Tag Archives: sweaters

Fall 2013 Knit Along – Amy Herzog Designs

Last year, many of you joined us for our “Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting” KAL and some of you completed your very first sweaters. This year, let’s take it to the next level and achieve a perfectly fitting sweater.

Amy Herzog is passionate about helping women create well fitting sweaters. Her Fit to Flatter blog series was immediately a huge hit in the knitting world when she wrote it in 2010. Soon after releasing the tutorials, she started offering classes at yarn shops teaching knitters how to determine their body shape and create well-fitting sweaters. Earlier this year she released the hugely anticipated book, Knit to Flatter, which includes all of the incredibly useful information from her blog series plus a whole lot more!

From Amy’s website:

While I love all knitting, and do occasionally design all kinds of knitted things, my true passion is for sweaters. It is my intent that all of these sweaters should be wardrobe staples for you–things you love to pull out of the drawer and wear again and again. It’s crucially important to me that they fit you well.

To that end, I recommend you choose a size that fits your shoulders properly and make modifications from there. I’ve created lots of resources to help you do this! Please start by visiting my fit to flatter page, and I look forward to seeing what you create.

Amy Herzog DesignsFrom top left going clockwise: Trimmings, Jackaroo, Asilomar, February Fitted Pullover, & Afterlight

Want to take full advantage of Amy’s knowledge about fit and making modifications to achieve a perfect fitting sweater? Stop in and pick up a copy of Knit to Flatter and if you already own a copy, bust it out and start reading! Sonia and Liz have both been pouring over their copies and plotting ways to flatter their shapes.

Amy has over 60 published patterns, truly something for everyone! All of Amy’s Ravelry patterns are available here at Stash through the Ravelry in-store download program, and we also have several copies of Knit to Flatter at the shop, which contains 18 of those patterns.

The Knitty Gritty:

  • The Fall 2013 KAL begins on September 21st (no better way to celebrate the first day of fall than casting on a new sweater!) and ends December 21st.
  • Pick any Amy Herzog sweater design.
  • If you’re feeling really ambitious, pick up her book, get yourself measured and get to work making some modifications that are going to make your sweater fit perfectly.
  • Join us for a special monthly edition of Stitch Night to get support and cheer each other on! September 25th will be the first KAL focused stitch night! Need help getting your measurements? We have a tape measure and are happy to help. Let’s all support one another and encourage each other make the best sweaters possible!
  • Need a review from last years tutorials? They’ve all been compiled into one Googledoc or you can view them on the blog.
  • Now, get swatching!
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Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL: Blocking

We’re on our final blog post of the Sweater KAL series: blocking and finishing! Many knitters don’t bother blocking small projects and when they tackle a larger project they aren’t quite sure how to go about blocking. Once I started knitting sweaters and shawls (both things that really require blocking), blocking FOs (finished objects) became second nature and now I block 99% of my knitting as soon as it’s off the needles.

You can weave in your ends either before or after blocking. Some people think that it’s better to weave them in before blocking so that you aren’t messing too much with the fabric after you’ve carefully blocked your project. Other knitters say that it’s better to wait until after blocking because if you weave in the ends before blocking you won’t be able to stretch and manipulate the fabric as well. When it comes to sweaters, I haven’t found that it matters too much since you (hopefully!) won’t want to stretch it too much and there shouldn’t be overly aggressive blocking (unless it’s to open up a lace pattern). Weaving in all those ends can be a bit tedious, so some folks like to weave them in as they go. That way the only tail you have left at the end is from your bind off!

Find some wool wash:

We carry Soak at Stash…I have a large bottle like the one pictured and it’s lasted me about 8 months so far and I’ll probably get a whole year out of it. I wash a lot of handknits and use Soak for my handspun yarn as well.

You’ll want to use something gentle and ideally something that doesn’t require rinsing. I know Woolite sounds like something you should use to wash your wool handknits, but it’s a bit too harsh. You can also use a shampoo formulated for normal hair, but this requires rinsing. Personally, I like to stick to something that’s specifically for handknits and that I don’t have to worry about rinsing.

Figure out where the best place to wash your sweater is. I almost always use my top-loading washing machine. But you can also use a large mixing bowl, your sink, bathtub, or anything that will hold enough water to submerge your sweater.

Fill your container of choice with a squirt of wool wash (check bottle for specific amounts) and enough lukewarm water to fully submerge your sweater. I don’t usually measure my wool wash….but most of them instruct you to use 1 tsp per gallon of water.

Place your sweater in the water and gently push down on it so that it becomes fully submerged. If you’ve knit your sweater using wool yarn, it will want to repel the water so it needs a little encouragement to become fully submerged. Make sure you don’t agitate or rub the garment as these things could cause felting.

Walk away and leave your sweater soaking for at least 20 minutes. Don’t worry if you forget about it and 20 minutes turns into 5 hours. Not a big deal!

Carefully remove your sweater from the water, making sure that you support the entire sweater as you lift it out. It will be quite heavy, and you don’t want any pieces of the sweater to stretch under the weight of all that water!

Squeeze (don’t wring!) the excess water out. 

There are a couple of ways to get even more water out of your garment, which makes drying time faster and makes blocking a bit easier. You can roll up your sweater in several dry towels and press down on it to soak up the extra water. If you are blocking a small item such as a hat or socks, you can use a salad spinner to spin out the excess water! My personal favorite is the spin cycle on the washing machine. After I soak my sweaters (or any other knitted object or handspun yarn!), I empty the water out of the washing machine, put my sweater back in the now empty machine, and turn on the spin cycle. Only use the spin cycle for 10 seconds. I’ve tried both this and the towel method, and I think the spin cycle is far more effective. It really decreases drying time and I’ve found that there is less chance of your sweater stretching because it isn’t as weighed down with water.

Carefully carry your sweater to the place where it’s going to be blocked. If you have a mixing bowl or colander, put your sweater in there to carry it from point A to B. It’s easier to keep it all contained that way and you won’t have one part of your sweater hanging down and stretching as you walk across the house.

Lay your sweater flat to dry. You can use blocking boards, an empty bed with a towel on it, or a towel on the floor. I use large foam mats that snap together, but for sweater blocking you really don’t need anything fancy.

Block to desired measurements. I try not to fiddle with my wet sweaters too much, but I do measure across the bust to make sure that it’s close to my desired measurements. I also make sure the arms are the same length, and I often pin the cuffs just to make sure the sleeves stay the same length. If you’re knitting a cardigan make sure that each side is the same width and length.

Wait ages for it to dry. Handknit wool sweaters take forever and a day to dry. Especially in the Pacific NW during the winter. Try and be patient and wait for it to be COMPLETELY dry before doing too much with it. If the back seems really wet still, flip it over carefully.

Weave in your ends if you haven’t already! There are many different ways you can weave in your ends and I came across this fantastic post that discusses many techniques and has great pictures.

Wear your sweater proudly! 

We obviously didn’t cover everything that could possibly come up during your sweater knitting process, but I hope I’ve provided you all with some good basics to get your started!

Have you all picked your sweater patterns yet? The official cast-on for the KAL is next Wednesday September 19th! Pop into our Fall KAL thread in the Stash Ravery group and let us know what sweater pattern you’ve chosen! Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have questions or need advice! We’re happy to help.

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Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL: Tips and Tricks for Sleeves

I feel like I’ve thrown a LOT of information at you over the course of the blog series thus far so I’m hoping this post won’t be quite as overwhelming as the rest and hopefully not as wordy!  There are a few little things about knitting sleeves that I wanted to mention and didn’t want the information to get lost in some of the longer posts about modifying sweaters.

Picking up stitches at the underarm: If you’ve knit mittens, you might know where I’m going with this. Sometimes when you pick up the number of stitches that the pattern specifies (at the underarm of a sweater to begin the sleeves, or for a thumb on a mitten), you end up with a little hole on either side of the picked up stitches. It looks a little like this:

Real sweater WIP complete with little holes under the arm.

There are a couple of ways you can deal with this. The first being to leave a decent sized yarn tail when you pick up your stitches and use the tail to close up the holes. The other thing you can do is pick up a couple of extra stitches and then get rid of them on the next round by using K2TOG (knit two together). You can even knit those stitches together through the back loop to tighten them up a bit more.

Modifying Shaping: We talked about this a bit in our previous post, and I just want to reiterate that you’ll be much happier with your finished sweater if you take the time to shape your sweaters to fit your body. If you’ll be shortening the sleeves or lengthening them, you’ll want to think about if you want to put your decreases (or increases if you’re knitting bottom up!) closer or father apart. Don’t be afraid to change the sleeve length of the pattern! If you prefer 3/4 length sleeves…go for it! Want to change a short-sleeved or 3/4 length sleeve to full length? Add a couple of more decreases and keep knitting!

Working in the Round: I’m going to be completely honest, here. I loathe knitting sleeves on double-pointed needles. This is the number one reason I taught myself Magic Loop (knitting in the round on one long circular needle). I highly recommend doing magic loop for sweater sleeves. I find that with dpns, you end up moving your entire sweater each time you reach the end of your needle. There are plenty of people out there who don’t mind using dpns for sleeves, so give it a try if you really love using dpns! If you’re interested in learning magic loop, we have a couple of great resources at the shop: The Magic Loop Booklet and the Circular Knitting Workshop book.

Consider Knitting Your Sleeves Before Finishing the Body: Never in a million years would I have thought to do this for a top-down sweater, but it makes complete sense. Jasmin from The Knitmore Girls Podcast mentioned that this is how she knits her top-down sweaters, and I think it’s brilliant. Like I mentioned above, when you are knitting sleeves you are constantly rearranging/twisting your sweater. This method has you knitting the sleeves right after the sleeve split, so that instead of an entire sweater sitting on your lap you just have the top portion of the sweater. You might want to knit an inch or two of the body first to make sure that you’re on track with the fit just in case you need to rip back! I haven’t actually tried this yet…but I’m hoping to do it for my next top-down sweater to see if it helps my dislike of sleeve knitting. The only reason I can see NOT to do this would be if you are worried about running out of yarn. In that case, I’d knit the body first and split your remaining yarn in half using a kitchen scale so that your sleeves will be the same length.

I think that’s all for sleeves! Next week we’ll have our final 2 posts in the series and then it will be time to start our sweaters!!

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Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL: Making Adjustments on the Fly

The biggest appeal of seamless sweater patterns is that you can try them on as you go and make adjustments to fit your body. It’s a little more difficult to do with bottom-up sweaters, but it can certainly be done! Top-down sweaters are perfect for making adjustments as you go!

I think one of the biggest things to keep in mind is that you don’t need to follow the pattern exactly. You’ll be much happier with your finished sweater if the smallest part of the waist lines up with your waist, the hem hits you in a flattering spot, and the sleeves are the correct length.

Let’s use the Bayside Pullover from Coastal Knits as an example. Below is the schematic from the pattern. We’ll start at the top of the sweater and work our way down.

We’re not going to talk about every single measurement and change you can make to your sweater, but I’d like to hit the big ones: Yoke depth, sleeve circumference, chest, waist, and hem.

Yoke Depth: As a fairly short person, I find that the yoke depth on many knitting patterns are a touch longer than I’d like. But some of you taller folks may find that it’s not quite long enough. Take a tape measure and start measuring from the top of your shoulder. Look at where the yoke depth as written will hit you. If you follow the directions, this is where the sleeves will be split off from your sweater. Does it reach where you’d like the underarm of your sweater to begin? Is it going to be saggy in the armpits if you knit that length? Figure out your ideal length. After you’ve done your raglan increases you can keep knitting without increasing until you reach this measurement. You can also “try on” your sweater to figure this part out. It’s a little tricky, but put your sweater on some waste yarn, drape it over your shoulders and pinch the sleeve stitches around your upper arm/shoulder. You can then decide if you’d like to make the yoke a bit longer or split for the sleeves.

Let’s take a minute to look at what your stitches on your needle will look like if you are knitting a top-down sweater:

If you are knitting a cardigan, the front stitches won’t be connected and you might be adding a button band afterwards, so don’t freak out if you try on your cardigan without the button band and it seems too small! The stitch markers mark the raglan increases. There will always be 4, and you will be increasing on BOTH sides of the markers. This will result in a total of 8 stitches being increased during each raglan increase round. 

Chest Circumference: If you’ve decided that you’d like your sweater to be an in-between size for the chest measurements, you can either do more or less raglan increases to get your desired size. For example, if you wanted a sweater (using the Bayside Pullover from above) that measured 34″, you could follow the directions for the size 32″ and do a few extra sets of increases. Now, you probably want to know how many sets of increases. Well…the gauge for the pattern is 24 sts/4 inches which equals 6 sts/inch. Since you want TWO extra inches you’d want 12 extra stitches. You’ll be adding 4 body stitches during each increase round. See Diagram Above. So, to achieve 12 extra stitches you’ll want to do THREE extra raglan increases on the BODY ONLY.

If you want your sweater to be a little bit SMALLER, just leave out an increase or two using your gauge to figure out how many increases to leave out.

Arm Circumference: The idea of altering the circumference of the upper arms is exactly the same as the chest circumference. If you’d like them a bit larger than the schematic, add an extra increase or two on the SLEEVES ONLY (see diagram above for placement of these stitches) and if you want them smaller leave out an increase or two. Of course, this would be a bit more complicated if you were doing a pattern that had cables or lace and required a specific number of stitches.

If you’d like your entire sweater (sleeves and body) larger/smaller, do more/less increases on both the body and sleeves.

Waist: Ideally you want the smallest part of your sweater to match up with the smallest part of your waist. The best way to achieve this is to measure how far it is from just below your full bust to just before the smallest part of your waist. You’ll need to look at the pattern and decide if the pattern as written will work, or if you want to do your waist decreases closer together or farther apart. Instead of doing decreases every “X” number or rows (this will likely be how the pattern has the decreases written), take the measurement from above and divide it by the number of decreases the pattern calls for. This will tell you how often to do your decreases. Let’s say that you measure and get 6 inches and the pattern has 4 waist decreases…you’ll want to do your decreases 1.5″ apart.  You can also look at the waist measurement and decide if you want to do more or less decreases. Is the waist measurement smaller than you’d like? Skip a decrease. Too big? Do an extra decrease!

Make sure you don’t begin your decreases until you’ve knit far enough to reach your full bust. You don’t want to start getting rid of stitches (and inches) before the fullest part of your bust. If the pattern says to start the waist decreases after you’ve knit an inch from the sleeve split, but your full bust isn’t until 2 inches past…wait until 2 inches.

The waist shaping is where being able to try on your sweater comes in handy:

To try your sweater on, either put it on 2 really long circular needles or thread a piece of waste yarn through all of your stitches and pull your needle out. If you use 2 circular needles make sure that the total circumference will be able to fit over your shoulders…you don’t want to drop stitches while trying on your sweater! Trust me, it’s not fun to have to pick them back up.

After your waist decreases you want to knit straight for a couple of inches to where your waist starts increasing to your hips.

For the hip increases, use the same method as for figuring out the waist decreases. Your waist decreases and hip increases may not be spaced out the same depending on your body type. For example, I typically spread out my decreases farther than patterns call for, but put my hip increases closer together. Measure on your body where you’d like your increases to start and end. Divide this number by the number of increases you want to do to figure out how many inches apart to place them. There is no reason you need to do the same number of waist decreases and hip increases (unless you need a certain number of stitches for a cable or lace pattern). Tailor it to your body measurements. 

For sweaters that don’t have any waist shaping, such as the Rocky Coast Cardigan or the Schoodic Cardigan, you’ll just need to worry about hem length and the sleeves.

Hem Length: The beauty of a hand knit sweater is that you can make it as short or long as you’d like! Something to keep in mind: if you use wool, your sweater will likely grow a little bit. Err on the side of a little short (you can block it longer or add length later) instead of too long. Trying your sweater on is a great way to decide exactly when to bind-off!

A few words about bust darts: I’m nowhere near as knowledgeable about bust darts as I am about many other aspects of sweater knitting. I’ve done horizontal bust darts in one knitted top so far, and it worked out beautifully. I’ll probably start doing them more often, but I can’t really give good instructions yet! If you have a cup-size larger than a C, it’s worth considering doing bust darts so that the front of your sweater doesn’t ride up. Horizontal bust darts give you a little extra room in the bust area without making the entire sweater larger. The bust darts are done by using short rows across the front of the sweater. Custom Knits 2 (which we have at the shop) has a section on adding bust darts by using short rows. Little Red in the City (also at the shop!), has a great section on shaping and horizontal bust darts. Ysolda tells you how to calculate how many short rows to do and gives tips on figuring out where to place them. Little Red is chock full of other great sweater-knitting information as well.

Come on back on Friday for Tips and Tricks for Sleeves!

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Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL: Tips for Knitting a Sweater with Hand-Dyed Yarn

As you know, we’re big fans of hand-dyed yarn here at Stash and they certainly help with that “Wow” factor in our finished projects. Since every skein of hand-dyed yarn is a little bit different, it can be a bit challenging to use in larger projects. However, there are some tips and tricks you can use to make sure that you’re happy with your finished sweater!

Here’s what you probably don’t want your sweater to look like:

No woman wants a line directly across the chest area! Needless to say, this sweater ended up in the frog pond.

There are a few things that went wrong here. The first being that my skeins didn’t match as closely as they should have. I also alternated the darkest two skeins instead of using all three at once.

So, how can you avoid a sweater with a big, obvious line when you change skeins?

1. When you’re shopping for yarn, choose the skeins that look the most alike. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when they’re twisted in their skeins, so it’s often a good idea to un-skein them and lay them next to each other. Like this:

2. Alternate Skeins while you knit. There are a few different ways to do this that we’ll discuss in just a minute.

3. If you’re knitting a top-down sweater, Save some yarn from the top to use when you go back and knit the sleeves. TRUST ME on this one (I speak from experience). It doesn’t need to be a lot, but I’d suggest phasing the skein you’re using when you split for the sleeves out and putting it aside to be used later. When you get ready to knit the sleeves, pull this skein out and use 1/2 for the top of each sleeve.

4. If you have skeins in your stash that you’re using and one skein is a bit different than the rest, use the different skein for things like trim, button bands, hems, and neckbands.

Alternating Skeins – to alternate skeins, work from two balls of yarn. Switch yarns every 2 rows (you can do 3 or 4 if you’re knitting in the round) by picking up the second strand of yarn from underneath the strand you’re working with. Make sure not to pull too tight when you pick up the new strand. 

If your skeins match really well, you can just alternate as you get close to the end of your ball to transition to the next one. It will look like this on the inside of your knitting:

When you knit a cardigan with button bands (or just front bands/collar) that are knit on afterwards, such as the Calligraphy Cardigan, you can alternate right at the edge of your knitting every 2 rows. Easy peasy.

If you’re knitting a pullover from the top town, alternate starting at the back raglan and after you split for the sleeves, alternate at the side seam. If the sweater is knit from the bottom up, you would alternate at the side seam and then transition to the back raglan.

This isn’t a pullover, but it has a decent shot of the back of the sweater so you can see where to alternate.

For a cardigan that has you knit the front bands as you go, you can either alternate at the sideseam/back raglan as in the previous example or you can alternate where the body meets the front band.

For Sleeves: alternate at the underarm, which will be the beginning of your round for each sleeve.

I know alternating skeins sounds a bit tedious, but it’s really worth it when knitting with hand-dyed yarn. I’ve never been sorry that I’ve alternated skeins, but several times that I haven’t I’ve regretted it (see: frogged sweater at the top of the post!).

Let us know if we can help you pick out well matching skeins at the shop or help you decide the best place to alternate skeins!

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Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL: Choosing a Pattern and Yarn

If you’re going to invest the time and money in knitting yourself a sweater, you want to love the finished product and love how it looks on you, right? Something I’ve learned over the course of knitting ~20 sweaters is which styles look flattering on me and the styles I’m most likely to actually wear. Some of that has been good ol’ trial and error and the rest has been little tid bits I’ve picked up from other knitters via Ravelry,  blogs, and knitting books.

Before choosing a sweater for the KAL, take a look in your closet. Pull out your favorite store bought (or handknit if you’ve knit sweaters before!) sweaters and tops. Is there a style of top that you gravitate towards? A particular cut that makes you feel like a million bucks?

The Calligraphy Cardigan has the potential to be flattering on almost any body type. It would be simple to adapt the pattern to tailor it to your specific body (we’ll talk about that in another post in the blog series!). *Photo from the Ravelry pattern page

If you aren’t sure which styles flatter you the most, Amy Herzog has put together a fantastic series of blog posts called Fit to Flatter (scroll down to the bottom and start with Installment 1). There’s also a Fit to Flatter Ravelry Group to answer any additional questions and see her tutorials in action. She covers everything from determining your body shape to how to choose and adapt knitting patterns to flatter your shape. It’s well worth a read-through even if you’re a seasoned sweater knitter.

If trying to nail down a pattern choice weren’t enough, you’ll also need to find a yarn that will work well with the pattern. Lucky for you, we’ve taken a good hard look at Hannah’s patterns and made a handy dandy spread sheet pairing up patterns and yarn available at the shop! We’ll have a copy of this as the shop as well, so we Stash Enhancers can help you choose the perfect yarn! Hannah Fettig has a number of other designs that aren’t on the spreadsheet, mostly from old issues of Interweave and KnitScene magazines. Of course, we’d be happy to use our special yarn choosing powers to help you pick a great yarn for those patterns, too!

I’ll be knitting the Schoodic Cardigan in some yummy Fibre Co. Acadia (the recommended yarn)! *Photo from the Ravelry pattern page

Of course, these blog posts are supposed to help you with future sweater knitting, too! One of the first things I do when I’m trying to decide which yarn to use for a sweater pattern is to head over to the pattern page on Ravelry.

Once I’ve found the pattern page, I click on the “projects” tab and browse through the finished projects and take note of the yarn substitutions that other knitters have used and how the sweaters look in various yarns.

Ravelry is a fantastic resource to use when trying to substitute yarns for any type of project. You can also look up the yarn in the Ravelry database and take a look through the different types of projects made with that specific yarn.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re working on pairing a sweater pattern and yarn:

1. What are the details of the yarn used in the pattern? Fiber content? Yardage? Gauge? Single ply or multiple plies?

2. Take a look at the stitch pattern in the sweater. Will you want a crisp yarn with good stitch definition? Is the sweater structured or drapey?

3. Will you be wearing something underneath your sweater? Or does the yarn need to be “next-to-skin” soft?

4. Be realistic about the durability of the yarn. Does the yarn look like it will resist pilling?

5. If there are cables, lace, or some other kind of textured pattern consider your color choices carefully. You don’t want to lose the beautiful details of the sweater by knitting in a color that will hide the reason you picked that pattern in the first place!

If you’d like to delve further into this subject, The Knitter’s Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes is a wonderful resource. Little Red in the City by Ysolda Teague also has a small section devoted to choosing yarns for sweater knitting.

We have some fantastic yarn for sweater knitting here at Stash. Here are just a few of my favorites:

Top Row (L–>R): Imperial Columbia, Knitted Wit DK

Bottom Row (L–>R): Baah! Sonoma, The Fibre Co. Road to China Worsted

On Wednesday, we’ll talk about swatching for your sweater! I know, I know…every knitter’s least favorite thing. But I’ll tell you why I think it’s incredibly important in the sweater knitting process. Stay Tuned, Knitters!

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