Cozy Sweater Knitting

I’m working on the largest project I’ve done to date, in terms of sheer mass and area: a long cardigan.  I bought over three pounds of yarn for it (seven 7-oz skeins), though I bought the yarn prior to deciding on the project and have no idea if I’ll need all of it — or more, though currently that seems unlikely.  The knitting is really simple, just stockinette with garter borders and shawl collar.  Nevertheless, it’ll be a learning experience for me in terms of assembly.  I have made very few projects with completely separate pieces needing to be seamed; in fact, I can only think of two, and one of those is both unconventional in its seam placement and unfinished these last 15 years.  (The other, a halter top for Sis, did involve conventional mattress seaming up the sides, which was interesting since the two pieces had different row gauges.  It was also well over a decade ago.)

It’s also a construction I haven’t done before, working from the hem up (also unusual for me) and casting on for sleeves in a T shape.  I suppose in retrospect I could have altered the pattern to be a modified bog, and perhaps I’ll do that in future, but there were a few things that kept me from turning the project into the usual one-piece no-seam (except grafting) thing I do:

  1. As noted, this will be really heavy and I really don’t want to have 2+ pounds of knitting on a single needle.  My hands can barely handle just doing the back piece, and all the knitting is taking place on the couch; I do not consider this to be a portable project at all.
  2. I’ve always read that seams add structure and keep things from stretching out over the shoulders.  This has rarely been an issue for me because of the sorts of things I make (or start but fail to finish, rendering it moot), but if any project would be prone to that, it’s this one.  So shoulder seams, at the very least.  (I have to keep reminding myself of this, since what I really want to do is of course graft the shoulders, but that isn’t actually an improvement in this case.)
  3. I really should have the experience of seaming pieces together, even if it’s only three pieces (the back and two fronts, since the sleeves are done kimono style).  I’m a California knitter and there are plenty of knitted things that I simply have no need for, but that doesn’t mean I should be ignorant of a standard construction.  Who knows, I may even do set-in sleeves some day.

That doesn’t mean I’m not altering the pattern, of course.  That would just be silly.  Thus far plans include:

  1. I’m using different yarn, of course, since I picked out the yarn before picking out the project.  My gauge is a bit different (11st to 4″ rather than the called-for 10st/4″) so I’m making the largest size to get something closer to the second-largest size.  I’m after something loose and comfy anyway, for lounging.
  2. I’d rather seam a half-stitch in rather than a full stitch in, so there’s one fewer stitches on the back.  I’ll probably keep the full stitch on the fronts, since I historically need more space there anyway.
  3. Rather than casting on stitches for the sleeves at the beginnings of 3 consecutive (pairs of) rows, I’m casting them on all at once and then doing short rows.  I’d rather not have to seam stair-stepped COs and this will smooth the tapering a little.
  4. The sleeve lengths seemed strange to me in the pattern, because the number of stitches to cast on for each size was fewer as the sizes got larger.  I need to think about this and look at tables of average body measurements for different body shapes, because while it’s valid that people with a larger circumference don’t usually also have longer arms, I’m not sure that holds for people that are just larger-framed in general.  If someone has the same chest measurement as I and is six inches taller, are her arms likely to be the same length as mine?  It seems unlikely.  This, I suppose, is the problem with just scaling up patterns in some way without taking body shape into account.  At any rate, when I held a tape measure to try to get an idea of how my measurements would go with the pattern, it seemed that the number of stitches to cast on for the sleeve would result in a much shorter sleeve than I wanted (exacerbated by my differing stitch gauge), so I cast on 30 instead of the 24 for the largest size or the 26 for the next-largest size.
  5. My original plan was to pick up stitches from the back sleeve CO while working the fronts, but that would lead to the massive heavy one-piece knitting mentioned above, so I am more or less forced to do it as a seam.  I’ll probably take out at least one of the COs and sew/graft those now-live stitches to the other piece, though, to reduce bulk and increase neatness.
  6. The pattern calls for 4″+ of garter cuff, picked up from the edge and worked flat.  I debated on just doing the garter edge as part of the sleeve itself, which would be more in line with my general principle of make things look as seamless as possible, but ultimately decided that it would look better to have the garter rows perpendicular to the arm.  But I’m not planning on 4″ of it, when the lower edge of the body is only 2″.  That was another reason for casting on more sleeve stitches.  And if necessary, I can lengthen the sleeves by knitting a strip to mattress-stitch on, or shorten them by hemming the edge before picking up the garter, so I don’t need to have a finalized decision Right Now.  (That’s one thing that I dislike about this construction, the need to have it all figured out this far in advance.)  I’ll probably still knit the cuffs back and forth, though in keeping with the problem of having to turn the whole giant sweater after every row I wonder if I’d do better to sew/graft that on, too.
  7. I’m undecided on seaming the tops of the sleeves as two bound-off edges or live stitches to bound-off stitches.  I know a lot of people favor three-needle BO for this but I really hate that highly visible line and don’t know how they stand it.  Maybe I can do that and then cover it with grafting (more like duplicate stitch) over the ditch.

One change I usually do that I’m not planning on is putting in bust darts+waist darts.  I want this to be something that will hang open OK and having it overly shaped won’t help that.  I could probably have one kind of dart or the other, but not both.  There’s tapering built in already which will help keep it from being completely shapeless.  Hm, I probably should do the bust darts as their lack will be the most visible when standing.  But I don’t plan on doing a lot of standing in this with it buttoned.  Right, I need to find buttons too.

This has gone on way too long.  But it’s giving me something to do when my actual knitting is impeded.

Moonstone on knitting 2016-01-22 13.39.49 (2)




3 thoughts on “Cozy Sweater Knitting

  1. Yes, your GRANDcat is very fond of this project.

    I like the yarn too but at this scale it’s resembling the three-color acrylics rather more than I would like. A bit too high a ratio of yellow, perhaps. However, I found from making felted slippers with the same yarn that it’s more resistant to felting than one would think and that washing it makes it a bit fuzzy and consequently tones it down just a little bit, so I’m hopeful that a single wash cycle will improve it.


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