“Improvised” top-down sweater – Part 1

Clearly my resolution to make an appearance on the blog more frequently has not gone so well, as almost a month has passed since my last post. Oh dear. I won’t even try to come up with excuses this time.

During this cyber absence, however, I’ve embarked on a rather exciting adventure. “Designing” my first sweater. When I saw the 2016 Fringe and Friends Knitalong, I had various reasons to get excited and want to join in. Firstly, I have all this yarn I got at a factory sale for a very good price, and I haven’t quite managed to find a pattern I’m dying to knit with it. Secondly, I own a lovely red felt skirt by Coldelrosso, a fashion brand created by a good friend of mine, which I never seem to be able to combine with anything in my wardrobe (gotta practice some wardrobe planning…). Thirdly, I like challenges and this seemed like a good one.


As I hadn’t wanted to indulge myself until I finished a real-life work project, I took quite a while in getting started. Consequently, by the time I took any action, many other knitters had impressive projects materializing on their needles, as attested by the KAL Instagram feed. Sooo intimidating. However, the fact that others already had actual sweaters taking shape was for me a booster in helping to skip a period of painful procrastination, whereby I would have been trying to make (futile) decisions on every detail. Instead, I promptly picked a stitch pattern and started swatching. I also knew that, since my primary goal is to be able to wear the sweater with a high rise skirt, and, potentially, layered over a dress, I wanted something with quite a bit of ease and possibly a cropped hem.

The stitch pattern I chose is the Double Hourglass stitch found in Barbara Walker’s A Treasury of Knitting Patterns (p. 279). I knitted a swatch in both stockinette and the hourglass stitch pattern with 3.5 mm and 4 mm needles using the dark grey yarn. At first I was convinced I’d go for the 3.5 mm needles and more tightly knit fabric, but after blocking the swatch, I couldn’t resist the lovely drape of the fabric knitted with the bigger size needles. Also, here the stitch count was 22 stitches per 4 inches (or 10 cms), coming to 5.5 stitches per inch, so I thought this count would be easy enough to work with. A further, yet not less important, argument was that this way I got to knit with my brand new 4 mm Knit Pro Royale needles, which I “had to” buy because I had lent my 4 mms to a friend.


I also promptly decided on a fairly conservative neck shaping. For now, none of the two sweaters I have knitted have a perfectly satisfying neck line – I find the Carpino‘s neck two high and straight in the front, and the non-shaped round neck of the Coda is not ideal in the back.  Of course, having no idea about neck shaping, I had just knitted these following the original patterns. This time I set out to see if I can come up with a flattering crew neck for myself. For this, I followed Karen’s excellent tutorial at the Fringe Association blog. I cast on 34 stitches (about 6 inches) for the back neck and 14 stitches (about 3.5 inches) for each shoulder. Together with the front neck and stitches for the raglan “seam” this meant a total number of 72 cast on stitches.

I soon found out that knitting and increasing in the stitch pattern would not be very straight forward, so once I managed to figure out how many rows I needed until joining the neck and then to the underarm, as well as the frequency of increases, I resolved to charting the pattern with the increases in Excel. This took quite a while, but it was well worth it to make sure that the pattern would be properly centered and also to be able to knit without having to stop to think too much. The chart shows both the back and the front of the sweater, with the stitches coloured in grey in the middle representing the ones that don’t exist in the front neck in each row. I also marked the neck increase stitches (in blue) and the the stitches that are kept in stockinette at the front neck before being incorporated into the pattern (in orange). Believe me, it took a while to figure all this out.

NOTE: Karen from Fringe Association also has an incredibly insightful and useful post on incorporating an all-over stitch pattern in a top-down sweater design.


Once reaching the point where the centre neck stitches needed to be cast on, I was faced with a new dilemma. Where would the beginning of the round (BOR) be when I’m joining the work to knit in the round? Of course the real BOR falls right after the centre neck stitches, but I know that patterns often suggest to place the BOR marker at the left raglan seam. Eventually I decided to go for the latter solution, even though this implied sneaking an extra pattern row into the left front. As I’m toying with the idea of a cropped curved ham for the front of the sweater – so it looks better when layered over a dress or worn with a skirt – I thought starting the new round on the side would potentially make things easier. On the bright side, after the sweater grew a bit and I sort of got used to reading the fabric so I don’t need the chart anymore.

At the current pace, in two months time you may be able to learn about the outcome… 🙂






4 thoughts on ““Improvised” top-down sweater – Part 1

  1. Pingback: Book: Japanese Inspired Knits | woolventures

  2. Pingback: “Improvised” top-down sweater – Part 2: the “pattern” | woolventures

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