Archives for category: Tips and Tricks

When I first began knitting sweater patterns, I never felt completely sure of myself when choosing which size to work. Quite a disconcerting feeling to experience at the very beginning of a marathon knitting project – when choosing the wrong size can mean the success or failure of all your hard work.

Over the years – mostly from trial and error – I learned about the importance of ease when making (and more importantly, wearing) garments. Ease refers to the difference between a given measurement on a finished garment and that same measurement on the wearer’s body. Most commonly ease is discussed in reference to the chest/bust, since this is the measurement that most patterns are built upon – at least for traditional shapes and construction types.

True, there are “rules” about how much ease is recommended for a given style and fabric weight (a very important factor to remember), but I’ve also found that individual ease preferences significantly vary from person to person, depending on their own personal style and what they are comfortable wearing.

In our garment patterns at BT, we like to list a recommended ease amount – given by the designer – but also share how much ease is shown on the model in the photograph as a reference point for knitters to consider when making the fateful decision about which size to knit.

This week on our Facebook page, we’ve been sharing side-by-side images of a selection of the garments from Wool People 3 photographed on both of our models. Aside from having very different personal styles, Tessa and Hannah have different body shapes and sizes as well, so I thought it might be fun (and instructive) to share these images with specific fitting information, to help give knitters a better idea of how these small changes in size and fit effect the overall look of a garment. Below is a recap of those posts with this information – I hope you find this helpful!

Reine Cardigan by Alexis Winslow: shown here dressed up on Hannah (left) with 1″ of negative ease, worn over a light, summery dress. Tessa (right) dresses it down with a sleeveless top and jeans, with 2″ of positive ease. Because the fabric is knit with Loft, a fingering weight yarn, designs with negative ease are more wearable than when worked with a heavier fabric/yarn (worsted weight, etc.) Cardigans are often easier to wear with negative ease as well, since the open front allows fluid movement and versatile styling.

Breckon Cardigan by Amy Christoffers: Tessa (left) wears it relaxed over a light shirt dress with 3″ of positive ease. This comfortable fit is casual but not messy. Hannah (right) wears a more fitted style with zero ease (wearer and garment bust measurement is the same) over a collared shirt and pencil skirt.

Boardwalk Shell by Heidi Kirrmaier: This cap-sleeve garment is a versatile wardrobe item. We styled Tessa (left) with a denim shirt and skinny jeans. Tessa’s bust measurement is 2½” smaller than the garment. Remember that the addition of the shirt effects the final ease amount slightly. Hannah (right) wears Boardwalk alone with ½” of negative ease (her bust measures just slightly larger than the blocked garment).

Öljett Hat by Jenny Gordy: Hats are generally worn with 1-2 inches of negative ease at the brim measurement. Tessa’s head circumference is 1½” smaller than Hannah’s, so the hat fits in a “slouchier” way. Hat sizing is less of a mystery than garment sizing, but I threw this one into the mix, just for fun.

I’m off to Iceland for 10 days – one of my knitting “bucket list” destinations – for a much needed vacation, and to give my camera a workout. The best part is that it’s definitely sweater weather up there, so I can rouse my wool garments from their summer hibernation. See you in a couple of weeks!  –Jared

There was a lot of interest in the textured throw from my last post, so today I’m here with more details! I ended up having a bit of extra time over the holiday to work up a pattern for it, which is now available.  In a classic color, I think it makes a great addition to any living room, although in my case it’s been acting as extra bedding during this wonderfully cold weather we are having.

Umaro combines a little bit of everything — cables, lace, and knit-purl patterns — to create a veritable symphony of texture.  The throw is made using super-bulky yarn, which helps amp up the stitch architecture nicely.

I recommend a nice round yarn that has great stitch-definition for best results. I knit mine with Cascade Lana Grande on size 15 needles — talk about instant gratification! Lana Grande is a super bulky 3-ply wool with a very round shape as a result of its plying structure.  I think it was a good fit for the textured fabric.

The pattern is written for finished measurements of approximately 48″ x 57″ after blocking — a nice size for a generous one-person throw, or even a top blanket for a full or queen-size bed.  Instructions are included in the pattern for simple adjustments to make a larger size, as needed.

A conscientious blocking job is the key to making this throw look its best. (I sound like a broken record with all my blocking talk month-in and month-out, but it really is the Knitter’s ace-in-the-hole!) Because of its large size, wet-blocking is not completely reasonable (although it is possible for the adventurous among you!) — I took this beast down with a good steamer and a lot of T-Pins.  Beginning with a gentle steam over the entire piece to relax it, I then pinned it out so that the fabric was slightly stretched and laid flat.  When using pins on straight edges you have to take care to keep your edges very clean and orderly so as not to create unwanted scallops or points in the finished piece.  In general I use blocking wires for this type of job, but with such a heavy yarn and light blocking wires it wasn’t a good match, so the T-Pin route was adopted!

After pinning, you’ll want to give the fabric a very slow and generous steam to get moisture into all parts.  After this is complete, let the blanket air dry before unpinning.  The blocked fabric will have better movement, drape and overall behavior than its previously unblocked self.

The pattern is available now as a PDF download at Brooklyn Tweed or via Ravelry.  Enjoy!

I travel a lot, but rarely for the express purpose of vacationing. My considerations for travel-knitting, in general, are designs that are in-process works that are at a point where a significant amount of mindless, or at least not-difficult-to-record knitting is in store. This way, I get ‘work’ knitting done without having to sit in front of Illustrator or InDesign, activities which I prefer to do only on the Homefront.

So, when a true Vacation came along I thought my travel knitting should reflect this change, and I decided to bring simple, 100% pleasure-knitting that required no pattern, no notes, and very little brainwork. I wanted projects that were geared towards my hands and allowed enjoyment of the simple act of knitting. And oh how wonderful it was!

I took small amounts of two special yarns that were both worthy of a special occasion. First, one beautiful skein of Buffalo Gals Yarn — a very special 2-ply Bison/Merino yarn, hand-dyed by Fiber Sage Judith MacKenzie McCuin — which I was fortunate enough to acquire directly from the source (Judith’s hands) and have been savoring ever since. The other, my recently spun Romney 2-Ply, which is as light as a feather and wonderfully woolly.

I fell deeply in love with Judith’s dye work, and this rust orange skein stole my breath. Bison, as it turns out, takes dye incredibly well and this skein seemed to almost shimmer with some other-worldly presence (again, I attribute this to Judith’s sage-like energy.)

Buffalo Gals

Armed with one beautiful skein, I threw a prized set of Ebony needles into my luggage and started thinking of the possibilities for something luxurious and simple. A feast for the fingers! I ended up deciding to knit a top-down hat in a simple waffle-stitch pattern. The yarn is a sport weight and creates a beautiful, light-weight and butter-soft fabric. A perfect companion for being in the passenger seat of a car for miles of Italian Autostrade.

Romney Kerchief

Alternatively, the skein of Romney created just enough variety to keep me constantly entertained, bouncing between two projects from day to day. For this, I began work on a simple, almost-garter-stitch triangle. Because I had limited amounts of both yarns, I decided to work both projects from the top down (in the triangle’s case, from top-center, opposite of Triangle Tip) and work mindlessly until I used up all of my yarn. I love working in this way — armed with a simple kitchen scale, you can always be sure of using as many yards as is possible without having to spend the last 20% of your knitting time biting your nails, wondering if you’ll have enough yarn to finish.

I didn’t complete either project on my trip, which was a good lesson toward learning that I often need less yarn than I think I will while on the road. I have, since being home, just about finished both projects with very satisfying results.

Also, upon return, I was stricken by an incredible urge to have some Unspun Icelandic yarn back in my life (this is what happened the last time), and ordered yarn for a new lace project in this lovely stuff. It reminds me of a chocolate layer cake.

Layer Cake

Unspun Icelandic Wool ranks high on my list of favorite yarns, largely because it is so unique and unlike anything else out there for knitters. The majority of the yarn is air, after all!

So, it turns out that I ended up learn something important from vacationing — keeping it simple, even though my instincts were screaming to bring more yarn, was absolutely the perfect choice for enjoying knitting every day and savoring every stitch of these special yarns.

I’ve been doing a fair bit of traveling in the last two weeks and have committed to finishing a gaggle of small projects that I have lying around the house half-done. Knowing that I’ll want to tackle lots of large, woolly projects in the very near future (hello, Fall weather!), I feel the need to do a little bit of project-house-cleaning. Consider yourself warned – you may see a few baby knits and old, forgotten accessories cropping up around here in the next couple of weeks. And today – the first one!

Baby Leggings

I put the finishing touches on the baby leggings last week and finally got around to shooting them this morning. Oh how I love those rich, golden colors! Seems fitting for those ghostly hints of Fall crispness that are taunting me these days.

Baby Leggings

Pattern: A modified version of Shibui Knits Baby Leggings by Heather Saal [Rav Link]

Size: 1 Year Old

Materials: Shibui Sock in “Honey”

Amount: 98g — skating in at just barely under 2 skeins (Pattern Size calls for 3)

Needles: US 3 Circulars

I made a small number of modifications to the pattern. The original is written to be knit flat and seamed up at center front during finishing. That wasn’t gonna fly around here, so the first item of business was to convert the pattern to in-the-round knitting, which wasn’t hard at all. I didn’t change any stitch counts, just ignored the back and forth instructions in favor of joining the end of the row to the beginning and working circularly.

Baby Leggings

I also opted for twisted stitch ribbing at the waist band and ankle-cuffs – a choice made to achieve a bit more elasticity – a great little perk of knitting things through the back loops. Since babies have stumpy little limbs, I figured the more elasticity the better.

Baby Leggings

The rest of the pattern is sweet and simple — sizing for both 6 mos. and 1 year are given. I like to knit the larger sizes so the little growers can wear them longer. Plus, how cute is a 6 month-year-old in oversized baby pants?

The “diaper shaping” as I like to call it incorporates short rows and increases down center back to create an extra pouch-like space for baby ‘bulk’ (See Above Photo). The cord running through the eyelets at the waist band is crocheted (nice and firm but still elastic due to the nature of this bouncy, bouncy yarn) — I tied two small knots on either end to keep it from slipping out of the holes.

Baby Leggings

All in all, a simple pattern with a charming result. You know I’m not a huge fan of The Superwash, but sometimes you gotta do it for the kids (and the parents, too)! And they really do suck up those saturated colors brilliantly, so there’s plenty of hypnotic stitching to be had.

Baby Leggings

If you’re interested in knitting a pair, be sure to check out Shibui’s Pattern Page – lots of great patterns there to peruse if you have a few minutes! Now… time to send these babies back to Portland, from whence they came!

I continue to love designing and making hats – they’re satisfying on so many levels. They involve just enough shaping to play with interesting motifs or techniques and take just long enough to feel substantial without being a major commitment. They’re a great canvas for colorwork or cables and a great way to show off that special yarn. Aside from all of those things, I think that they can really make an outfit.

Quincy Laurel

Beaumont Tam <span class=

That said, a good little mix of hat designs made their way into this collection – each with their own technique, flavor and fiber.
Meet Quincy.


Garter stitch anyone? I had to get it in there somewhere. Quincy is a hat with a bit of a jaunty twist… literally. I was surprised after I finished it to learn that it can be worn in three rather different styles: (1) twist in the front, for an updated flapper-like style, (2) twist on the side (my personal favorite) for what I like to call the Urban Robin Hood, or thirdly (3) twist in the back – which makes for a more traditional looking beanie from the front and sports a hidden detail behind – its got that whole business-in-the-front-party-in-the-back thing going for it.

The Double Q!

Quincy is put together in a non-traditional way and is deceptively simple! It also employs one of my favorite techniques: built-in I-cord – worked on both edges of the sideways garter stitch portion to make a piping-like border. Ariosa is a lightly spun, almost-roving-like merino cashmere blend. Super light and warm which makes the chunky hat disarmingly weightless.

Meet Laurel.


Laurel was a response to a lot of Japanese knitwear that I was (slash am always) looking at. I love how cables and bobbles can be executed unapologetically but with restraint and control – one of my favorite things about Japanese knitting in general, and something that serves as consistent inspiration for me. It’s all about details.

The hat motifs remind me of vines and berries and are sure to add a bit of whimsy to any ensemble.


For the beret-shape, I blocked the hat over a kitchen plate, approximately 10″ in diameter. Cardboard circles work great as well. For a less flared shape the hat can also be blocked without this form to have a more beanie-like silhouette.

And, meet the Beaumont Twins:

Beaumont Beanie

Don’t you love what a little angora can do to colorwork? Smokey!

Beaumont Tam

The hat comes in two versions: A traditional tam worked in 2-colors, and a 4-color beanie in shades of grey. You’ll notice that the beanie-version shown has a bit more of a halo than the other… that’s because I wore it for about 4 months before I decided it could also be included in the collection. Oops! I had originally just planned on the Tam having the spotlight but then I figured I’d throw in the greys for good measure.

Aside from the number of colors used, the hat is worked from the same pattern at different gauges to create the different styles. Like Laurel, the Tam version is shaped over a 10″-ish circular form during blocking (careful not to stretch the ribbing during that process!)

Beaumont Tam

I hope you enjoy these toppers – stay tuned for more pattern profiling this week!



Beaumont Beanie on Ravelry

Beaumont Tam on Ravelry

Quincy on Ravelry

Laurel on Ravelry

*All of these patterns are also available as individual PDF downloads through Ravelry or through my pattern page here.*

There has been a gaggle of baby knitting going on over here – a very important little person is coming into the world and I’ve made it my personal mission to instill a high wool tolerance, nay, dependence on the little one.

Also – baby stuff can make anyone feel like a super knitter – little projects that give you the similar types of construction satisfaction (sometimes) as larger garments, take about a tenth of the time, and give you an excuse to play with all those beautiful yarns you were saving for something special but didn’t have enough of to make anything substantial with. Works for me!


Now, Cisco. Here’s a project that is almost too cute for it’s own good. You know, the project that makes you giggle as you work because it’s so darned cute… and because you know that any little head when wrapped in little ears like this will be ten times more likely to induce cute-baby-sighs.

Pattern: Cisco [Free Pattern from the Berroco Design Team] [Ravel it!]
Materials: “Lazy Daisy” Handspun light-worsted-weight 2-Ply Merino from Pigeonroof Studios; Scraps of Solid Brown Cascade “Cash Vero” for trim and I-cord
Size: With my very limited knowledge of baby sizing… I’d guess this came out to fit around a 6-12 month old
Needles: US 8/5mm circulars (the piece is knitted flat)
Start Date: March 1, 2009
Finish Date: March 8, 2009

The original pattern is written for various brightly colored yarns, striped together. I opted for a more subtle self-striping look. As I always say, when the yarn can do the work for you – just let it. And when you have the chance to put a little handspun to good use (with garter stitch) – do it.


I had just enough handspun left over from this hat to make a miniature – and the big bonus? The original hat was made for the baby mama… meaning yes, we have a matchy-matchy scenario on our hands. I love it. [See a photo of the un-knit handspun here]

There are some fun and clever little construction details on this – like the formation of the ears, mitered forehead point, and shaped back-of-head portion. All pieces are knit flat, but picked up and worked directly off of one another, so no seaming is involved (brownie points).


Aside from the difference in yarn choices, I only made a few small modifications to the existing pattern. I omitted the stockinette center peak of the forehead – I liked the look better keeping it in garter, and rather than using YO increased, I worked raised bar increases to omit holes. I trimmed the whole thing in a solid contrasting color – one ridge of garter stitch with a bind off in purl from the RS. I left 3 live stitches at the base of each earflap as I was binding off and made them into I-cord. I made the I-cord just long enough to tie, but not so long as to be a dangling nuisance for parent or child.

I thought the ears, being the absolute best part of the little piece, needed a little extra pop so I worked a crochet chain in the darker solid around each ear to emphasize their shape. I think they look much better with it than they did before.


What a little gem of a pattern this is – highly recommended and definitely worthy of getting of the regular-baby-knits list if you ask me! Thanks to the lovely ladies of the Berocco DT for another winner!

I’m so happy to finally be able to share this project with you all – I’ve been starry eyed for it for months, but didn’t want to feature it here until the pattern was all set with t’s crossed and i’s dotted. She’s all set now, though – and just in time for wintry knitting!


May I introduce my new favorite thing to have on my person at all times. In fact, I knit this in August while I was in the PNW (summer knitting is bearable there), but only recently, since the cold weather has hit us hard have I been getting to indulge myself. You’ll see two versions shown here – the Blanket version (Yellow) is worked in an aran weight Wool/Llama blend (Cascade Pastaza) and the Shawl Version (Light Brown) is worked in fingering weight Shetland wool (Jamieson’s Spindrift)(Swoon). They’re both fantastic and so very different.

Girasole (Shawl Version)

I’m consistently fascinated by how incredibly important yarn choices are when we knit, and how, especially with lace, a project can completely change in nature solely based on yarn construction, weight and fiber. My goal here was to provide a pattern that could have flexible function – if you want a big woolly throw to keep you warm this winter – you got it. If you want a more traditional, Shetland lace shawl – light as a feather and shockingly toasty – you can have that too!


The pattern is worked in the round with a traditional circular shawl construction – started in the center and increasing outward towards the edges as you work. A circular cast-on is recommended but not required – and if you’ve never tried one, I highly recommend it. You’ll never go back! [Great tutorials here and here] My favorite thing about circular shawls is, as you may have guessed, absolutely no purling(!) – and this one is no exception. Also, every other round is plain knitting, so essentially half of the knitting is mindless stockinette, and that’s always a plus in my book.

Girasole (Shawl Version)

The pattern utilizes a knitted-on edging to finish off. Because elasticity is a prized quality in lace, any and all bind-offs should be avoided like the plague. Knitted-on edgings are a completely wonderful solution to this problem – not only are they equally elastic as the rest of your knitting, but they look great and add an interesting contrasting element (worked perpendicular to the rest of the shawl) to any design.


For you first time Knitted-On-Edgers, this is how it works: when you’ve reached the last official round of the center section of the shawl, you will no longer be working in the round. With the working yarn you cast on directly the number of sts for your edging (in this case 4) and begin working back and forth on those stitches in the edging pattern, joining the edging to your live shawl sts around the circumference as you go. It’s a fascinating technique and a whoooole lot of fun. Read more about circular shawl construction + edgings here [Thanks, as always to Eunny for these exhaustively thorough, wonderful lace compendiums].

Girasole (Shawl Version)

As with many of my other patterns, the bulk of the motifs are charted (I’m a chart freak, what can I say.) If you’re new to knitting from charts, or want to brush up your skills here is a wonderful tutorial with lots of visual aids that I find very helpful. The pattern includes yardage/dimension/gauge information for both weights listed above, but I always encourage creative yarn choices and love to see how patterns play out with different yarns. Gauge in stockinette for the blanket version is approx 4 stitches per inch, and 6 stitches per inch for the shawl version. As always, though, gauge in lace is variable and should always be determined by your personal preference for the finished fabric.

The pattern is available for 6.50 (USD) in my Ravelry Store, for Ravelry members, or through Paypal. Just follow the buttons below.

Girasole Preview
Purchase Via Ravelry Purchase Via Paypal

The Brooklyn Tweed Guarantee: As a self-publishing designer, I strongly feel that it is my responsibility to you to present a quality product free of errors that is pleasing both from an aesthetic and practical point of view. All patterns that are self-published here at Brooklyn Tweed have been test knit by multiple knitters using various manufactured yarns to ensure the most pleasurable and intuitive knitting experience. I have personally prepared all diagrams and charts as well as knit/photographed samples and designed pattern layouts – soliciting the opinions of knitters prior to publication in an effort to streamline this product. I have done my very best to bring you a pattern that I am proud to stand behind fully. I do my best to respond to concerns or comments as soon as possible and, as always, thank you for your support and encouragement. Happy knitting! -Jared

Every once in a while we’re lucky enough to acquire a truly special batch of yarn. We save it and save it until we think we have the perfect pattern for it. When and if that moment ever comes and we dare start in on this high-pressure project, we spend half the time worrying if the sweater will ever be good enough for this, the jewel of your stash. And very often it’s not.

I’ve had and have a lot of these types of yarns that have never been touched as a sole result of the fear that no garment could ever do them justice. And until the beginning of June this was one of them. And, for the first time I’m not sitting here wondering if there could have been a pattern that might have been just a little more appropriate – and that’s enough on its own to be pumped about.

Spiral Yoke Pullover (by b r o o k l y n t w e ed)

Pattern: Spiral Yoke Pullover by Meg Swansen [Ravel It]
Source: Handknitting With Meg Swansen (Schoolhouse Press)
Materials: Sundara Yarn Worsted Merino (Discontinued) in Charcoal over Scarlet
Amount: 7.5 skeins (approx. 1300 yards)
Needles: US 7 and 8/4.5 and 5.0mm Addi Turbo Circulars

Start Date: 2 June 2008
Finish Date: 16 June 2008 (real-time is always a bit ahead of blog-time…)

Spiral Yoke Pullover (by b r o o k l y n t w e ed)
Notes: I followed the pattern recipe as directed – there’s already a lot of freedom built in so there isn’t much to modify or fuss about. I worked a tubular cast on for both sleeve cuffs and base of body (i use this method – it takes longer but the results are always clean as a whistle), which looks really sharp in a yarn with such crisp stitch definition. To finish the neck I worked a sewn bind-off, my very favorite way to finish collars – super stretchy without ever getting streeetched out of shape.

Spiral Yoke Pullover (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

This is truly a special sweater: the yarn alone means a lot – a gift from a talented friend which is not only exactly the color I had been vainly searching for for ages, but is also now sadly discontinued – and a pattern which I couldn’t have enjoyed more. Seriously. Rarely, if ever do I find a pattern that I wouldn’t mind knitting again right away after finishing. But, never say never.

Spiral Yoke Pullover (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

If you’re interested in making this but don’t want to buy an entire book for one pattern, let me tell you to silence those worries straight away. Handknitting has a bunch of smart, quality patterns, (author people, author) many of which I plan to make in the future, and is, as can be expected, full of clever tricks and techniques as well as plenty of the witty banter we’ve all come to expect from Elizabeth and Meg.

Spiral Yoke Pullover (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

More about the yarn – it’s a semi-solid, hand dye by Sundara of Sundara Yarn in Seattle, WA – one of the great dyeing talents in the business and a wonderful person to match. I came into this rare lot two Christmases ago and have had it decorating my shelves ever since. It’s a 4-ply, worsted-spun merino with super crisp stitch definition and the ability to suck up some serious color! I’ve never seen a yarn with as deeply saturated a red as this. (Also the hardest color in all of Christendom to photograph… but it’s close enough *grumble grumble photoshop frustration grumble*.)

Spiral Yoke Pullover (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

The pattern is written using EPS (Elizabeth’s Percentage System) which you know I can never get enough of. There are no stitch counts or spoon feeding of any kind, just gauge suggestions, body percentages, and of course charts for that lovely spiral, which means if you put your mind to it you’re almost bound to have a sweater that fits you wonderfully and a knitting process that is hugely satisfying.

The spiral yoke is genius because it exploits round-yoke construction (consecutive decrease rings evenly spaced over yoke depth) in a beautiful and clever way, at the same time totally camouflaging all those k2togs (or ssk’s if you want your spirals to go in the opposite direction)(Yes, you get to choose). I’m always drawn to the spiral in knitting – it seems to me to be the organic shape that is most in line with the process of knitting in the round, or at least regularly decreasing in the round (think spiral crown shaping on hats, etc). It’s smart and intuitive, and really fun to knit.

Spiral Yoke Pullover (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

My favorite part? Definitely the collar accent where the spiral snaps into the opposing direction, defining the collar band and creating all those sharp little zig-zagged angles. So cool.

This pattern has a big ol‘ stamp of approval from me – I’d love to see more of them with different yarns and on different folks. I’m seriously considering another. I’m thinking…. Handspun natural Shetland. Cardigan. Sounds good right? Now if it weren’t for all those other sweaters sittin‘ around getting jealous.

Spiral Yoke Pullover (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Of all the things I’ve knit, I can’t remember a time when I’ve been more smitten with a project. Sure there may have been things that we more exciting or eventful to work on but nothing (and I mean nothing) is better for wrapping yourself up in than this. (I realize the timing of this post is absolutely ridiculous as I’m writing in the middle of this summer’s first heat wave, but there it is)

Lovefest Realized (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)
Pattern: Knitted Garter Stitch Blanket in Sheepsdown (Ravelry)
Source: The Opinionated Knitter by Elizabeth Zimmermann
Materials: Cascade Eco Wool (100% undyed Peruvian) #8063; yarn held double
Amount: Just over 9 skeins; approx. 4500 yards, 5lbs (!)
Needles: US13 circulars (although straights will work too)
Finished Dimensions: 80 x 53 inches

Started: October 2007
Finished: May 2008

Squishy Lovefest (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)
Here is another example of how far a simple, clever design can go. The pattern originally appeared in Elizabeth Zimmermann’s 9th Wool Gathering Newsletter in the Fall of 1962. It is available now in The Opinionated Knitter (a collection of Elizabeth’s newsletters) with both the original texts (typewritten and all) and diagrams alongside Meg’s present-day suggestions and updates to each pattern.

EZ Garter Stitch Afghan (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

The original pattern calls to be knit in Sheepsdown, Schoolhouse’s super bulky, lightly spun, undyed wool. Gorgeous stuff, and I had grand plans of knitting with it before I got economical and turned to my stash to find a plethora of Eco Wool begging for attention. Holding Eco Wool double gave me a bulky gauge (not as bulky as Sheepsdown, but close) and a wonderful squishy, cozy fabric that seemed like a dream to work up a whole afghan with.

Wooly Lovefest (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Now, about the simplicity and the genius: the entire blanket is composed of four interlocking pieces, all of equal width, which are formed by simple mitered corners. The beauty, to me, is that throughout the entire process you always have 24 stitches on your needle. Always. And there is nary a purl stitch to be found. Netflix Knitters Dream Project? Yes.

EZ Garter Stitch Afghan (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Because my gauge was 3 sts per inch and the pattern calls for 2sts per inch, I upped my stitch count from 24 to 36 in hopes of having a very large, very substantial piece of knitting upon finishing. Another benefit of the design is its complete ease in resizing – because the only shaping involved is a mitered corner and you only have one number to worry about (24sts), you can essentially knit this in any weight of yarn at any size depending on how many stitches are cast on. I think a baby-blanket version in a nice soft DK weight wool would be lovely.

EZ Garter Stitch Afghan Edging Detail (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Whenever there’s this much garter stitch, and this much weight, stretching and distorting of fabric can become a valid concern. Another built-in advantage of the design is that the fabric’s consistent directional changes due to the mitered corners gives more structure while mainting wonderful stretchiness. The addition of the I-cord edging also frames the entire piece with added structure to keep everything in shape, and I think cleans up the design for a very nice finish. The I-cord edging is a suggestion from Meg, and one I definitely think is worth the extra time at the end – I love how it turned out.

Wooly Lovefest (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

The directional patterning also makes a wonderful texture and a wonderful play with light and shade, as different parts of the whole catch light differently (see photo below). The finished dimensions on mine came out to about 80″x53″ – nice and big, and fits perfectly on the surface of a queen-sized bed. Also a favorite for snuggly folks on couches.

EZ Garter Stitch Afghan (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Finishing on this one is a big job and also entails some important decisions. There are many ways to seam up garter stitch, and I tried different methods to see what I liked best. I first tried an invisible garter graft, which looked nice on the RS, but not as nice on the WS, and was too weak in my opinion to hold this beast together. I decided in the end on using a single crochet chain seam to join all the pieces. The crochet seam has some major advantages here: first and most important, because the geometry is strong and completely carries the aesthetic, I wanted a visible seam that accented the construction in a clean way (and had an acceptable WS look). Aside from the aesthetic aspect, a crochet chain is strong and can really take a beating without a flinch. Because this thing weighs about 5 lbs (!) a strong, sturdy seam is essential.

As I mentioned above I trimmed the whole thing with a 3 stitch I-Cord, both for looks and structural help. After all the pieces were sewn together, I knit up one stitch for every ridge and attached the I-Cord all the way around, grafting the first and last row together invisibly.

Wooly Lovefest <3 (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Another quick tip: I recommend a sewn bind-off on all pieces. It keeps the ends of each piece stretchy and matches the cast on (I did a long-tail).

I’m totally enamored and think this is a lifer – good sturdy wool in a good sturdy pattern is sure to hold up for the long haul. I want to thank my models, Ryan and Joelle, for being total champs and swathing themselves in this thing during 96 degree heat without complaint. That’s a feat unto itself.

And although you’re folded up for summer, dear blanket, when September rolls around again you’ll know how truly loved you are. Happy knitting one and all.

Edited to Add: Oops! Looks like I forgot to take a picture of the beast in its entirety! Had to strap on the wide-angle lens and clear out the living room… but I got it. You can see the full shot here.

I really had to dig deep through the blog archives to see when, oh when did I even start this thing! I got the yarn when it was just released in Fall of ’06 and started the knitting some time early in December. I remember that I started this on a sick day – I was in bed, freezing, wearing wooly things and needed something soft and colorful to keep me busy. I don’t think I ever thought it would be two summers later before it was wearable, though. Don’t you love knitting?

Swisher (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

: Top Down Raglan Recipe
Source: Knitting From the Top by Barbara Walker
Size: 43″ Chest Circumference
Materials: KnitPicks Swish Superwash Worsted (100% Superwash Wool)
Amount: 6 balls “Bordeaux” & 7 balls of “Truffle” (finished sweater weighs 650g)

Started: December 2006
Finished: May 2008

Swisher (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Barbara Walker is right up there with Elizabeth Zimmermann as one of the veritable forces of nature in the recent-history of our craft. Aside from her most well-known contribution and complete re-invention of the stitch dictionary, she is also credited with exploring, dissecting, and propagating knitting from the top down, not just sweaters mind you – hats, dresses, pants and more! Her book is a classic and comes highly recommended from me. She is truly a wonder.

Swisher (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

If you’ve never knit a sweater from the top down, you must try it. My very first sweater was knit in this manner,and I’ve always had a fondness for it. Aside from one minor drawback, it’s full of all kinds of advantages, the most valuable being absolute control over length in body and sleeves and the try-on-as-you-go possibility. As you’re knitting, you can don your garment as many times as you need in order to get your lengths just right before that final bind off. (In fact, you could technically knit the sweater whilst wearing it, as exhibited on the book’s cover, although I don’t recommend it.) (Yes, I tried) If your sleeves grow after washing, just rip out the bind off, tear back an inch and bind off again. It’s all very convenient. The drawback? The sweater gets a little cumbersome and large towards the end, when you’re finishing off that last sleeve you may get a little tired of flipping the whole thing around as you’re knitting. I think, though, that this is a completely reasonable price to pay for the obvious benefits of top-down knitting (intuitive points, check).

[EDIT] Awesome tip left in the comments by Miss Sandra – after finishing the yoke, knit the sleeves first. When you’re ready to start the body, tuck the sleeves inside the yoke to minimize all those awkward appendages while turning your knitting. It won’t change the weight of the garment, but will definitely help with the cumbersome aspects of maneuvering your sweater. (Thanks, Sandra!) Also I forgot to mention, EZ recommends (in Knitting Workshop) to keep the bulk of the garment in a canvas or cottan bag as you work for ease of turning.

Swisher (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

I think the main reason for the long lull between start and finish on this project was primarily a materials issue. As far as superwash wools go, I think Swish is a pretty good one – where softness is concerned, it’s wonderful (baby knitting heaven) – but I’ve realized over the years that I’m not a big superwash man. Back in 2006 I think I was still optimistic, but in the end I prefer my wools to be as sheepy and woolly as possible. When wool fibers are treated to be washable they lose some of the qualities that I’m most drawn to and since knitting, for me, is very much about the tactile experience, these material choices really make a difference in how fast or slow a project goes. (I think I have some cotton projects that may never rise from their half finished states. They’re really old.)

Swisher (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

My sweater grew slightly after washing . When I swatched (waaay back then), I washed and dried in a machine and had a shrinking of row gauge. So when I decided that I’d just wash it by hand like I do with all my other sweaters, I was caught off guard when the thing grew a bit upon drying. This little surprise turned out to be a blessing in disguise – the yarn gets über soft upon washing, and the fit was slightly baggier than I’m used to, the sleeves just a little longer than normal – turns out it’s one of the coziest ones in my collection now and I’ve been wearing it a lot (those days are over now, 95 degree forecast for the weekend. Blargh.)

[EDIT] I forgot again to mention something important about my stripes! This info is also true for my striped vest, as I seemed to get a lot questions about jogs with that project as well. In all of my striped projects, assuming I’m working with only 2 colors, I employ this technique for jogless stripes and carry the unused yarn along the inside of the garment, wrapping the colors around each other at each color-change to catch the unworked yarn and keep things clean on the inside. There are no extra ends to weave in, and the beginning of the round is almost completely invisible on the RS of the fabric.

Swisher (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

All in all, I’m really happy with how this turned out – while I don’t love knitting with superwash, i do like wearing it. Also, it’s definitely an interesting wardrobe item color-wise. And speaking of color – I apologize for the slight deviation in color-correctness from photo to photo. Magenta and warmish brown really like to trick my camera!

Up next, a ginormous wool blanket that can swallow people whole. Not kidding.