KTFO-2016.19 : Black linen-wool cardigan of my dreams

FO : The linen-wool cardigan of my dreams

This is a plain-as-can-be Improv top-down raglan, knitted with two strands of Purl Soho’s Linen Quill (50% fine highland wool, 35% alpaca, and 15% linen), and it is pretty much the simple black cardigan of my dreams. Purl had sent me five skeins of this yarn, unbidden, and I was determined to get the whole cardigan out of it. There is a LOT of yardage on those skeins! I was holding it double and made it nearly from the cast-on to the waistband before I needed to join a new pair of strands. I completed the sweater with 26 yards left of the second pair of skeins and only had to break into the fifth skein to knit the button band. So it turns out I could have made it a bit longer and still had plenty of yarn! But I was modeling this after a beloved blue cashmere J.Crew sweater, which hit just a couple of inches below my natural waist like this, and I wore that thing to bits. So I have no doubt about how much wear I’ll get out of this. And the fabric is utterly amazing — I wish you could pet this sweater through your screen.

It took me months to knit this one only because I kept setting it aside for other projects, although I did feel slightly apathetic about it along the way. I had a pervasive dread that I’d made the back neck too wide, which to me is the death blow of a sweater. It’s all about the back neck width, in my view. Once I blocked it and put it on, I was even more concerned. I did basically the same thing as I had with my black lopi pullover — starting with a higher percentage of sleeve stitches and shaping the raglans. But the result of all those sleeve stitches was that they draped over my shoulders and left the back neck sitting perilously low. All I could do at that point was hope it all worked out when I picked up stitches for the band.

This sweater is the first where I was constantly thinking of sewing tricks and wishing for knitting equivalents. The fabric is quite drapey by my standards (thanks to the alpaca content) and I also didn’t knit it as tightly as I normally knit stockinette. I actually felt scared to put it on before I did the finishing — like I could feel the neckline stretching, and wished I could stay-stitch it. I was SO GLAD I had done basting stitches in the raglans, and amazed at how different it felt putting it on before and after seaming those up. And then I did treat the neckband a little like a bias strip, “pulling gently” around the curve of the back neck (by which I mean picking up 2 out of 3 sts across the back instead of 1:1) to slightly cinch it up. And it worked like magic! The neck sits beautifully. For the band, I wound up doing picked-up garter stitch, mostly because I’d never done garter for a button band before, and I adore it. The only challenge was the bind-off: I wanted it to be firm enough to prevent the band from stretching any, but not so tight that it pulled the sweater up in the front. I think I got it a hair too tight, but will wear it awhile and see how it does. Redoing that bind-off wound be the easiest tweak in the world.

I’m including all of my numbers below for anyone who wants to do this top-down Improv-style themselves, but if you prefer a proper pattern for a super-basic cardigan like this, see Carrie Hoge’s Uniform. I don’t know how all of my measurements and shaping compare to her pattern, but they’re obviously very similar sweaters!

Pattern: Improv
Yarn: Linen Quill from Purl Soho
Cost: no pattern + $10 horn buttons from Fringe Supply Co. + comlimentary yarn = $10
(yarn would have been about $65 had I paid for it, for total cost of $75)

[favorite it on Ravelry]

FO : The linen-wool cardigan of my dreams


4.5 sts and 6 rows = 1 inch (measured over 4″ = 18/24) knitted on US8


42″ chest = 189 sts
14″ upper arm circumference = 64 sts (more like 12″ after seaming and blocking)
7″ cuff circumference
20″ total length
9″ yoke/armhole depth (54 rows)
11″ body length (2″ hem ribbing)
17″ sleeve length (3″ cuff ribbing)


— Co 83 sts divided thusly: 1 | 3 | 20 | 3 | 29 | 3 | 20 | 3 | 1 — worked center raglan st as basting stitch

— Planned for 14 sts cast on at each underarm, and divided the raglan stitches evenly between sections when separating sleeves from body

— Worked raglan increases as kfb on either side of the raglan stitches, varying increases roughly same as black lopi raglan

— Increased at front neck every 4th row until front sts added up to back sts minus about 1.5″ to account for width of button band — pretty sure it worked out that my last neck increase row was the same as my sleeve/body separation row

— Worked center stitch at each side as a basting stitch

— BO/CO sts for one inset pocket at 6.5″ from separation row (4.5″ before end of body)

— When body was complete, picked up along upper pocket edge on US5 needles and worked a few rows in garter stitch for pocket edging, seamed to adjacent sts from body along both sides; put live sts for pocket lining back on needle and worked in stockinette for 2.5″ (bottom of pocket lines up with first row of waist ribbing); whipstitched to reverse of sweater body after blocking

Worked sleeves flat, decreasing on 20th row then every 8th row 8 times for 47 sts; knit till 15.75″; switched to US6 and decreased evenly to 42 sts while working first row of cuff ribbing

— All ribbing is k3/p2

— Blocked finished sweater and picked up sts for button band on US6: 42 sts along fronts (2/3), 32 sts along slopes, 15 sts along sleeve tops (2/3), 20 sts along back neck (2/3); worked in garter stitch for 1/5″ with double-YO buttonholes on middle row; BO from WS on US8 needles


PREVIOUSLY in 2016 FOs: 3 Lakesides + 2 Fens = 1 new wardrobe

69 thoughts on “KTFO-2016.19 : Black linen-wool cardigan of my dreams

  1. I really want to try one of these. I went onto the Purl Soho website and that yarn is really very pretty. Interesting to combine two strands of fingering weight to get a worsted weight gauge.

  2. Love it ! I’ve been eyeing linen quill ever since it was released and have been dreaming of a perfect but simple cardigan or pullover with kettle black and stillwell blue held double, but often wondered on the amount of yarn needed. And now you have answered that !

    PS, with the alpaca content do you foresee any stretching after some hard wearing? I’m always interested to see how a knitted garment ages.

  3. Karen, this cardigan is absolutely gorgeous! Wow oh wow. I’m nuts for the black Quill but have only done hats. Seeing it in this larger form – be still my heart…

  4. Wow. what a gorgeous, perfect sweater. My dream sweater that I didn’t know was my dream until I saw yours. Looks fabulous on you.

  5. oh i love it on you so much! that length is spot on. i want to get myself back into sweater knitting this fall…i have knit two sweaters for myself that were both bottom up and they turned out to be hellish nightmares for me when it came to the neck shaping (as a newb I had no idea the difference in construction or why it would matter what patterns i chose). i’m gonna go refresh myself on all your sweater construction posts and pick me out a pattern! xo

  6. It’s fabulous! The shape is distinctive and the details are clean and crisp. A total winner, Karen.

  7. Love the simplicity ,yet classic gorgeous style.Stunning yarn too! Thank you for the tips and pattern ideas.Your amazing ,and have inspired me to try a cardigan .

    • No, not specific to any construction method. I can’t stand clothes that shift around on your while you’re wearing them — I hate tugging things forward or having them slide off my shoulders. And I’m convinced a garment being well-seated around one’s neck and shoulders depends on getting the back neck width right. It’s a fixation of mine!

  8. What a great looking sweater!

    And hey, I know of at least two knitting methods for reinforcing/firming back necklines. A line (or two) of crochet slip stitches on the inside can work wonders (this is maybe the most knitting-native equivalent to what you were wishing for), but also sewing on a bit of grosgrain, which was a common approach when cross-training in needle arts was less rare. I reinforce with grosgrain or velvet when I want a sweater to last, and I’ve used the slip stitch technique to great effect for post-production corrections, both on my knits and on RTW sweaters.

    For details, see TechKnitter’s post digging deep into the subject: http://techknitting.blogspot.com/2011/09/my-sweater-slips-off-my-shoulders.html

  9. Like Julia, I also came to suggest a line or two of crochet slip stitches or some ribbon at the back neckline to act as a stay stitch. I used a woven silk ribbon last time I did this.
    Your sweater looks lovely – congratulations on getting just what you were hoping for.

  10. It looks absolutely stunning on you. I really do want to pet that sweater – largely because I am intrigued by this (incongruous?) mix of fibers. Wool and alpaca I understand, but the linen? What does that do in (for?) this particular combination?

    • It lends some nubby texture. I’m not a fan of alpaca — it’s too soft and drapey and dense for me — but it’s undeniably soft. So the linen sort of offsets the alpaca in a way? It also takes the dye differently, so it gives the yarn it’s heathered look.

      • Interesting! Thank you for elaborating, I think I understand the point of this blend now. The first time I knitted a sweater with alpaca (and silk), I made it according to my usual calculations. I finished it, blocked and dried it and proudly wore it out to dinner. Three hours later, it had grown to the size of a tent. However, I was determined to have that particular sweater in that particular (expensive!) yarn. So I frogged the whole body, severed the sleeves and kept them alive and re-knitted the body with 3 inches of negative ease. Boy oh boy. But we’re fine now, both the sweater and I. My #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 sweater yarn has is 20% alpaca, so I’ll be careful to knit it on the closer-fitting side as well.

  11. dang this turned out gorgeous!!! I wasn’t too interested in the yarn but now that I’ve seen it blocked and ready to wear, it’s very enticing!!! I am hoping that my v neck slopes like yours does

    “Increased at front neck every 4th row until front sts added up to back sts minus about 1.5″ to account for width of button band ”

    how necessary is this step? I’m doing a cardigan too but my fear is that it isn’t going to be wide enough to button! (it’s a little irrational, I’ve done all the right math, added enough ease, kept going even when I thought I could split my yoke)

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  13. My goodness, this Purl Soho yarn, color and fit!

    This picked me up, to come upon all the work you have done – your generosity and the learning……, many thanks it is an incredible place you provide.

    May I ask a question:
    The Top Down Pullover: How do you keep the continuity of a pattern (e.g. 3×3 Ribbing), while increasing at the 4 raglan points?

    Thank you again.

  14. “How to Incorporate a Stitch Pattern…..” Please disregard my question as I overlooked your article on this. Thank you again.

  15. I’m knitting with their linen quill right now but it’s making me nervous! My very first sweater (after being so inspired by the KAL), I’m using one of their free sweater patterns. Did it knit up very loose for you? I am worried that the weave is too loose and it won’t block well, but I don’t know how to tell without just going for it!

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