I love my modified Stopover sweater ... and I loved knitting it so much that I promptly bought several sweater quantities of lopi yarn. Naturally, life intervened and more lopi sweaters weren't knit, until now.
Not content with most of the other options out there, I decided to go wild. This sweater is knit from the top-down, with a v-neck instead of the traditional round neck of a lopi sweater (and most other yoked sweaters, for that matter).
The inspiration came from Ragga Eiríksdóttir's Craftsy class, Top-Down Icelandic Sweaters. The punchline is really just that you start at the top of the sweater instead of the bottom, which gives you more flexibility (I think) on things like body and sleeve length. It's a great class, because Ragga is wonderful, and it's always interesting to see how other knitters work out design problems.
But if there's one thing I hate about cardigans, it's cardigans with straight fronts instead of v-necks. The corners always flop against my neck and make me nuts. My last attempt at fudging a v-neck with the Stopover didn't go quite as planned, so I knew this one had to be a real v-neck. I used my gauge on the Stopover as a starting point, and a mashup of Ann Budd's Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters and things I remember from Elizabeth Zimmerman to do the shaping.
For the v-neck, I basically increased on both edges on every other row. Next time I'd do it once every three rows instead, but what I ended up with works perfectly well.
The sweater is steeked, which seems to be my M.O. these days because, less purling! Then I picked up stitches and made a pretty standard button/neck band. I like having odd numbers of buttons generally, and eagle eyes will notice seven buttons in the pictures above. But that top button just seemed too high up, so I snipped it off after the photos were taken. That means there's an extra buttonhole without a button, but that's a minor detail I can happily live with, especially since the yarn is so hairy it's hard to see the buttonholes!
I improvised the colorwork pattern, which is really a starting point for what I had in mind. Next time!
I did end up having to add length to the sleeves because when I tried the sweater on for sleeve length, I forgot to bend my elbow (like you do when looking at a watch). I found myself tugging at the sleeves, meaning they were too short. Luckily, with the top-down construction, adding length was super simple - just undo the cast-off, knit some more, and it's done!
All in all, this was a fun - and quick! - project. When you usually work on size 4 needles or smaller, size 9 makes for a speedy knit!
You might remember my excitement at the beginning of the year when we started making dizzes. Well, I've finally gotten my hands on some hand combs, so I can show you just how they work!
In addition to the adorable little sheep, there is now an alpaca diz as well as the traditional oval diz. All three work in the same way, and have a WPI tool built right in. This post explains more about a WPI tool and how to use the measurements you get from it.
All of a sudden, it's windy here. I guess March is truly coming in like a lion here. And February just whooshed by too, with glorious springlike weather that was equal parts scary (climate change is real!) and wonderful to play in.
Somehow, I managed to not be in this space at all, but that didn't mean there wasn't anything happening on my needles or on my loom. Whoops.
The most fun of all was the reprise of the Bang Out a Sweater knitalong - this time with worsted weight wool and rows of colorwork that had three colors at a time AND purls. Craziness.
Besides changing the color palette of the sweater, I more or less knit the pattern exactly as written - a rarity for me, since I see patterns more as, um, suggestions.
The changes I did make are what makes handknits so wonderful, because they're customized to one's own body and fit preferences. I knit a size smaller than I "should" have based on the pattern recommendations. The pattern was designed to have tons and tons of positive ease, and I figured I could do with a slouchy sweater but not so much a tent-blanket-thing. After blocking, I have a comfortable level of positive ease, but not too much, making me one happy camper. And, as I usually do, I shortened the body and the sleeves just a tad. And, for an extra touch of luxury, all edges are done in tubular cast-on/bind-off. Because it's pretty.
Can you spot the difference in these sleeves? On the left is the colorwork pattern as I originally envisioned it, but as I was knitting, I felt like the colors on the bottom were getting mired down. So on the second sleeve, I played with a different color combination, moving the darker colors to the center of the motif. Then I spent a day or two staring at them, deciding which one I liked better. All that was left to do was unravel the one I didn't like, and proceed with the sleeves.
The result is a sweater that some people on Instagram have called dark and moody, but I just think it's cozy and comfortable and I hope the March winds keep the weather cool enough so I can wear it all the time.
A side effect of knitting a size smaller than I'd planned is all the leftover yarn. Besides almost full skeins of each of the colors used in the motifs, I had two whole skeins of the dark brown. I used it to play with weft-faced weaving, naturally jumping into the deep end with flamepoint. I did go a bit cross-eyed trying to figure it out, with four different shuttles in play at a time, but I'm loving the effect. Perhaps a purse to go with my cozy sweater?
Ever since Charles Dickens wrote about Madame Defarge embedding secret codes into her knitting, the world has known that knitting can send a powerful message.
Of course, knitters have known that for much longer. Knitting for someone else is a powerful message of love and support and comfort, whether it’s a gift for a loved one or a stranger in need.
Up until the Women’s March on Washington (and all the sister marches around the world), knitting* didn’t get much attention in the political sphere.
Then, all of a sudden, there was a sea of handknit hats, people declaring that we will not submit to hate and fear and control. A crocheted pussyhat landed on the cover of Time Magazine, and a knitted one on the cover of the New Yorker.
Of course, the resistance doesn’t stop with pink hats. If the last two weeks are any indication of what is to come, it’s going to be a busy and exhausting four years.
There are, of course, the practical things we all can – and should, and must – do, like calling and writing our legislators. Not just the ones in Washington, D.C., but the local ones too. We can’t forget that local policies make way for national ones. There are the marches, which I hope will continue to show the world that America is not full of hate and fear, though our President is. There is the legal action to challenge our President’s illegal and unconstitutional actions. And we can give financial support to all those organizations that care for marginalized people, for our environment, for the arts.
And of course, we can keep on knitting. I’ve started thinking of this kind of knitting as politknits. It can encompass any topic, really, so long as it’s current. Unlike charity knitting**, the primary purpose of politiknits is to send a message, loud and clear. Politiknits tell the world what the maker is thinking. Politiknits tell the world that this is not okay. Politiknits tell the world this is what I’m doing to change the world.
One of my favorite politiknits debuted at the Women’s March on Washington. Designed and worn by the inimitable Bristol Ivy, the Peace de Resistance mittens pattern features a clenched fist and the message, “Resistanace is NOT Futile.”
All proceeds from pattern sales are donated to a rotating list of charities. In the first 24 hours the pattern was on Ravelry, it shot up to #1 on the “Hot Right Now” list, and generated over $4,000 for organizations that work to make life better for all people, not just those in power. There are 85 projects already on Ravelry - and more added every day.
There's so much that I love about these mittens. Mittens, something soft and warm and made by hand. Mittens, that bear a traditional colorwork pattern, with anything but a traditional message mixed in to that pattern.
There's a growing need for resistance to hate and fear on all fronts. Politiknits are just one, but I love them because they're an encouraging and exiting way to express ourselves as creators.
As Bristol said: Let’s make some good trouble, y’all!
*and crochet, and sewing, and so-called women’s crafts in general
**Charity knitting is generally meant to fill the needs of warmth and love for the intended recipient. A good and wonderful and necessary thing, just different.
My handspun sweater is at that stage of doneness where it is wearable as a garment, but still needs a few finishing touches – sewing up those faux seams, adding some handwoven ribbon to keep the steeked edges covered, and there might still be a couple of ends that need weaving in. But we managed to get out to the park for a walk in the sunshine, and it was the perfect layer for a spring-like day (in January!).
Last week I filmed myself cutting the steek down the center front. Traditionally, steeks are cut in colorwork – a way to speed up the knitting, since colorwork is easier done in the round than worked flat.
Really though, you can use a steek just about anywhere – as long as you’re using a yarn that’s not too slippery.
Knitting the sweater in the round and then steeking it let me accomplish a couple of things. First, I was using handspun, which has more variety in thickness and color from skein to skein than commercial yarn. Knitting the sweater in the round meant that it would be visually even – no need to try to juggle matching left front to right front. Second, it meant I could knit a stockinette sweater with very little purling.
Actually I did purl – the center front has one purl stitch, and each side has a purl stitch where the seam will be. The purl in the center front made for an easy visual for where to steek, and the side purls are there for a faux seam and to add a little bit of structure. But that’s it!
Steeking intimidates a lot of people because it seems so dangerous! Won’t the knitting unravel? Interestingly, knit stitches don’t really want to unravel in the direction a steek is normally cut, which helps soothe most people’s fears.
When you cut a steek, there are a couple of different ways to reinforce it to keep all your hard work from unraveling. The two main techniques I’ve seen are using a sewing machine and crocheted reinforcement.
Using a Sewing Machine to Reinforce a Steek
The idea is simple: sew a couple of rows of stitches just outside the cut. The machine-sewn stitches are strong and disappear into the fabric. You do have to be careful not to stretch the knitting as it goes through the sewing machine, or else risk a “ruffly” edge, but this technique is great for yarns that might not traditionally be steeked, like cotton or acrylic. You can find a bunch of great tips about machine sewn steeks here.
Reinforcing a Steek With Crochet Stitches
This technique uses two columns of crocheted stitches just outside the column of stitches to be cut. The crocheted stitches pull away from each other, leaving you a clear cutting path. Once cut, they roll under whatever edging you add, giving you a nice edge. This is my go-to tutorial for the crocheted method.
This second technique is the one I used for my sweater, partially because I like it, and partially because I didn’t want to haul out the sewing machine. Then it was just snip, snip, snip, and I had a cardigan instead of a pullover.
I’ve heard a lot over on Instagram about how daunting steeks can seem, but they’re really useful in a lot of situations. Maybe I’m a little obsessed, but I think every knitter should try steeking at least once!
Do you have any experience with steeking? I’d love to hear about it – or any questions you might have about the process. I’m all ears!