Pattern Fragment 1

This is the follow up to Pattern Fragment 0

After all of the shaping for the body of the sweater, you'll have 256 stitches. The goal is to have 196 stitches total for the yoke section, or 98 stitches front and back. This gives me a yoke width of 14 inches, which I know fits me well. Your shoulder width may turn out to be deeply personal, modify as needed to accommodate your personal shoulders.

Put 14 stitches on holders at each underarm, this should be the 7 stitches before and after your round beginning and middle markers. Cast on 10 steek stitches using the backward loop (e-wrap) method above each steek. These are the underarms.

On the next row, after creating the steeks, decrease one body stitch into the first and last steek stitches, and continue these decreases in alternating rows, 7 times (14 total rows), until there are 98 stitches ready for the yoke.

The division between "stitches set aside" and "stitches decreased" at the beginning of the yoke are flexible, as long as you've finished shaping the yoke before its about 2 inches long.

Finished a Sweater

I finished knitting a sweater a bit ago, and it's pretty cool. Some thoughts:

  • The cuffs ended up being a touch too wide, but it's workable. I think this sweater is really good for wearing over an oxford, and as such slightly wider cuffs may be fine.
  • I used the placket / open neck line reminiscent of 1/4 zip sweaters, but chose for the first time to do garter stitch rather than ribbing for the horizontal parts of the plackets, which worked pretty well, though I might choose to execute them differently in the future. Having said that, I think I want to explore different neck shapes.
  • I didn't do any kind of lower body shaping, which is fine, particularly on such a boxy garment, but waist shaping is a good thing that I'd use again in the future.
  • This is the first drop shouldered garment I've made since the knitting hiatus. It was comforting, but I suspect I'll not knit another for quite a while.
  • I'd knit this sweater before using exactly these colors, albeit in a thicker weight yarn, and a few times with different color combinations. It was really fun and familiar.
  • HD Shetland Yarn is pretty awesome. This was the first time I'd used it for non-stranded knitting, and it was great fun to knit.
  • The previous couple of sweaters that I'd made were both knit at about 9 stitches to the inch, and this was about 7 stitches to the inch, which means that it felt like it went really fast. It's wild how we acclimate to things.

Lessons from the Knitting Hiatus

I took years and years off of knitting: life and priorities change and I must confess that a few years of living in a very small apartment with very active cats made it difficult to have the space to really get into knitting. Anyway, it was really nice to have a hobby sitting on the metaphoric shelf that I could get right back into without a big learning curve.

The interesting thing, I think is in observing is that the hiatus made some subtle changes to the way that I approach knitting things, at least relative to what I remember.

  • I'm less opposed to garter stitch, and have been using little bits of it here and there in some projects.
  • I've gotten much better at wrap-and-turn short rows in stocking stitch., they now look pretty good and I remember them always looking terrible.
  • I knit the yoke of a sweater back and forth, which is a thing that I would have found unimaginable.
  • Knitting plain stocking stitch in the round has always been a great joy of mine, but in the last couple of months I've done it rather a lot, knitting 3, or so, plain sweaters, which I've found quite captivating. I always seemed to feel like I needed some kind of patterning (color work, lace, cables etc) to keep things interesting, and that doesn't really seem to be the case.
  • I've yet to knit anything post-hiatus on needles other than US 0s (which are quite small,) and it doesn't seem to bug me very much. I continue to make progress on projects and rounds with 250-340 (or so) stitches don't seem oppressively long.
  • The problem of having little gaps between the sleeve of a sweater and the body at the "bottom corner," always used to be a big problem, and these days I haven't need to sew up these gaps at all, which is kind of novel.
  • My cast on edges have gotten better: I've managed to get edges that are as elastic as they need to be, and all of the usual problems (a twist, mistakes in rubbing, problems in counting, misjudging the length of the long-tail) haven't been a problem at all.

Of course some things didn't change:

  • I still don't really like to do things that involve knitting rows very much, and would prefer to knit as much as possible in the round.
  • My taste in yarns seems to be heavy on the "boring fine wool" and while I've been looking around at the kinds of yarns that are available and popular, I am (for the most part,) pretty content to stick to the really simple and boring yarn.
  • I haven't yet vanquished a number of old fears/struggles like making an EPS-style sweater that I really like, knitting sleeves from the cuff-up, cardigans. Many of these things are on my list of things to explore more in the future, but we'll see how I fair.

It's all very curious! I'm excited to see if anything else changes!

Knitting Pictures

I've never been really good at the blogging+picture game, and while maybe once upon a time it was technical limitation--taking photos and getting them online was complicated--anymore it's probably not. To this end, I've started a knitting specific Instagram account as a kind of photoblog for knitting things. It's @gestaltknitting, if you're interested.


While I took this picture a while ago, I must confess that my knitting basically looks the same now.

The same, not because I've made no progress, but because sleeves take a while and it's just plain knitting, so unless you have a very discerning eye, you might miss the details.

Indeed, I really want my next project to also have a lot of plain knitting with black yarn: I expect the photographs will be captivating. Perhaps it will be enjoyable for people to be able to spot the different patterns of embedded cat hair in the sweaters.


I get that knitting is visual for a lot of people, and I do like a smart looking sweater as much as the next guy, but I've always felt somewhat resistant to this view: knitting is about the process and the act more than it is about the product, and so the things that are most exciting aren't the visuals.

While it's gotten much easier to take high quality pictures, my intention for this book that I've been writing is that it mostly would not be a book with a lot of picture, though we'll see: If anything, I suspect that diagrams and cartoons may be more effective for this kind of application.

Having said that, it's nice to see what other people are knitting, and I like the way that the ephemeral nature of instagram stories make it less daunting to post in-progress updates on projects. So I've definitely been enjoying that.

We'll see!

Reknitting Projects

I'm presently in the middle of knitting a sweater that I knit and designed years and years ago, with only minor modifications, and I have a number of projects that I'm thinking about that involve "reknitting" past projects. While I don't think that I've peaked, or am out of ideas for knitting, it's very clear to me that novelty isn't exactly my guiding principle as a knitter: I enjoy the process and the act above all else, and the pleasure of wearing handknits is (for me) mostly about custom fit and less about novelty or fashion, exactly.

The chance to re-knit things, removes a lot of the questions of a design from the process and not only fix mistakes, but also polish and iterate on a garment with less guess work. It's also the case that these projects often feel like returning to an old friend, which is incredibly comforting. Some of these projects, on my backlog include:

  • This basic two-color sweaters (colorblock, I suppose,) that I'm presently knitting and have/will knit again where the lower part of the body is in black--or similar very dark--except for the top 3-4 inches of the body in a contrasting color, matched by the sleeves and the collar, which I try and push into the black section.
  • Alice Starmore's Faroe Sweater, from Fishermen's Sweaters, but scaled to actually fit and maybe with a more fitted shoulder. I've also, apparently knit a very heavy weight version of the Norway sweater that I never wore, and they're such great classic designs that are very fun to knit that knitting them again to modernize them sounds like a fun project.
  • A round pi shawl in a dark color, with no lace work (including using raised bar increases rather than yarn overs), and a contrasing set of stripes along the outer edge. There's this stripe pattern that I think of as "Calvin Klein" stripes, but I don't kno what the origin of that association is, the basic plan is three stripes, two wide stripes in the contrasting color, and a thin stripe of the original color in between, with the wide stripes being 3 times the width of the interior stripe.
  • I've knit two sweaters from Joyce Willams' Latvian Dreams book, the sweater on the cover and one that I knit from several charts, using yarn that ended up pilling a lot. They were delightful to knit: the patterns were originally weaving charts rather than knitting patterns, and thus had a 4-way radial summary symmetry that was just fun to knit. I'd like to try some of these again with better yarn and perhaps use this as a space to explore color work again, but in ways that might be more subtle and also well suited to cardigans and the like.
  • I've knit a handful of sweaters with all-over mitten or stocking patterns from various extant knitting traditions, mostly Scandinavian and Turkish, and I think it would be fun to revisit these patterns.

For and Against Garter Stitch

I never used to like garter stitch [1] very much, and hadn't really knit things with a lot of garter stitch. Sure, a scarf here or there in the beginning, and I think I used it for the hem of an early sweater that didn't turn out particularly well. There are so many clever patterns that use a lot of garter stitch, and I'd never really felt it. While I don't know that I'm rushing to knit or design patterns out of a lot of garter stitch, I've definitely discovered that I've softened on it over my hiatus.

My earlier discontent with garter stitch was the combination of:

  • garter stitch is quite dense, because the fabric pulls in so much vertically, so it takes a lot of yarn and a lot of time, and results in a warmer fabric that I often don't like'
  • the vertical pull in of the fabric can get pulled out by blocking or by the weight of the fabric which can be rather uneven.
  • normal tension irregularity is super apparent.
  • I've never much liked the way that knitting things with rows require you to flip the knitting and I don't like the way that this can break up the rhythm of the knitting.
  • the strong horizontal line of the garter ridges always feels awkward to work with.
  • I always struggled to get a selvage edge that I really liked that wasn't totally sloppy.

These, however, are tractable problems I realized, and I've always used a few garter stitches for selvage on the edge of sock heel flaps. The things that I've realized:

  • garter stitch often works best with very fine yarn, which helps ameliorate the additional bulk, and at least for me, helps provide for more even tension.
  • the look of garter stitch sideways is quite compelling, for me, and in most cases it won't stretch out in the same way.
  • a little bit goes a long way, particularly when embedded in another piece of knitting.
  • I've settled down and find that knitting, rather than slipping, the first stitch and giving the yarn a slight tug when knitting the second stitch leads to a pretty clean edge.
  • designing with garter stitch is quite compelling, because the ratio of stitches to rows is basically 2:1, because of the way the ridges pull in, you can sort of approach it as "square," picking up one stitch for every garter ridge lays very flat, so the math is never very complicated.

I'm working on a hat where I knit a ~2 inch wide garter stitch strip to fit around my head and then picked up to knit the crown of the hat along one of the sides of the strip, and along the other to knit a lining. I could have used a provisional cast on, of course, but the strip allowed me to be more confident about sizing, and it ends up being pretty sharp.

I'm not sure I'm going to plan to knit things out of primarily garter stitch, but I've definitely softened rather a lot.

[1]The fabric that results from knitting all stitches on both the front and back of the fabric. The fabric is dense, and it grows slowly, because the "ridges" account for two rows of knitting and it pulls in rather a lot.

Sweater Measurements

Hand knitting provides the opportunity to customize sizing and shaping to fit your body (or that of whomever you're knitting for,) and it's possible to produce garments that really fit, but even though it's possible it's not always easy.

First, measuring a body directly is complicated:

  • posture impacts the measurements, and it's difficult to get measurements of the body in the kinds of shapes and positions that you're likely to hold while wearing the garment.
  • ease, or the difference between the actual measurement of your body and the actual measurement of the garment, is both subjective and a matter of preference.

For this reason, I normally recommend measuring another sweater that has a fit that you enjoy as a starting point, but there are challenges:

  • measurements for different styles of sweaters can have different internal proportions: the length of the sleeve depends on the width of the shoulders, and the depth of the armhole
  • most machine produced garments and conventional knitting patterns are based on typical measurements and proportions which are good as starting points but typically leave something to be desired.

While people's measurements are broadly similar, and proportional, they're not the same, so if you have slightly longer arms or shoulders that are a bit more broad or angular, the "average" might be off by an inch or two, which might be enough to care about.

I'd still recommend starting from a garment that you know fits well, and record the garment's measurements as clearly as possible, but also note modifications separately. The basic idea is lay the garment out as flat as possible and measure the garment which is less likely to move than a person. There are three or four measurements that are really critical:

  • width of body at across the chest below the arms.
  • width of the body at the bottom hem/edge.
  • distance from the middle of the back of the neck to the cuff.
  • length of the sweater from the top of the shoulder to the bottom hem.

Sleeve length is pretty stable when measured from the bottom of the sleeve (where it joins the body at the underarm) to the cuff, as this avoids the impact of shoulder shape on the sleeve. Measuring arm length from a common point, the middle back of the neck, to the cuff is also a stable way to take this measurement. You may also require additional measurement's if you want the body of the garment to have contores.

While it's true that you can deduce other measurements from the four basic measurements, there are other fit considerations that are worth noting: width of the sleeve at/above the cuff and at the shoulder; depth, height, and aperture of the collar; as well as "true" shoulder width. May of these details I've figured out empirically and iteratively for myself: it's sometimes difficult to get these measurements correctly from a model garment.

Yarn Thoughts: HD Shetland

I've been knitting a sweater out of HD (Harrisville Designs) Shetland yarn for the past week or so and it's been great, but there's not a lot to look at because it's just a plain sweater in black yarn, but I thought I'd write a bit about the experience.

I've knit a lot out of this yarn, mostly in stranded color work, and it's probably the yarn that I have the most of in my possesion, but I've never really used it alone until recently, and hadn't really knit anything with it in years. I'm a bit more than half way through a plain sweater in this yarn, and I find myself entranced.

It's a simple 2-ply yarn, woolen spun, dyed before spinning, and it comes in hanks (which I've never used,) and on half pound cones. In color work, I tend to get 8 or 8.5 stitches to the inch (US 2.5/3mm), against a plain 7 stitches to the inch (US 0/2mm), and the fabric is light but solid. There are a bunch of colors, which is why I started using it for color work, including a number of heathers as well as natural colors. I would by a pound (2 cones) of each color to make a stranded sweater, but I always ended up with a lot of left overs. A plain sweater (for me) is under a pound, though I expect fewer left overs.

The name "Shetland" describes the weight, not the fiber contribution: the wool is a blend of unspecified breeds (probably some collection of Corriedale, another Merino cross, and/or Merino), but the effect is quite similar to actual Shetland Wool. While the wool is imported, the Mill is in New England, and the yarn is stocked by many yarn stores that supply weavers (though you can buy directly from the mill as well.) There's something classic about the yarn: it smells like wool (probably the spinning oil, but still,) and the way that the fibers cling to each other makes it a jot to knit with.

HD Shetland isn't exactly soft, but it isn't rough either. I think part of this is about expectation management: because we know that this isn't going to be yarn to wear against more sensitive skin (wrists, etc.), the fact that it's actually pretty soft is a pleasant surprise. I also think that because the yarn is lofty and woolen spun the ends of the individual fibers end up less likely to be irritating or trigger reactions in the same way that smoother yarns can.

Conclusion: heartily recommend!