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Gnarled Oak Cardigan Progress

July 15

For me, one of the greatest pleasures in knitting is working a particularly beautiful pattern and motif. That’s how I felt when I finished the oak leaf motif in the yoke of Alana Dakos’s Gnarled Oak Cardigan The photo shows a small bit of the detail.

I’ve wanted to make this sweater for forever! I’m using Tosh DK in the Grove colorway.

Aren’t these leaves brilliantly designed!

Gnarled Oak Cardigan, Alana Dakos, Coastal Knits, Tosh DK

All I have left to do on the sweater is the neck and button bands. The pattern calls for a garter neck edging to be worked right after the leafy motif. Instead, I am going to bind off, then pick up stitches to make the edging. This will give the neckline stability.

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Resources:

Gnarled Oak Cardigan pattern, from the book Coastal Knits by Alana Dakos and Hannah Fettig.

Madelinetosh Tosh DK

Stabilizing Tea Leaves

July 7

If you follow my blog, you’ve read about my experiment to add stability to top-down seamless sweaters (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). Here’s how I’m applying my experiment to the Tea Leaves Cardigan, shown here in a photo from the pattern; note the gathered yoke pattern, which is where I’ll hide the shoulder seams:

tea_leaves_macro_low_res_medium

The first step was to cast on partway down into the neck edging pattern, so future picked-up stitches would reinforce the neckline. Then I identified where the fake shoulder seams would go, increased one stitch before and one stitch after each seam, and marked the seam with markers.:

MarkSeams_Sml

I worked the pattern as written, except that I knit between the seam markers on the RS and purled them on the WS.

Here’s the seam in progress:

WS_Seam_Beg_sml

When the seam got to be about 2-1/2″ long I ended it. If you look closely at the top of the seam you can see that I used a ssk and k2tog to decrease away the seam stitches so may stitch count once again matched the pattern:

RS_Seam4_sml

The next step was to use the mattress stitch to sew up the seam. On the WS it looks like this; you can see how it will prevent the shoulders from stretching out:

WS_SeamSewn_sml

I was happy to see that from the RS, the seam is undetectable:

RS_SeamSewn_sml

 

Here’s what the piece looks like now that I’ve worked the yoke and some of the body. There’s no seam in sight, and you’d never know the stitches around the neck had been picked up and worked upward. The neck and shoulder treatments should give me a nice stable sweater that won’t stretch out:

TeaLeavesNeck_First2_sml

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Resources:

Super-pretty stitch markers are made by my friend Laurie. They are great because the don’t catch on the yarn, like some stitch markers do. Plus they are fun and sparkly. She sells them through her Lima Pop Shoppe.

Tea Leaves Cardigan by Melissa LaBarre.

Stabilizing Seamless Sweaters, Part 3: Neck Edging

June 17

If you follow my blog, you’ll remember that I’m on a quest to put stability into the top-down seamless sweaters that I make. Too often, I’ve watched my beautiful sweaters grow droopy around the shoulders and ever-larger in the neck as time goes by.

As you may remember, I’ve been wanting to make the Tea Leaves Cardigan for forever. I’ve been working on a swatch to develop techniques I hope to carry forward into other top-down patterns as well.

In Part 1 of this series, I explained how I placed the cast-on edge a few rows down into the rows of garter in the beginning of the pattern. In Part 2 I showed how I added seams to the shoulders. Now in Part 3, I’ll explain how I finished the neck. (I’m using a contrasting color just to show you how I put this together – it’ll all be one color when I make the sweater.)

Fortunately, the beautiful Tea Leaves Cardigan pattern starts with several rows of garter stitch at the top, making it easy to hide a cast-on edge and subsequent picked up stitches into a knit row between two purl rows.

tea_leaves_macro_low_res_medium

 

In 5 rows of garter, I used what would have been a right-side knit row (row 4) for my cast on edge (see the Part 1 post for details). Here you can see that I picked up stitches just above the garter row of purls (which is the last row – row 5 – of garter called for in the pattern). I learned (the hard way, of course) to be careful where I pick up the stitches. Because I’m adding rows from the bottom up, I need to pick up stitches into the right-side-up “V”s in the row below the cast on. Otherwise, the orientation of the added garter rows is wrong.

PickUp_Sts21

 

 

Picked_Up_Sts1

 

This means I can pick up stitches and then add the garter rows 1-3 back in, working it as I would a bottom-up sweater. By doing this, I have a super-stable neck that will not stretch out and that will support the weight of the sweater’s back. The result is nearly identical to what the sweater would look like if knitted from the top down as written, starting with 5 rows of garter:

 

 NeckEdging3

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Putting it all together

Here’s the game plan for my Tea Leaves Cardigan, then. The back of my swatch shows the modifications I’ll make to add stability to this top-down seamless sweater. First, I’ll work my cast on several rows lower than what the pattern calls for. Then to prevent the shoulders from stretching, I’ll insert seams along the shoulders. And finally, after the seams are done, I’ll add picked-up stitches to lend stability to the neck. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to try this on your next top-down seamless project yourself!

Back31

Ok…I’m off to start my Tea Leaves Cardigan now. I’ve been gazing longingly at my beautiful Tosh Vintage yarn, and can hardly wait to cast on!

Stabilizing Seamless Top-Down Sweaters, Part 2: Adding Shoulder Seams

June 11

In my first post about adding stability to a seamless top-down sweater, I described how I strengthened the neckline by casting on a couple of rows into the pattern, then picking up stitches and finishing the neckline as you would a typical seamed sweater. The picked up stitches prevent the neckline from stretching out.

Now that the neckline piece of the stability puzzle is solved, what about the shoulders? Without a seam to hold them in place, they tend to stretch out, making them look droopier the more times they’re worn. The challenge was to figure out how to incorporate a seam into a top-down seamless construction. I experimented with a swatch and came up with a technique that I think will work for the next sweater I’m going to make, the Tea Leaves Cardigan. I’ll add “seam” stitches right into the work, then seam them up using the mattress stitch.

The most difficult part of the whole experiment was figuring out where the seam should go. On the typical seamed sweater, half the stitches are allocated for the sweater’s front and half for the back. I couldn’t just divide the cast on stitches by two, since the Tea Leaves sweater has a button band which had to be taken into consideration. From the swatch I made on the smaller needles used for the button band, I know that the button band will be about 1″ wide. That translates to about 5 stitches. The size I’m going to make calls for casting on 96 stitches. Adding the 1″ (5 stitch equivalent) to the cast on, I get a 101 stitch equivalent, which I’ll round to 100 so it’s divisible by two. If this were a pieced pullover sweater, there would be 50 stitches in the back piece and 50 stitches in the front piece. But this being a cardi, I’ll leave out the button band stitch equivalent.  Going back to the cast on instructions, I’ll take the 96 cast on stitches and subtract the 50 stitches which will be allocated for the sweater’s back. This leaves 96-50 = 46 stitches for the front. Since this is a cardigan I’ll need to divide that 46 stitches by 2, leaving 23 stitches for each front.

Now I can figure out where to place the shoulder seams. I’ll work 23 front stitches, insert two stitches that will act as a seam, work 50 back stitches, insert 2 more stitches for the other shoulder seam, then finish with 23 stitches for the other side of the front. As for the length of my seam, I know that from my own neck to the point of my shoulder is about 4.5″. I see from the pattern’s photo that the neck is rather wide. So I’m going to estimate that seam should be about 2.5″-3″ in length. I can also look at the photo and see that there’s a garter area between the pattern’s stitch motif, so it might be good to end the seam just before the final stitch motif (in this case, some ruching).

tea_leaves_macro_low_res_medium

Whew – with the math part out of the way, I can start the knitting. At this point, I only  have the cast on stitches on my needle (and in my first post I describe that the cast on is a few rows into the garter neck trim, so I can go back and pick up stitches later for added neck stability). I know I want to increase stitches by 2 for each seam, but I do not want to put the increases adjacent to each other or they’ll distort the fabric. I knit 22 stitches of the first front side, then increase 1 stitch using a M1. I place a marker for the seam. I knit 2 seam stitches and place a second seam marker. I increase again, then knit 48 of the back stitches. I work another increase (which brings the back stitch count back up to 50), then place a seam marker. I knit two seam stitches, then place another marker. I work another M1, and finish with the last 22 stitches of the second front. From here out, I’ll knit the seam stitches (between the markers) on the RS and purl them on the WS. When the seam is long enough, I use decreases to end the seam and get the stitch count back to normal.

Here’s how my swatch looks, with Step 1) add sts, Step 2) maintain seam sts for length of seam, Step 3) use decreases to get rid of seam sts prior to using mattress stitch to seam the seam sts:Seaming

 

 

Once the seam is long enough, I use the mattress stitch from the front of the work to seam the two seam stitches together. I weave under the bars between the seam stitches and the pattern’s regular knitting. (If I were seaming pieces instead, this would be the equivalent of weaving under the bars between the selvedge and the next stitch in.) Here’s what the seam looks like from the back when I’m done:

seam back

I used a different color yarn to illustrate the seaming on this swatch – for the sweater of course I’ll use the same color yarn as the rest of the sweater. Another detail is that I did not use the usual figure 8 at the bottom of the seam since I will be picking up neck stitches along that edge.  I’m pleased with this seam, since I can’t see it from the front side at all, yet it will add all the stability I want to the shoulder.

In Part 3 of this series, I’ll show you the last step for adding stability to the seamless top-down sweater: finishing the neck edge.

 

 

Stabilizing Seamless Top-Down Sweaters, Part 1: Casting On

June 3

I love knitting seamless top-down sweaters. But I don’t always love the way they wear over time. With no seams to support the neck and shoulders, they have a tendency to stretch and look droopy. Some people crochet an edging around the neck to add stability. There is also a way to crochet a chain along the inside of the shoulder, which can help.

I’ve had a different sort of experiment rattling around in my brain for a while now, and am finally getting the chance to put it into practice. I want to add a firm neckline and shoulder seams to my next top-down seamless sweater. The little bit of fiddling I’ll need to do will be worth it in the end, when the neck and shoulders of my sweater look good, wear after wear. No more sagging, I hope!

I hope that by following my blog posts about the process, you’ll get an idea of how to customize your favorite top-down seamless sweaters too. You’ll just need to adapt my technique for your particular pattern. So, let’s get started…

I’ve wanted to knit the beautiful Tea Leaves Cardigan for the longest time. This is not to imply that this particular pattern would sag or stretch – it’s just the right one for me to try my stability experiment on. The ruched stitch pattern on the yoke is fairly straight-forward, with no interruptions (like horizontal cables) to worry about, so adding shoulder seams should be no problem. Here’s a photo from the pattern:

tea_leaves_portrait_low_res_medium

 

Based on the pattern, I originally tried a swatch where I made little versions of a back and two fronts, then seamed them together. It dawned on me that while this worked great in a solid color, it would be a mess in the hand-dyed Madelinetosh I’ll be using; the colors would work up differently in each section.  That means I had to figure out how to build in shoulder seams that allow the yarn’s colors to flow along with as little interruption as possible.

Ultimately, I settled on a three-step process to add the stability I want. First, I cast on the neck several rows down in the pattern’s neck edging; second, I added two stitches at each shoulder which allowed me to create seams; third, I picked up stitches along my cast on and added the pattern’s neck edging back in. I’ll address each of these steps in separate blog posts, since the instructions are detailed.

The first quandary – Step One - is how to add stability to the neckline. Even though it isn’t a very firm cast-on, I’ll use the long tail method in anticipation of picking up stitches later. (Later in Step 3, I’ll be using picked-up stitches around the neck to add firmness to the neckline.) I need to work the cast-on into the neck edging in a way that stays true to the pattern, so it needs to start several rows down, then be finished as if it were a bottom-up sweater. Another way to look at it is this: Imagine a bottom-up construction; the neck is bound off and then the neck edging is added. In place of the bound off row is my cast on. It starts within the neck edging, like a bind-off would, and is then worked upward to finish the neck edging. I whipped up a little swatch that I hope will give an idea of how I planned the neck:

GarterSwatch3

Fortunately the Tea Leaves Cardigan starts with several rows of garter stitch, so it’s easy to figure out where to place the cast-on. By placing the cast-on a few rows down into the garter edging on a knit row, it blends in beautifully. I can later come back and add the rest of the garter, just as I would on a bottom-up cardigan where the edging is added after the bind off. In this case, rows 1-5 are garter in the pattern, so I’m counting the cast on as row 4 (a right-side knit row). I’ll be able to add the three missing rows of garter back in later, by picking up neck edge stitches, so it will look exactly the same as the pattern.

The garter neck edging is an easy one to work the cast-on into. I’m sure I’ll have to work new swatches for other stitch patterns in order to work out the best placement for the cast-on/picked up stitches/neck edging.

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Resources:

For an excellent discussion on the value of seams, check out Sandi Rosner’s article in Twist Collective: “In Praise of Seams

Tea Leaves Cardigan pattern by Melissa LaBarre

Madelinetosh Tosh Vintage yarn

 

 

Forest Weave Top

May 15

I recently finished this top, Forest Weave by Yumiko Alexander. The yarn in Schulana Kilino, a worsted linen/cotton blend.

pullover, summer top, cables, drop stitch, worsted

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I enjoyed the clever design, with its big cables separated by dropped stitches. And I’m so proud of myself, for once completing a summer top in time for summer!

ForestWeave4_sml

 

posted under Projects, Sweaters | 1 Comment »

Storm Mountain Cardigan

January 21

I’ve been in a stash-reducing mood lately. I had a bunch of Rowan Felted Tweed DK sitting around for a pattern I decided not to make after all. What to do? Through the magic of Ravelry, I found the perfect use for all that yarn – Storm Mountain by Heidi Kirrmaier.

The pattern is simple to make. Worked from the top down, it uses raglan shaping for the sleeves and eyelet increases to create the pretty back. Heidi uses ingenious stitch count tables to make it very easy to keep track of the repeats and number of stitches at each stage along the way.

Storm Mountain_2_sml

As you can see, there are a couple of ways to wear the sweater; it can cascade down the front or be secured across. The open front was not so great outside in the winter snow, but will be just right in the spring!

Storm Mountain_1_sml

  Storm Mountain_3_sml

Being a seriously pear-shaped person, I needed the top part of the sweater to be smaller than the bottom part. I made the following modifications:

First, I cast on using cable method for firmness. I made the top half, down to about 7.5” beyond the yoke, in smaller needle sizes (#3 and #4); this gave me a tighter gauge as well as less garment width. Then I switched to #5 which gave me the gauge as called for in the garment for the bottom part of the sweater. I worked one fewer pattern repeats in bottom half, since I got the called-for length.

I struggled with the SSE as described in the pattern; clearly I was doing something wrong. I chose instead to do: RS first 4 sts: ktbl, p1, sl1,p1 RS last 4 sts: p1, sl1, p1, slwyibWS first 4 sts: p, k, p, k WS last 4 sts: k, p, k, slwyif

 I found the sweater easy enough for tv-watching and social knitting, with just enough going on to also keep it interesting.

Many thanks to my husband Steve for braving the snow to take these lovely photos!

 

Resources:

Storm Mountain pattern

Rowan Felted Tweed DK

February Lady Sweater

February 7

During ten days of knitting madness, I made the February Lady Sweater, designed by the talented Pamela Wynne. I’d wanted to make it for the longest time, and decided it simply had to be worn at TNNA. I used 6 skeins of Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Worsted in the beautiful Island Blue color.

February Lady Sweater, Pam Wynne, Lorna's Laces, cardigan

 I found some cute buttons.

February Lady Sweater, Lorna's Laces, Pamela Wynne

I love the sweater’s swingy nature.

February Lady Sweater, Lorna's Laces, Pamela Wynne

Resources:

February Lady Sweater pattern on Ravelry

Pam Wynne’s web page of  FLS modifications

Buttons were bought at the delightful Yarns at the Adobe in San Luis Obispo

Stitches Stitching, the Cardigan

February 8

I’ve joined the tradition of knitting a project for Stitches. With Stitches West just around the corner, I put the finishing touches on my second Tangled Yoke Cardigan, this time in a mossy color.

knitting, sweater, Tangled Yoke Cardigan, Interweave, Eunny Jang, Rowan Felted Tweed

 

I still take delight in Eunny Jang’s ingenious cabling around the cardi’s yoke. If I wasn’t worried about appearing obsessed, I’d make a third of theses sweaters in a straw color. Or maybe red. Or grey. Or… oh dear, how many colors does Rowan Felted Tweed  yarn come in?

knitting, sweater, Tangled Yoke Cardigan, Rowan Felted Tweed, Eunny Jang

Tangled Yoke Obsession

August 17

Do you recognize this ribbing? It’s from my all time favorite Tangled Yoke Cardigan. I know, I know. I just finished this in blue a couple of months ago. But here’s what happened…

My LYS was getting down to its last few balls of green Rowan Felted Tweed. I’d been eyeing it for weeks. I couldn’t justify adding it to my stash, since any more yarn could cause the cupboard to explode.  You know how it is when yarn lust meets pattern love. The situation called for immediate action, like casting on another Tangled Yoke Cardigan.

Tagled Yoke Cardigan Knitting Project

While flying to yet another family health crisis in another state, I was able to knit one sleeve. It’s twin materialized on the trip back home. (My yardage-per-flight-mile calculator seems spot on!) And I took comfort in knitting a pattern I know I love.

This is like mending that relationship that almost worked out. This time I’m going to do things differently. This  time I’m going to remember to try adding more short rows to the back for a better fit near the neck. This  time I’m going to pay more attention and fix mistakes before they become irreparable.

Don’t get me wrong. My blue Tangled Yoke Cardigan and I are still good friends. I just wore it on a lovely walk by Moonstone Beach the other evening. But the green one… well it holds such promise for happily ever after. If I can just get it right. This time.

posted under Projects, Sweaters | 1 Comment »

Tangled Yoke Cardigan

March 29

At long last I’ve finished the Tangled Yoke Cardigan. It soared to the top of my list of favorite patterns to knit. Eunny Jang’s genius in the cable design made it delightful. I kept wondering, “How did she think of that?” as I went along. I just love the long stretch of ribbing on the sleeves and bottom of the sweater as well.

 

I thoroughly enjoy the yarn. It’s Rowan’s Felted Tweed - the DK version. I was worried that the yarn would be scratchy, but I wore the sweater with just a shell on underneath and it was fine.  It’s the perfect spring sweater – light and just warm enough for cool mornings.

The color I used, Shade 141 Whisper, has been discontinued, but Rowan has come out with a bunch of other enticing colors. I can’t wait to use one of them to make another of these cardigans!

 

posted under Sweaters, Yarn | 9 Comments »

Smock Top Sweater

January 11

My Smock Top Sweater design, originally published in Knotions, is now available here. And its free!

The traditional style lends itself well to dressing up (maybe with pretty black slacks?) or dressing down (paired with jeans for cozy fall and winter gatherings). Its versatility makes it useful in a time when we are all trying to get the most out of our garments.

The sweater features a form-flattering ribbed body topped by feminine smocking. The turtleneck is knit with ever-increasing sizes of needles to drape softly at the neck line.

Knit from the bottom up, the body’s 2×2 ribbing flows seamlessly into the smocking pattern that adorns the chest. At the top of the smocking, the ribs flow up to match at the shoulder, making for a pretty join.

And now for something really fun….

I know I was a little intimidated the first time I tried to knit smocking. Like a lot of seeming challenges, once I tried it, I nearly laughed at how easy it is. I’ve made a YouTube video demonstrating how to make the smocking, in case you’d like a little guidance.

The updated version of the Smock Top Sweater pattern includes corrections, clarifications, and the addition of metric measurements.

The Smock Top Sweaters that I knit for myself are made from the yarn called for in the pattern, Rowan Classic Yarns’ Cashsoft DK. I adore this yarn! It’s soft against my skin, and the bit of cashmere  content gives it warmth without excess weight.

I caught Stella (my dress form) wearing it early one morning, hanging out by the last of my dahlias.

I hope everyone’s New Year is off to a great start. Happy knitting!

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