My First Sweater: Anna Dianich

My First Sweater: Anna Dianich

As I was bogging down in the stockinette wasteland of my St. Brendan body last week, I was thinking about that golden time when my pal Anna Dianich (of Tolt Yarn and Woolknitted my Trillium body for me and I knitted her Lila sleeves. Wishing we could tag-team every sweater that way, it occurred to me to wonder for the first time what her first sweater had been, so I asked her to answer some My First Sweater questions for us all.

This was before last Friday’s Q for You (“Are you a sweater knitter?”) went up, and I have to say I’m completely blown away by the response to that question. Over 500 comments so far, and probably 90-95% of you said “yes, I’m a sweater knitter,” with another 3-5% saying “not yet, but I want to be!” Only a few people said no, and as several people pointed out, I have likely cultivated a sweater-knitting readership, being a bit of a monomaniac. But if you asked me about the general knitting population, I’d guess 70-80% are accessory knitters with the remaining minority being sweater knitters. Allowing for audience bias, I might have guessed more like 60% of you would have responded that you knit sweaters. I never would have dreamed it would be nearly unanimous. And of course it’s wildly unscientific, and I have no way of knowing how many non-sweater knitters simply didn’t answer. But regardless, that was an eye-opener for me, and has me thinking again how best I can help people over the hump. So with that said, here’s the coincidental return of My First Sweater, and expect this to be more regular going forward!

With that, here’s Anna—

. . .

How long had you been knitting when you knitted your first sweater, and what prompted you to do it?

I had been knitting for over 10 years before I knitted my first sweater. I had knit hats and a couple socks and a couple of baby/child sweaters but never a sweater for me. I was intimated, which is silly since knitting an adult sweater is same as knitting a kids’ sweater; it’s just bigger. The first sweater I started for myself was awful! I didn’t really understand the importance of swatching … honestly, I don’t know if I even knew what swatching was. I basically just jumped right into knitting this sweater, and I could tell it was going to be very big, and I also ran into a few other issues since I was still not great at “reading my knitting” and how to fix little mistakes. I abandoned that sweater and it stayed in my closet about 2/3 finished. A couple years later I tried again, this time with more knowledge and confidence.

How did you choose the pattern, and what was it? And what about the yarn choice?

It was the Levenwick sweater by Gudrun Johnston. I loved the design so much I had to knit it! I chose Brooklyn Tweed Shelter in the color Hayloft because, yes, I am one of those knitters that likes to knit in the color the sample was done in. Haha!

How did the knitting go? What were some of the challenges and hurdles along the way? Did you make any modifications, or knit it as written?

Having more knitting experience, knowledge and confidence helped! I actually swatched and read comments on Ravelry from people who had knitted the pattern — that was very helpful! I also turned to other knitters for help when I got stuck, which helped not only to get me through this project but to build more knitting knowledge. (There is always more to learn.) Since the sweater was top-down I was able to try it on and see if any adjustments needed to be made. I did make a couple of mods to the pattern after reading those comments on Ravelry and trying on the sweater as I went along.

How did you feel upon finishing it? Did you wind up wearing it? Do you still?

I was SO proud of myself! I felt like a “real knitter,” finally, after so many years of knitting. I understood what I was doing — it clicked. I remember wearing the sweater to VK Live in Seattle. I took a class with Gudrun Johnston and I wore it then. I was excited to show her and a little nervous. I don’t wear this sweater very much. It’s beautiful and it fits me but I think I’m more of a pullover person.

What are some of the lessons you learned from knitting that sweater — how has it impacted your choices since then?

I learned how important it is to be able to read your knitting, to understand what’s happening when you create stitches. I also learned how important it is to have a community of knitters around you, whether it’s friends or a local yarn store. Also, even though it’s your first sweater and you may make a few mistakes, use yarn that you love — it makes knitting and wearing it so much better! And don’t forget to swatch!

My First Sweater: Anna Dianich

You’ve knitted tons of sweaters at this point, as seen regularly on your Instagram feed — many more than you’ve posted to Ravelry. Do you have a personal favorite, and what makes it your favorite?

It’s funny because my favorite and my most-worn are two different sweaters. I think my favorite sweater is my Dalur (above/top) but it’s often not cold enough to wear it. I get a lot of compliments on my Seascale sweater and my Mailin sweater, and I’m super proud of the work I did on my Amanda cardigan, but my most-worn sweater is my Ladies Classic Raglan (above/bottom) knit with Cestari Traditional yarn. I wear this all the time!

Ok, it’s funny that you just said Dalur, because my last question for you is: Do you mind if I make an exact replica of your Dalur? I covet it.

Please knit the Dalur! We can be twins!

. . .

Thank you, Anna! Pattern links below, everyone. And for anyone who might need it: How to knit and measure a gauge swatch

PATTERNS MENTIONED
Levenwick by Gudrun Johnston
Dalur by Hulda Hákonardóttir
Seascale by Courtney Kelley [more about Anna’s]
Mailin by Isabell Kraemer
Amanda by Lena Holme Samsoe [subject of our Amanda Knitalong]
Ladies Classic Raglan by Jane Richmond [featured in Pullovers for first-timers]

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PREVIOUSLY in My First Sweater: Jenn Steingass

My First Sweater: Jenn Steingass (aka @knit.love.wool)

My First Sweater: Jenn Steingass (aka @knit.love.wool)

A few Elsewheres ago, I included a link to a fantastic interview on the Kelbourne blog with Jenn Steingass, better known as @knit.love.wool on Instagram, about her amazing bounty of colorwork yoke sweaters. After it ran, I got a nice email from Jenn, in which she mentioned that her very first sweater she had ever knitted for herself was from my top-down tutorial! Which of course I love to hear. Wanting to hear more about that sweater, though, I asked her to do a My First Sweater q&a here on Fringe, and she kindly obliged.

Jenn’s only photo of the finished sweater is the sadly dark and grainy one above, but if you want to see copious beautiful photos of her abundant output since then, make sure to check out her Instagram feed and Ravelry page. And with that—

. . .

How long had you been knitting when you decided to knit your first sweater? What got you to do it?

I’d been knitting for about two and a half years when I decided to knit myself a sweater. I’d made raglan sweaters for my kids, maybe 10-15 of them, some of which are on Ravelry and some that I never added to my project page. I wanted to make myself a sweater sooner, but I got pregnant with my second son so I put my plans on hold. Having knit so many woolies for my kids, I often wondered what it would be like to wear a garment made just for me out of nice wool yarn.

Your first sweater was improvised from my top-down tutorial. What made you choose that path as opposed to following a pattern for your first one?

Yes! Had I known that I would someday be chatting about this sweater on your blog, I would have made sure to take better photos. I was so excited to have knitted a sweater for myself, I immediately started wearing it and proceeded to live in it for the next year or so! Unfortunately, it went missing when we moved last year, and I have looked for it quite a few times but haven’t been able to find it anywhere. This picture was taken almost a year after I finished the sweater.

First, I decided I wanted to knit a basic stockinette sweater because the yarn I was going to use was marled and too busy for any sort of intricate stitch pattern. I’d tweaked raglan sweater patterns for my kids in the past, so I felt like I’d probably be able to improvise one for myself. I searched for a plain raglan pattern on Ravelry, but had trouble finding a simple, classic raglan. I think I had used too many filters in my search and that’s why I didn’t find what I was looking for. I somehow found your Improv project page, although I can’t remember exactly how I ended up finding it since it’s not technically a pattern. From there I followed the link to the tutorial on your blog, and also used the notes on the Improv page itself. It was perfect for me because I had already started altering patterns.

What yarn did you use, and how did you choose it?

I used worsted-weight Elsawool 2-ply, woolen-spun Cormo in Marled and it was a dream to work with and so nice to wear. I remember how soft it was, yet sturdy at the same time. The plies were spun in such a way that the yarn was really round, almost like it was one solid piece instead of two strands, and it was so bouncy. It was definitely some of the most perfect yarn I’d ever used. My favorite yarns are woolen or mule-spun domestic non-superwash wool. I had wanted something similar to my favorite Targhee yarn from a now defunct yarn company called Sweet Grass Wool. I think someone had recommended Elsawool when we were chatting about yarn via private message on Ravelry. I’d originally bought it to make a hooded romper suit for one of my boys but never got around to knitting it. It was the only yarn I had in my stash in sweater quantity at the time, so I used it for my sweater. I wore that sweater so much and the yarn didn’t pill hardly at all. I’d recommend it to anyone who loves wool!

Everyone I know who’s ever knitted with Elsawool is evangelical about it. How did the knitting go — what were some of the hurdles or challenges or thrills along the way? What surprised you about the process, if anything?

The knitting went well! I guessed at what I thought my gauge would be. I tend to look at a yarn, decide what needle I should use for it, and then guess what my gauge will be based on other similar yarns I have worked with in the past. I started doing that not long after I learned how to knit and then I would measure my gauge when the project was finished and blocked, and then would take note for future projects. When I want to knit something, I just want to cast on and go, so I don’t want to knit a swatch and then wait for it to dry. I understand I would have more consistent results if I had the patience to knit swatches, I just prefer to plan my projects using a hypothetical gauge instead. I like the mystery of whether or not things will work out or not. It keeps my on my toes.

I lucked out and my gauge was very close to what I thought it would be. My sweater fit me pretty well. I remember wishing I had either started with a few more stitches when I cast on, or stopped the raglan increases a little sooner and cast on a few more stitches when I separated for the body and sleeves. My yoke ended up a little more deep than I wanted. It was no fault of the tutorial, I just knit a few too many rounds for the yoke.

The most surprising part of the process was how long it took compared to a tiny kid’s sweater! For me, I have to build up tolerance for how long projects take. I remember thinking I could never, ever knit myself a sweater when I first learned how to knit, because it felt like it took so long just to knit small items. I am not quite at the point where I feel like I have desensitized myself to knitting a whole adult sweater in fingering-weight yarn on size 1 needles, but I have a feeling there will come a day where I won’t be fazed by knitting a sweater at such a fine gauge!

You mentioned above that you basically lived in it, so apparently it was a success in at least some ways. Did it live up to all your various goals and expectations?

Yes, I was totally thrilled with it and was so proud to have finished it. I loved the yarn I used, so it really was a delight to wear. The fit wasn’t 100% perfect (my own fault for not swatching) but it was good. I often slept in it in the winter — that’s how much I liked it. I wore it as much as possible up until I knit my second sweater a little over a year later. I continued to wear it in rotation with other sweaters I’d made until we moved. I would absolutely be reaching for it if I still had it. I might just have to knit it again because I liked it that much.

Do you feel like an improvised sweater was a good place to start — as in, would you recommend it as a starting point for others?

I felt like improvising a sweater based off the notes on your tutorial was very easy — it definitely helped that I had prior experience knitting a variety of pieces for my kids. I have a feeling it wouldn’t have gone as well if I hadn’t knit many other things first, but that is only because I guessed at what my gauge was going to be.

I can see how the following the tutorial would be beneficial for a first sweater project because it explains each step so much more than the average pattern. I like how you’ve provided pictures of what the sweater will look like as various stages in the knitting process – I imagine that extra info would be immensely helpful to a new knitter who is nervous and doesn’t know what to expect while trying their first raglan. I definitely think it would be an excellent first sweater project for an inexperienced knitter, so long as a gauge swatch is knitted in the round first.

I know you’ve knitted tons of amazing sweaters since then — your colorwork yoke sweaters are jaw-dropping. How does your experience of improvising a top-down sweater now impact your work on other sweaters, whether they’re from patterns or otherwise?

Thanks for the nice compliment about my sweaters! I really love making them.

Knitting my improvised sweater made me a more confident knitter. One of the things I love most about knitting is building on what I’ve learned from my successes and failures and applying that knowledge to future projects. I realized that closely following patterns isn’t always necessary — that sweaters are often very customizable at any point in the knitting process, and that a few simple math equations help make a well-fitting knitted garment possible. I began heavily modifying most of my projects from that point on. After having knit my sweater, I went on to improvise several top-down raglans for my sons in handspun of various weights, and all of them were based off of what I learned when I used your tutorial for my sweater.

For my lopapeysa-style sweaters, I use colorwork charts for the yoke but now redesign my sweaters by altering the stitch counts for the body, sleeves, yoke and collar. I know I picked up my improvised sweater several times as I knit some of my first colorwork sweaters and used it as a point of reference for stitch counts and measurements for the body and sleeves. The things I learned while knitting my improvised sweater also helped lay the foundation for my designing endeavors. I’d recommend the tutorial to anyone who is interested in knitting garments with a more personalized fit or even for those who hope to publish knitting patterns in the future.

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PREVIOUSLY in My First Sweater: Mary Jane Mucklestone

All photos © Jenn/@knit.love.wool, used with permission

My First Sweater: Mary Jane Mucklestone

My First Sweater: Mary Jane Mucklestone

My First Sweater: Mary Jane Mucklestone

When I was first musing about this My First Sweater series, I started thinking about all the truly brilliant knitters I know and trying to imagine where they began — what was their first sweater, and how long ago? I knew instantly I would have to ask Mary Jane Mucklestone, because not only is she a truly astonishing knitter (and teacher — don’t miss out on any opportunity to take one of her classes) but she’s also one of the funniest and loveliest people in the trade. And she did not disappoint! MJM’s first sweater was long enough ago that she no longer has it — and certainly doesn’t have an old snap on her iPhone. In fact, the only surviving photos turned out to be in the possession of her old friend Barb, who very kindly mailed these to me so I could use them for this post! (Thank you, Barb! They’re on their way back!) Of course, you can’t see the sweater at all, but how darling is young Mary Jane? So she also graciously sent me this highly informative pencil sketch of how she remembers it! Below is the colorful tale of this imperiled ’80s drop-shouldered wonder.

For more from Mary Jane, follow her on Instagram, check out her patterns on Ravelry, and she also happens to also be the most recent guest on Woolful! Thanks, MJM—

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How long had you been knitting when you cast on your first sweater? What drove you to it?

I had a very spotty knitting past up until the point I made my first sweater. I’d learned when I was really young, kindergarten or before, from my super cool teenaged next-door neighbor, who had a flip hairdo. No one in my family knit. The thing was, she taught me how to knit and I quickly knit up a blanket for my troll doll, but she didn’t tell me how to get it off the needle. I had to wait for her to come home from school … then she admired my work but ripped it out.

Next time was after high school. My best friend had returned from a Folk School in Sweden knitting continental style, and I wanted to look as cool as her. The yarn shop (upstairs at Scandia Imports on the Ave in Seattle, the same store where we bought our clogs) suggested I knit a scarf. Big yawn. I didn’t really want to make a scarf, so I made it wider than they told me to in the handwritten instructions, which of course made the yarn run out before it was long enough, resulting in a rectangle too wide and short for a scarf and too small for a baby blanket. Besides, I didn’t know any babies.

That was all the knitting I did for years …

1984 (sound cue Bowie 1984) After art school in Brooklyn, I worked in the fashion and advertising industries in the city for a few years, mostly doing recurring gigs that would be seasonal in nature — like hand-painting caftans for the haute couture Oscar de la Renta spring and resort collections, for instance. Or working as a studio assistant to rug weaver Elizabeth Eakins. But I became homesick for the west coast. I moved to Santa Barbara for a year, for the sun! Next door to the boutique where I worked was a yarn shop, Woolies, where I used go just to stare at the wall of colored yarn — this gorgeous floor to ceiling visual wonder of color and texture. One day the owner Katie said, “For all the time you hang around in the store doing nothing you could’ve knit a sweater.”

How did you choose the pattern, if there was one?

I had no clue how to go about starting anything, let alone a sweater. I just said “fix me up.” Katie said “choose a color,” pointing to the huge array of Brown Sheep Top of the Lamb. I grabbed a bright true blue, and she picked out a complicated asymmetric-stitch patterned pullover, very oversized — this was the ’80s — from the French company Pingouin. They had the coolest pattern booklets at that time, and she knew I liked them and understood the power of the photograph — I wanted to be like those French women in the pictures — so it wouldn’t occur to me that the knitting might be challenging.

And was it? What were the challenges or hurdles or thrills?

I think the pattern was really pretty difficult, but since I didn’t know that I just went ahead and knit the thing … all wrong. I read the chart symbols backwards. When Katie noticed, said “never mind, just keep doing what you’re doing.” Since it was knit flat it didn’t matter — when I was done I could just flip the piece. My right side was actually the wrong side. At the time I didn’t really understand any of this; it’s only looking back that I get it.

I loved the physical activity of knitting. I could recognize some mistakes, like dropping a stitch. I dutifully returned to Woolies, where there was a little group of knitters sitting around knitting and chatting — the first time I’d encountered this phenomena. I explained my problem, and my sweater was handed off to an older woman who Katie said was a “knitting celebrity” — a preposterous idea in my mind. Yeah whatever, can she fix my knitting was my only thought. She scolded me for having such a long tail on my cast-on edge, telling me that it was wasteful.

And was it a success — did you wear it ever, a lot, for a long time?

It was a grand success! I was so proud of it and myself. It was comfy like a sweatshirt and I wore it all the time. In the New Mexico Salt Dam picture you can just see it under my suitably ’80s oversized indigo cotton jacket. That was a great trip — one of the best I’ve ever had. The sky at times was as blue as my sweater!

Tragedy struck, however, in the form of a devilish Weimaraner puppy who ate a hole in it. I was devastated. Beyond words. Fortunately my friend’s mom knew someone who could perform sweater surgery. I had the leftover yarn, and this amazing woman rebuilt the missing sections. She was so expert that you almost couldn’t see where it was mended. That really stayed with me, that you can always fix things.

I hope the puppy was cute. How long was it after that before you cast on your next sweater? And what was it?

Later that year I was with friends in Portland Oregon who were getting married and we decided I should make the bride a sweater as my wedding present. We went across the river to a yarn shop housed in an old Victorian home. Martha chose grey yarn and an amazing pattern, allover large cables and really oversized. This one I think was from Rebecca — the lively, fashion-forward, German pattern book. I followed the pattern carefully — even made a swatch, which I didn’t really understand. The finished sweater was not as successful as my first — too narrow and the cables were sqwunched — but you know what? I think it’s because I didn’t block it. Really block it, I mean. I only steamed it with an iron. I think if I had known to get it soaking wet and stretch it to the size I wanted before seaming it, it would have been perfect. I wish I could do it now.

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PREVIOUSLY in My First Sweater: Marlee Grace

My First Sweater: Marlee Grace

My First Sweater: Marlee Grace

I’m kicking off a new interview series today that’s been on my mind for a bit. My favorite thing I hear from you all is “I got up the nerve to knit my first sweater because of your blog!” That’s a momentous occurrence in any knitter’s life that I want to encourage in any way I can! So I thought it would be fun to talk to a wide variety of knitters about their first sweater — from seasoned vets who might have knitted their first one decades ago to newer knitters who’ve just cast off. When my good friend Marlee Grace of Have Company finished her first sweater two weeks ago, I knew I wanted her to go first. So here she is! Hope you love this, and thanks Marlee!

If you’re still contemplating your first sweater, check out Pullovers for first-timers for my overview and recommendations. And if you missed Marlee in Our Tools, Ourselves, take a look at that too!

. . .

How long had you been knitting when you decided to cast on your first sweater? And what drove you to do it?

I’ve been knitting on and off since I was 10 or so, but always rectangles — ya know, just scarves really. About a year ago, I bought some Lopi from Tolt Yarn and Wool and made the Nordic Wind shawl by cabinfour. That was the first pattern I ever knitted, first ever non-rectangle. It was part of what drove me to want to carry yarn in my shop, which certainly helped drive me to want to make a sweater. In the past year I was able to make hats, socks, more shawls, but the idea of a sweater was still so scary.

What pattern did you choose for your first sweater (if any), and how did you choose it?

I chose the top-down version of Lila by Carrie Bostick Hoge, I was pretty in love with the sloped nature of the bottom and was encouraged by the hashtag on Instagram, #lilakal — it’s inspiring to see so many rad people making the same sweater but with their own yarn/color/style choices. BUT that was scary like HOW WILL I MAKE A SLOPE, what if I mess up, how will I learn the skills needed?!

I also chose top-down because it felt the most intuitive to me. I knew I could decrease and increase, add stitches, pick up stitches, a lot of the language made sense to me after having made socks and shawls.

What yarn did you use, and why?

I used Quince & Co. Lark (worsted weight) in the color Petal. Have Company (the shop/artist residency/gallery I own) started carrying Quince & Co. last July, and it’s been staring at me, whispering ‘turn me into clothes Marlee‘ and I’ve especially wanted to make a sweater out of it. I love their colors, patterns, USA-sourced wool magic, and feel grateful to have a lil shop filled with it.

What size did you knit? And did you feel like you knew how to choose the right size, with regard to intended ease and all that?

Definitely still navigating this side of knitting, and was part of why I was always so hesitant. I am a pretty loose knitter, often needing to go down one to two needle sizes from what is suggested on a pattern. The pattern called for size 7 needles and I made a swatch with size 6 and was right on! I even knit it in the round and blocked it like a pro, but once I got into it and started knitting I was off [gauge]! I had 20 sts per 4″ instead of 19. However I like things baggy and picked a size with a lot of room, so knowing it would be a tad smaller [due to my smaller stitches] was fine. And in the end the fit was literally perfect so I guess it worked out!

Lila is knitted in the round. Had you knitted your swatch flat, or did you know to knit it in the round? 

I did knit it in the round.

My First Sweater: Marlee Grace

Was there anything that surprised you about the pattern or sweater along the way? What was the most challenging or interesting part for you?

I think the most challenging part was that the sweater didn’t match my swatch, even though it was literally the exact same yarn, needles, etc., that I swatched with. It made me feel a little defeated, like come on universe I finally did this thing you told me to do and it wasn’t really right.

The other part that’s hard for me, partly I think because I knit so loose and because it’s new to me, is when you go to pick up stitches to make the sleeves. It felt like I was going to have huge holes in the underarm, so I picked up a few extras and then just knit them together. This definitely seemed to help, but in terms of construction/technique that was definitely the most awakward part for me.

PRO TIPS: 

1) It’s not uncommon for your sweater gauge to vary slightly from your swatch gauge — especially with top-down where you have so much fabric on the needles. It could be that, your stress level, lots of things. It’s always a good idea once you’ve knitted a few inches to stop and measure your sweater gauge so you can make any adjustments if needed. Also, hopefully you blocked your swatch before measuring it, whereas you haven’t blocked your sweater yet.

2) Gaps at the armholes are perfectly common in seamless sweaters and thumb gussets. What Marlee did intuitively is the standard fix: Pick up an extra stitch at each end and then decrease them out on the next round. When you weave in your ends, use them to do any further cinching up that might be needed.

Did you make any modifications, or did you knit the pattern exactly as written?

I did! I cropped that baby up! I prefer to wear high-waisted pants or dresses, so I like to wear my sweaters short. I cropped it maybe 2 or 3 inches. The cool part about making the top-down version of Lila is you can just try it on to see how long you want it.

Also holy empowerment to make a sweater and have it be the EXACT length you want it to be.

Were there any particular people or resources you leaned on in tackling this sweater?

To learn how to pick up the stitches for the sleeves I used YouTube — my go-to knitting teacher. And I was lucky to be finishing it when Jaime Jennings of Fancy Tiger Crafts was in residence here. Jaime has an incredible collection of handknit sweaters and is just a generally beautiful and encouraging friend. She was working on a sweater while she was here and kept helping me stay excited. Once you finish that first sleeve it’s easy to feel bored knowing you still have another one to make :)

And I had trouble reading the part of the pattern for the sleeve. Like you knit normal 7 times, then do an increase round, then you repeat that series 9 times, but I just increased 9 times in a row and had this funny little pleat and a sleeve made for a doll. Jaime set me straight.

How did you feel when you finished — and how did it turn out, as compared to your goals and expectations for it? Do you wear it?

Finishing my sweater was a powerful moment in an otherwise really difficult week. My dad was in the hospital (he is home and healing now) but it was really scary, and I was hanging with him a lot and knitting in his hospital room. His mother, who passed away before I was born, was an incredible knitter and I’ve always felt a connection with her spirit through my own knitting and quilting practice. She knit dozens of sweaters, cables galore, some of the most immaculate garments I’ve ever seen.

So casting off sitting with him was exciting for both of us. I got to try it on and spin around and show it off, and we both relished in this legacy passed through her blood to him and into me.

AND it fits like a dream! Like I said, I knit for the 40.5 size but it ended up being 38, which was perfect! So see, no mistakes, just the universe looking out.

Would you recommend this pattern to other first-time sweater knitters?

YES! The pattern is well written and easy to follow. Plus it’s simple, knitting and purling, and learning Sunday Short Rows is WAY easier than expected and makes you feel like you are a brilliant and fancy knitter.

I love Sunday short rows. So do you have your next sweater picked out?

Yes! Since I finished this one while Jaime and Lizzy House were residents we decided to all cast on the same sweater and host a knitalong together! We’ll be casting on the Agnes Sweater today [February 1st] in Quince and Co. Puffin. Folks can join in and follow along with the hashtag #havefancyhouse — and there will be prizes ;)

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Thank you, Marlee! For anyone wanting to read more about how top-down sweaters work, see How to improvise a top-down sweater.

My First Sweater: Marlee Grace

My first sweater

classic raglan pullover malabrigo rios aguas

OK, y’all, here it is: A neck, a body and two sleeves. I realize the way I’m standing in some of these pics, it looks like one sleeve is shorter than the other. I swear it’s not — I’m just too lazy to reshoot. I actually wanted the sleeves to be a hair longer than they are, and hedged my bets thinking they’d get longer when I blocked it, but I’m super happy with this. See: I’m even smiling in a picture!

classic raglan pullover malabrigo rios aguas

I’m pretty proud of how well I did customizing the fit, even though it’s really not hard (and not quite perfect). When I took that class from Barry Klein back in January, the most memorable thing he said was, “If your top-down sweater doesn’t fit you, you have only yourself to blame. Because it means you didn’t try it on enough.” I could have knit this strictly to the pattern, or even left out the hip shaping entirely, and it would have been great, albeit a different shape. But I challenged myself to make a truly custom-tailored sweater. So each time I was working on it, when I was ready to knit my last round for the night, I instead knit half a round onto a second needle of the same size, allowing me to pull all four needle ends loose and ease the sweater over my head. And that way I knew exactly what i needed to do next, session by session. That was the key to my success. Thanks, Barry!

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The yarn is Malabrigo Rios in Aguas, about 645 yards. Pattern is the HIGHLY recommended Classic Raglan Pullover by Jane Richmond. I’ll detail my minor mods at Ravelry. Thanks for all the cheerleading!

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Tiny needles

9 inch circular knitting needle

I’m back in the saddle, as they say. After nearly a week in which I knitted not a single stitch of anything, I finally picked my sweater back up. I’d been avoiding it because I knew I had to work out the rate of decrease for my sleeves — specifically, how to go quickly from broad-shouldered to skinny-armed without creating a puff sleeve — but more than that, there was a mechanical issue holding me back. I don’t much enjoy knitting with larger double-points (I like ’em small) and dreaded having the weight of an entire sweater pulling against them as I worked. I haven’t gotten the hang of magic loop or even the two-circulars method, so I decided to give 9-inch circulars a try. So far so good. I mean, holy moly, this thing is tiny — hard on the wrist — but it’s making quick work of the first sleeve.