Fans of Knit Picks can now find my “Mixer” accessories in Swish Worsted. The yarn is delightful to work with, and comes in lots of great colors.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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!
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).
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:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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
Five yarn shops in San Luis Obispo County have banded together to organize the very first SLO Yarn Crawl this weekend. Here’s the skinny
When: Saturday September 21 and Sunday September 22 from 10AM to 5PM
Where: The 5 yarn shops in SLO County
Why: To have fun, and get to know your fiber neighbors!
I’m thrilled to be participating in the Yarn Crawl. Ranch Dog Knitting will host the trunk show for my book Reversible Scarves: Curing the Wrong Side Blues. Have you ever wondered what all those scarves look like in person? I hope you’ll come by and check them out. Then, on Saturday the 21st, I’ll be signing books at Ranch Dog from 1:00 to 3:00. Stop by by for tea and a visit.
If you’re anywhere near the Central Coast this weekend, I hope you’ll attend!
I love being able to follow my blog from my iPad and iPhone, using a simple click of an icon. Did you know you can add a custom AudKnits button to the screen of your Apple device? My brilliant webmaster Alex created a bookmark that shows how to do it:
Voila! I have easy access to my web site right from the screen. I hope that you’ll add the button to your Apple device too!
One of the best things about participating in the Downton Abbey Mystery KAL is getting to use a new fiber from an old favorite yarn company, Lorna’s Laces. For the KAL, I’m using the suggested yarn, Sportmate. As I read the ball band, I was a little surprised by the contents: “70% superwash Merino and 30% Outlast viscose.” Never having heard of Outlast, I just had to look it up. As it turns out I’m working on a 1900’s inspired pattern using a fiber developed for NASA! Here’s what the Outlast web site has to say about it: “Outlast® technology, originally developed for NASA, utilizes phase change materials (PCM) that absorb, store and release heat for optimal thermal comfort.” What would Lady Violet have to say about that? Leave a comment with what you think she’d say about a newfangled fiber!
Sportmate is a very well-behave yarn, easy to knit with and creating nice, even stitches. There is a slight halo to it. Here’s the project KAL project so far, through Clue #1.
The end of this weekend marks the end of the drawing for the beautiful stitch markers, custom made to celebrate AudKnits’ four year blogiversary! If you want your name to be in the drawing, leave a comment on the original post. (One comment per person, please.) I’ll be giving away four sets of markers – one for each year of the blog. Hurray!
This is one of my favorite designs from my book Reversible Scarves: Curing the Wrong Side Blues. It’s easy to make; the pattern calls for the slip stitch method of double knitting, so I didn’t have to learn any new techniques to make it. All it requires is knowing how to knit, purl, and slip stitches. It makes for very social knitting!
Berroco Ultra Alpaca is perfect for this pattern. The 50% alpaca gives it wonderful drape, so the double thickness doesn’t get too stiff. The 50% wool lends structure, so it maintains its shape.
I can’t wait to try this in more colors. Wouldn’t it look stunning in black and white? Or some fall colors? Maybe a plum and gold?
Don’t you just love patterns that look all difficult and fancy-shmancy, but are really easy to make? That’s how it was with the Classic Elite Yarn pattern called the Seedling Wrap, designed by Tonia Barry. The pattern calls for Verde cotton yarn, but I substituted Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran. With its merino wool and touch of cashmere, I think it will be a warmer choice for chilly California evenings (I know it sounds crazy, but even in summer it can be 100 in the day, and really cold at night!).
The lovely curves motif reminds me of waves and sand. A perfect gift my friend who adores outings to the beach!
This is a free pattern, which is all the better!
I was happily sitting in the Phoenix airport, getting to know Michelle Hunter of Knit Purl Hunter fame, when along came a cameraman for a local TV news program. New airline regulations are going into effect and he wanted to interview me about them. Always game for a good rant, I said yes! The cameraman was the nicest guy ever, and seemed intrigued by the idea that someone might actually have to travel for knitting (hard to explain TNNA, isn’t it?!). When I whipped out my iPad with the rough draft of my book, he exclaimed, “But you’re so high tech!” Little does he know what a bright bunch we knitters are. Cutting edge all the way!
The interview aired on Wednesday evening on Phoenix 3TV News, on the 3 On Your Side segment. I’m at the beginning and end. You can watch it here:
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