Top-Down Knitalong: Meet the Panel!

Top-Down Knitalong: Meet the Panel!

Ok, so which fabulous knitters have I selected for this year’s Fringe and Friends Knitalong panel? Well, for starters I’ve kept the panel smaller this year — just me and three Friends — to make sure I have time for all of you and whatever help you might need. (Although I’m also counting on you to help each other!) And hopefully the smaller group will also mean no cliffhangers this year. ;)

We’ve had a great time already behind the scenes plotting out who would be knitting what, and I’m thrilled to finally share it with you all. All three of these ladies are known to be very talented knitters, but none are industry insiders, per se, and — most important — nobody has improvised a top-down sweater before! I’m the only panelist who’s ever done this, so you’re watching people do it for the first time right along with you. Full reveal below—

Special thanks to my friends at Shibui, YOTH, Purl Soho and O-Wool for providing the yarn for our sweaters, as well as four of the weekly prizes coming up during this knitalong — an additional sweater’s worth each! The three remaining sweater-quantity prizes are coming from Brooklyn Tweed, Woolfolk and Kelbourne Woolens, bless their soft and woolly hearts. (For more on the prize situation, see the kickoff notes.)

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KAREN TEMPLER of this here blog (Instagram: @karentempler)

Sweater plan: I should note that I already have two top-down sweaters on the needles that I would really like to finish — the purple tutorial sweater and my black cardigan — in addition to casting on this new one. Both those will be wildly useful sweaters, but they’re both pretty dull knitting. For the new one, after debating a thousand different ideas (and wanting all of them in black!), I decided I really wanted a thin, supple, light-colored sweater with some sort of subtle allover cable or other stitch pattern. (Inspired largely by this and this.) I went to pull a sweater out of my closet to evaluate its cables and my hand landed instead on my all-time favorite cardigan — a 10-year-old camel-colored J.Crew number that’s starting to look its age — which is just very basic cables between columns of knit stitches. I pulled it on backwards to see how it would look as a pullover and knew immediately that’s what I wanted to do.

Sizing: I’m going to base it on the dimensions of the same cardigan I’m borrowing the stitch pattern from.

Yarn: I’ve been wanting to knit with Pebble ever since it came out (or since Shibui sent me some before it was released, actually) and haven’t found the exact right project. I’m using the ivory color (which has really nice depth and variation to it due to the different fibers) and holding it double for this. I love it because even held double and knitted on US6s, it still has the feel of a much thinner sweater than the many worsted-weights in my closet, without my having to knit a sport- or fingering-weight sweater! Thanks hugely to Shibui for providing my yarn for this one, along with this week’s WIP of the Week prize!

Swatch: I’m still fascinated at how different my Amanda swatch was when knitting with versus without a cable needle. For this one, I swatched a little ways flat and the rest “in the round” to make sure I wouldn’t have a major discrepancy in gauge when switching back and forth in my sweater, and I’m reassured that all is well in that regard. My blocked gauge is 6.5 sts and 8.75 rows per inch. (26/35)

Seams/seamless: I will be adding a seam everywhere a seam should be — so a basting stitch in the center of each raglan, sleeves knitted flat, and a basting stitch again at each side seam.

Hesitations/trepidations: Unfortunately I don’t have any, which is not how I like to knit! I’d always rather be trying something new, taking chances. I’m SUPER intrigued by Cocoknits’ English-tailored, set-in, top-down sleeves method and might have to try it, since I can knit top-down the old-fashioned way in my sleep. But it depends on whether I have time to actually read her tutorial. So we’ll see. Meanwhile, I’ve mapped out the sweater for raglans.

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Top-Down Knitalong: Meet the Panel!

JEN BEEMAN of Grainline Studio (Instagram: @jen_beeman)

Sweater plan: I’ll be knitting a fisherman’s rib pullover for my husband, Jon. Ever since I mentioned a few months ago that every sweater I knit didn’t have to be for myself (crazy, I know) he’s been asking me for this sweater. When Karen approached me about the knitalong I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to make his sweater a reality.

I spent a little time gathering images of traditional fisherman’s rib sweaters before Jon and I started talking about the details of the sweater. We had a bit of back and forth deciding on what the details the sweater should have — fisherman’s rib was a given, as was the fact that it was top-down. Luckily for me, Jon is quick with decisions, so after about 15 minutes of looking at the photos I’d gathered we settled on raglan-style sleeves, a crewneck, and 1×1 ribbing at the hem, cuffs and neck edge.

Sizing: Funnily I haven’t even asked Jon about how he wants the sweater to fit. I do know how he likes his clothes though, so I’m going to run with my intuition on this one. I took some basic measurements to work off of, so rather than comparing to another garment I’ll likely work off those. I’ll have to add in some wearing ease as Jon isn’t into skin tight sweaters but since I’m a pattern maker by trade I don’t predict getting the ease right will be that difficult.

Yarn: I’ll be using O-Wool Balance in Talc. I chose this yarn for a few reasons: first is the fiber content. Balance is a 50/50 wool and cotton blend which means Jon won’t overheat wearing this sweater. I don’t think it’s possible for him to wear a 100% wool garment without being very uncomfortable. Second, the care instructions of Balance are perfect for him as the yarn is machine washable. I don’t predict him hand-washing a sweater, so this was a must! Last, I’ve wanted to knit with Balance for a while now. In all honesty, I actually didn’t give him another choice — with good reason though, as you can see above! Luckily he trusts my fiber decisions wholeheartedly, and he did pick the color. (Editor’s note: Thanks again to O-Wool for providing Jen’s yarn!)

Swatch: I cast on 31 sts for my swatch using US7 needles and love the finished look. It’s also gotten the seal of approval from Jon. My gauge is 16 sts x 40 rows = 4 x 4″.

Hesitations/trepidations: My biggest trepidation is actually just the scale of this sweater. I’m used to knitting for myself, which usually entails knitting the second smallest size for a 5’6″ person. Jon comes from German/Norwegian stock, which means he’s tall with very broad shoulders, so I feel like I’ll be knitting the equivalent of two sweaters with this one. I’m definitely grateful right now that he’s the smallest one in his family!

Besides that, I’ve never knitted a top down sweater before and only one sweater in the round — an Icelandic bottom-up sweater. I’m typically more comfortable making sweaters in pieces and then seaming, since it most closely resembles the type of garment construction I’m used to and that I deal with on a daily basis. I’m excited to try something new though!

Seams/seamless: I will definitely include either basting stitches or splitting the garment after the yoke to knit those sections flat. I firmly believe that this sweater is going to need some sort of added structure based on the way Jon wears his clothes (aka to a very quick death). I hate knitting sleeves in the round so those will be flat for sure. Other than that, we’ll just see what happens as I’m knitting!

. . . . .

Top-Down Knitalong: Meet the Panel!

JESS SCHREIBSTEIN Fringe Association columnist (Instagram: @thekitchenwitch)

Sweater plan: I’m knitting an oversized, ribbed, armygreen raglan turtleneck. It will actually probably be more like a wide mock neck, although I’m not sure yet how wide or how high it will be. I foresee a lot of trial and error in my future to get it just right! Since the sweater is for me, I wanted to add a piece to my wardrobe that will be a versatile, basic staple. I’ve never knitted a turtleneck before and don’t own too many of them, so think this is the perfect opportunity to change that. I can already envision wearing it with black jeans and boots, over a silk dress, or with a black leather pencil skirt (not that I own one – yet). Plus, this is my first go at making a top-down sweater without a pattern, so I wanted to keep my approach simple, allowing me some wiggle room for mistakes and a chance to focus on the construction details.

Sizing: I have a cream, set-in-sleeve, mock neck sweater that I love, which I picked up at Gap a few years ago. I think I wear this thing almost every week during the winter. It’s sufficiently oversized without being huge. I also recently finished knitting my Abbott sweater, an oversized V-neck tunic, which coincidently has the same bust measurement and length of my beloved Gap sweater. I’m taking that as a sign and loosely basing my own sweater’s dimensions off of this sweater, especially for the bust and neck circumference measurements, while also going a little generous on the armhole depth.

Yarn: I’ve chosen YOTH Yarns’ Father in the Olive colorway, a stunningly perfect army green. It’s worsted weight, which I thought would be a good fit for this classic sweater, and made from 100% domestic Rambouillet wool. Knitting with American-sourced wool yarn has become increasingly important to me over the years, and I’m excited to work with YOTH yarns for the first time. It’s really soft and will feel great around my neck, while still remaining sufficiently “woolly” and a little toothy. It’s a bouncy 3 ply, lending the yarn a round shape and giving the stitches a crisp, clean look. (Editor’s note: Thanks again to YOTH for providing Jess’s yarn!)

Swatch: I knit a few swatches before I landed on a 1×1 rib worked on size US7 needles. The gauge is 24.5 stitches / 29.5 rows = 4 inches in a knit 1 purl 1 rib. Since the rib is identical on both the right and wrong side of the fabric, I didn’t bother knitting the swatch in the round. The fabric is chewy and bouncy, but still has a nice drape to it. I think I might work the neck in a smaller gauge, on size 5 or 6 needles, for added stiffness and structure. I plan for the entire sweater to be knit in this 1×1 rib, including the raglans. I sketched this out a bit, and am envisioning extra-wide raglans worked in rib to add some nice visual interest to the front and back.

Seams/seamless: Definitely seams. I think it would be really easy for an oversized sweater like this to become heavy and baggy after a season of wear without the added structure that seams provide. I plan on knitting the front piece and back piece flat (starting at the underarms) and the sleeves flat, and seaming them. I’ll also see how the raglans hold up to the weight of the sweater, and will probably add in some basting stitches to reinforce them.

Hesitations/trepidations: The trickiest thing for me might be nailing the gauge with the ribbed stitch pattern, as I’ve never knit a ribbed sweater before – I’ve made plenty of ribbed hats, but those account for the elasticity of the ribbing to sit snug on your head. I’ve measured my swatch flat, without stretching out the ribbing, to determine my sweater dimensions, and hope those work out.

. . . . .

Top-Down Knitalong: Meet the Panel!

BRANDI HARPER of purlBknit (Instagram: @purlBknit)

Sweater plan: I’m making an allover lace top-down cardigan with raglan seams, and this sweater is so mine! I originally planned to make a wide scarf, which I was creating during my 30th-birthday trip to Europe. When I returned home, Karen had just announced this knit along. I ditched those 6 inches of lace scarf so fast and turned it into a turtleneck for a top down sweater. No swatch, no planning, no sketches involved. I was a very naughty knitter!

Sizing: When I knit sweaters for myself, I always design around my bust line. I have never been a member of the itty-bitty committee and always have problems finding clothes that fit me well. Like, a small V-neck pullover is too revealing and a large is too big in the sleeves. With full coverage, I wear a 38DDD. So I simply planned to increase every other row in the body until I had enough stitches to close the cardigan around these babies! At some point, the sleeves were getting too big and the arm depth too long, so I stopped to separate the sleeves from the body. I slipped all the stitches onto a yarn stitch holder for a fitting and low and behold there is no ease in the chest area. I’ll be adding some kind of border at the front to allow 2-3″ of ease. Also, the scarf-turned-turtleneck doesn’t close, so I can solve that problem, too, with some additional width. This border will likely be made up of short rows, so I can control the amount of width I add to the neck, bust and waist. Figuring this stuff out is my favorite part, guys.

Yarn: Just thinking about my yarn makes me feel like I’m lying on a bed of fluffy clouds. I’m using Purl Soho Flax Down, a 43% Baby Alpaca, 42% Merino Wool, 15% Linen blend. The drape is incredible. I’m so excited to wash and block it! I wanted a fiber soft to the touch that can be worked on a needle no smaller than US7. Plus, I’m just a sucker for mauves and light pinks, and this color is right up my alley. (Editor’s note: Thanks again to Purl Soho for providing Brandi’s yarn!)

Swatch: I did not swatch. I haven’t even checked the tension yet. (Yikes!) I’m just following my intuition on this piece, trying it on as I go along. What you see is the scarf I started. Trims and borders are very important to me. I tried 4 different cast-on methods/borders: the tubular cast-on, garter stitch border, rolled stockinette trim and no border at all before the picot cast-on popped into my head. The picot trim was a winner! I added 2 stitches of garter on each side as a selvedge, slipping the 1 stitch on every row to neaten it up.

Hesitations/trepidations: This is the first garment in over 4 years I’ve designed for myself since launching my knitwear brand, purlBknit. Joining this KAL is a passion project, but with my selling season so near I really don’t have too much time for excessive ripping out. I have 4 balls at 217 yards each and I plan to make a sweater with what I have, just to keep it time efficient. Let’s see how that goes. I will likely crop this sweater at the waist and make long fitted sleeves. As I write, this KAL hasn’t officially started and I’m halfway done!

Seams/seamless: I am knitting the body in one piece and the sleeves flat. I LOVE sewing seams. Also, looking forward to picking up stitched on the front for that border I was talking about. It will change the sweater entirely. I don’t know how it will look in the end. I feel as though I am knitting in the wild. What will come next? I have no clue and boy does that feel fantastic.

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We’re all sharing generously on Instagram so follow along with our progress and everyone else’s! I’ll be back tomorrow with a post about how to incorporate a stitch pattern, for those of you wanting to give that a try.


PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: Kickoff and PRIZE notes!

42 thoughts on “Top-Down Knitalong: Meet the Panel!

  1. So excited! I finished my swatch yesterday and Brandi is a fave of mine. She is such a sweetheart! I ordered a pattern of hers and she sent such a nice personal note 😇 So looking forward to everyone’s sweaters. So fun and I am knitting with my best knitting friend too .

  2. What a great panel!! I’ve been following all four of you already on Instagram and can’t wait to see the progress. I SO wish my queue (who am I kidding, my conscience) would allow me to participate, but there’s lots of WIPs and a test knit to be finished so I’ll be living vicariously through the hashtag on IG.

  3. An amazing group of ladies! Love that all three are new to improvising top-down sweaters. It’s going to be so fun seeing everyone’s progress. The variety of sweater plans coming out of this KAL has been so inspiring and it’s just the beginning!

  4. the panel looks great, I really want to see how Jess is going to knit the front and back flat and then seam it because I’m doing a textured stitch in fiber co cumbria and I’m worried that these stitches are going to be sad and droopy in a year. I simply cannot WAIT for this stitch pattern post because it gave me grief all weekend!!! I ripped it out four times!!

  5. Love the panel. Still waiting for my yarn to arrive. In my plan I want to do the seamless raglan but then seam it like you did in the Amanda. So if I understand this right. I’ll add a purl stitch in the middle of each raglan and then seam. Is this correct?

  6. one comment for Brandi: short row bust darts are a great way to add chest room without adding all over size. i know you are past that point in your knitting but maybe something to try in the future. Amy Herzog’s book Knit to Flatter goes into how to work them. I don’t have this problem as i barely wear an 34A but for those that are blessed, I highly recommend giving the darts a go and the book a read. Happy knitting all!

  7. Summer over for me, and back to the classrooms. So sad to be missing this communal event. All will stay on your web site, right?

    Have a blast, Fran

    •sent by cell•


  8. Amazing panel! Love the diversity of approaches and finished sweater styles – this will be so fun to follow along. Also, I have to admit it’s kind of a relief to know that the cabled camel knit is a finished sweater — I thought it was a giant swatch when you first posted that pic!

  9. So much great stuff – but that needle storage/sculpture behind Brandi is beautiful!! Really, wow…

  10. This will be a vicarious pleasure for me, too, watching all these great plans come to fruition. (So many WIPs here, and an overdue Rowan Faroe vest for my husband….) It’s hitting all my buttons though, so I’ll be keeping all your tutorials and good advice and the accumulated experiences on hand for my future top down project. Have at it, knitters!

  11. Do you have a tutorial for the raglan seams? I just started knitting last December and have made two tanks, but don’t really understand how the raglan happens yet…

    I was really looking forward to this, but broke my wrist a week ago. I see the bone doc tomorrow and will know if I’m allowed to knit. (I’ve been doing it and have a splint on, but probably shouldn’t…) If making a sweater for myself is too much, could I make something for my chihuahua? I could still do it top down and it would teach me how to plan…

  12. I can’t join this one, too many current projects including a years-overdue sweater for my dad, so I will be enjoying from the sidelines, but can’t wait to do my own improv sweater someday in lettlopi! How many balls did you use (or do you think you will use) for the purple lettlopi pullover in the tutorial?

  13. Jess, why don’t you try a 2 purl x 1 knit rib instead of a 1 x 1? It looks very similar but is much more forgiving on body ease and yarn yardage. It’s also more predictable regarding gauge and fit.

  14. So excited about this panel! I’ve just followed Brandi now, and I was already such a fan of the other two. Looks like a great panel and I’m excited to see how everyone’s vision start to turn into a reality.

  15. Oh, that’s an interesting panel! Such different approaches, great! I am particularly curious about Brandi’s process as my own biggest challenge will be to do the bust shaping with short rows (at least this my current plan), but I love all of your chosen designs. Btw, I just briefly looked at all the other projects on Ravelry and on Instagram (though still haven’t checked out, if / how I could get into direct communication there without a smartphone – but will do as soon as I’ve got time) and I am totally overwhelmed by the variety. This is gonna be fantastic!

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