How to knit inset pockets (top-down)

How to knit inset pockets (top-down)

Last February I did a tutorial about how to knit inset pockets on a bottom-up garment, and today I want to talk about how to flip that around and knit inset pockets in a top-down sweater, for those who might be doing an Improv sweater for the Top-Down Knitalong and want to add pockets to their design — or just want to add pockets to a pattern you’re knitting from, or whatever the case may be. (I apologize for doing this with yet another black sweater — it’s just the pocket-in-progress I had available.) Basically, the premise is the same: You’ve got the fabric of your sweater body, and you need to create a slit in it from which the pocket lining will extend. When you’re knitting upward from the hem of the garment, you bind off stitches at what will become the top edge of the pocket front, then join the lining (which you’ve knitted separately) to the next row and carry on upwards (loads of pics in the previous tutorial on this). From the top down, it’s the reverse: You need live stitches set aside from which you’ll knit the pocket lining, and new spanning that divide for continuing on with the sweater body.

As with pretty much everything in knitting, there are various ways you could accomplish this. The two most obvious are:

A) Work it like an afterthought heel or thumb, where you knit your desired number of pocket stitches onto waste yarn, slip them back to the left needle and knit into them again with your working yarn. In that case, the slit is held closed by the waste yarn while you finish your sweater. When you’re ready, you’d return the upper row of stitches to your needle and knit the pocket lining downward; then return the lower row of stitches to your needle and either bind them off or knit upward for a few rows to create the pocket edging. Or—

B) What I’ve done and photographed here is I set aside the pocket stitches on waste yarn and cast on the same number of stitches for continuing on with the body. When the body was complete, I put the live stitches back on a needle and knitted downward for the pocket lining. (I find it useful to use a smaller needle when picking up live stitches like this — just make sure you knit into them with the correct size needle!) Then I picked up stitches along the cast-on edge and knitted upwards for my pocket edging — this time deliberately using smaller needles for a denser fabric at that edge.

I chose the latter method because I would rather have a bound-off edge than a cast-on edge for the finished edge of my pocket — easier to make it a nice clean edge — but I wanted cast-on stitches rather than live stitches to work from for that edging because I don’t like a droopy pocket. I felt like picking up stitches along a cast-on edge would give it some useful firmness there.

However you want to go about it, the basics steps are to figure out how many stitches wide and how many rows tall you want your pocket to be, and where exactly you want them to fall within your sweater body — i.e., work out your placement. I like the bottom edge of my pocket to be stitched down right along the row where I switch to my waist ribbing. I wanted this pocket about 2.5″ deep, so at my row gauge I decided on 16 rows of pocket depth — which means I started my pocket 16 rows from where I planned to start my waist ribbing. When I put the live stitches for the pocket lining back on my needle, I put a marker in that row so I’d know for sure which row to count from, and I knitted 16 rows and bound off, then tucked it in through the slit so it’s sitting behind the main fabric before proceeding with the edging. Make sense?

Again, however you go about creating your pocket, the last step (after it’s blocked) is to whipstitch the pocket lining to the backside of the sweater (see Cocoknits’ great tutorial on this) and mattress stitch along the sides of the pocket edging if you’ve done that.

I’d love to show you a finished photo of this pocket, but with it all seamed together the camera just sees a solid mass of black fabric. I’ll try to get a pic once the buttonband is done and I can shoot it vertically. But it just looks like an inset pocket!

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PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: WIP of the Week No.3

Woollelujah! + WIP of the Week No.3

Woollelujah! the new Fringe Supply Co. tote is here

We’ve got a lot to talk about today, so I’ll keep this part brief! Before I reveal the third WIP of the Week, I have to tell you about this new tote because, well, I can’t wait another second. It’s my favorite tote so far, and since the day the word first popped into my head (and proved to be, shockingly, 100% unknown to Google) it’s been killing me to keep it a secret. So here it is: the Woollelujah! tote, in all its glory.* This one’s big and exuberant in every way — and it’s also available in a choice of two ink colors! For more about it, and lots of pics in its black and blue guises, pop over to Fringe Supply Co. It’s also in yarn stores around the globe today, so check with your local!

Also this week, we got in Jared Flood’s exceptionally gorgeous and useful new book, Woolens — full of timeless accessories you’ll be knitting for years — and the new issue of Taproot, the theme of which is Wander. So take a second to check all of that out, and then come right back for WIP of the Week—

WIP of the Week No.3: Jess Daniels

Ok, so about WIP of the Week: You guys are making this a truly impossible task. Truly. Everyone is being completely amazing and I wish I could give every single Top-Down Knitalong participant a bonus prize. (Or at least a big kiss!) But that said, this week I’ve chosen to spotlight the WIP of Jess Daniels, who is @jess_b_daniels on IG and jessbdaniels on Ravelry. Jess had knitted a sweater last year for her beloved Jenn, which “just didn’t work out.” We all know the perils of knitting for our loved one, the fear of disappointing them and of a handknit sweater going unworn. Jess decided the improv knitalong was a perfect chance for a do-over. She’s frogging the failed sweater and reusing the yarn, and this time she’s not just knitting Jenn a sweater, she crafting one from her own imagination and calculations — a simple stockinette pullover with a henley placket. And I can’t wait to see how the placket part goes! So congratulations, Jess, you’ve won 10 skeins of Brooklyn Tweed Shelter Marls in the color of your choosing. Please get in touch with me to collect your prize! (I just realized after I wrote all of this that Jess’s WIP happens to also be Shelter. Hope that’s a good thing!)

Next week’s WIP of the Week prize will be 12 skeins of O-Wool Balance! Another of my personal favorite yarns. So keep those photos and stories coming on the #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 feed, link your projects to the Improv pattern page if you’re using my tutorial, and leave links to your blog posts in the comments here so I and everyone can see what you’re up to! And remember: THERE’S NO SCHEDULE. I’m handing out bonus prizes through the end of September, but please knit at your own pace — there is no deadline. Whether you’re still sketching or already binding off, it’s all cool.

But before I close, I just want to give props to a few other (of the many) standouts from this past week:

@snohomishcarol for finishing this amazing cardigan — maybe she’ll give us speed-knitting lessons!

@stephrbernhard for all the various lessons she’s both learning from and bringing to her beautifully shaped pullover

@ajamakesthings for tapping into her heritage along the way

If the three of you will email me at contact@fringesupplyco.com — Carol, Steph and Aja — I have a Woollelujah! tote for each of you.

To everyone else, keep up the amazing work, thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next week!

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PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: How to improve your knitting and FO photos

*If there are any Best Made fans out there, you may recognize this as a design nod to one of my all-time favorite totes, which had sadly gone out of print but which they re-released last week! 

How to improve your knitting and FO photos

How to improve your knitting and FO photos

There are more how-to posts on the horizon in conjunction with the Top-Down Knitalong (how to knit an inset pocket, a folded hem, all sorts of neckbands … among the contenders). But I also get a lot of questions about photography — specifically how to take better knitting and FO photos — and since this year’s panelists happen to be superstars at it, I thought this would be a great chance to talk about it. So I’ve asked Brandi, Jess and Jen (who has a degree in the subject!) to share their 3 top tips that anyone can do to improve their photos, and I’m adding mine to the mix as well.

I feel like we, as a knitting community, deserve a huge pat on the back. When I was first on Instagram and Ravelry five years ago looking for knits and knitters, the photos were a long way from what you find these days. In many of them, you couldn’t even make out what it was a picture of! Smartphone cameras have improved tremendously, for one thing, but I also think a lot of us have discovered that part of the joy of knitting (and the knitting community) is sharing our work, and in discovering the joy of documenting things well, we’ve gotten a lot better at it! I know not every knitter (or sewer) cares about photos at all — which is obviously totally fine — but for those who do find it fun and interesting and are always on the lookout for ways to improve, here’s our advice. Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of overlap. ;)

. . . . .

KAREN TEMPLER (see @karentempler)
All I own is an iPhone, so every Instagram, blog, Ravelry and product photo I take is shot on my phone. The editing apps have gotten so good I don’t do much in Photoshop anymore. These days, I really like A Color Story (largely because it has an actual curves tool, hallelujah!) and always start there. If I use any of the filters, it’s usually either just Everyday, or a combination of Summer Day and Film Camera — and definitely dialed way down — but I always use the tools to adjust brightness and warmth and such (see below). If it’s a photo for the blog or shop, I might do a tiny bit more color correction in Photoshop. 

1) Focus. If you’re using a smartphone, wipe off your lense first — I promise there are fingerprints on it. Then focus or tap the screen so the camera is focusing on the right part of the image.

2) Side light. Make sure the light is actually falling on whatever you’re shooting, rather than your subject being backlit or in the shadows. And if at all possible, use side light not overhead light. If you’re taking pictures indoors, use the light coming in through a window. If shooting outdoors, do it in the morning or evening, when the sun is softer and lower in the sky. (If for some reason you have to shoot under an overhead/artificial light, make sure it’s not creating a big glare or hotspot in your photo, and adjust the color balance as noted below, to compensate for the yellowness of the light.)

3) Take 60 seconds to edit. By which I mean, take multiple photos/angles and see which is best. But also iPhone photos tend to be a little grey overall and a bit on the warm (yellow) side for my liking. So — whether you’re using the camera app’s built-in editing tools or IG’s tools or an editing app — at bare minimum, adjust sharpness, brightness and warmth. Playing around with even just those three sliders (or the curves tool in A Color Story) can mean a world of difference in your photos being clearer and brighter and the whites being whiter.

. . . . .

How to improve your knitting and FO photos

BRANDI HARPER (see @purlBknit)
I use a Nikon D3100 that came with a 2-lens kit purchased from Costco and a Manfrotto 190 tripod. For self-portraiture, I use a camera remote snagged from Amazon. I always shoot on automatic mode and do my editing in Photoshop or iPhoto. I never use filters.

1) Lighting. All hail the sun! I only shoot in natural light, mostly right beside a window. When the sun is blazing, I use a white paper shade from Home Depot to filter and diffuse the light and decrease the appearance of harsh shadows. No flash ever. Rainy, cloudy days create amazingly moody photos with shades of grey; these images are my favorite!

2) Editing. I do all my editing on Photoshop CS6 keeping it really simple with the following: crop, brightness/contrast, sharpness, resize. Retouching I do in iPhoto since the tool is super user-friendly.

3) Composition and perspective. I love birds-eye view. You have to shoot right above the scene you want to photograph. When it comes to organizing tools and props, I aim for things organized neatly using right angles, no stacking, and space between every element. To this day, the best thing I ever did to improve a photo is to try and try again.

. . . . .

How to improve your knitting and FO photos

JEN BEEMAN (see @jen_beeman)
For Instagram photos, I use my iPhone SE and edit in the Lightroom app and VSCO. For finished project photos, I use a Canon 6D with EF 24-105mm f/4L lens shooting RAW, and edit in Lightroom and Photoshop (if needed).

1) Lighting & Color Balance. I prefer natural light, always — bonus points if it’s directional because that will enable you to get really good highlights and shadows. These add depth and interest to your photos and will also really highlight the textures and stitch patterns of your knitting beautifully. I always correct the white balance and curves in the Lightroom App. This will help remove any color cast your photo might have (especially helpful if you can’t use natural light) and bring out depth in your photos. I prefer Lightroom because it syncs with my desktop version of Lightroom and because the white balance tool is really really good.

2) Composition. When photographing knitting I usually shoot from the top down or straight on. This is just personal preference because I like to remove any background noise or clutter so that the yarn or project is front and center. If you’re shooting across an object you have a background full of random information competing with the subject of your photo. I photograph a lot of projects on my front porch, but I crop out the scraggly bush to the side and shoot top down to avoid showcasing a street full of cars, since neither of those enhance the visual or add to the story of my knitting in any way. Also, like any self- respecting photo major, I take multiple shots of any photo ;)

3) Consistency. I try not to get too caught up in the consistency of my feed — if I take that too seriously I get stressed out, and that is not the point of Instagram! I prefer clean, natural, well- lit photos so I use a few filters in VSCO that enhance that look, but I always scale back the filter opacity to 50% or less. Sticking to the same few filters does add somewhat of a common thread to my photos and keeps my feed relatively cohesive.

. . . . .

JESS SCHREIBSTEIN (see @thekitchenwitch)
I use iPhone about 99% of the time for my Instagram photos, but always take a photo with a Pentax K5 IIs for my finished garments. I find that the DSLR can get much better focus on stitch definition and color variation than an iPhone – obvious, but easy to dismiss. When formatting phone photos, I use VSCO, filter A6, then dial back the contrast. I used to have more fade on my photos, but got tired of that look – I prefer something that’s more saturated and true-to-life now. For DSLR photos, I use a combo of iPhoto and Pixelmator (a poor woman’s version of Photoshop).

1) Natural, indirect light. If there are any overhead lights, I turn them all off. They can add a weird yellowing or washed-out look to a final photo.

2. Focus on the knitting. I try to keep the photo focused on the object, the stitch pattern, or the yarn, and minimize any clutter in the shot unless it’s directly contextual or enhances the photo in some way.

3. Consistent look and feel. I like to think of my photos, especially on Instagram, as a constant and evolving series. I try not to get too caught up in “branding,” per se, because I feel like you can lose a lot of spontaneity and playfulness in photos that way. A visual voice will come through naturally, but it’s helpful to try to strike a similar color palette and tone in your approach so your photos all feel related as part of a cohesive story.

. . . . .

Of course, the most important thing is to be yourself — to figure out how to have that come through in your photos. When it comes to props (or not), angles, and the look of your images and your feed, the best thing is to try stuff and see what you like. Once you get comfortable taking and editing photos on the most basic levels, you’ll find more freedom to play around and discover a style and look that works for you.

Please feel free to share your favorite tips in the comments — I know I, for one, always have more to learn!

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PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: WIP of the Week No.2 (and Elsewhere)

WIP of the Week No.2 // and Elsewhere

WIP of the Week // and Elsewhere

Before I announce this week’s WIP of the Week, I want to say something about prizes, because I think people have a tendency to put too much stock in them. Prizes are lovely, but PRIZES ARE NOT THE POINT. As I’ve said before, I feel like when you participate in a knitalong, the prize is your sweater! And never more so than this Top-Down Knitalong, where it’s a sweater you cooked up completely on your own — and for many of you participating, it’s also the first time you’ve done so. What you get out of the knitalong is a sweater, plus a lot of learning and experience and maybe even some new friendships. Priceless rewards. If you happen to be one of a few people who wins a prize along the way, that’s just icing on the cake, right? It’s the cake that really matters.

With that said, this week’s WIP of the Week is by Beth, who is @bethtais on Instagram and also beththais on Ravelry. I wrote an essay recently for an upcoming book about how we, as knitters and sewers, have the power to make treasures, and not just clothes. This sweater of Beth’s is such a beautiful example of that, so it really stood out to me in that regard. She’s knitting a little striped cardigan for her daughter, and really thinking of it as a part of an outfit and larger wardrobe of treasures.  The yarn is the last in her stash of a much-loved small-batch yarn, Flock, left over from knitting she’s done for herself. And likewise, the dress is sewn from fabric she dyed and made herself a dress out of, before using the rest for her daughter. It’s the sweetest little outfit (reminds me of Kathryn Davey) and I hope it gets worn and loved and saved and passed on to the next generation. And I just adore that touch of blue in the stripe sequence. So beautifully done in every regard.

So congratulations, Beth, you’ve won 7 skeins of Purl Soho’s Flax Down, in the color of your choosing! Please email me at contact@fringesupplyco.com to collect your prize! And big thanks again to my friends at Purl Soho for providing this week’s luscious prize. Next week’s prize is 10 skeins of the new Brooklyn Tweed Shelter Marls, so keep those photos and stories coming! Link your Ravelry project to the Improv pattern page if you’re using my tutorial (131 projects and counting!), and use the hashtag #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 wherever you post. I especially love it when you leave links in the comments to your blog posts, so everyone can see those.

Whether you’re participating or not, I really recommend clicking through the posts on Instagram — such an amazing range of knitters and sweaters and trials and errors and victories. It’s incredible. When you’re done reading through that, there’s Elsewhere:

Have you seen Brandi’s YouTube channel? Gorgeous

Have you heard about Ann’s Washalong idea? Genius

Tom’s sweater is a work of art

And Dianna’s queue is jaw-droppingly beautiful

Great tutorial on seaming perpendicular knits

LOVING this year’s Refashioners challenge

Darling

I might need to make this tank

And this hat

Happy weekend, lovely people! See you back here next week—

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PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: How to knit a compound raglan // PREVIOUSLY: Elsewhere

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

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!