (given to me by Shibui, part of the Top-Down Knitalong); bottom is Clever Camel

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PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: September 2016

Top-Down Knitalong FO No. 1: Jess Schreibstein

Top-Down Knitalong FO No. 1: Jess Schreibstein

Hey, guess what — there’s a member of the panel for the Top-Down Knitalong who finished her sweater! Brandi is either also there or on the brink, and Jen and I are still plugging away at it, but today I am pleased to show you the finished object of the lovely Jess Schreibstein. In case there’s anyone who doesn’t know her, Jess writes the Swatch of the Month column for Fringe Association, charms Instagram as @thekitchenwitch and just launched her new website. So let’s hear about this sweater—

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You’re the only panelist who will have completed the same sweater you started — yours is true to your original plan. Be honest: Feeling at all smug about that? ;)

You know, I didn’t even realize that I was the first person on the panel to finish her sweater until I wore it the first time. Then it just dawned on me – like, WOW, how did that even happen?! But all along, my primary goal was to stay dedicated to getting the sweater exactly how I wanted it, and I took it as a given that that process would take time and trial and error. But once I made it through yoke and neck shaping, the rest of the sweater came together easily, and I set myself a deadline of finishing by the Sheep & Wool Festival in Rhinebeck. Which I did, but barely, in true Rhinebeck fashion. The sweater finished drying the morning I left!

You wound up admirably spending a lot of time and revision on your neck, in an effort to get it just how you wanted it. To recap, you cast on your neck stitches and worked the funnel neck in the round, and initially weren’t going to do any neck shaping. But then you decided to add short rows, which took a few tries. Can you talk about why you didn’t want to shape the neck the traditional way — I know some people were curious why you chose the route you did — and how you feel about the short rows in the end? Do you feel you solved all the problems you were trying to solve?

You’re right – instead of casting on stitches and working the neck shaping back and forth before joining in the round, per the method you describe, I worked the neck in the round and then used short rows to get the neck shaping I was after. To get a turtleneck or mock neck with the traditional method, I would have to pick up the cast-on neck stitches, which wouldn’t really be an issue except that the simple lines of knit and purl are so important to getting my particular design to look right. I wanted those lines from the neck to move seamlessly into the yoke and body, without any funky jogs or noticeable seams around the neck.

I ran into setbacks on the short rows because I really just hadn’t had to use them much before, so didn’t know about some pitfalls in particular methods that make them unattractively visible. The knit/purl rib can also be less forgiving for short rows. On the recommendation of my friend Olga Buraya-Kefelian, I used the German Short Rows method, and spaced the turns 2 stitches apart from each other to lend a gradual grade to the shaping. It definitely worked, and I’m pleased with the result!

It seems like once you got over that hump, it was smooth sailing for you. Were there any other setbacks or revisions along the way?

The biggest revision was on the sleeves. I originally intended to knit them flat, as you’ve recommended for multiple reasons, but found after working half a sleeve that the seam would look sloppy with the decreases and the K1P1 rib. Instead, I worked them in the round, working in a knit seam down the center of the sleeve with a purl stitch on either side – which were later seamed up with a basting stitch. I was worried that a basting stitch on either side of this center “knit” seam, effectively creating two seams on the inside of the sleeve, might look bulky or feel stiff, but after blocking they melted into the sleeve and they look great.

You chose YOTH’s Father in Olive for your sweater (which they generously provided, I should note — thank you, YOTH!) How do you feel about your yarn selection for this sweater — are you into the Rambouillet, happy with how it’s performing this particular job? Anything you might have done differently there?

I loved working with YOTH’s Father and am so grateful to them for providing the yarn! The color is so rich and the stitch definition is stunning. Thankfully, Veronika at YOTH reached out to me before I started knitting to let me know that she recommends alternating skeins, since there is slight color variation from skein to skein. This definitely helped blend any slight light and dark differences in the yarn.

How did you wind up treating the lower edges — the cuffs and hem? And did you include other basting stitches anywhere or knit anything flat?

The edges of the neck, sleeves and hem were all worked in a size or two smaller needle than the body of the sweater to create some subtle shaping and a snug fit on the wrists. I bound off all edges with a tubular bind off, which looks great with the rib. I also added a few rows of decreases on each side of the hem of the body for the same reason – some subtle shaping and a snug fit. No parts of the sweater were knit flat, but I added basting stitches on either side of the wide raglans and to the inside of the sleeves, as I mentioned. They added so much great structure to the sweater and look great.

This was your first time knitting a sweater top-down — and apart from the neck shaping, you mostly followed the process described in my tutorial, right? What do you feel you got out of the process, if anything, and would you do it again?

That’s right, no other major changes from your outlined process besides the neck shaping. I have to say that I learn a lot each time I knit a new sweater, but this one was different. Thanks to this process, I now have a much deeper understanding of sweater construction than when I started. But even more importantly, I was part of a larger community of knitters trying, failing, and trying again to design their own sweaters, which helped me stay positive and focused on the ultimate goal – learning how to make a killer sweater for myself! I definitely plan to use this method again, specifically for some basic cream and black cardigans I’d love to have in my closet.

Thank you, Karen, for organizing and hosting this KAL and inspiring so many of us to create our own improvised sweaters! So grateful to you.

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(Where’s my blush face emoji?) Thanks so much for playing, Jess!

I’ll have the rest of the panelists’ sweaters to show you as they/we finish up! Meanwhile, there’s still action on the #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 hashtag and the Improv top-down tutorial is here (or on Ravelry) for you anytime.

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PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: WIPs of the Week No.7