Test driving my sleeve-swatch

Slade cardigan in progress

This is a picture of me being more diligent than I have perhaps ever been about anything. Also: putting the slow in slow fashion. Toward the end of last month, I accepted the fact that all I have headroom for right now is stockinette. But you know how I like to always be learning something new, so I decided it’s time to make an old-school seamed sweater.

Last summer, my friends at Shibui sent me a big box of yarn, including a sweater’s worth of their Merino Alpaca in this artichoke color I love. I’d been looking for just the right thing to do with it, when along came Slade. It seemed to me the two might be made for each other. Knitted in this yarn, in this color, I suspected it would look like it could actually be Army-issue — if the Army had a taste for fine yarns. An officer’s sweater maybe, from the days when things were still made of wool. Right? On the one hand this a nice, relatively mindless project, being a whole bunch of stockinette. But on the other hand, since I’m changing the yarn (and with it the row gauge) and some of the shaping, and have never dealt with mods or discrepancies around a set-in sleeve before, it’s also a whole new experience. I told myself going in that I would not rush it. If I get it right, this is a sweater I will wear for years, so I might as well take my time knitting it and make sure I do, in fact, get it right.

I admit it might be taking a little longer than I intended.

I’m a big believer in the sleeve-as-swatch theory of sweater knitting. (The best swatch is a big swatch, so why not a sleeve?) So that first week I made this sleeve. And a couple weeks later, I blocked it. It blocked beautifully — I’m in love with the fabric. The widths are all exactly as intended. I intentionally made the sleeve longer and a little narrower at the wrist than the pattern calls for, but the armhole is deeper than the pattern dimensions, because my row gauge is bigger. So I did some number-crunching and pondering, and asked Michele Wang some noob questions. And it sat in its bag, waiting.

The other night, I was having a mild case of that out-of-sorts feeling that comes from not knitting for days — you know the one — so I took five minutes and pinned the sleeve along the eventual seam, so I could pull it on. (It’s kind of weird how much good that five minutes of interacting with yarn did me.) And then yesterday I pinned it to this shirt — a shirt of my husband’s I cut the neck and sleeves off of long ago — and wore it around a little bit to see how it felt. After a month, and all that due diligence, this sweater is officially a go.


The reason for no knitting this week? The overwhelming response to the Yarn Pyramid. I have been shipping nonstop, all over the globe (and to a couple of new stores I’ll announce next week), and am so thrilled that you all love it so much. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to everyone who has not only ordered it or visited one of the stockists to buy it, but who has blogged about it or shared it on social media or even just said to me how much you like it. It means so, so much to me. And if you’re someone who got a crazy international shipping quote from me in the first couple of days, I have better news for you and will be in touch.

By the way, if you’re not on the Fringe Supply Co. mailing list, you might want to pop over there and plug your email address into the sign-up box. Just sayin’.

Have a great weekend, everyone! Love to hear what you’re working on …


18 thoughts on “Test driving my sleeve-swatch

  1. Hi Karen:

    If you haven’t already figured out the arm scye modifications to go with your sleeve, check out Amy Herzog’s book and also the calculator at frenchroastdesign.com.


    • I really do need to get that book — keep meaning to. But I think in this case the armhole will be fine because the row gauge will be the same for the body, so proportionally sound. The mods I’m making are more along the lines of knitting front pieces one size larger than the arms but making sure I match the smaller size’s armhole counts.

  2. Looks wonderful, Karen. I have wanted to work with that yarn, but it is very pricey, so it’s nice to get your feedback. And that color is such a good one. Neutral, but also interacts with other colors in such an interesting way.

    And huge congrats on your classy, clever poster!

    • Thanks, Clare. I’ve had two skeins of this before (one black, one natural), that wound up getting used in odd and random ways — mainly big Tunisian crochet stitch-sampler swatches — so I knew I loved it and wanted to work with it for real. It’s going to make a wonderful, warm, durable sweater, I think.

      And yes, I have a lifelong love of military-inspired fashion, but also think, generally speaking, that army green is a most excellent neutral.

  3. Karen, thanks for the sweater post yesterday – totally inspiring!
    And that yarn knit up looks beautiful – can’t wait to see the whole sweater.
    For me this weekend its all about working on holiday gifts with beautiful yarns. And lots and lots of other sweet things for our shop. Gotta get my holiday card design out of my head and into reality. Love this time of the year!

  4. the sleeve sits very well… I’m sure the sweater will be a long-lasting success!
    by the way, reading about your mods to the husband’s shirt just gave me a cool idea for reuse of an unused boyfriend’s shirt, thanks :)

  5. I knit my first seamed, set-in-sleeve sweater earlier this fall and, I have to say, it was awesome. (And I mean that in the awe-filling true definition of the word.) It felt like a real sweater. The kind of sturdy, well-fit, wear-it-forever garment that is what I want sweater knitting to be.

    That colour is so fantastic and I can’t wait to see this progress – I know you’ll love it.

  6. OMG your stitches look perfect. So jealous. It really is a wonderful wearable sweater. Hope you share your mods. That’s where we really learn.

  7. I’m working right now on my first baby blanket and trying to figure out how to sew a piece of fabric on the wrong side… Any clue?
    Thank you by the way for sharing your knitting experience and for all you tips.

  8. oh, i finished a set-in-sleeve cardigan a while ago, but i made sooo many modifications that the sleeve do not fit into the body… the armhole on the body was too long and I wanted to a have a good fitting sleeve, so now the cardigan rests and i’m thinking about wheter to smaller the armholes on the body or to increase the width of the sleeve…. anyhow the cardigan is very beautiful and i planned to wear it all winter, but now…. :-) perhaps i just rip the sleeves as they are too long too :-)

  9. Pingback: reuse projects | weestorybook

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