Top down handspun

I’ve been trying to figure out how to knit a V-neck cardigan from the top down by reading Barbara Walker’s Knitting From the Top. I wanted to design and knit my own cardigan, but I couldn’t figure out crucial steps in the construction process. While her book is brilliant in presenting the structural formula of top-down knitting, for someone like me who has not done a lot of sweater knitting, it was a bit too abstract; I needed a more detailed step by step explanation. In looking for a simple V-neck cardigan prototype, I found exactly what I was looking for: Audrey’s First Day Sweater designed by Elizabeth Smith. It’s a great pattern to start learning about top down raglan cardigan construction. And what’s even better is that it’s free.

I finished this cardigan in a couple of weeks, despite a very hectic schedule. And it’s thick and warm–just in time for fall!

(This toque, which I spun and knitted in San Antonio, has been getting a lot of use recently. Little A and I both take turns wearing it.)

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The yarn is spun from two 4 oz bumps of  Spunky Eclectic falkland that I had purchased from a Ravelry destash. The yarn is worsted weight and I had a little less than 400 meters so I knew that I couldn’t have long sleeves.

I spun the two bumps slightly differently to give some variety in the color shifts. One bump I split in half cross-wise and spun each half across the top. The other bump is fractally spun. I split it in half cross-wise and spun one half across the top but split the other half into 8 strips lengthwise. You can see the different effects in the two halves of the sweater. The top half, which has thinner band of colors, is knitted using the fractally spun yarn. As with my previously spun sweater, I’m partial to having striping changes.

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Given that this was a top-down sweater, I wanted the sleeves to be knitted with the fractally spun yarn so to match the upper body. Shortly after I knitted the yoke, I decided I had better save the rest of this yarn for the sleeves so I set it aside and then continued knitting the body with the other skein. I then weighed the yarn I had set aside and divided it into two same-sized balls to make sure that my sleeves would be roughly the same length. I knitted the sleeves till I ran out of the fractally spun yarn. If I had initially spun this 8 oz with a plan to make a sweater, I probably would have probably followed this awesome PDF explanation from Gizometer on Ravelry. Though the instructions are for a gradient sweater, I love the breakdown of the ratio between the amount of fiber needed for sleeves and the amount needed for the body. These instructions present the division of fiber and colors with easy to understand diagrams.

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I modified the sweater a bit so that as Little A grows, it can be worn as a bolero. It’s cropped and wider around the chest. I added four extra stitches under each arm.

Spunky Eclectic “Field of Screams” (May 2010 club fiber) waiting to be plied.

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First Test Knit

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I’ve always been curious about how designers actualize their designs. It’s one thing to come up with great idea, but translating that idea into a set of charts and written instructions is easier said than done. I’ve been lurking on the testing pool forum of Ravelry for a while, curious to see the variety of patterns that are being developed out there. But when I saw the opportunity to test knit for Tincan Knits, one of my favorite design duos, I jumped at the chance. They are partly based out of Vancouver, BC, and many of their designs draw inspiration from the Pacific Northwest.

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I like to think that the stars were aligned for this test knitting to happen. The timing was right, and I knew that I had a stash of this lovely Madelinetosh Tosh Merino DK in “Bloomsbury” that would be perfect for the project. Also, sleeves are optional, which is another plus! But what’s more important is that Little A loves this sweater, and I really enjoyed knitting it.

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This pattern is tentatively called “Prairie Fire,” and it was a really quick knit. The lace pattern was simple yet varied enough to be interesting but easy to memorize.  I love how the lace pattern starts at the top front and wraps around in the back. I can see myself doing more test knitting. It was fun to knit with other knitters and to try to decipher certain sections or offer suggestions on clarity. It totally appeals to the nerdy editor in me.

As for this pattern, I’m not sure when it will be released, but I’m guessing it will be soon. And what’s more, it will be available in sizes from infant to adult extra-large! That’s the part that blows my mind–calculating the stitch counts for the various sizes. This sweater, which is sized 6-8 year old, is a little big on Little A at the moment, but there is a lot of room to grow. And since it is already getting too hot to wear it in San Antonio, it might fit just right when we return to the Pacific Northwest!