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Sweater Construction: The Many Ways to Knit a Sweater

July 29, 2021

There are MANY ways to knit a sweater. Let’s learn about some of them!

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What does ‘construction’ mean?

In the context of knitting, ‘construction’ means the way that an item is knit. It describes which pieces are knit first, whether they are knit in rows or rounds, and in which direction the finished knit grows. We always describe the construction of our designs, so you can visualize how the project will come together.

Construction diagram for the Wheat Scarf, showing how it is knit from end to end in rows.

For example, most scarves are knit in rows, from end to end. Most hats are knit in the round, starting at the brim and eventually decreasing at the crown.

Sweaters are a bit more complex. A sweater is made of four ‘tubes’ that cover your torso, arms, and yoke or shoulder section. These tubes can be made and joined together in several different ways, that is, using several different construction methods. This tutorial provides a broad overview of common sweater construction methods.

Sleeves and body in progress, this little sweater is knit in the round from the bottom up.
The start of a bottom-up sweater knit in the round: two sleeve tubes and one body tube. Next they’ll be joined for working the yoke section, which is just another tube that decreases from shoulders to neckline.

On our website, we describe the construction method for each and every one of our designs! On any pattern page, click the View Pattern Details button and then navigate to the construction section. To see some examples, check out the free Flax sweater construction, the Lush cardigan construction, and the Vivid blanket construction.

Knit in the round (seamlessly) or knit in pieces and seamed

Garments can be separated into two broad categories:

  1. Garments knit in the round by working a series of tubes that are joined together with minimal seaming
  2. Garments knit flat (in rows) and seamed together after the pieces are complete
Seamless and seamed sweater construction methods. Illustration.

Depending on the garment shape you’re looking for, one or the other method might be better suited for your project. However, many shapes can be worked either way – by knitting seamlessly in the round OR by knitting flat pieces and seaming them together. Alexa and I like to knit and publish seamless knitting patterns because we find them simpler. Some knitters prefer to knit in pieces and seam; perhaps they prefer to work on straight needles or perhaps they like the firmness and structure that seams can add to a finished knit.

Is there one way to make a sweater that’s BETTER than the others?

There are a LOT of opinions out there, but let’s not get blue in the face arguing about whether the toilet paper should run off the top or the bottom of the roll, folks!

Whatever method brings you pleasure, whatever way you can manage, whatever construction results in a finished garment that works for you or your loved ones – that is the ‘best’ way for you…at least for now. If you’re like Alexa and me, you’re continually learning and experimenting to expand your knowledge of garment construction. The method that works best for you today may change tomorrow, as you continue to learn and to grow your skills. Our best advice? Try a couple different methods and see what YOU think!

Bottom-up and top-down construction

Direction is another aspect of garment construction. When a sweater is knit from the neckline downward to hems and cuffs, we say it’s knit top-down. When it’s knit from the hem and cuffs upward to the underarm and through the yoke, we say it’s knit bottom-up.

TOP-DOWN DIAGRAM

Yoke sweater construction diagram. illustration.
The Embers sweater is knit top-down. From the neckline, you work in increasing rounds from the yoke. At the underarms, the work is separated into three tubes (body, right sleeve, and left sleeve). Each of these tubes is knit from underarm down to the hem or cuff.

Working top-down is great because you can easily adjust the body and sleeve lengths after the fact – and it’s a bit easier to try it on as you go, which gives you a rough idea of how your sweater will fit.

BOTTOM-UP DIAGRAM

Bottom up raglan cardigan construction. Illustration.
The Boardwalk cardigan is knit bottom-up. With this pattern, you cast on each sleeve at the cuff and work tubes in the round to underarms. You cast on the body at the hem and work in long rows up to the underarm point. At the underarm, you join sleeve tubes to the body and work in decreasing rows through the yoke to the neckline. The button bands are picked up and worked last.

Working bottom-up is great because it’s very easy to adjust the neckline, which is worked last. The neckline is a very critical point in a sweater because it can make all the difference in how well the garment fits. (Read How to Get the Perfect Neckline for more tips!) I also love working bottom-up sleeves because they’re easy to take with me for knitting at the park or coffee shop!

To see photos and descriptions that cover each step of top-down construction, check out our free Flax Sweater tutorial. For all the details on bottom-up construction, read our in-depth tutorial, Let’s Knit a Bottom-Up Sweater.

Raglan

A garment with raglan shaping has seam lines (or shaping lines) separating the sleeves, front, and back parts of the garment through the yoke. These lines extend from the underarm up to the neckline finish.

Bottom up raglan and top don raglan pullover construction. Illustration.

A raglan can be worked either bottom-up (with decreases to shape the pieces) or top-down (with increases to shape the pieces). It can also be worked seamlessly (knit in the round) or in pieces and then seamed.

We’ve designed more than a few seamless raglan sweaters and cardigans over the years! Click your favorite to get the pattern.

Circular yoke

A circular yoke has a seamless ‘circle’ that expands (or decreases) to shape the yoke. This type of garment is usually worked seamlessly in the round, at least through the yoke section. If a circular yoke is worked from the top down, then the yoke is shaped with increases. Worked from the bottom up, it is shaped with decreases.

Bottom up and top down circular yoke pullover construction. Illustration.

The Cartography sweater is a circular yoke knit from the top down, with increase rounds placed between charming little bands of colourwork.

Cartography Sweater pattern

The Compass sweater is also knit from the top down; however, instead of discrete rounds of increase between the pattern, the yoke is made with a wedge-shaped chart with increases within the pattern itself.

Compass Sweater Pattern

We love circular yokes so much that we designed an entire ebook full of them! PLUS, we created a recipe that guides you step-by-step in designing your own! Get a copy of Strange Brew and check out our in-depth tutorial on knitting a yoke sweater to get started on your own yoke design.

Set-in sleeve and drop-shoulder sweaters

Set-in sleeve and drop-shoulder constructions are quite similar. Drop-shoulder garments have little to no underarm shaping; the body is a box, and the sleeves are picked up and knit from openings on either side. Set-in sleeves have a little more shaping in the front and back body pieces, as well as in the sleeve cap itself.

Construction process for a mostly-seamless drop-shoulder cardigan. Illustration.

It is possible to work set-in sleeves and drop-shoulder garments mostly seamlessly.

  1. Working from the bottom up, work the body tube in the round for a pullover, or work back and forth in long rows for a cardigan.
  2. From the underarm point to shoulders, work the pieces for fronts and backs in rows.
  3. Next, seam the shoulders to join back to front.
  4. Finally, pick up and knit around the armhole opening, and work the sleeves in the round from shoulder down to cuffs, finishing with neckline and/or button bands.

As you can see, this construction incorporates both bottom-up (for the body) AND top-down (for the sleeves) construction methods. You can try out this kind of construction by knitting the Bowline pullover, Playdate cardigan, Jones cardigan, and Peanut vest!

Construction process for a seamed drop-shoulder pullover. Illustration.

Set-in sleeves and drop-shoulder constructions can also be knit in pieces and seamed. Typically pieces would be worked bottom-up, though top-down is also possible. When seaming the garment, you will join fronts to back at the shoulders, seam sleeves to body pieces at shoulder, and then seam body sides and sleeve underarms, finishing with neckline and/or button bands.

The drop-shoulder style is a classic. Check out some of our designs that feature this construction and click a pic to get the pattern!

Hybrid constructions

There are a wide array of hybrid constructions – methods that combine and mash-up aspects of the typical construction types described above. Of course, we have explored a few!

The Lush and Caribou cardigans share an enjoyable mash-up of methods. You work the patterned yoke band first and then pick up along the edges, working upward to to neckline and downward through sleeves and body to the hem and cuffs.

Detail of the Lush cardigan's leafy lace yoke band which is knit first.
Lush Cardigan Pattern

Our Low Tide top is knit bodice pieces first and then the body is worked in a single piece from a pick-up line along the bottom of the bodice pieces, with shaping that creates a swingy silhouette.

Low Tide Cardigan Pattern

One stitch at a time – you can do it!

Sweater knitting can feel a little daunting at times, but the truth of the matter is that your sweater will be made stitch by stitch, step by step. Just get started and continue one step at a time; you will (sooner or later) be enjoying your own hand-knit creation – or an entire sweater wardrobe! Still not convinced? Check out all our sweater knitting resources to learn more.

If you enjoyed this tutorial, sign up for email updates, so we can let you know when new tutorials and patterns are available! We send knitters a helpful and inspiring email once or twice a month (and it’s easy to unsubscribe if you discover they’re not for you).

~ Emily

Alexa’s wearing her Marshland sweater, and I’m wearing my Compass sweater!

Pocket Power! How to Add Pockets to Any Sweater You Like

July 15, 2021

Who doesn’t love a good pocket? We certainly do! It’s always nice to have a handy spot to keep your keys close on the go or to warm your hands on a chilly day – or to have the hand sanitizer within reach when you’re out and about with little ones who like to touch everything. If you’d like to add pockets to your favourite sweater, check out our tips below. We’ve described six different ways to create pockets for cardigans and pullovers – and you can add them as you go or after the fact!

Click a link to skip directly to the section that’s relevant to your needs:

Just follow the pattern – or add your own pockets

If you’re following a pattern that includes pocket instructions, you can simply follow the instructions, and this tutorial will help you visualize how the process works. If you’re adding pockets to a knitting pattern that doesn’t already include them, think about:

  • Type: Will you add them on the outside (patch pockets) or inside?
  • Size: How wide and deep will you make the pockets? To figure out how many stitches to cast on and how many rows to work, multiply your your stitch and row gauge by the desired dimensions. For example: If your gauge is 5 sts per inch and 6.5 rows per inch, you’ll cast on (or pick up) about 25 sts and work about 32 rows to make a 5″ square pocket (5″ x 5 sts/inch = 25, 5″ x 6.5 rows/inch = 32.5).
  • Location: Where will the pocket will be located on the garment? Think both horizontally (approximately in the middle of each side front) and vertically (high enough above the hem so the pocket can sit inside without falling below it).

Bottom-up cardigan pockets

When you’re working a cardigan bottom-up in rows, you can follow these steps to add pockets into your garment as you work. This is the technique we use in the Clayoquot and Playdate cardigans. You can also use this method to add pockets to Antler and Boardwalk, too!

  1. Knit the pocket linings first. Leave the live stitches on waste yarn and set them aside.
  2. Work the body piece to the length where the top of pockets will be, and then mark your pocket locations (the same number of stitches as your pockets are wide).
  3. Work a few more rows, working in ribbing (or a different stitch pattern) at the pocket locations between the markers.
  4. Pocket opening bind-off row (RS): Work to pocket location, bind off stitches across the pocket opening, and then knit the remainder of the row (binding off any further pockets).
  5. Pocket joining row (WS): Work to pocket location (where you’ve got a gap of bound-off stitches) and then slip all of the held stitches from your pocket onto the left-hand needle tip, with the WS of the pocket facing you. Next, knit across the pocket stitches and knit to the end of the round (or to the second pocket placement).
  6. Once your sweater is complete, you can sew down the pocket linings.
Diagram
Knit the pockets first. Leave the live stitches on waste yarn and set them aside. We usually just use stockinette stitch, knitting and purling until the pocket measures the desired length.
Diagram
Work the body piece to the length where top of pockets will be, and then mark your pocket locations (the same number of stitches as your pockets are wide).
Diagram
Work a few more rows, working in ribbing (or a different stitch pattern) at the pocket locations between the markers.
Diagram
Pocket opening bind-off row (RS): Work to pocket location, bind off stitches across the pocket opening, and then knit the remainder of the row (binding off any further pockets).
Diagram
Pocket joining row (WS): Work to pocket location (where you’ve got a gap of bound-off stitches) and then slip all of the held stitches from your pocket onto the left-hand needle tip, with the WS of the pocket facing you. Next, knit across the pocket stitches and knit to the end of the round (or to the second pocket placement).

Top-down cardigan pockets

If you’re knitting a cardigan top-down (in rows at the body), follow these steps to add pockets into your garment as you work. This technique will work for adding pockets to the Harvest (free pattern), Lush, and Caribou cardigans.

  1. Work cardigan to the point where you will place the top of the pockets.
  2. Place four markers, one at the beginning and end of where each pocket will go.
  3. Pocket opening row (RS): Work to marker, place pocket sts on waste yarn, and then cast on the same number of stitches. Work remainder of row, placing on hold and casting on for any additional pockets. We suggest casting those extra stitches to the right-hand needle using the backwards loop cast on or turning the work to use the knitted-on cast-on.
  4. Work pocket ribbing for a few rows at the pocket locations and then work the rest of the cardigan to the hem.
  5. Place the held pocket stitches back on your needles. Work pocket linings to the desired pocket depth then bind off.
  6. Sew down the pockets linings to the back of the work using a whip stitch.
Work cardigan to the point where you will place the top of the pockets, and then place four markers, one at the beginning and end of where each pocket will go.
Pocket opening row (RS): Work to marker, place pocket sts on waste yarn, and then cast on the same number of stitches. Work remainder of row, placing on hold and casting on for any additional pockets.
Work pocket ribbing for a few rows at the pocket locations, and then work the rest of the cardigan to the hem.
Place the held pocket stitches back on your needles. Work pocket linings to the desired pocket depth and then bind off. Sew down the pocket linings to the back of the work using a whip stitch.

Pockets in bottom-up or top-down pullovers

If you’re working a seamless pullover in rounds, you will follow nearly all the same steps as for a cardigan. The only difference is that as you are knitting in rounds, you will always have the right-side of the work facing you.

For a bottom-up pullover, bind off on the first round (across the pocket ribbing). On the second round, add in the pocket by slipping held stitches to the left-hand needle, with the right side of the pocket facing you.

After knitting the bottom of the pullover to a suitable length and working ribbing across the pocket stitches for a few rounds, bind off on the first pocket joining round.
On the following round, when you reach the bound-off stitches, slip the live stitches from your pocket lining piece onto the left-hand needle, with the right-side of the pocket lining facing you. Knit across these stitches, joining them into the work. Continue knitting your garment; you will sew the pocket lining to the inside of the garment later on.

For a top-down pullover, place pocket stitches on hold and and cast on in a single round. Continue in the round, as you would for the top-down cardigan pockets described above. In the same way as for the cardigan, the pocket linings are worked in rows to the desired depth later and sewn down to the back of the work.

This is the method we use in the Clayoquot cardigan because it is knit top-down in the round and steeked. It would work well on any steeked cardigan – or any pullover you want to add pockets to.

Knit-in, afterthought pockets

In any kind of garment (or accessory!), you can add pockets after the fact. Knit-in, afterthought pockets are one methods you can use to do this.

If you are planning ahead (rather than working in true ‘afterthought’ style), decide your pocket size and location ahead of time. When you arrive at the right point in your garment for the top-of-pocket opening, follow these steps:

  1. Drop working yarn and knit across the pocket stitches using waste yarn instead.
  2. Slip all the stitches worked in waste yarn back, one at a time, from the right hand needle to the left hand needle (working from the last to the first of the waste yarn sts). Leave 6″ yarn tails on both ends of the waste yarn part-row).
  3. Pick up working yarn once more and knit across the waste yarn stitches. Continue on to end of round (or any other pocket locations).

This places a strand of waste yarn in the work, which you can unpick later.

Knit to the spot where you want your pockets.
Knit with waste yarn where pocket will go later.
Slip stitches knit with waste yarn back to the left hand needle.
Knit across these stitches again with working yarn and continue on your way!

Expose the stitches on top and bottom of the pocket opening

If you planned ahead and placed a strand of waste yarn in the work, pick the piece of waste yarn out of the sweater (gently, one stitch at a time), which will leave you with two sets of live stitches. Pop them on one needle each (or a needle and a stitch holder).

If you’re working pockets that are genuinely an afterthought, locate the row and edge points for each pocket on the garment fabric itself (i.e., instead of having waste yarn in the work marking pocket placement). Pick the stitch that’s right in the middle of that section and snip one leg of the stitch. (I know…terrifying right?! I promise it’s okay!) Unpick to the left and right from the snip point, pulling the snipped strand out until the correct number of stitches are exposed on top and bottom of the pocket opening.

Unpick the waste yarn to expose the live stitches.
You can be bold like me and leave those live stitches hanging, OR you can put one set on the needles and one set on waste yarn.
The live sts are ready to be worked!

Work the pocket ribbing and lining, and then sew them in place

From the live stitches on the bottom side of the pocket opening, knit in rows (in ribbing or other stitch pattern) to the desired edging length and then bind off.

From the live stitches on the top side of the pocket opening, knit in rows (in stockinette or other stitch pattern) to the desired pocket lining depth and then bind off.

Sew down the edges of the pocket lining to the inside of the garment and the edges of the edging to the outside of the garment. Weave in any ends.

Here I have worked the pocket ribbing back and forth in rows. (I’ve worked the ribbing in a different colour for clarity)
Live sts are on the needles, ready to work the pocket lining.
Pocket lining is worked back and forth in rows.
The last step is to sew down the edges of the ribbing and the pocket lining.

Applied Patch Pockets

If you’ve knit a sweater or cardigan and want to add pockets after the fact, you have a couple options. One nice, clean method is to mark the pocket locations with pins or locking stitch markers, pick up and work patch pockets in rows, and then bind off and sew the edges down. We use this option in the Gramps cardigan, and you can see all the details of the process in our Gramps Tutorial.

Another option is to knit the pockets separately and then sew them on. This means you can decide the precise location once you have completed the pockets; however, this approach may be bit untidy, depending on your seaming skills!

Time to add pockets!

If you love pockets, let us know! Flex your pocket power and then share your work with us on your favourite social spot using #TinCanKnits.

~ Emily and Alexa

Pocket friendly knits from TCK

Blankets and Love

June 30, 2021
A small baby sleeping on a rainbow patchwork blanket.
A brand new Max napping on the rainbow Vivid blanket Emily made for him. She dyed the yarn herself via Rainbow Heirloom.

Blankets are so much more than the sum of their parts. They are knit the same way as anything else – stitch by stitch – and yet they seem to possess a sort of magical quality once finished.

For grown ups, they are both practical (thrown over the shoulders on a chilly evening) and precious (a handmade symbol of love and care). For children, they can be anything – a cape, a fort, or something to snuggle under at nap time. And for grown kids heading out into the world, they can be a comforting reminder of someone back home who loves them.

Whether you knit a blankie for yourself or someone else, it always represents a little love and caring. We often keep this concept in mind as we design new blankets. Vivid came from Emily’s changing ideas about parenthood long before Max was born. Bonfire was created out of a desire for something big and cozy to keep loved ones warm in the outdoors. Fly Away represents that inevitable, bittersweet moment when children leave us to fly off and soar on their own. And our most recent blanket pattern, Lullaby, was designed to use up every drop of a cherished yarn, like Emily’s own handspun. No matter what inspires the knit, blankets are always a sweet adventure.

Bonfire blanket pattern
Hunter bundled up in her big Bonfire blanket.
Fly Away blanket pattern
Max and Bodhi modelling ALL the woollies when they were wee! The Fly Away blanket is the perfect warm barrier between the cool beach sand and these tiny, precious babes.

The scrapper

There are many ways to knit a blanket, but one of my favourites is by scraps. I love seeing knitters reminisce about projects past as they knit their leftovers into something new. One square might represent the remnants of a comfy, old sweater, another a cherished baby bonnet, and yet another newborn’s first blanket. It reminds me of a quilt my Mum once made, using all the little leftovers in her bin. She would take out each piece of fabric and tell the story of its original purpose. Sometimes it was about how wrong the project went, and sometimes it was about the person she made the item for – but each piece seemed to have a story of its own.

A woman holding a babe draped in a blue lace blanket.
Michelle, my sister-in-law, recently knit this tiny Vivid blanket for her new baby, Cody. It is made up of scraps from some of her projects past – and a few of mine!
Bounce blanket pattern
The Bounce blanket is a great place to use up those wee, colourful balls!
Bodhi's Baby Blanket blog post
Bodhi’s Vivid baby blanket recently got an upgrade; read all about Bodhi’s Vivid blanket here.

The handspun

Emily recently took up spinning with a passion. Taking an inspirational fibre through the process of spinning and creating yarn, and on to a beautiful blanket, has been a happy journey to watch indeed. Emily created our newest blanket pattern, Lullaby, from her desire to showcase and use up every last drop of some precious handspun yarn.

Striped wave blanket hanging over tree branch
An adventure from start to finish! Emily spun the yarn, designed the blanket, and knit it up! Read all about the Lullaby design process here.

The simple

Sometimes all you want is a little simplicity, like one of my first designs, the ever simple Waffles blanket. It’s an easy journey of just knits and purls, creating a delightful texture along the way. For me, it’s reminiscent of a Sunday morning breakfast at my house, with everyone savouring a delicious, unfussy meal and the lazy bliss of nowhere to be. We also have the Malt blanket as part of our Simple Collection. Like Waffles, it’s just knits and purls, making it a great first project for knitting newbies.

Waffles blanket pattern
Our Waffles blanket is all about the delicious texture!
Malt blanket pattern
The Malt blanket is all knits and purls, a great first project!

The process

If you’re ready to cast on a blanket of your own, I encourage you to embrace the journey! Blankets are a big project but not necessarily a complicated one. Enjoy the process, stitch by stitch, and knit a little bit of love into each one.

~ Alexa

Mad Colour Blankets
Our Mad Colour collection includes four blankets: Pop, Bounce, Polygon, and Marley.

Fly Away, Revisited

June 17, 2021
Fly Away blanket pattern
This beautiful blanket was knit and photographed by Tanis of Tanis Fiber Arts

A few years ago (it can’t possibly be six, can it?!), we created Max & Bodhi’s Wardrobe, a collection inspired by two new babies in the TCK family. Part of that collection was the Fly Away blanket because even though her first babe was only a tiny thing at the time, Emily was already looking into the future, to that moment when Max would learn to fly on his own.

Six years later, Fly Away is still one of our most popular blankets, thanks to its deliciously simple garter, infinite colour options, and endless layout possibilities. So, what could possibly make this pattern better? (Drum roll, please…) Half squares!

Fly Away blanket pattern
The original Fly Away blanket features colourful stripes.

The original includes instructions for striped squares, but dyer/designer/all-around-great-human-being Tanis of Tanis Fiber Arts put her own spin on the pattern by creating half squares. Inspired by classic quilt motifs, and using her amazing eye for colour, Tanis knit up two of these beautiful blankets. A number of knitters have been asking for the details on this particular hack, so we decided to add them to the pattern!

What’s new?

The updated Fly Away pattern has all the same good stuff as the original, plus a little bit more:

  1. Instructions for the new half squares, in addition to the original striped squares.
  2. Yardages for both options.
  3. Layout suggestions for both striped squares and half squares.

Note: If you already have the Fly Away single pattern or Max & Bodhi’s Wardrobe ebook, you should have received the updated pattern by now. If you purchased from our website, the update will have come via email. If you purchased via Ravelry, you can hit the little ‘update’ button in your Ravelry library to download it.

A little inspiration

If you’re looking for a little inspiration for your own Fly Away, here are a few of our favourite projects to give you some ideas!

Fly Away for Micah blog post.
This Fly Away by Tanis uses the striped layout with a few modifications. Check out all the details here.
Undone57's Ravelry Project Page
This gorgeous blanket from @undone57 showcases the half square option beautifully. All the details are on her Ravelry project page here.
For this lovely pastel, half square version, Tanis tapped into her stash of scraps to make something amazing.
Nina of Rainbow Heirloom made this fabulous pink and purple Fly Away. I love how moody it looks with a dark main colour!

Grab your favourite palette and cast on!

Summer is my favourite time for knitting blankets, especially something that’s simple and done in pieces, so I can take it with me everywhere I go. Emily and I are obviously partial to rainbows, but this blanket looks great in any palette that suits you. It makes the perfect scrappy blanket, too! PLEASE be sure to share your projects using #FlyAwayBlanket and #TinCanKnits. We love to see what knitters are creating!

~ Alexa

Other People’s Patterns

June 3, 2021

It’s a rare occurrence when I have time to knit other designers’ patterns, but it is a distinct joy. I love seeing where the patterns take me. Of course, I rarely make it easy on myself. I like to go a little (or a lot) off pattern to see what I can come up with. Two sweaters I started in the early days of lock down last year were no exception. In the midst of those first few, trying weeks, Andrea Rangel’s Dissent Cardigan and Maxim Cyr’s For Fox Sake provided a welcome distraction.

A child in a grey cardigan with a blue colourwork yoke.

Dissent cardigan

As soon as Andrea Rangel released the Dissent cardigan, I knew I wanted to knit it. It’s an absolutely beautiful colourwork pattern inspired by Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s iconic dissent collar. I had one perfect skein of Spincycle Dream State in ‘Melancholia’ just waiting for the right project to come along. I paired it with the soft grey ‘Pumice” from Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, and away I went! But instead of following the pattern, which is written in grown-up sizes, I decided to make it for little Bodhi, mashing up the chart from Andrea’s pattern with our Strange Brew recipe.

A child in a grey cardigan with a blue colourwork yoke.

To make the cardigan kid-sized, I used Strange Brew for my cast-on and total yoke numbers. I shortened Andrea’s chart a little, so the yoke wouldn’t be too long. All was going smoothly (or so I thought) until I laid my sweater out, ready to be steeked. I realized the charts were off at the centre front…somewhere along the way, my math had gone awry! Off came the button bands, out came the steek reinforcements, and off came the yoke. I cut off the yoke, re-knit it with the correct patterning, joined the whole thing back together with a Kitchener stitch, and then steeked it. Despite all the bumps along the way, the final product turned out beautiful, and Bodhi just loves it!

A grey cardigan with a blue colourwork yoke. The colourwork pattern is misaligned at the centre.
One side of the button band has a ‘short’ section, and other side has a ‘long’ section – disaster!
A child in a grey cardigan with a blue colourwork yoke.
A child in a light teal sweater with a colourwork yoke.

For Fox Sake

When I first came across the wonderful work of Maxim Cyr (A.K.A. Max the Knitter), I was immediately smitten. Max is truly an artist, and it shows in this fabulous and fun, bespectacled, foxy character.

For Fox Sake is written in adult sizes, but I wanted to make it for young Jones. I decided to cast on the smallest size but use the sock weight Brooklyn Tweed Peerie, instead of the DK weight called for in the pattern. The funny thing is I cast on the sweater juuuust as Jones was starting a growth spurt, so I could have knit the smallest size as written, had I waited a few weeks. I ended up adding some length, so he could get a little more wear out of it.

A child in a light teal sweater with a colourwork yoke.

The simple joys of just creating

In making this sweater, I had a lot of fun just knitting a pattern. I didn’t have to think about math, or fit, or how to scale a motif. I enjoyed the simple, soothing act of assembling stitch after stitch, creating something useful and seeing beautiful colours come together in an inspiring pattern. I mean…perhaps I should have paid a bit more attention to the math in Bodhi’s Dissent yoke, but that, too, is part of the joy of creating. Sometimes things go sideways, and you get to decide how to roll with it.

~ Alexa

Top Tips for Photographing Kids in Knits

May 20, 2021

We love nothing better than seeing our kiddos all wrapped up in our knits, and we usually have our cameras at the ready! We’ve always photographed our kids in our knits, so if you want to take some fun and fab (and a little cheesy) pics of wee ones, we have a suggestion or two on how to make it work.

Here are our top nine tips for capturing beautiful photos of kids in knits. These pearls of wisdom have been polished up through years (and tears), so take notes!

1. Don’t ask kids to smile…it’s always suspect

The photographic evidence speaks for itself. Half the time, kids smile without being asked, but when you DO ask them? Well…just don’t expect top results!

Beloved Bonnet Pattern
Somewhere between four and six, kids learn to do this kind of smile. It’s cute, but…
Neve is wearing the Beloved bonnet and Ironheart sweater.
Strange Brew colourwork yoke recipe pattern
Max is wearing a yoke sweater I made using the Strange Brew colourwork yoke recipe pattern.
Moraine Sweater pattern
Then again, sometimes – despite all your best efforts – it’s just too cold to smile (eh, Hunter?!). She wasn’t quite warm enough in her Moraine sweater…Iceland is COLD.

2. Bring props

A good ‘esthetically inoffensive’ toy or two can keep the little wrigglers still long enough for you to capture the goods. We like neutral coloured blocks and toys, but any bit of junk will work!

Max and Bodhi's Wardrobe eBook
You EAT that wooden raccoon, Bodhi! Eat it right up! Alexa bought a set of neutral-coloured wooden toys as props when we were photographing Max & Bodhi’s Wardrobe. At just eight months old, Bodhi was already moving a mile a minute, so anything that could distract her for a few seconds was helpful. Here she’s wearing the Bumble beanie and Peanut vest.

Flowers, sticks, leaves, and stones all work, too. Just make sure to keep it safe because there’s nothing more parent-guilt-inducing than your kids’ hurting themselves while you’re snapping away behind a camera. (I’ve been there; I know!).

Snap Hat Pattern
Amelia was entranced by the colourful autumn leaves while I snapped some cute photos of her in the Snap hat. Bonus tips: A neutral wardrobe will keep the knit centre stage, and shooting with a low depth of field will give the background a blurred-out effect.

3. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it!

I like to set my camera to ‘rapid fire’ mode, especially with babies. Little ones don’t maintain the same facial expression for more than a split second, so you’ve gotta shoot FAST. And for the mood to be really ‘right’, you’ve gotta capture that split-second expression.

Strange Brew Yoke Sweater Recipe Pattern
We were on the most beautiful of holidays in the Canadian rockies, but Neve was having a bit of a moment – and I’m so happy I caught it! She’s wearing a Strange Brew yoke sweater.
Bounce Blanket pattern
Max, is that Bounce blanket tasty?!

4. Keep it short and sweet

Long photoshoots can be taxing on little ones and photographers alike, so I like to keep them short and sweet. I’ll weave a few photoshoots into the regular progression of a lazy weekend or take photos as part of a relaxed holiday – that way they don’t become too overwhelming. As for the sweet part, I like to keep my kids well-sugared for photoshoots. The next time I ask ‘pretty please can we take some pictures today?’, they’re champing at the bit because it’s a treat!

Prism Hat Pattern
Alexa took the ‘well-sugared’ advice to heart when she shot Hunter and Jones in their Prism hats. You can also notice the photographically inoffensive clothing she chose. Jean jackets forever!

5. Let them roam wild and free

I like to get my kids dressed up in their woollies and some neutral clothes, and then take them out to roam and play at a nearby park or beach. Photoshoots go well when kids are focussed on something other than the camera – and when you as the photographer take your time and watch for the shot. Just let kids play and be kids without any pressure to perform. They’re so beautiful when they’re playing!

Boardwalk cardigan pattern
Neve and I were just loving wandering along the Portobello front, and I captured this moment. How great does the Boardwalk sweater look against that minty green bench?!
Boardwalk sweater pattern
Hahahaha…a little bit later – and a LOT sandier!
Compass Sweater pattern
We went camping one summer. It was chilly (it’s Scotland), so Max and Neve were both wearing their Compass sweaters while playing in the lake. This wasn’t a planned photoshoot; I just happened to have my camera with me. The light was good, so I took advantage of the moment!

6. Avoid embellishments

Kids’ clothes (the ones my kids seem to reach for anyway) tend to be loud, with a metric tonne of sequins, sparkles, logos, graphics, and prints – and always pink, pink, pink. When I take them out to photograph, I cajole my little ones into a select supply of visually inoffensive clothes (which they’d never choose otherwise). I recommend denim, deep solids like black and navy, neutral colours, and tank tops, so the photo isn’t ruined by a neon shirt peeking out from underneath that oh-so-beautiful sweater. This allows the beauty of the kid and the beauty of the knit to shine without distraction.

7. Find simple backdrops

The best photographs draw the viewer’s eye to what’s important. We try to photograph kids against neutral, blurred-out backdrops, and we aim to contrast the backdrop with the model and knit in the foreground.

Antler Hat Pattern
I often use a nice, neutrally coloured stone wall as a backdrop. Ayanda is wearing the our free Antler toque.

We find that water, dark rocks, golden grass, sand, driftwood, and stone walls work well as neutral backdrops.

Caribou Cardigan pattern
Alexa often uses beach sand and blurry mountain backdrops. Hunter and Jones are wearing matching Caribou cardigans. For more delicious outdoorsy shoots and textured knits, check out the Road Trip eBook.

To achieve more of a ‘studio shoot’ aesthetic for our Mad Colour collection, we used industrial, painted walls as backdrops. This kept the images clean and minimalist but allowed us to find colour and contrast to highlight the knits.

Chromatic sweater pattern
Hunter is wearing the Chromatic sweater in a graphic black and white palette.

8. Bring a wrangler

You (nearly always) need a wrangler…or two. Having another adult around to look out for the safety of the situation is important. It lets me focus on the visuals and helps to keep stress levels manageable. And if I happen to be photographing only one of the kids, I’ll usually bring the other along as a playmate. The older kids get, the more they’re willing and able to follow directions, but Alexa and I love the simple authenticity of playful toddlers.

9. Use a neutrally dressed adult as prop or backdrop

Your wrangler may also serve as prop or backdrop! If you can convince them to wear some neutral clothing that won’t clash with the knit, that’s another win.

Antler cardigan pattern
John serves as a backdrop in this shot, wearing a black jacket and standing in front of a stone wall. Max was getting pretty playful that spring day, while wearing his Antler cardigan!
Max & Bodhi's Wardrobe eBook
John and Emily act as backdrops and support to Max and Bodhi, who are wearing nearly ALL the knits from Max & Bodhi’s Wardrobe!

So there you have it! Our nine tips for a great photoshoot with some happy, woolly clad children.

We’d love to hear any secrets you may have. Add a comment to share your tips for photographing wriggly kidlets!

~ Em

Woman with a big grin hugging two toddlers, all wearing colourwork jumpers
This is what it’s all about folks – you can tell they’re really loving, it, right?!

How to Use Stitch Markers

May 6, 2021

Of all the tools in my knitting pouch, stitch markers are the smallest, BUT they’re the ones I use most often. I always keep a few close by, buried at the bottom of every knitting bag (and I usually find a few hiding in my couch cushions as well). These tiny but useful little tools help to keep my knitting on track, and they’re often used to simplify pattern instructions. This post will help you add the mighty stitch marker into your knitting practice by going over the basics (what IS a stitch marker?), the terminology (BOR?), and some of the more advanced uses (lace, anyone?).

The basics

What is a stitch marker? There are lots of different ‘looks’ for stitch markers, but they boil down to two different types: the circular kind you put on your needles and the locking/removable kind (the ones that look like little safety pins) you put in your work . Do you need these fancy stitch markers? Nope! They definitely are fun, but you can always use a homemade version that will work just as well – like a bit of string tied in a circle or woven into a stitch.

A hand holding 2 stitch markers, one a black circle, and the other a metalic safety pin.
These are my two favourite types of stitch markers, the plain circle and the safety pin-ish version.

Circular stitch markers

The circular stitch marker is a loop of some kind that is placed onto your needle in between stitches. It marks a point between one stitch and the next. This marker sits on the needle just like a stitch. As you work the piece, whenever you come to the stitch marker, you will work the stitch prior to the marker, slip the marker from the left-hand needle to the right-hand needle, and then work the stitch following the marker. In this manner, the stitch marker stays in the same place, between stitches on each row as the knitting progresses. Note: some patterns use the symbol SM or slip marker, and some don’t. If you don’t see this note, just slip your markers from one needle to the next as you come to them. More on this later…

A bit of green knitting on the needles. A black circular stitch marker is on the right hand needle.
Here I have placed a stitch marker on my needle. It goes over the right-hand needle.
A bit of green knitting on the needles with a black circular stitch marker between stitches.
The marker sits on my needle between two stitches.

How to slip a circular marker

Once you have placed a marker in your work, you will need to move it as you come to it in subsequent rows.

  1. Work to marker.
  2. Move marker from left-hand needle to right-hand needle.
  3. Continue on your merry way.
A bit of green knitting on the needles with a black circular stitch marker 6 sts from the end of the needle.
First you will work to where your marker is. In the above image, the stitch marker is located 6 sts from where I am currently knitting.
A bit of green knitting on the needles with a black circular stitch marker on the left hand needle.
Once you have worked to your marker, it will be on your left-hand needle.
A bit of green knitting on the needles with a black circular stitch marker on the right hand needle.
Move the stitch marker from the left-hand needle to the right-hand needle.
A bit of green knitting on the needles with a black circular stitch marker a few stitches back from the next working stitch.
Continue on your merry way.

Removable stitch markers

The removable stitch marker, like a safety pin or even a bit of string that you can untie, is used to mark a stitch itself, or a point in the knitted fabric. It opens up, so it can be attached to a single stitch and left in the fabric. So as you continue working, and the fabric grows, it ends up far below the row in progress. Sometimes this means you need to remove it and move it up the stitch column as you proceed with your work.

A hand holding a safety pin type stitch marker that is open.
To place a locking/removable stitch marker in your work, the first step is to open the marker.
A bit of green knitting on the needles with a locking stitch marker in the work and a black circular stitch marker on the needles.
Here you can see the two different uses for stitch markers. I have used the locking/removable stitch marker to note a particular stitch and the round stitch marker to mark a spot in my knitting on the needles.

While you can use removable stitch markers in place of regular markers (by placing them on the needle, rather than in the fabric), you cannot use circular stitch markers in place of removable ones (because they don’t open and close).

Stitch markers are most often used as ‘landmarks’ in your knitting to orient you within a row. They let you know the point at which something changes or something special happens. For example, they may mark the decrease points on a hat, the increase points on a raglan sweater, or the points at which you switch from a stockinette stitch pattern to a different stitch pattern.

The Gramps Sweater – a removable marker example

Here in the Gramps sweater, locking stitch markers are placed at the beginning and end of this row. These markers will be useful later when picking up the button band and shawl collar.

A cardigan with the button band picked up. There are 2 locking stitch markers in the work.
Here in the Gramps sweater, I have two locking stitch markers, indicating where the neckline shaping has ended.

Another favourite use for removable stitch markers is noting my cable rows. I often forget which row or round I last cabled on, so I will sometimes place a marker in the cable row – then I can just count the subsequent rows to see if it’s time to cable again.

Abbreviations relating to stitch markers: PM, SM, and BOR

PM – Place Marker. When you see this in knitting instructions, it means you should place a circular marker on the needle at the point specified, between stitches. If a removable marker is called for, the instruction will be specific about this and say something like ‘mark the next stitch’ or ‘place a locking stitch marker at the end of the row’. In these circumstances, because you are marking the FABRIC, it’s necessary to use a removable marker, or thread a bit of waste yarn through the stitch itself. If it’s not specified, use a circular marker.

SM – Slip Marker. This is sometimes included to explicitly make clear that you have reached and passed a marker. You’ll work to the marker, slip the marker from the left-hand to the right-hand needle, and then proceed with the work.

Note: OFTEN, patterns do not explicitly include SM at each point where a marker is located. When there is nothing said about a marker, the default action you will take is to slip the marker from the left-hand to the right-hand needle, and then proceed with the work. This leaves the marker in place as a landmark for future actions.

BOR – Beginning of Round or Beginning of Round Marker. If you’re working a project ‘in the round’ on circular needles, you will often have a marker placed between the last stitch of a round and the first stitch of the next round. At the end of each round, you will slip this marker from the left-hand to the right-hand needle, leaving it in place.

CB – Centre Back or Centre Back Marker. This abbreviation is usually used in sweater patterns. The centre back marker is used to orient the patterning on a yoke or to indicate where the short rows will be worked at the back of the sweater. As is typical, if nothing is mentioned about this marker, simply slip it from the left-hand to the right-hand needle, leaving it in place as a landmark for future actions.

Orienting your work – some examples

One of the main functions of stitch markers is orienting your work. Markers can indicate where to stop and start stitch patterns or where to increase or decrease stitches, so you don’t have to count a specific number of stitches each time. They can be used to indicate a variety of different things; here are a few examples…

Shortening written instructions

Round 1: [k2tog, k56, ssk] around
Round 2: [k2tog, k54, ssk] around
Round 3: [k2tog, k52, ssk] around
Round 4: [k2tog, k50, ssk] around
etc.

With a marker, these same instruction can be shortened:

Round 1: [k2tog, knit to 2 sts from marker, ssk] around
Work round 1 a total of 4 times

It keeps things a little simpler, and you aren’t required to count large numbers each round. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been known to miscount occasionally.

Indicating where to change stitch patterns

If a knit has a significant portion of garter and a significant portion of stockinette, markers might indicate where to stop one type of stitch and where to start another.

For example: knit to marker, purl to marker, knit to marker, purl to marker…

A bit of orange knitting on the needles with 2 markers.
Here I have used markers to indicate where to work the ribbing, rather than garter stitch.

Indicating different parts of a garment

Markers can also indicate different parts of a garment. In a raglan yoke pullover, for example, you will likely have four markers indicating the different parts of the sweater, sleeves, front, and back.

The yoke of a white sweater viewed from above. 4 markers indicate the 4 sections of the yoke.
Here I have four markers separating the front, back, and each sleeve of this top-down raglan sweater.

Indicating where to work short rows

We often use markers to indicate where short rows should be worked. On a sweater, for example, you would place a marker at the centre back and work your short rows symmetrically on either side of that marker.

The yoke of a teal sweater viewed from above. 4 markers indicate the 4 sections of the yoke. and one marker is located at the centre of the back section.
Here I have placed a bright yellow stitch marker at the centre back, so I can work my short rows symmetrically around it.

Indicating where a panel starts and ends

Some designs have a panel of stitches that remain the same throughout. It’s helpful to mark this area to keep things clear. In the Barley hat, for example, we use stitch markers to indicate the garter panel.

The ribbing of a knit hat on the needles with 2 markers in the work. Arrows point to each marker, one with the words 'beginning of round marker' and the other with 'end of garter section marker'
Here I have two markers indicating where a garter panel will go.

Markers not in the pattern

Some patterns include stitch marker instructions, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find additional markers helpful! We don’t usually include instructions for marking pattern repeats, but it’s a practice some knitters find useful. If you’re working a pattern and find yourself forgetting to switch something, you might want to place an extra marker at that point as a little reminder.

Tip: If you’re placing additional markers that aren’t indicated in the pattern, you might want to use a different coloured marker. That way if a pattern states ‘work to marker’, you’ll know it’s not the extra markers you’ve placed, but the markers indicated in the pattern.

In the Flax sweater, for example, some knitters like to place markers on either side of the garter panel at the sleeves, so they don’t forget to switch from knit to purl at that point.

Many knitters like to place extra markers when working lace. It can be helpful in letting you know right away if you’ve missed a yarn over or a k2tog. You’ll know immediately if one section has too few or too many stitches.

Marking lace repeats can be a bit trickier. It is important to note that lace patterns can shift sometimes. If you’ve placed markers at each repeat for the first time you work through a chart, you may need to remove and re-place them for the next chart repeat. There also may be decreases that are worked over the marker. A central double decrease, for example, may use stitches from either side of a marker location. In this case, you’ll need to remove your marker, work the decrease, and then re-place the marker.

These are just a few examples of things you might want to use markers for, but of course there are many more!

Mark it up!

So now that you know how to use markers, you can keep your knitting on track! You’ll never miss an increase or forget to switch from knits to purls again – and you won’t even have to count!

For more helpful knitting tutorials, visit our support page here.

~Alexa

Knit Your Own Little Lullaby

April 29, 2021
several striped blanket swatches

Our newest blanket pattern, Lullaby, features a softly waving stitch pattern as old as the hills. There’s nothing groundbreaking or innovative here, and that’s by design. I’ve found that simple and meditative and knits bring me tranquility in trying times, and perhaps you feel the same way. That’s the beauty of this new pattern. The knitting is simple and soothing, while the design invites you to improvise with colour and texture.

We included four yarn weight options, and three sizes, making the Lullaby blanket pattern extremely flexible, so you can make it your way.

wavy striped pattern in three different yarn weights

Because we all have our preferences, Lullaby is written for four different yarn weights and three different sizes. You can make this blanket light as a feather for swaddling a tiny, new loved one – or knit it up as a fabulously chunky statement throw for snuggling under on the couch.

In addition to the Handspun Lullaby blanket I knit, I made several swatches to show some of the different weights and colour strategies you might explore with this comforting project.

Sock yarn rainbows

If you’re a fan of delicate knits, you can make Lullaby using sock yarn scraps. Each stripe doesn’t take much yarn, so odds and ends can be incorporated to make a quirky, striped blanket. And using one contrast colour throughout, whether it’s deep and dark or light and bright, will tie a ‘fruit salad’ of stripes together.

Wavy striped swatch in pink, golden, yellow, grey, blue and olive with white contrast lines between.

If you’re more comfortable with a solid plan, you can develop a special rainbow by choosing your colours a bit more intentionally, like I have for this swatch. Here I chose a rainbow of softer, warmer, and more nostalgic colours, and coupled them with a crisp white contrast colour. If you want to try this approach, we have a whole blog post that explores different ‘flavours’ of rainbow palettes that might inspire you.

Simple but striking monochrome

Wavy striped swatch in black and white marled yarn with white garter stitch lines between.

This aran / worsted weight swatch is made using a marled grey and white yarn with a white contrast colour. I used Mule Spinner 2-Ply by Custom Woolen Mills, an affordable, 100% Canadian wool. A blanket in this sort of palette would be VERY striking on a warm-coloured couch or in a modern, minimal nursery (that is, until it got stained with baby poo!).

Using a marled main colour adds texture to this knit in a very simple way. If you plan to work from sock yarns, you can hold two strands of sock yarn together to make up this heavier yarn weight and create your own marled effect.

Wavy striped swatch in black and white marled yarn with white garter stitch lines, on the needles, with cakes of yarn shown.

Bulky and scrappy

The last swatch illustrates how Lullaby looks at a bulky gauge. I didn’t have any bulky yarn in my stash, so I opted to create this heavier weight of yarn by holding several strands together. Here are some options for making up a more substantial weight of yarn: 

  • 1 strand DK + 2 strands sock
  • 1 strand Aran + 1 strand sock
  • 3 strands sock
  • 2 strands DK
  • 2 strands sock + 1 strand lace
Wavy striped swatch in marled stripes from purple, through blues and teals, green pinks to pale peach.

There are many more combinations that will work and add up to a bulky gauge – try for yourself and mix and match! The key is that you like the way the fabric feels.

Self-striping love

I’ve always had a soft spot for handspun and quirky self-striping yarns like Noro, Spincycle, and Zauberball. It can be a little tricky to match these special yarns with a pattern that enhances their beauty, but Lullaby looks exquisite with a self-striping yarn used for the main colour, and a solid used for the contrast colour. You can read the full story of my handspun Lullaby project here!

Handspun Lullaby Blanket

Simple, soft, and soothing

No matter how you knit it, the Lullaby blanket is a simple and soothing project, and it might be just the sort of knit you’re looking for right now. If you’re struggling to concentrate or find yourself reaching for a little soft comfort, get the pattern and cast on today!

~ Em

wavy striped pattern in three different yarn weights

Other TCK blanket patterns you might enjoy

Vivid Blanket Pattern

Vivid

Knit a rainbow of centre-out squares and then sew them together to make a Vivid knitted quilt. The pattern is supported by our Vivid Blanket Tutorial, and it’s great for stash-busting or playing with colour!

Bounce Blanket Pattern

Bounce

Stripe by bouncy, lace stripe, the Bounce blanket invites you to ‘just knit one more colour’. This is one of our most popular blanket patterns, with playful lace and an interesting result. It’s supported by a tutorial that teaches How to Knit a Central Double Decrease.

The Simple, Soft, and Soothing Lullaby Blanket

April 22, 2021
Striped wave blanket over stone wall

Recently I realized that simple and meditative knits bring me tranquility. I find myself drawn to projects that are uncomplicated and soothing to knit. This desire for simple comforts, combined with the ambition to use my most beautiful materials, inspired me to create Lullaby, our newest simple-but-satisfying blanket design.

Lullaby Blanket Pattern

Although I adore beautiful things, I’m really not much of a shopper. The exception to this rule is shopping for materials: fabric, yarn, fibre, art supplies, beads… These are the sort of things I love to shop for, buy, and collect. Materials are so full of potential for pleasure, for creativity, for transformation — and I find all of this potential very enticing.

Since I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo — and began following the sustainable fashion expert Aja Barber — my relationship to my THINGS has been changing. I’ve been feeling like there’s nothing worse than keeping the ‘good stuff’ hidden away. Instead, I want to share my space with exquisite materials and handmade things — so I can enjoy them on a daily basis. Life is just too short to keep beauty in a box. And so I set out to use these materials and create something both simple and beautiful.

The process of knitting a Lullaby is as soothing as wrapping it snugly around your shoulders. Soft waves of colour cascade over your knees as you knit, keeping you cozy and inspired by their ever-changing combinations. There is nothing complex, new, or groundbreaking here — just the comforting repetition of soft, undulating stripes. These gentle waves are shaped by a stitch pattern as old as the hills, like a lullaby passed down for generations, sung soft and low by a grandparent gently rocking their little one.

Lullaby Blanket Pattern

From fibre to fabulous

Lullaby, in all its simplicity, invites you to play with colour, texture, and halo to bring further richness and joy to the piece. The pattern includes three sizes and four yarn weight options, so there’s plenty of room to play.

Lullaby Blanket Pattern

In bringing Lullaby to life, I began with a delicious handspun yarn that sparked some serious joy for me. I started with two Lucky Dip fibre packs from Hedgehog Fibres, a weird and wonderful cornucopia of colour and textural bliss. Sometimes I like to NOT choose – and let others choose for me. Lucky Dip fibre packs are great for this. You get what you get, and then you work with it to make something unique and beautiful.

Dozens of small nests of colourful hand-dyed fibre piled on a table in all shades of the rainbow.

I decided to try a method that I’d seen of breaking up fibre into little tiny ‘nests’ and then spinning them together in random ways to blend a bunch of different colourways. Within the fibre pack, there were some warm colours (pinks, reds, rusts, purples), some cool colours (greens and blues), and some light colours (whites, pale tints, yellows).

Several bobbins full of colourful handspun singles, laid on a table, next to a finished skein of two-ply handspun.

I separated the nests into rough colour groupings and then spun and spun and spun to complete these lovely singles. I plied some of the singles together with themselves, and I plied some of them against other colour groups. In the end, I had 400g of the most joyful, rainbow-y, DK-weight, two-ply handspun yarn.

Two-ply handspun in a rainbow of vivid shades piled on a drying rack.
Six cakes of two-ply handspun yarn in rainbow colours arranged on a table.

Yarn in hand, I wanted to cast on Right Away. The material was SO delicious, and I was itching to get started. So I thought, I swatched, and I thought and swatched some more. I finally decided that I would design the most simple of blankets in order to use up every last drop of yarn in a single project. I couldn’t let any of this beauty end up back in a plastic box! Lullaby was born, and it proved to be just right for satisfying my need for simple comfort and exquisite beauty. From start to finish, this project was a sensual delight, and I hope you find as much joy in it as I did.

Lullaby Blanket Pattern

How will I knit my next Lullaby blanket?

Well, I’ll probably make it a scrappy, marled rainbow. I have loads of really beautiful sock yarn scraps, and I’m always looking for ways to use them. Next week I’ll share my exploration of these ideas in a more detailed post about Lullaby colour options and strategies that I hope will inspire you.

~ Em

Lullaby Blanket Pattern

How to Get the Perfect Neckline

April 8, 2021

Creating the perfect fit in a seamless sweater often depends heavily on the neckline. If you’re working top-down, for example, and the cast-on is too loose, the neckline can ‘spread’ and become too wide. If you’re working bottom-up and your bind-off is too tight, the sweater might not go over your head. You also might prefer a wider or narrower neckline than the pattern suggests. Below we offer some tips for creating that perfect neckline – and one method for fixing a neckline that isn’t to your liking.

Thinking ahead

Planning ahead is the best way to get your neckline juuuuust right. It’s always easier to get something right the first time, rather than having to go back and fix it, right? So start by considering your own knitting style… Is your ribbing usually a little looser? How firm is your cast-on? Think about how these things will affect your preferred neckline before embarking on your sweater. It will be a huge help, especially if you’re knitting top-down.

Adding structure

When knitting a sweater from the top-down, you’ll often cast on, work the ribbing, then the yoke, etc., so the whole sweater ‘hangs’ from that cast-on. If you have a firm cast-on and it’s a smaller sweater – or you’re using a lightweight yarn – this isn’t a big deal. But if you’re working on a larger sweater or using a heavier yarn, that’s a lot of weight to hang from your cast-on. If it’s not firm enough, the stitches can start to spread; this might result in a more open neckline than you want.

One answer to this problem is adding in a little extra structure. If you’re planning ahead, you can try casting on and skipping the ribbing. Work the yoke and the rest of the sweater first. At the very end, pick up and knit one stitch in each stitch cast-on and then work the ribbing. This way the sweater ‘hangs’ from the seam where you picked up the ribbing, rather than from the cast-on. If you use this method, try the sweater on. If you find the neckline is still too wide for your liking, you can rip back to the pick-up, work a decrease round, and then work your ribbing on fewer stitches.

Marshland sweater pattern
The Marshland sweater makes use of this technique. The yoke starts with a cast-on, and the neckline ribbing is worked last.

Hedging your bets

If you’re unsure whether the neckline will be to your liking in the end, you can always start with a provisional cast-on. (We have a provisional cast-on tutorial here and an alternative provisional cast-on method here!) Cast on using the provisional method of your choosing and skip the ribbing. Once your sweater is complete, you have some options:

  1. Unzip the provisional cast-on, work the ribbing, and then bind off.
  2. Unzip the provisional cast-on and bind-off, pick up and knit one stitch in each bound-off stitch, and then work the ribbing. (This adds a little structure.)
  3. Adjust the neckline stitches by working a decrease round before the ribbing.
  4. Adjust the bind-off round by using smaller or larger needles to get the right firmness.

Casting on provisionally and then working the neckline last is a bit fussier than just casting on and working the neckline first – but it it gives you the flexibility to adjust this critical area without too much trouble.

Love Note pattern
The Love Note sweater starts with a provisional cast-on, and this ethereal sweater hangs beautifully from a firm bind off.

Working bottom-up

One of the major benefits of a bottom-up sweater is easy neckline adjustments. It isn’t too much trouble to unpick the bind-off or the ribbing and try again. If you find your neckline is too loose for your liking, you can work an extra decrease round before the ribbing, or try a tighter bind-off. If you find your sweater needs a little extra structure, you can work a bind-off before the neckline ribbing, pick up and knit one stitch in each of the bound-off stitches, and then work your ribbing. It will hold firm and prevent the neckline from stretching out too much.

Antler pullover pattern
The Antler Pullover is knit from the bottom-up, so you have extra flexibility in getting the perfect number of stitches and structure at the neckline.

Making adjustments after the fact

So you’ve knit an amazing sweater, but the neckline just isn’t what you wanted it to be. If you’ve knit your sweater bottom-up, the fix is easy. But top-down? Not so much. Don’t lose hope, though! We have a few suggested fixes to get that sweater into regular wardrobe rotation! It can feel fiddly to fix the neckline after the fact, but we promise it’s worth it! You’ve put a lot of love and energy into your work of art, and it’s well worth the effort to get it just the way you like it.

Adding a bit of structure

One way to tighten up a neckline and add a bit of structure is to work a crochet chain around the inside of the sweater at the bottom of the ribbing. The crochet chain isn’t stretchy the way your knitting is at this point in the sweater, so it will hold firm.

Cutting off the ribbing and reworking the neckline

Thinking about cutting into your knitting is a bit scary, but don’t worry – this is only minor surgery! Because of the way knit stitches work, you can’t simply undo the cast-on and unravel the ribbing. (We tried it, so you don’t have to… but if you don’t believe us, go forth.) Instead, you need to insert your needle below the ribbing, cut one stitch, and take the ribbing off (described in detail below). Note that the photos show removing the ribbing on a bottom-up sweater, but all the steps are exactly the same to remove the ribbing on a top-down sweater.

  1. Insert a small needle through one ‘leg’ of each stitch. Make sure to keep in the same round.
  2. Cut one stitch and unpick the round below your needle.
  3. Remove the ribbing.
  4. Join new yarn, and you’re ready to redo that ribbing as you see fit.
A hand holding the ribbed hem of a sweater with a small knitting needle through the stitches above the ribbing.
Insert a small needle through one ‘leg’ of each stitch. Make sure to keep in the same round.
Needles inserted through the stitches above the ribbing at the hem of a sweater. Scissors ready to cut a single stitch below the needles.
Cut one stitch and unpick the round below your needle.
A knitting needle is inserted through live stitches and the ribbing of the sweater is being removed.
This is what it looks like as you undo the round above your needles.
A sweater with needles through the live stitches at the bottom and the removed ribbing underneath it.
Here we’ve removed the hem ribbing of a bottom-up sweater, but the steps are just the same for removing the neckline ribbing of a top-down sweater.

Once you’ve got that ribbing off and live stitches on your needles, you can work any of the changes listed in the ‘hedging your bets’ section above. It’s as if you’ve unzipped your provisional cast-on and are ready to go!

This is also the method you would use if you knit a sweater from the bottom-up but want to add or remove length in the body or sleeves. Insert your needle above the ribbing (or wherever you want to change the length), cut, and remove the ribbing. Then you can make your length adjustments and redo that ribbing.

Looking for more helpful sweater knitting tutorials?

We love sweater knitting, so we’ve created lots of sweater knitting tutorials!

  1. Knitting Hack: the provisional cast-on
  2. Let’s knit a bottom-up sweater
  3. Let’s knit a colourwork sweater
  4. How to block a hand-knit sweater
  5. How to knit a garment at a different gauge

Or you can find ALL our tutorials here!

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