2017 FO-1 : Black yoke sweater

2017 FO-1 : Black yoke sweater

I had a realization about yarn and seamless sweaters while knitting this gorgeous thing: The more a knitting project feels like playing with Play-Doh, the more fun I find it. The joy in being able to mold and remold a thing until it’s exactly what I want …

Let’s recap: When I first set out to knit this sweater — which began from Courtney Kelley’s St. Brendan pattern — it was going to be my least improvisational act of knitting. I loved the black-and-tan sample sweater so much that my plan was simply to copy it, straight from the pattern. Same yarn, same colors, same bottom-up construction. I was knitting on US9s instead of suggested 8s, to match gauge; I planned to make the size 45 lower body and decrease to the size 38 counts by the time I joined the sleeves; I used my favorite tubular cast-on; and I knew I was going to shrink and shape the neckhole when I got there. Minor stuff.

Instead, I knitted the body and yoke as intended except with phantom sleeves, had (my own) fit issues with the yoke depth, and severed the yoke from the body, at which point I also realized it might suit me better without the colowork on the lower body and sleeves. I put the yoke back on the needles and reknitted the body and sleeves downward to my own fit specifications, omitting the colorwork. Then for the upper few rows of the yoke and neck, I did the following:

– Modified the last three rows of Chart E — the one that takes us from the colorwork to the neckband — since I no longer had a CC1 (tan) to transition to, and instead was transitioning back to my MC (black). I basically created a grey diamond but with a decrease in Row 4, so it’s more of a diamond-blob than a true diamond. Or a sawtooth — let’s go with that. This additional decrease round brought the stitch count from 108 to 81 sts, and I made it 80 on the following round.

– On Row 6, I worked a set of short rows (with 6 turns) to raise the back neck a bit, which created the wedge of black you see between the colorwork and the neckband in the back. I also worked my last pass around that short-row round as my bind-off round, closing the short-row gaps as I encountered them. So Row 6 was the last row, the short rows and the bind-off all in the same round. (For the short rows, I placed the first 4 turns at the equivalent of each “raglan” position, then the last 2 in the back, slightly closer together than the raglans. I have no idea if that’s how anyone who actually knew what they were doing would do it!) It’s a pretty slight drop between the back and front neck, but just enough to make a difference. If I were to do it again, I’d put a set of short rows just below the colorwork yoke.

– And I then picked up 72 stitches (at a rate of 7 out of 8) and worked a folded neckband. This sweater, with this yarn and my changes, feels very vintage ski-sweater to me, and I wanted to play that up by giving it a sort of retro neckline — high and round and with the folded ribbing. It’s already stretched out a bit (as neckbands will do, which is why I insist on working them from picked-up stitches, and even then try to make them smaller than I ultimately want them, knowing they’ll grow) and I’m tempted to pull it out and pick up 68 sts instead.

2017 FO-1 : Black yoke sweater

I’m head over heels in love with this sweater. Visually, the most obvious changes I made are that it’s 3 colors instead of 4, and there’s no colorwork on the lower half of it, which definitely makes it a very different sweater from the original. But for me the more meaningful change is in the fit. If you look at the left sleeve cap in the two photos below, you can see the difference in the yoke depth. The pattern has only 4 or 5 rounds of MC knitting between the underarm (sleeve join) round and the start of the colorwork. I wound up putting more like 18 or 20 rounds in there — bringing the total yoke depth to 9″, which is much more comfortable for me. No longer being beholden to the stitch counts for the lower colorwork charts, I was also able to simply knit to all of my own desired measurements (most notably a 42″ bust measurement for 8-ish inches of ease).

2017 FO-1 : Black yoke sweater

Oh, and of course I also knitted the sleeves flat (with 5″ fold-up cuffs and tubular bind-off) and added a basting stitch for side seams.

Now can we talk about the yarn for a minute? This is the new Arranmore and I would like six or seven sweaters in it, please! It reminds me a lot of the first yarn I ever fell in love with — the discontinued Kathmandu Bulky — but in aran weight. I adore it. Between the yarn and how good a circular-yoke sweater feels sitting on my shoulders, I would love nothing more than to wear this sweater every single day.

I’m calling it my Tennessee Lopapeysa, since I can get away with wearing it as outerwear here, the way Icelanders wear their lopi sweaters — although this winter, it’s not even that. Our upper-60s January has given way to mid-70s February, so I’m afraid I may not get to wear it until next year. Maybe it will be my Rhinebeck sweater! Finished well in advance.

2017 FO-1 : Black yoke sweater

Pattern: St. Brendan by Courtney Kelley
Yarn: Arranmore by The Fibre Co., in Malin Head (black), Glenveagh Castle (grey) and St. Claire (ivory)
Cost: $7 pattern + $168 yarn = $175*

You can scroll through all of my posts on this sweater hereInstagram posts here, and put a heart on it at Ravelry if you like!

*Given the frogging and extra skeins purchased and there being no way to know what percentage of the sweater’s finished weight is the MC yarn, I’m guessing at how many skeins of black actually got used, but then I also used less than a skein each of the ivory and grey. So this is a rough estimate that probably slightly overstates the true cost.


PREVIOUSLY in FOs: Striped pullover

Knit the Look: Camille Charriere’s stripes

Knit the Look: Camille Charriere's striped sweater

Here’s a styling option I hadn’t considered for my striped pullover: shiny pants! Never happen, but I admire how striking Camille Charriere looks in these photos — showing the world that black-and-white does not equal boring. And I do look forward to wearing mine slung over my shoulders like this — one styling holdover from my teen years that I’ve never not loved in the interim. All you really need to approximate this sweater is my notes on my striped sweater, but the other option would be to pick your favorite basic pullover pattern and simply knit it in alternating stripes. Camille’s sweater looks to be more like 1.5″ or 2″ stripes (as opposed to my 2.5″ awning stripes) and more of a truer, flatter black and white than mine. So for yarn, you might consider Brooklyn Tweed’s new Arbor in Kettle and Thaw. I’m told Thaw is technically a really pale icy grey (I haven’t seen it in person) but it would read more white against the black than an undyed (ivory) yarn would. Not a lot of yarns include both black and white in the palette, so feel free to pipe up below with other ideas! As far as the other sweater details, it looks like the waist ribbing spans the last two stripes, and the ribbed cuffs might actually be grey? They seem darker than the white stripes, and I like the idea of that, either way.

For Vanessa’s suggestions on the rest of Camille’s look, see her original blog post.


PREVIOUSLY in Knit the Look: Perfect grey turtleneck

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.

. . .

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!

. . .

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.


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

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

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]


PREVIOUSLY in My First Sweater: Jenn Steingass

Q for You: Are you a sweater knitter?

Q for You: Are you a sweater knitter?

I know I’ve asked you all before what you knit the most of, but I have a very specific subset of that Q for You at the moment, which is: Are you a sweater knitter? [ETA: Pullovers and cardigans are both sweaters.]

Here’s why I ask. I haven’t made a scientific study of it or anything, but I would swear that in the course of the 5 years I’ve been paying attention, pattern collections and indie magazines and such have gone from being half or mostly accessories, with a few sweaters thrown in, to often being sweater collections with a couple of accessories thrown in, if even that. (And socks are definitely more scarce than they once were.) It has me wondering whether that’s the bias of the people putting them together, or whether there’s evidence that people are really that much more interested in sweater patterns than anything else these days. I know there are new sweater knitters joining the ranks every single day, but I would still assume there are far more accessory knitters than sweater knitters roaming the earth. So how to explain the shift in the collections? If I’m right about that. And I really believe I am! Or maybe it’s a pendulum swinging back where I wasn’t around for its previous swing the other direction?

So this is not just a Q but a PLEA to the thousands of you reading this post, will you take two seconds to leave a comment either saying Yes (I am a sweater knitter) or No (I’m not a sweater knitter)? If you have the time and the will, I’d love to hear more — if no, do you want to be; if yes, is it all you knit. Sometimes, always, never. Whatever you want to tell me! But please, I’m dying to know—

Hi, my name is Karen, and I am a sweater knitter.


Oh, and for aspiring sweater knitters, see: Pullovers for first-timers (an introduction to sweater construction) and Cardigans for first-timers


PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: What’s in your Field Bag?

Queue Check — January 2017

Queue Check — January 2017

So where am I on that Channel Cardigan I want to take to Paris? Well, the sleeves are still done! And I’ve added a whopping inch or two to the body.

All my late-night nervous knitting energy has been poured into the second coming of my St. Brendan sweater. It’s been two weeks since I ripped it back to its yoke, and it already has two full sleeves (knitted flat) and about half of the body. That cake of black yarn you see in the pic is my last skein before I have to get into the kinky frog pile, so I’m considering it a good stopping point. When this skein runs out, I plan to knit the neckband from the frog pile, then block the whole thing (also soaking the rewound skeins) and seam the sleeves. I haven’t decided exactly how long I want it to be yet — I want to see how it looks with the upper half and sleeves all done and blocked, which will tell me what the rest wants to be. And I also have the cuffs on waste yarn — thinking about knitting them long enough to fold up.

You may notice there’s no colorwork on those sleeves. I’ve decided the way it is now, with just the yoke, it really is exactly the sweater I’ve been wanting. I expect to be done with it in another week or so — hopefully there will be at least a few days in February cold enough to wear it! (She says from balmy Nashville.)

Then it’s full speed ahead on Channel. The anticipation of that camel yarn and melodious stitch pattern is what’s getting me through all this stockinette …

Channel Cardigan pattern by Jared Flood in Clever Camel | all Channel posts
St. Brendan pattern by Courtney Kelley in Arranmoreall St. Brendan posts


PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: Year-end 2016

When knitalongs breed patterns

When knitalongs breed patterns: Two great Cowichan-style cardigans

There was a certain irony, during the Top-Down Knitalong, in seeing people who were engaging in knitting without a pattern (in most cases for the first time) being asked repeatedly about their sweaters, “Are you going to publish the pattern?” “Please publish the pattern!” And (irony aside) I’m really excited about how many patterns will, apparently, be coming out of that knitalong. But these things take time, and what I am pleased to tell you in the meanwhile is that two patterns (that I know of) also came out of the previous year’s knitalong, the Cowichan-style Knitalong, both of which have been released in recent months:

TOP: West Coast Cardigan by Jane Richmond
Jane is an extremely popular pattern designer, and one of my first favorites when I took up the craft, so I was thrilled when she jumped into that knitalong, sharing that it was her first time doing stranded colorwork! Rather than knitting a vest, she opted to knit more of the classic zip-front jacket — albeit top-down raglan rather than drop-shouldered. Demand for the pattern ensued, followed by a year or so of pattern-writing and testing all that, and it’s now the subject of its own knitalong. The pattern also includes blank charts if (like me) you’re wanting to create your own motifs.

BOTTOM: Watkins by Whitney Hayward
Whitney (most recently noted for Stone Wool) also opted to knit a cardigan that was a huge crowd-pleaser, while being a little more loosely Cowichan-inspired. This one is bottom-up seamless, with a more traditional shawl-collar — and a steek! — and is bulky gauge rather than superbulky, so some might find it a little more wearable.

I can’t see any reason why I shouldn’t knit one of each!

To learn about Cowichan sweaters, see: the full Cowichan-style knitalong scroll

UNRELATED SHOP NEWS: We’ve got the new issue of Koel Magazine; the new KnitWit with article by yours truly; the latest volume of Brooklyn Tweed’s Capsule books, by Michele Wang; a fresh stack of Jared’s book; the newly repackaged Stowe Bag pattern; all five colors of the Field Bag in stock at the same time, along with Porter Bins; a new batch canvas wax and cleaner (sold separately) … the list goes on! Find it all at Fringe Supply Co.