Barbara Walker’s Top down, simultaneous set-in sleeve method
One method I love for top down sweaters was devised by Barbara Walker. A number of designers use the method, often giving it a new name, but I do prefer to give credit where it’s due. For the purposes of this tutorial I am using an Aran weight yarn and following directions for a pattern knitted with laceweight or 4ply/fingering weight yarn, so the pieces look chunkier, taller and wider than they should. That said, it’s also a lot easier for you to see the detail.
You start by working the Right Back Shoulder wedge, cut yarn and place on a spare needle. The piece is shaped with w&t short rows (wrap and turn for those not familiar).
We then knit the Left Back Shoulder wedge piece to match this one, it’ll perhaps have one row more or less, as shoulders and shaping often do, but it’s close enough.
We knit a final row on across the left shoulder, cast on (purlwise and from the back of the work) our back neck stitches and knit across the right shoulder piece to join the back into one section.
After this point, we would pick up the Right Front Shoulder wedge from the ‘seam’ of the Right Back Shoulder (cast on edge of that piece).
The completed Right Front Shoulder wedge looks like this, you can see the shoulder seam (cast on edge) in the centre of the piece.
We then pick up the Left Front Shoulder wedge from the cast on edge of the shoulder edge for that side.
In this photo, I have completed the Left Front Shoulder wedge, again you can see the shoulder seam (cast on edge of the left back shoulder wedge) in the centre of that section.
Next, we knit the left front, place a marker, pick up stitches along the shoulder edge for the left sleeve, place marker, knit the back stitches, place marker, pick up stitches along the shoulder edge for the right sleeve, place marker and knit the right front.
As this particular top is a V neck, we’ll be increasing for the neck in the next section, as we knit down towards the underarms. We will add sleeve and body increases to ensure a smooth transition to the underarms and make sure our sleeves are wide enough to fit our arms!
This photo shows the left shoulder seam after the first neck increase and the first sleeve increases (to create an almost gathered top to each sleeve).
As with all top down construction methods, there are opportunities to customise the fit to your body. For example we could easily add more sleeve increases in the next section for those of us with ‘muscular’ or ‘meaty’ upper arms.
We could add bust shaping short rows, after the v neck is joined and we are working in the round. Or we could consider vertical bust darts for those who need them.
If you don’t like the simple lace eyelet pattern of the Andria Tee, you could easily choose another lace pattern and ensure your stitch count works with that lace.
After the underarms and some basic shaping for the upper body, we change to larger needles. We do that because the lower body or skirt element of the Tee needs more drape, the lace is meant to fit loosely and give you some ease. Not cling to the body.
This is how the finished Tee would look using laceweight yarn double stranded and knitted as per the pattern. Photo courtesy of Knit Now Magazine and Practical Publishing.
Wheatsheaf Sweater – what did I learn and what do I love?
I finished the actual knitting of the Wheatsheaf Sweater on Saturday night while on a Zoom call with some friends from the After Party group on Ravelry. We always have a lot of laughs and enjoy chatting, but knitting or crochet happens at the same time. I was picking up the neckband of the Wheatsheaf Sweater and cast off/bound off my stitches not long before I left the chat to go to bed.
I prefer a fitted knit to a saggy, baggy knit that swamps me. The 20 year old me would be appalled, she liked to cover up her shape and hide her body.
I like that I have a waist, boobage and curvy hips. The belly, less so, but it’s the same belly that covered my son and kept him safe during my pregnancy, so I can forgive it anything.
I love the two cables that run up the front of the sweater and split at the V neckline to follow the V shape and create a beautiful design line. If you’d like to see more of the project, you can see my Ravelry project page here.
I learned a long time ago that I prefer to seam and knit flat. But I also know that many of you prefer seamless knits so there will be two versions of the pattern to suit both types of knitters. For this cable, I prefer bottom up as it’s easier to work the cable, so I will probably stick with that.
Wheatsheaf Sweater – let’s talk ease
I wanted 1-2 inches of negative ease at the bust, pre-blocking. After blocking, it’s a perfect fit. At the lower body, which is Aline in shape I wanted it to fit me without too much extra fabric, a neat but good fit. My preference is based on my own shape and knowing what suits me. I’m not tall, only 5ft 2in and I’m a curvy girl. Boxy knits or oversized items absolutely swamp me and all that extra fabric makes me look a lot bigger than I am. Not a good look for me.
For a modified drop shoulder sweater you might want 2-4 inches on the body, but the most important measurement is the shoulder width on the back. That measurement needs to fit you. With a modified drop, it’s easy to adapt, as you can work the lower body wider (Aline, straight or with waist shaping) and bind off more or less stitches to get the shoulder width you need.
Understanding your sleeve length also helps. The sleeve for a modified drop shoulder sweater is lengthened to fit the armhole gap. If you make your upper body narrower, add length at that part of the sleeve, if you make it wider, reduce the length of the sleeve top. There’s a little bit of easy maths involved, but you’ll love your sweater so much more if it actually fits YOU.
What would I do differently?
I’d have knitted the sleeves with a couple of inches of ease. They’re a good fit, no extra fabric and the cables look good down the centre of the sleeve. That said, an extra inch or two for comfort would be nice. Though with washing and wearing, I know this yarn will relax a bit. Next week it’ll be a looser fit on those sleeves. I’m also carrying a bit of lockdown fluff, which I’m planning to shift over the coming months which will make all the difference, no alterations required.
What is the Wheatsheaf Sweater a Modified Drop Shoulder?
It’s one of the best ways to go with the current trend for Drop Shoulders but have a garment that fits someone with narrow shoulders. Just because something is popular, fashionable or on trend, doesn’t mean it’s for me or you. Wear what suits you, the shapes that flatter your figure and leave the high fashion to others.
The shoulder seam ends at the main shoulder bone, at the top of your arm, not near your elbow. The line of the shoulder and armhole draws the eye up to your face, now down the body to the extra fabric or droop of standard drop shoulder sweaters.
If you have lovely broad shoulders, then a standard drop shoulder will look great on you, so please go for it. But, for those with a narrower upper body, they’re not usually the most flattering shape.
Drape, Fabric and Swatches
Other considerations include drape and how the fabric of the sweater behaves. Does it drape nicely or is it so firm that it could stand up without you wearing it? I’ll state the unpopular view that a swatch will tell you a great deal, I’ll also add that one of the best, absolute best swatches for a sweater is a sleeve. It’s large enough and heavy enough to show you have the yarnwill really behave on the rest of the garment, rather than a six inch square which only tells us how it behaves in a small piece of knitting or crochet.
You can work your sleeve swatch in the round or flat, whatever suits the pattern you’re making, but that one item will tell you so much and save you a lot of time.
For those working top down and in the round, a large swatch of any kind is your friend. I will admit that for top down sweaters, where I have used the yarn before, I have a rough idea of the needle size I will need to get gauge/tension. I’ll just cast on and crack on with the knitting or crochet. However, I measure A LOT, during that first part of the knitting. I need to know whether it’s going to be wide enough, do I need to add length, adjust my increases etc. So pay attention at this stage of your garment.
Sensational sock knitting, my friends think I’m crazy
Are their plagues of locusts on the way? Is the world ending? No. So why am I sock knitting?
I had an urge last month to knit socks, I have NO idea why as I haven’t knitted socks in several years and even then it was either bulky/chunky weight or aran weight. Anything finer has me running for the door screaming.
But, I cast on some dk weight socks and knitted them over a weekend, then cast on another pair of socks using some West Yorkshire Spinners Aire Valley DK and again, they flow off the needles.
I’ve knitted one Aran weight sock by Mary E Rose Designs, called The Ultimate Answer because all sizes are 42 stitches. I’m half way through sock number two and still enjoying knitting them.
What is going on? I’m worried that next week I’ll find myself knitting a king sized duvet cover with 2mm needles and laceweight yarn.
There are several theories, some think I was abducted by aliens and the person typing this post is really an alien who took my place. I’m not really sure what their agenda would be in stealing a 50 something, lumpy Mum, but you never know?
To be fair, I find it hard to buy socks that fit my feet. I’m a UK size five but socks are usually sized 4-7 which means the heels stick out the back of my running shoes. Hmmm. My feet have been cold. Which is odd as the rest of me has been battling menopause symptoms and melting the frost on the car just be looking at it.
I know have two, almost three, pairs of socks that fit my feet perfectly. I did design some Aran weight socks, the Wheatsheaf Aran Socks, available on Ravelry, LoveCrafts or Payhip.
I’ve been dithering about my Daelyn sweater for months, probably most of last year. It’s been on my needles since 31st December 2018. I know, I should be horrified, but it’s not my oldest WIP by a long, long way. It is, however, a luxury yarn and an investment so I need to either finish it, frog it and knit something else or put it away and pretend it doesn’t exist.
I opted to finish the Daelyn sweater, picked up the underarm stitches and am now working the first sleeve, in the round. That wouldn’t be my first choice, as I prefer sleeves worked flat, I purl faster than I knit and it speeds things up. I don’t enjoy knitting small circumference items and sleeves are my nemesis.
I’m using Malabrigo Rios in the Archangel colourway. It’s richly purple with oranges, peach, khaki green, greys, yellows and warm reds. I love it. The yarn needs to be worked in stripes of two rows or rounds per skein to minimise colour pooling. Notice, I don’t say to prevent it, as you can never quite be sure it’ll be perfect. Look at the purple pooling (purpling) on the front shoulders.
I’m using two balls of yarn and striping them every two rows to minimise the pooling, it’ll never eliminate it entirely but hopefully I won’t look like I’ve got bruised arms.
I’m about four inches into the first sleeve and tempted to pick up stitches for the other sleeve so I can work on them both at the same time. To be clear, I don’t mean two at a time on circular needles, the last time I tried that my sweater sleeves look more like kids trousers.
Once the sleeves of my sweater are finished, I will weave in ends and pick up stitches for the neckband, that’ll be worked in the round on a 16 inch circular needle.
I’m wishing I had added a few more short rows to the neckline to drop the front in relation to the back, but I am very happy with the fit of the sweater itself. I do love her designs and the patterns are always very well written.
The pattern includes sizing and instructions for both men and women and it’s easy to adapt sleeve or body length to suit the recipient.
What are you finishing off this year?
How old is your oldest WIP? No shame here, let’s celebrate them and make a choice to finish it, fix it, frog it or forget it. What’s it to be?
What’s on my needles, is it a poncho, a wrap, a bolero or a blanket?
After a conversation with a good friend, Helen, she talked to me about a poncho she wears a lot. It’s not a garment style that I have in my wardrobe but it’s been on my list to make one for several years.
We chatted about shapes and styles that are flattering, particularly for plus size sizes and I was keen to design a poncho that was versatile. But, also an easy knit for someone new to cables, with stocking stitch sections for an easy TV knit. That would be your go-to for an extra layer on cooler days, evenings or at the park with the kids when the breeze is a bit more than you expected.
I didn’t want to work the piece bottom up and I’ll explain my reasons why. If you aren’t a shawl knitter, a sweater or cardigan knitter, it can be daunting to be asked to cast on a lot of stitches. I almost always use longtail or the thumb cast on which uses the tail of the yarn and the working yarn to effectively knit your first row as you make your stitches.
If you’re familiar with it, you’ll have had the experience of being short of yarn, or having too long a tail at the end. As I knew I’d have to cast on a lot of stitches, I used a piece of yarn from two balls, one for the ‘tail’ and one for the working yarn. At the end of the cast on, and having counted my stitches very carefully, I cut the tail, leaving an end to weave in and worked a wrong side (WS) row with the ball that is now my working yarn.
Why working the poncho one piece sideways wouldn’t work
My other option was to work the Wheatsheaf Cable section to the height I needed, and pick up stitches for the stocking stitch portion of the poncho. I wanted to add buttons and buttonholes, to give you several ways to wear your poncho. That would mean picking up stitches for borders, adding edgings and a lot of faffing about. It would be an interesting and more advanced piece to knit, but how many people would want to knit it knowing the work involved?
Here’s my swatch, showing an icord cast on, an icord end to the cable, side border with icord knitted at the same time and stitches (on the left of the photo) picked up to work sideways from the cable section to make the rectangular piece. It uses different directions, picking up stitches, adding applied icord to finish one edge and an icord cast on for the lower edge of the cable. It’s hard to make it match and have some symmetry.
Knitting a wide Poncho bottom up and why?
Why I’m knitting my Poncho bottom up and why that’s a far better idea. The icord edgings I want to give the piece finesse and a neat edge can be knitted at the same time as the rest of the poncho. The button bands and buttonholes are also knitted as you go. The side borders can also have buttonholes if you wish to wear the piece folded like an asymmetric poncho and create the illusion of cuffs.
Working bottom up, even with a lot of stitches, is as easy as knitting a simple shawl, once the knitting is finished, you add buttons, weave in ends and you are done. No picking up, no fancy finishing. If you don’t want to add buttons, you can just fold the piece and seam it closed and only wear it two ways. If you take the time to add a few buttons (super easy) then you have at least three ways to wear the poncho, maybe more.
Ways to wear the poncho, rough sketches over some designers croquis.
The Wheatsheaf Poncho after two vertical repeats of the cable pattern
What’s next with the poncho pattern and testing?
We’ve been thinking of events and Knit Alongs/Crochet Alongs (KALs/CALs) to have during the year to keep everyone entertained and another designer in our group is also working on a poncho pattern. Our plan is start at the end of January (Sunday 31st) and the Poncho Along will end on 30th April. I’ll have the pattern ready to test and any of my testers can take part in the Poncho Along, with their garment.
Indie Gift Along 2020 my WIPs, FOs and plans for December knitting and crochet.
I cast on the Ronan Cardigan by Tiona Murphy for the Gift Along, it’s going to my friends Ben and Kelly for their new baby boy who was born a few weeks ago. I used Stylecraft Special Aran with Wool in the Denim colourway and it works well with the cables. It’s also machine wash for a new and busy Mum of two.
I’m also sending them a couple of cotton burp cloths from a pattern by my good friend Emma Sadler, it’s called Muzies.
I have wanted to knit Alameda by Clarice Gomes since I saw her knitting the sample in a beautiful green colour when we met on a Saturday night Zoom knit and natter which we both go to. It’s absolutely stunning and I love it so much. I’m using Lanas Stop Bambini in the Linen colourway. You can buy that yarn here. I’ve knitted a bit more since then and will add another photo to the project page, click the image below to see more info.
This is Clarice’s sample
I did another crochet test of a pattern for Lillinette Crochet of her Ilsan pattern, you can make two of the squares and join them to make a Biscornu which is a clever construction and makes a very pretty pin cushion. I used scraps of DK sparkly yarn in silver grey, purple and magenta.
I cast on for the CareAway Shawl, I’m not sure I made the best yarn choice, but I do absolutely love the colours, it’s a creamy white, a light grey and a mustard yellow and is called Skittles. The yarn is Stylecraft Bambino DK.