Recently, one of my favorite online yarn stores, Kaleidoscope Yarns in Vermont, had a great sale on Rowan Cocoon. This is a very warm and soft chunky-weight blend of merino and mohair that gives wonderful texture to whatever you knit. It does shed a bit, but not too badly.
I purchased several skeins of the “Lavender Ice” colorway, a pale grey-purple combo, and as soon as it arrived, I had the strangest hankering to knit a relaxed, nubbly-textured sweater with it. More specifically, a seed stitch sweater. I can’t really explain why I felt that way, but there it is. And just because I had that feeling, this is what happened:
There’s a lot going on here. First, not only did I want to knit a seed stitch sweater with the yarn, but I wanted to knit it in the round, top down, and with a raglan shoulder shape and short sleeves. (Short sleeves were in order because this yarn makes a VERY warm sweater. Long sleeves would’ve been like wearing a jacket haha!) So I pulled out my copy of Barbara Walker’s Knitting from the Top to help me with the math. This is a great volume to have in your library; it really explains the basics of creating your own top down sweater, whether you want to make it with raglan shoulders, set-in sleeves, or even a saddle shoulder style.
I actually like seeing the shoulder shape of a sweater, so I made the raglan line stand out on this one by working it in stockinette against the seed stitch background.
One of the downsides of working seed stitch in the round is that when you join the knitting in the round, you end up with two stitches next to each other that are worked the same. (When you use BW’s method for a top down pullover, you don’t join the knitting in the round from the very beginning. You work some rows back and forth first, so that the back neck can sit higher and accommodate the height of the back of your shoulders. You join the work in the round at the base of the front neck after finishing a couple of inches.) The two stitches denote the beginning and end of the round, and even though one round of knitting is more like one spiral of knitting, the two stitches still look adjacent. So you get a bit of a garter stitch-ish look where these two stitches are and if you look closely (or if you are the knitter), you can see the slight change in texture at approximately the middle of the front. Honestly, this doesn’t bother me, but I could see it being a hangup for other knitters.
And here’s a better look at BW’s method of working the back neck first for a couple of inches to get a better fit around the neck and shoulders (with a little ribbing to finish off the shape):
Anyway, after working the yoke of the sweater in seed stitch, and separating off the sleeves from the body, something happened: I got sick of seed stitch! I knit English, so to have to throw the yarn back and forth to knit in seed stitch….well, it Got. Really. Boring. And. Time. Consuming. So I switched to stockinette for the rest of the body! (Yes, I realize that this is entirely lazy and counterintuitive to a inexplicable hankering to make a seed stitch sweater, but my motto when knitting for myself is often “hey, just go with the flow.”) And to finish it off, I added some super cushy ribbing at the hem.
The effect of having the seed stitch for the upper body and the stockinette stitch for the rest of the body gave a sweater an effect a bit like an empire-waist style, which I happen to like. One thing that I did not plan on, however, when I made the “stitch switch” was the big change in gauge between the two patterns, with the stockinette logically having a tighter gauge. Obviously, different stitch patterns have different gauges, and once I realized how big the gauge change was, it was time to throw in some serious waist shaping within the stockinette to accommodate the gauge change. You can see the shaping, and the gauge change, most clearly in the first photo above.
So all in all, the fit of this sweater was a bit different than I first envisioned. I was originally going for a relaxed, seed stitch pullover, but when I incorporated the stockinette, I didn’t want a sweater that would be too big. Because that wouldn’t look relaxed – it would look sloppy. What was the final fit like, you ask? Behold, my impromptu iPhone modeling session!
You can see the looser fit evidenced in the seed stitch yoke and sleeves. The looseness is just enough to be comfortable without being too shapeless. And the tighter fit with the stockinette below the bust gives the sweater more polish and shape. The photo from the back really shows the difference in fit between the two stitches. All in all, the sweater took about 5 skeins.
So there you have it – a hankering for a sweater inspired by a favorite yarn going on sale, from first imaginings to final product. What I loved about this process was the learning curve: doing the math for the neck/shoulders, accommodating the gauge changes, using shaping to get a better fit, thinking about what ribbing to use as a finishing detail, all with the tangible result in front of me. The more I practice these skills (and I think that these skills and this sense of flexibility are what can take your knitting from average to really professional) the more comfortable I can be with incorporating them into future projects and design ideas. I haven’t done many garment designs, and this is the area in which I want to learn/grow the most, so creating this sweater from scratch was a great step in the right direction.
And since the temperatures are only in the 30’s out there right now, I’d say it’s not quite time to put the sweaters away just yet!