Fringe and Friends Knitalong 2016 : Preview and plans

Fringe and Friends Knitalong 2016 : Preview and plans

The pattern: Improvised top-down — no patterns allowed!
The schedule: August 15 through September 30, 2016
The hashtag: #fringeandfriendsKAL2016

This is by far the most advance notice I’ve ever given about a knitalong — and with good reason! I’m talking about the Fringe and Friends Knitalong for Fall 2016 here, and this one is a little different. Whereas in 2014 we knitted the Amanda fisherman-style cardigan (or other fisherman pattern of your choosing) and in 2015 we knitted the Cowichan-style Geometric Vest (or other Cowichan-style pattern of your choosing), this year there is no pattern. I don’t mean it’s a free-for-all — I mean we’re making up our own top-down sweaters, no patterns allowed! So I thought it might be good to give you a little extra time to dream up your sweater, read my tutorial on how to improvise a top-down sweater if you haven’t done it before, and generally prepare for what’s bound to be one helluva fun challenge. Plus we’re starting a little earlier this year, so consider this fair warning!

While I’m insanely proud of the tutorial and the untold number and variety of sweaters that have been knitted from it over the past few years, the photos are horrendous! It’s long been a goal of mine to update the images and some of the text, and I’m currently working on that. It will all be spiffed up before the knitalong begins.


I’ll officially kick off the knitalong on Monday Aug 15 with a simple outline of how top-down works (a new companion to the full tutorial), followed by this year’s Meet the Panel post! (I’ve got a really fun group lined up.) After that, I’ll have a post each week exploring some variations or techniques not included in the original tutorial. We’ll wrap that up at by the end of September (in time for Slow Fashion October to kick off!) and I’ll show you the finished panelist sweaters as they’re completed.


There is no sign-up form or deadline (or Ravelry group to join) or anything like that. To knit along, simply knit along! It can be any sweater you have in your head that works as a top-down sweater — pullover or cardigan, plain or embellished, whatever yarn/gauge your heart desires. My tutorial covers raglan-style sweaters, but if you are familiar with other top-down approaches (such as contiguous set-in sleeves) and want to use those methods, that’s totally cool — as long as A) it’s top-down and B) there’s no pattern. If you’ve never done this before, here’s your chance to learn how to knit without a pattern, completely to your own shape and preferences, and to gain an invaluable understanding of how sweater shaping works in the process — which will make you a more confident knitter and enable you to tailor patterns to your liking in the future!

Ask questions and share your progress in the comments here, and/or use the hashtag #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 wherever you post. You’ll have a whole raft of people willing to help!


Yes, there will be prizes. For this one, I’m going back to the “WIP of the Week” idea from the first year. Post your progress photos between Aug 15 and Sept 30, using hashtag #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 (on Instagram, Ravelry or Twitter) and I’ll pick a winner each week, which I’ll also feature on the blog.

That’s it! I’m soooo excited to see the variety of sweaters that will materialize as part of this, as well as the friendships that always form among participants along the way. Are you excited? Do you already have ideas about what to make? Let’s hear it!

SEE ALSO: FAQ and Addenda and Top-Down Ideas for me and you

Yarn pictured is Lettlopi in color 1413; brass stitch markers from Fringe Supply Co.

73 thoughts on “Fringe and Friends Knitalong 2016 : Preview and plans

  1. This is so fun! I can’t even imagine knitting without a pattern (I’m a Virgo that way!), but I’m game for being pushed out of my comfort zone. I’m really looking forward to this!

    • Also a Virgo. Also can’t imagine knitting a whole sweater without a pattern. Thinking of giving it a try. Yikes.

  2. Excited for this! A few months ago I used Barbara Walkers book to try and make a top down – utter failure, so with this maybe I will pick up enough tips and tricks to have a wearable sweater. Glad I spent part of the weekend sorting stash, now I know what I have for SQ of yarn.

  3. Ah, cool. I’d love it if one of the posts were about how to work top-down set-in sleeves. I’ve wanted to use your tutorial for a couple years but have always stopped myself because raglan sleeves don’t look great on my shoulders.

  4. Love the purple yarn in your 7/18/16 photo — can you share what yarn you’re using here?

  5. I’m in, I’m in, I’m sooo in. Even though the thought of not using a pattern terrifies me, I am all in! Thanks for this push- it is the next step in my knitting, to learn to knit sans-pattern, but I never would have done it without a push. Now the fun part- YARN!

  6. Excited for this one! I haven’t participated in many KAL’s, I usually only like ones where I have the freedom to choose a pattern. And this one screams freedom! So excited everything I’m going to learn from this too :)

  7. This is so exciting! I have wanted to design a contiguous set in sleeve sweater but I keep putting it off. This is exactly the motivation I need!

  8. I’m very excited about this knit along! I’ve been meaning to write and thank you for your blog. It’s been a little over a year now since I started following you. I was 19 weeks pregnant and put on strict bed rest for the duration of my pregnancy. It was a long hot summer on the couch and your daily posts with your knit-fashion musings and links to other amazing textile peoples were so welcome. I became a devout knitter under your tutelage. So thanks!! The pregnancy was a success, btw. Jude Magnolia was born on her due date! You’ll be slightly horrified to know about seven months later she swallowed a stitch marker (not one of yours). She passed it 5 days later. I will keep the framed marker and the x-ray for her hope chest. I think we have another budding knitter on the go!! Anyhow, both Jude and I send our enormous thanks for your blog!! And for this knit along. I’m looking forward to giving it a go. No pattern?! It’s like the wild west of knitting!

  9. Quick question- how do you figure out how much yarn to buy without a pattern? You might have already written about this- if you- feel free to just point me to the link! Thanks!

    • That’s an excellent question, Christine — thank you!

      I feel like I have a pretty good sense of how much yarn I need for a sweater based on past sweaters. But the thing I’ve done when not sure is to look at patterns on Ravelry that are similar gauge and amount of knitting (style and proportion and whatnot) and check their yardage reqs.

      Then always buy more than you think you need, just to be safe! Most yarn stores will let you return unused skeins, but I figure it never hurts to have a ball around for repairs or alterations or a matching hat or mitts …

      • May I recommend a couple of resources that may help you in your first foray into patternless knitting? One is The Knitter’s Handy Guide to Yarn Requirements by Ann Budd. It’s published by Interweave Knits. Another source is the Pocket Yarn Yardage Guide or How Much Yarn Do I Need to Knit This? which is published by Patternworks. Finally, a recommendation from Maggie Rigetti in her book Sweater Design in Plain English is to ask the owner of your LYS. I hope that my suggestions are of some help to you — good luck! I’m really looking forward to this KAL!

    • There’s an app for that! It’s called StashBot. You simply put in the chest circumference and the number of stitches/inch. Then it calculates the estimated amount of yardage needed. So, you’ll have to buy one skein of your desired yarn and swatch before purchasing the remaining amount.

  10. I’m totally doing this! I have been wanting to make a stash-busting striped sweater for a while and knew I’d be improvising a top-down raglan. What more motivation do I need?

  11. great! i love top down!. setting a goal for myself to start a KAL and actually participate and finish. i am really bad and joining them but then getting distracted and never actually sharing what i did or sometimes actually starting. :)

  12. I have a few bags of sweater quantity yarn in my stash where I haven’t been able to find the right pattern. No pattern sounds perfect. Noro – I’m looking at you.

  13. Such a great idea! So excited to get started. I have been wanting to create my own version of a summer-weight sweater for Arizona weather. Will use Julie Weisenberger’s English tailoring method for the shoulders and yoke with a lacey bottom. Now on to find the perfect yarn…

    • Ooh, I hadn’t heard of Julie’s English Tailoring method before (despite being a Cocoknits fan) — thanks for mentioning it! I’ve been musing over a RTW sweater of my spouse’s for a while now whose shoulder construction I really like and have never yet seen on a handknit pattern, and this looks like it might be the same (or very similar) thing. So exciting!

      (…yes, I am that nerd who gets excited over learning a new method of making sweater shoulders)

      • Me too! I learned it from Julie at Vogue Knitting Live in Pasedena in May. Now I want to make all my sweaters that way. It fits perfectly!

  14. Love the idea, and I have been meaning to knit a sweater this year… :-) I’ll think it over and do some stash diving to see if I am in. :-)

    • You don’t do any shaping inside the raglans, so it wouldn’t affect that at all — you’d just knit the raglan stitches in whatever pattern you want to establish and then work them even for as long as they go. The shaping happens to the outsides of the raglans, and again that wouldn’t change. But every time you add a new stitch to a section via increase, on the next row you’d work it in pattern. For something like symmetrical ribbing like that, it would be fairly simple to maintain as you increased — it would be obvious what each new stitch is supposed to do. You’d just need to make sure you start with an odd number of sts in each section, for symmetry, and be careful when you cast on sts at the front neck to join in the round that you maintain the right multiple, and then work those sts in pattern correctly on the next round.

  15. I’m so stoked! I want to make a light-as-air Lopi that’s a bit longer in the back/shorter in the front. I love knitting raglan sweaters.

  16. Well…I’m not crazy about knitalongs, I usually don’t really feel “connected” (says the girl who’s done 3 Sock Madnesses…). But there’s this picture of a sweater, that I NEED. That I actually have been wanting for at least two years, the picture is still on my desktop.
    Well, all this inisde-of-my-brain to say that your knitalong comes at the perfect moment. I feel totally ready for a non pattern sweater, he time is perfect, plus it can be the long-needed piece for my autumn wardrobe.
    And you’re right, we’ll need a bit of time to draw, erase, restart, maybe even swatch !

    Thank you Karen. I feel we’ll all have so great time participating.

  17. Such a cool idea! I love improvisations so much! I have so much planned and I am not sure if I will be able to participate, but I’ll try my best. And of course, I will try to watch everybody’s progress!

  18. I am setting this up on Ravelry. Where do I post? Forum name? Group name?

    • Hi, Bette — see above under the How to Participate heading. I don’t have a Ravelry group, just use the hashtag whenever/wherever you post!

  19. Perfect timing. Finally going to knit my husband a sweater, and his preferred style is a plain pullover sweatshirt style. I couldn’t find the right pattern. I plan on using measurements from a raglan sweatshirt he likes and going from there.

  20. What a great idea, and fantastic timing! As a budding designer, I really want to do a top-down sweater this time. This KAL would give me the perfect opportunity to write a pattern and knit a sample for a sweater that has been on my mind for a long time now. I think it’s going to be a great learning curve and a lot of fun.

    Thanks for this, Karen!

  21. So I have a question. The ONLY thing I have ever knit is a HitchHiker scarf. And I have made 4 of them. I know – ridiculous that I haven’t branched out. But I really want to knit a modern sweater vest. Straight across neckline, with chunky yarn – and I love the Frank Ochre color from Malabrigo. Is making a sweater vest cheating? And the idea I have is so simple, it almost sounds like 2 squares stitched together but as I have never done this, I am sure there is much more to the story. And having only knit a scarf with knit, purl and knitting front/back, this could be a big fail. But I am willing to try!

    • Sounds like a great project, but this knitalong is for top-down knitting, not seamed pieces, so it would be outside the scope of the KAL.

  22. I have been following your blog for a while, and I always appreciate the quality of your content. I must say, I am over-the-top excited about this KAL! This is something I’ve wanted to do for quite a long time, but I have struggled to muster up the courage. What better way than to join in on the fun? Thank you! I’m already dreaming up ideas about my improvised sweater.

  23. Can we do a cardigan or does it have to be a top down pullover? I’ve got a sweaters worth of Malabrigo in my stash that I can’t decide exactly what to make with. Chances are I could actually make a pullover, but had to ask anyway LOL

  24. This is such good timing. I’m trying to finish spinning a sweater’s quantity of alpaca/rambouillet that I’m blending myself on hand cards for Tour de Fleece. The yarn is a light fawn color and I’m planning to over dye some of it to do a colorwork yoke, and a steek so it will be a cardigan. I figured I’d probably have to design something myself, and this is just the motivation to do that!

  25. Can we start swatching now? I mean, I know there’s no knitalong police who will come after me, but I don’t want to bombard your feed with hashtags if it’s really not necessary.

  26. I’m in! I will try to replicate an old cardigan (from a Belgian brand) that I love, there is a nice detail on the back. I want to knit something like that since many years, I never find the good pattern! Great opportunity to embrace that challenge with the F&F Knitalong!

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  29. Having made a favoured sweater using your top-down tutorial, I’m in! I’ve got to figure out a) what I’m bumping from the queue and b) which yarn will find my favour. Sounds like fun!

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  31. Can’t wait to join the KAL! So excited. I normally don’t knit from patterns because where I live the popular yarns available are in 4-ply (sock-weight) and DK and most patterns call for Worsted and I know I could hold the 4-ply strands double, but I enjoy the idea of designing something from scratch, it’s fun.
    This will be my second improvised raglan-sleeved sweater. I knit my first one using your tutorial; it’s so clear and eloquently written.

  32. Hi!! What a coincidence! I cast on my first top down raglan about a week ago, after reading your tutorial several times and comparing with other similar patterns. Can I still join the knitalong? It looks like the few inches might have to come off again anyway… I’m not really happy with the neck!
    I’ll take the opportunity to thank you for the inspiring posts!

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  41. I bought Lettlopi after seeing it in a shop on the way to Great Grandma’s house (over the woods and thru the states, 600 miles!) I quickly knit up some hats. Loved the yarn, so when I saw on your blog the “Quick black raglan pullover” I bought more but have been very reluctant to start. Wouldn’t you know it my daughter said she liked it too? So, I need to practice once on myself first.
    I have knit children raglan sweaters but never for adults. This will be a great tutorial and KAL for me to venture forth beyond my usual knitting.
    Thanks for the push, see you on Ravelry!

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  47. Hi Karen, can you tell me what length circular needle I’ll require to knit the sweater please? I’ll be using a DK yarn to make a lady’s sweater, size 10-12. Thanks

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