KTFO-2016.2 : Bob’s rollneck sweater

KTFO-2016.2 : Bob's rollneck

I can’t believe it’s the end of February and I’m just now posting my second FO of the year. There are three more things completed since #1; it’s just taking me a bit of time to get them written up! Anyway—

For a long, long time, as many of you will recall, Bob and debated what kind of sweater I should make him. His favorite sweater of all time is a charcoal grey rollneck from J.Crew from six or eight years ago — you know the one; it comes around every ten years or so. It fits him perfectly, looks amazing on him, but he almost never wears it because it’s heavyweight, very densely knitted, 100% wool. It’s super hot, and the weather is rarely cold enough (in either CA or TN) for him to wear it — which is a shame, because it’s so perfect. So in the end we decided to try to make the closest possible replica, but more wearable. The yarn is O-Wool Balance (in Emerald), which is as ideal for husbands as it is for babies: It’s an organic, machine-washable yarn (nothing at all like those superwash wools) that is 50% cotton and 50% wool. And it’s what I would consider light worsted weight. So this sweater is thinner and less hot than his beloved charcoal sweater, and it can go in the machine — which, I should note, it will need to do a little more often because cotton does tend to bag out a bit in the wearing.

The key difference between the green replica and the original is that greenie is raglan sleeved, whereas the J.Crew classic is saddle-shouldered. Knowing how picky Bob is about fit, I was determined to knit it top-down so I could put it on him and check it and get his buy-in at every step along the way. And while it’s possible to do a top-down saddle-shoulder, I’ve not done it before, and for this one I wanted to stay on known ground for the best chance of a solid outcome.

KTFO-2016.2 : Bob's rollneck

I’m giving myself a B- on note-taking on this one — there are a few details I failed to record in my notebook along the way — but for anyone who knows how to knit a top-down sweater and wants to recreate this, these top-line specifics should get you there.




5.25 sts and 7.25 rows = 1″, measured over 4″ in stockinette, knitted on US6 needles


44″ chest = 238 sts
14″ upper arm circumference = 74 sts (76 with selvage sts)
9″ cuff circumference = 48 sts (50 w/selvage)
27″ total length
2.5″ front neck drop
9″ yoke/armhole depth
19″ body length (3″ hem ribbing)
19″ sleeve length (3″ cuff ribbing)
3″ rollneck


– Wanted 6.5″ back neck measurement = 33 sts, plus 10 for each sleeve, 1 for each raglan and 1 each at the front neck

– Thus CO 59 sts, divided with markers as follows ( 1 | 1 | 10 | 1 | 33 | 1 | 10 | 1 | 1 )

– Planned on 16 sts cast on at each underarm

– Increased (kfb) on each side of the raglans and at front neck every other row, casting on front sts to match back count and joining in the round when back measured 2.5″ deep

– Before going too much further, knitted the neck — picked up sts exactly as if I were ribbing the neck band (didn’t record st count, sorry) and worked in stockinette for 3″, decreasing twice along the way, in line with each back neck/shoulder seam (total of 4 sts dec)

– Continued increasing sleeve sts until 58 each (+16 cast on for underarm = target of 74) and increasing front and back until 103 sts each (+16 = 119 each; front + back = target of 238) (counted raglan sts as body sts)

– At 9″ yoke depth, set aside sleeve sts, cast on the 16 at each underarm, marking the center stitch (side seam “basting stitch”), and joined body in the round; from this point worked the stitch at the side seam as a purl stitch to be mattress stitched later

– Can’t remember if I decreased at the side seams once or twice as I headed toward the hem, but I think just once; worked 1×1 ribbing for 3″ on US5 needles, I think (maybe 4s?)

– Opted to knit the sleeves flat (turning the work to knit back and forth) and seam them — picked up one extra stitch at each end of the armhole cast-on and those were my selvage stitches; decreased every 8th row until 50 sts (48 cuff sts plus 2 selvage); worked 1×1 ribbing for 3″

– Oh, and there is that one teensy mistake no one will ever see.

The sleeves have been seamed, obviously, but I haven’t mattress stitched the sides yet. I also am reserving the right to seam up that single stitch at each raglan if the sweater appears to be bagging out in the yoke at some future date!

We’re both really happy with the sweater — and you can see in the photo below how well I managed to match the original’s dimensions. In most ways, the fact that this sweater is lighter and thinner is a plus, but it’s proving to be not ideal for the rollneck. The fabric just doesn’t have enough body to resist the roll, and wants to roll all the way down pretty quickly rather than standing its ground a bit, so there may be a neck band alteration in its future. Other than that, four thumbs up!

KTFO-2016.2 : Bob's rollneck

PREVIOUSLY in FOs: Wool gauze pullover

37 thoughts on “KTFO-2016.2 : Bob’s rollneck sweater

  1. It’s really nice and I love that green. Nice work! And your details are fascinating. I’m wondering why you decided to knit the sleeves flat instead of circular?

    • I believe in seams, but especially where sleeves are concerned. They take so much wear and tear and pushing and pulling. So I would either include a basting stitch and seam it, or knit flat and seam. I’ve come to prefer knitting sleeves flat — I just think it’s much faster to knit flat and seam than to fiddle with knitting them in the round. ESPECIALLY when they’re attached to the body of a top-down sweater. Having a whole sweater spinning around in your lap while knitting sleeves is the one part of top-down I really don’t enjoy. (And I mostly knit the sleeves before the body for that reason.) This is the first time I’d knitted top-down sleeves flat like this, and it was a vastly more pleasant experience — none of the sweater spinning.

  2. this is awesome, I have a rollneck sweater that I want to duplicate so seeing what you did is extremely helpful! also, that pic of you two in the mirror is SO CUTE <3

  3. Oh yeah, the J. Crew rollneck; I had a couple in the ’80s that I loved. Bob’s sweater looks great, and I love the colour. And as far as only documenting two of the five or so objects you finished this month? Well, you finished five. I think I managed two.

  4. Just curious — while I understand that everyone’s preferences for knitting sweaters in the round differ (such as your preference for seaming sleeves), I am curious as to why you feel that seaming sleeves helps the sleeve stand up to more abuse (“wear and tear and pushing and pulling”
    ) than knitting them in the round. As top down raglan sweaters form a substantial part of my winter knitting, I’m picking your brain on this topic. Thanks!

    • Just for exactly that reason — all the wear and tear. Seams are the only thing that helps a sweater keep its shape — with time and wear and gravity working against it — which is why they’re important in shoulders and sides and sleeves.

  5. From my mom, an ardent Fringe reader: “Karen makes me feel so normal. My mom used to rag on me since I never created something the way the instructions said. I wasn’t the expert and should follow the rules of the expert. Karen always tweaks! YAY!”

    xoxo :)

    • Ha — so your mom is a tweaker who gave birth to someone who reinvents garment structure entirely! I like that trajectory. (No offense to grandma.)

      Hi, Bristol’s mom!

      • After she made that comment I said “I understand so much better now why my entire childhood was about experimentation and not following the instructions.” She’s sneaky, that momma of mine!

  6. Thanks for these great notes, KT. I’ve owed a similar pullover to my hubby, Mark, for much too long and Bob’s sweater will give me a lot to consider. While I like the idea of the wool/cotton blend, I probably will go 100% as the baggy issue will likely drive Mark crazy. Here’s the thing: he shrank the last pullover I knit him but I really dislike superwash … if you have any suggestions for another alternative, I’m all ears!

  7. I knit my husband a sweater in the fall but it was so warm so I’ve been looking for a cotton and wool blend and I may have to try this yarn next. Plus my favorite color is green so I’m always putting him in it :)

    • Yep, I’ve stated the 1″ numbers (for the sake of anyone following along with the math) but noted that it was measured over 4″ — you never want to measure just one inch.

  8. I’ve just discovered your blog and love reading it! Not sure why I never saw it previously, as I’ve certainly ordered from Fringe before. Well……better late than never ;-) I got hooked the minute I saw your Bellows on Rav. What a gorgeous sweater. I’ve shied away from cotton before because it’s so un-giving-like, but now you’ve convinced me to try Balance.
    Your roll neck sweater is probably one of the few styles I’ve seen that my DH might consider wearing. And hey, if he doesn’t, I can always wear it as a big, oversized tunic!

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  10. Hope it isn’t too late to leave this–really a question, well a couple. I love Bob’s sweater, love O Wool. And based on your Bellows, I bought enough to make mine out of the same yarn. It has been sitting in my closet for a year, but I’m swatching it today, so… How is Bellows wearing? Is is stretching, as you suggest Bob’s will? Do you machine wash it? Since you knit the body as one piece, how are the side seams doing? Did you reinforce them in any way? Thanks so much? :-)

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