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Stripes and Other Hacks for the Flax Sweater

August 27, 2020
The yoke of a striped sweater in purple, pale blue, and golden yellow
The yoke of a striped sweater in purple, pale blue, and golden yellow

I hope you are holding up, managing day by day the impacts that the pandemic continues to have on work, family, and community life. Personally, I chant to myself almost daily, ‘The kids are fine. The kids are happy. The kids are safe.’ And ‘John and I will manage; we will adapt.’ This mantra usually keeps me calm, but as the losses mount up, my sadness about what won’t be possible this year threatens to overwhelm me.

Those who follow us know that the uncertainty of the times put me in the mood to knit everything simple – lovely, easy things that would keep my hands busy and my mind occupied. So the handspun skeins were pulled out to make Beloved bonnets because there’s just nothing cuter.

Handspun skeins in deep blues and purples, pale blue, and buttery yellow
Beloved Handspun Bonnet Blog Post
I think my daughter Neve was two when she wore this bonnet. Two years later, she’s still just as square-cheeked and mischievous – just a lot taller!

Even after knitting a number of bonnets, I still had some significant leftovers, and I wanted to get them out of boxes and on to the needles. This little lovely for Neve was the result.

Little kid in a striped raglan sweater in purple, pale teal, gold and green, sitting on a log.

This project was my way of not only staying busy, but also using up ‘every last drop’ of a couple handspun skeins that I loved to bits. I bought this yarn a while back during a particularly difficult time, so it felt like a major luxury – a pick-me-up treat for myself. (So of course, it got stuffed into plastic boxes and hidden from the world like the rest of my precious stash!)

A striped raglan sweater in purple, pale teal, gold and green laid flat on a yellow quilt

Pattern modifications

I got started on this simple-but-satisfying project using our free Flax sweater pattern, but I made some minor modifications. First, I striped it to make the precious handpun stretch further, working three rounds of handspun yard and then two rounds of mill-spun yarn. I also used a few more hacks along the way:

  • I worked with slightly lighter-weight yarns, so I followed the stitch counts for the 6-8 year size. At my smaller gauge, the sweater came out measuring 24″ around (not 26″), and it will fit my four-year-old for a year or two. (Read our tutorial on How to Knit a Garment at a Different Gauge for more info on this technique.)
  • I skipped the garter stitch panels at the sleeves.
  • Instead of kfb increases at the raglan lines, I knit ‘under the bar’ – an increase that creates tiny holes in the work that aren’t as large as yarn-overs.

You can make a cute, stripey sweater like Neve’s by downloading our free Flax sweater or free Flax Light sweater patterns. Either pattern will serve as an excellent ‘blank canvas’ for trying out a design idea.

More Flax hacks

This is not the first time our Flax pattern has been hacked! Check out some others below…

Lace Flax Hack Blog Post
This lace panel sweater was knit using the Flax pattern with a little lace added!
Flax Sweater Cable Hack Blog Post
Alexa used the free Flax pattern as a base to make this cute little cable panel sweater.
Smiling baby in a sweater with bright and deep red stripes.
Clearly I love stripes! This little Flax sweater got a lot of play when Max and Neve were babies.

Soft, colourful, and ‘made just for her,’ this new, stripey number has become Neve’s go-to sweater this summer. Here in Edinburgh, it can get pretty chilly, even in the middle of summer, so we don’t go out without a jumper just in case!

A child holds a flower in small hands, the cuffs of her sweater are striped gold and pale teal.
I ran out of handspun on the last part of the sleeves, so I just striped the two mill-spun yarns.
Child smiles up at the camera, framed by green underbrush wearing a striped sweater.
A child, ponytail swinging, runs along a forest path wearing a striped sweater.

This, too, shall pass

This sweater, for me personally, has a number of bittersweet memories knit into it. I cast on feverishly and knit away, anxious and uncertain as lockdown here in Edinburgh was just beginning. I photographed it on Neve’s 4th birthday, when we enjoyed a family outing to a nearby park, instead of the party with friends we had hoped for.

I know ‘this, too, shall pass.’ There will be more happy birthdays to celebrate and fun summers to soak in. But I’d be lying if I said this ‘new normal’ we’re all experiencing hasn’t been a daily challenge; I often find myself feeling like I just can’t keep up. So I do what I can do. I focus on today, juggling work and family as best I can. I call a friend. I cast on something simple and joyful – and I get to bed early, so I can wake up and do it all again tomorrow.

~ Emily

Smiling child looks up into the camera
15 Comments leave one →
  1. Doodle Pirate permalink
    July 8, 2021 6:20 pm

    Iis there a Flax Hack for making it into a cardigan? I’m in the process of hand spinning some aran weight yarn for matching sweaters for myself and my teenager. However, I want a pullover and the teenager wants a button-up. However, we both agree that we like Flax :)

    I’m new to sweater construction so would love any pointers.

    Thank you for everything you do!

    • July 11, 2021 11:57 pm

      Hi – the short answer is no, we’ve not done this hack yet! The long answer is there’s probably a good blog post out there on the internet that would give you tips for converting a top-down sweater pattern to a cardigan… Sorry to not be of more help, and I’ll keep it in mind for a future blog post!

  2. September 18, 2020 9:58 am

    Is there a tutorial for making the “Under the Bar” increases? Thank you!

  3. Olivia permalink
    August 31, 2020 4:58 am

    You have such an amazing sense of color. That little sweater is just precious and even more so on that sweet faced little girl. I couldn’t sleep early this morning and made the mistake of reading the news. I just laid back down and cried. I’m so frightened for what our country is becoming. I’m dismayed at why no one stops this madman in our White House. I’m afraid for the whole world. We have the pandemic and this horrible racism crisis to contend with. We also have to worry about interference in our election which seems a foregone conclusion. Every day gets worse and I can’t understand why no one is stopping it. I’m so thankful I have knitting and my blog buddies to fall back on, calm my anxious nerves and start another day again.

  4. August 31, 2020 4:02 am

    Beautiful sweater and ideas for knitting it. I love that cable front version too. This staying home and doing nothing is really getting old… so I hear ya. Thank God I knit. Neve is the best little model…!

  5. helenmatheyhornbooks permalink
    August 30, 2020 9:37 pm

    The sweater is beautiful! The yarns just combine fantastically. Nice job.

  6. janet permalink
    August 29, 2020 5:31 am

    oh my! it’s all so new, right? i keep thinking that we can’t look to what was as being what will be again – we are living in history right now. i try to remember that. it’s been done before (1918) and likely will be again. we will make it through. my mantra is “all is well and all shall be well” – and i like yours. take good care and thank you for continuing to share with all of us.

  7. Annmarie Signey permalink
    August 28, 2020 6:16 am

    Flax is a great pattern to hack. I added a skirt with stars and made it into a Wonder Woman themed outfit for the grandaughter. There are pictures on my handknitsbyannmarie FB page
    Both my husband and 2nd born have Flax light sweaters, one with and one without garter stitch sleeve detail.

  8. Judy Barnes permalink
    August 27, 2020 12:50 pm

    The various shades of blue in the sweater are beautiful and I love the artistic way you have arranged the stripes so they’re not uniform and boring!

    • janet permalink
      August 29, 2020 5:31 am

      right?? it’s really beautiful!

  9. jenknitter permalink
    August 27, 2020 12:01 pm

    I have a couple of Flax modifications I can share with you. Feel free to use them for whatever.

  10. Carol Histand permalink
    August 27, 2020 11:25 am

    Thank you for your patterns, tips, and great tutorials:) Love the stripes and what a great way to use your handspun! I’m not familiar with “knit below bar” increase method…can you elaborate?

  11. mellenknits permalink
    August 27, 2020 6:31 am

    Neve’s smile shows that she clearly loves her new sweater! While the celebration of her birthday may not have been exactly as you hoped, she will likely only remember that her mum made her a fantastic gift and took her for a fun romp in the woods. Kids are resilient and their memories are very forgiving – we moms need to remember that, and be kind to ourselves too. Be safe, be well!

  12. August 27, 2020 6:21 am

    Thank you for this, for the pattern and advice about adjusting the pattern, for the lovely photos of your children, and for “this too shall pass” which was the quote my mother brought to me at the hospital after the birth of my first child. Last year, I made sweaters for my grandchildren in stripes or orange and blue and shocking pink. Like you, during lockdown I have been using my stash of precious hand-spun yarn, though in weaving.

    Sometimes I am asked to provide my opinion about whether I would recommend a source or site. I always recommend yours.

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