I was interviewed last year for the Stitchmastery blog, and I realized I’d never posted it here. We talked about my design process and how I use Stitchmastery in my designing and tech editing work. If you’re curious you can read the interview on their website.
Recently in my Instagram stories, I posted a poll on knitting sweaters in pieces vs. one piece. Not surprisingly, there are some strong opinions on seamless vs. seamed sweaters. Now, I love a good seamless yoke as much as the next person, but I generally prefer to knit sweaters in pieces.
Here are a few of the reasons to knit sweaters in pieces:
- The project is more portable. It’s easier to carry around a piece of a sweater that you’re working on than a whole sweater. Personally, I think sleeves especially are an underrated on-the-go project. And you don’t have as much sweater in your hands and lap as you knit, which is a) less weight for your wrists to deal with, and b) less hot in the summer.
- You can use the sleeve as a gauge swatch! Of course I’m going to be a stickler and tell you to knit a proper gauge swatch, but there are times when my knitting changes between knitting a swatch and knitting an actual garment. Maybe I didn’t knit a big enough swatch, or maybe I’m simply more or less relaxed when knitting the swatch vs. the actual garment, but starting with a sleeve is a great way to double-check my gauge. The downside, of course, to using the sleeve as a swatch, is you may have a bigger chunk of knitting to rip out if your gauge is off or you don’t like the fabric you’re getting. And yes, you do need to stop and block the sleeve before measuring the gauge.
- Seams help add structure and may prevent bias in the fabric. This is especially true for fibers that have a lot of drape, or for plant fibers which will tend to bias (twist) when worn. Have you ever had a cotton top you knit twist around your body when you wear it?
- This is more particular to top-down seamless sweaters, but in my experience trying on as you go works better in theory than in reality. I know lots of folks will argue with me on this point, but hear me out. First, you usually won’t have blocked the sweater if you’re trying on as you knit, so if your gauge is going to change with blocking, you won’t get an accurate sense of the fit. Better to knit an accurate swatch (see above) and do a bit of math. Second, I’ve found that it’s easy to overestimate the length of a piece that’s on the needles – I think maybe there’s some wishful thinking at play when I want to get the piece done!
Reasons to Knit Seamless Sweaters
On the flip side, seamless sweaters do have some advantages. The most obvious one is that once the knitting is done, there is less finishing standing between me and wearing my new garment! And one time I do appreciate a seamless sweater is when I’m playing yarn chicken. If the sweater is knit top-down, or if the sleeves are picked up and knit down from the completed garment, I can make adjustments to the body or sleeve length (or both) according to how much yarn I have. If I don’t have enough, I can maybe live with a slightly shorter hem or a 3/4 sleeve.
What is your favorite way to knit a sweater? Are there any advantages or disadvantages I haven’t covered here?
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Sweater sizing is a topic that has come up again recently on social media, and I thought it would be a good time to address the way I recommend choosing your sweater size for my designs. Generally in my sweater designs I recommend choosing the size with a certain amount of ease in the upper chest – this is measured around your chest just under the armpits and above the bust (if you have one). Because the armhole and shoulders of a sweater are the most difficult to alter, you want to choose a size that will fit best in that area and make any needed alterations elsewhere. And, since people with the same shoulder size will vary in the size of their full bust, it makes sense to fit the shoulder area according to the upper chest measurement.*
Now, you’re probably wondering how this will work if you, like me, have a small frame and a large bust. My measurements are as follows: upper chest – 34, underbust (this is the measurement generally taken for a bra band) – 30, full bust – 38. In the photo at the top of this post, I am wearing the Composure Cardigan in the 40 inch/ 113 cm size , which gives me 6 inches of positive ease in the upper chest, and just 2 inches of ease in the full bust. This gives me a nice relaxed, slightly oversized fit.
As a rule of thumb, the size you choose can have up to around 2 inches/ 5cm of negative ease in the full bust – knitted fabric will stretch to accommodate it without making any adjustments in the length or width of the fabric. With the oversized styles that are currently popular, most people will have enough room to fit their full bust. If you’re working with a more fitted style, you may need to add bust darts to get the best fit.
There are a couple of other measurements you can use to help choose your size. One is the cross-back measurement, which on a drop-shoulder sweater like the Composure Cardigan or the Suora Tee, is simply half the chest circumference minus any stitches bound off at the underarm (for a modified drop-shoulder). This is measurement C on the example schematic above. You can measure across your shoulders where you want the shoulder seam to fall, and compare that to the measurements given on the pattern schematic. It’s also a good idea to check the neck width on your pattern to make sure it’s a comfortable width for the size you’re considering.
If you are working with a pattern that specifies ease in the full bust, or you’re not sure which it specifies, a good trick is to take your upper chest measurement plus 2 inches/ 5 cm. That’s because ‘average’ sizing in the women’s clothing industry has generally been based on a 2-inch difference between the upper chest and the full bust, or about a B-cup. In the example above, I would choose my size based on a 36 inch bust, so if I wanted 4-6 inches of ease for a relaxed fit, I would again choose the 40 inch size.
I hope this answers some questions you may have about choosing a size. Drop your other questions about sizing in the comments, and maybe I’ll answer them in a future post.
**Amy Herzog has some great resources on this topic. Here is a tutorial she wrote on choosing a size for her patterns: https://amyherzogdesigns.com/tutorials/choosing-a-size-set-in-sleeve/.
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The March Flowers Mittens pattern uses an afterthought thumb – similar to an afterthought heel on a sock – to avoid interrupting the colorwork on the mitt and provide an easy, neat finish. The downside of this, of course, is that it doesn’t fit as well as a mitt with a thumb gusset. However, I envisioned these mitts as a perfect quick knit to throw on during those chilly spring morning and then tuck in your pocket when it warms up. The afterthought thumb suits my purposes perfectly.
It can be a bit tricky to pick up the stitches neatly once you’ve removed the waste yarn, so I prefer to do it while the waste yarn is still in place. In the photo below I’ve placed the stitches on the two tips of my circular needle, and you can see the blue waste yarn there in between.
When you go to pick up the stitches, you need to pay attention to three rows of stitches: on the bottom you have a row of stitches where the top of the ‘v’ meets the waste yarn; in the middle the row made by the waste yarn, which will be removed in the next step; and on top a row of stitches where the bottom of the ‘v’ meets the waste yarn. To pick up the stitches, keep the mitt facing up, and insert a needle tip (or double’pointed needle) into the right leg of the ‘v’ in the row above and below the waste yarn. You can then safely unravel the waste yarn (if you are using a long circular needle shifting the stitches onto the cable will make this easier), and you will be left with live stitches on the needles.
The other tricky thing about the thumb is picking up the stitch in the gap on either side so that you get a neat finish. Since I’m working the thumb in the main color, I created my stitch by picking up a bar of the main color along the edge of the gap and knitting through the back loop. Here you can see the tip of the needle has been inserted into the green bar that will be picked up.
I hope this tip helps, and please tag your projects #MarchFlowersMitts and #BullockOzkanDesigns. I love to see your creations!
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