February 23rd, 2012
Each season we host a knit- or crochet-along, a virtual event in which yarncrafters come together here online to work on one pattern together, share their experiences, and to learn together. There’s no need to sign up; simply follow along with the blog posts at your own pace as you knit your sweater.
Hi, my name is Lauren, I work at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio, the Lion Brand flagship store and education center, in New York City. In addition to working on the sales floor, I teach knitting classes, and for the next several weeks, I’m going to be your knit-along host!
For this knit-along, the project we’ll be working on together is the Simple Raglan Cardi. However, we won’t just be making the pattern as-is, as we’ve done for previous knit-alongs. Instead, I’m going to be giving you ideas on how you can use the basic pattern as a starting point for your own design! We’re going to customize this project just for you! This is particularly exciting for me, as I don’t think I’ve ever knit a sweater without making at least a couple of changes to the written pattern.
The first thing we’ll need to do is choose a size. You’ll notice that underneath where the pattern says “Size”, it says “Finished Chest.” This is the actual measurement of the garment, which is a much more accurate way to pick a size than just choosing based on the small, medium, large tags. After all, when shopping at clothing stores, I’m sure we’ve all been one size in one store and a completely different size in the next! If you’re not sure of your measurements, get a flexible tape measure and measure around the fullest part of the bust. You should also measure yourself wearing whatever you plan to where under your cardi as this can also affect the size that you will make.
I have a bust measurement of 34 inches, so I’ve chosen to make the size 35, as I want my sweater to be fitted but I also want to be able to draw breath. You don’t have to choose the size closest to your bust measurement. If you want an over-sized cardi, you can choose a size a few inches larger than your bust measurement, and if you want a very tight fitting sweater choose a couple of inches smaller.
But what if your size isn’t represented? Well, you can always add more stitches or take off some stitches based on the gauge of the pattern. If you’re not confident enough to do that, you could always try following the pattern as it is using a smaller yarn and needles for a smaller size and a thicker yarn and needles for a larger size. [Click here for a blog post that explains how this can be done.]
Next you’ll need to choose a yarn. The pattern suggests using Martha Stewart Crafts™ Cotton Hemp, which is a worsted weight yarn, so you’ll have plenty of choices if you wish to substitute. I want to use a soft, spring yarn, and most importantly, I want to be able to throw it in the wash with my other clothes, so I chose easy-care Cotton-Ease in the color Seaspray. Other good choices would be Vanna’s Choice, Wool-Ease, or you can add stripes to your design the easy way, by using Amazing!
Now we need to decide how much yarn to buy. If you are making no changes to the pattern, that’s easy enough to work out, since the pattern tells you how many balls in the Cotton Hemp are needed to make each size. Cotton Hemp contains 64 yards per ball, so just multiply 64 by the number of balls needed for your size and you have the number of yards needed.
|Cotton-Ease||3 balls||3 balls||4 balls||4 balls||5 balls|
|Vanna’s Choice||3 balls||4 balls||4 balls||5 balls||6 balls|
|Wool-Ease||3 balls||3 balls||4 balls||4 balls||5 balls|
|Amazing||3 balls||4 balls||5 balls||6 balls||7 balls|
|Martha Stewart Crafts Cotton
Hemp (as in pattern)
|7 balls||9 balls||10 balls||12 balls||15 balls|
|Approx. yardage||450 yards||575 yards||650 yards||775 yards||1000 yards|
But what if you plan to make changes to the length, sleeve length or stitch pattern? Or all of the above, like me? I find the easiest way to make an estimate is to look at a few similar sweaters in the same weight of yarn in my size to see around how much yarn was used, then I throw in an extra ball just to be safe, because as everyone knows, you can never have too much yarn!
Now it’s swatching time! You will need to have some idea at this point of what stitch patterns you are going to use for your sweater. If you’re looking for inspiration try StitchFinder. Remember, whatever stitch pattern you use, you will need to be able to match the gauge in the pattern or your sweater will have different measurements. If you want to use an allover pattern for the body of your sweater, keep in mind that this raglan pattern is knit from the top down, and grows outwards in each row, which means you will have a different stitch count every couple of rows, so you may find it challenging to keep in pattern.
If you want to add a little interest to your design in a simpler way, you could try doing vertical panels of patterns down both fronts, so your stitch count in the panels will remain constant each time, even as the sweater grows. Since I’ve never seen a sweater pattern that couldn’t be improved by adding a few cables, I knit two swatches, one in the cable pattern that I plan to use and the other in stockinette stitch, which will be the main body pattern.
We know that we are aiming for a gauge of 17 stitches = 4 inches. So to knit my stockinette stitch swatch I actually cast on 23 stitches. This is because the larger the swatch the more accurate it will be and also because edge stitches can be a little loose, so I want to make sure I can start measuring at least 3 stitches in from the edge. Then I work in stockinette for about 4 inches and bind off my swatch.
Afterwards, it is important to wash your swatch in the same manner you will wash the finished garment, as even with washable yarns, this can affect your gauge. If you’re using a machine washable yarn and it’s not laundry day, just fill up the sink with lukewarm water and swish your swatch around a bit to get it completely soaked, gently squeeze out the excess water, then lay it flat to dry. When its completely dry, you can now take an accurate measurement.
Since I have three edge stitches on each side I lay my ruler about half way up from my cast on edge, three stitches in from the side edge and count how many stitches across til I get to 4 inches. If you are getting less than 17 stitches across the 4 inches, you need to go down a needle size; if you are getting more, go up a size.
It’s important to check your row gauge in the same manner. However, if you don’t seem to be able to get both stitch and row gauge, use the needle size that gives you the correct stitch gauge, as it is easier to adjust the number of rows in your garment to get the correct length. I also do the same process for the cable panel I plan to use.
So everyone, get swatching! Next week, we’ll go over how a top-down raglan works, how to work the yoke, and the benefits of this type of construction, especially when it comes to adding your own design elements!
In the meantime, leave a comment and introduce yourself! Tell us who you are, where you’re from, and how you’d like to adjust this pattern to fit your own style!