St. Brendan, ripping for joy

St. Brendan, ripping for joy

There’s a thing that happens to me on those rare occasions that A) I decide to knit a pattern more or less as-is and B) it happens to be a fast knit: I forgo thinking. St. Brendan is an extreme example — I believe it’s literally the first time I have ever knitted a sweater exactly like the sample. Same yarn, same colors, everything. I was excited about the prospect of not thinking, actually, just racing through the knitting and throwing on the sweater! The only thing I took a second to consider was that I’m between sizes, and I made a simple snap decision about that.

I always make my sweaters slightly wider at the hem than the chest because I am wider at the hips (38″) than the boobs (34.5″). Since this one involves colorwork, the stitch counts can’t really be fudged the way I normally would — they have to be a precise multiple for the charts to work out — so I blithely cast on the size 45 body and planned to decrease down to the size 38 stitch counts by the time I got to the join round. And then I tried to squelch the nag in the back of my head who kept muttering “what if the 38 is too small?” I am a fan of a 38″ sweater, I would respond quite firmly. “Yes, but for this sweater? You’ll want more ease.”

To my credit, I did allow that I might have a yoke depth problem, which is why I postponed the sleeves, right? (Good call.) But between the pattern’s fairly shallow yoke dimension at that size and my yoke being even shallower, due to my Compact Row Gauge Curse, it just didn’t fit me right at all. I needed to deepen the yoke and widen both the upper sleeve and the chest dimension for it to fit just the way I like. (NOTE: None of this is in any way a fault of the pattern — these are my personal peccadillos.)

Of all the ways to construct a sweater, bottom-up-seamless is my least favorite. I just really hate knitting that first inch or two after the join round — all that stress on the underarms (and the knitter). So it’s the method I’ve done the least of, and have the least experience tampering with. Had I taken a minute to read into the pattern and think about what was happening, I would have seen that I could easily add stitches and rows where I needed them before getting to the colorwork, but I did not take said minute. See paragraph 1, above.

So what then? When I was writing that Hot Tip about postponing the sleeves, I was like Karen, why didn’t you just start at the bottom of the yoke in this case, if you were worried about the yoke depth and know you don’t like bottom-up-seamless anyway?? And again, that nag was correct — I should have. So now I’ve made up for it. With tremendous joy and liberation and anticipation of a sweater that fits precisely the way I want it to, I ripped out everything but the yoke, which is now back on the needles as if it were a top-down yoke. (All I did was snip a strand at the armhole and unravel that row, then pulled out another row or two on the yoke itself before putting it back on my needles. This is animated for your enjoyment below.) I’ve reallocated the sleeve and body stitches, slightly shifted the motif placement, and recalculated the shaping and yoke depth to match my own preferences, like I do with every other sweater I knit! If you saw the details, you’d feel confirmed in your suspicion that I am a crazy person. I am literally moving things around by a matter of a couple of stitches here and there, but I know what a difference it will make to me in the end. With a sweater that knits up this lightning-quick, why not get it right?

Here’s the other thing: I’ve kept the lower body intact for the time being in case I want to graft it back on, but I am feeling like I’ll probably make it plain black from the yoke down. I’ve been saying for over a year that I want a black sweater with a colorwork yoke (here, here and here), so it seems dumb to make something not quite that, no matter how perfectly gorgeous it may be. But I’m deferring a decision on that point for the moment.

Refresh the page if needed to see this in action:

St. Brendan, ripping for joy

Happy weekend, everybody! We’ll be at Haus of Yarn tomorrow with our mini-Fringe Supply Co, along with Plucky Knitter! If you’re in the Nashville area, I hope we’ll see you there. And if not, there’s a new Amirisu in store this morning and lots of other favorites back in stock — go take a wander.


PREVIOUSLY in St. Brendan: Hot Tip: Postpone the sleeves

39 thoughts on “St. Brendan, ripping for joy

  1. WOW that’s a lot of ripping, math, cutting!!! you did knit that body in the blink of an eye. how’s knitting with arranmore? I’ve touched it at my LYS but I’m curious to how it knits up. it’s kind of…crispy? not in the way shelter is crispy but like slick.

    • I never know how to answer these question in words, with everyone’s definitions and tolerances being so different. It’s chunkier and softer than Shelter — like if you added cashmere and silk to Shelter. Still rustic (like I like it), but with more drape and softness, without tipping into gooey-soft territory.

  2. When you start knitting down on the yoke, there will be a row where the stitches change direction (going up on the old yoke and down on the new part). This probably won’t show in the dark yarn, or in pattern if you add pattern. Still, if you have a clever way of handling this change of direction, please share. I have only handled it by immediately adding ribbing, so direction change doesn’t show, as when cuttung away excess length to shorten sleeves knitted “up” and adding new ribbed cuff knitted “down”

      • I did the same thing with my Stopover Lopapeysa. As long as you are making sure that the stitches are in the right orientation on the needle (left leg in front) you won’t see anything. There is only a half stitch difference. So maybe you have one row to knit through the back loop.

          • Yes, you’re right. I meant to say that you have to pay extra attention to the orientation of the stitches when knitting the first row. Ktbl isn’t working.

      • If that change in direction happens during a stockinette section, in one colour, then it will be invisible. Because even though the work will be offset by half a st, the ones going in one direction will intermesh exactly with those going in the other. Since stockinette looks the same in both vertical directions, this will be absolutely invisible, particularly since it is a circular knit (if it were back and forth, you would be able to see the half-stitch offset at the very edges of the work).

    • I’ve only done the direction change once before, on my Trillium cardigan, and I placed it right at the bottom edge of the textured stitch out of concern for this, but there is no discernible change row, regardless. I understand why it should be discernible, but it’s just not.

      Here I also put it right at the first row next to the colorwork, even though I don’t think anyone would ever be able to pick up on anything because of the black, but there is literally nothing to see. The stitches all continue in a perfectly uninterrupted fashion, loops pulled through loops. It (happily) defies logic.

      • Thank you. Good news that it might not show even in plain stockinette and light colored yarn. I’m sure I’ll have opportunities to try it as I adjust fit in projects. Thank you for your substantive interesting posts. I love them.

    • In plain stockinette it’s not visible simply because of the nature of the fabric – when you turn your plain, single-color stockinette swatch upside down, the fabric looks identical. Obviously when switching direction in any pattern – ribbing, colorwork, cables – that’s visible because of the half-stitch offset. The only reason it’d show up in stockinette is if your gauge changes significantly – e.g. if you worked the first new round tighter than normal, or if the stitches you’re knitting into got stretched out in the process.

  3. Great idea to leave out the colorwork at the bottom! Lovely sweater and I am amazed at all your work to get it just right.

  4. I vote for leaving the colorwork to the yoke only.* You did such beautiful work on the hem, but I’m a fan of yoke-only colorwork. If you’re short (as I am) or hippy (as I also am), colorwork at both the hem and yoke can make you (by which I mean, short folks like me) look squat and square-shaped.

    *With full understanding that votes were not requested, lol.

  5. A lot of work, and I love reading through your process, but it will be so worth it. It’s almost worth it, just for the bird’s eye view of the yoke in the last picture; it is a thing of beauty!

    • It really has been astonishingly little work, this sweater. It knitted up so fast I it’s like I don’t know where it came from, which is a big part of why I truly have no concern at all about ripping and redoing.

  6. Karen – that’s BRILLIANT! I’ve been dragging my feet on finishing Kate Davies Owl for the same reason: my yoke is smaller than my hips. I’ve knit and recalculated snd reknit from the bottom to the under arms three times and the fit is still sketchy for conversion to the yoke/arm count (hence the reason it’s sitting in time-out). This is a great solution!! Brava!

  7. I’ve always wondered if you could knit a yoke first, sort of like Craft Sessions turning her sleeves into top down on this type of construction. I’ve only knit one sweater of this type and the yoke fit was way off. I too am a fan of colorwork only around your face and maybe on your sleeve cuff.

    • Yeah, I’ve never done it but lots of people do. You just start with the appropriate number of yoke sts (provisionally cast on) on the needle and knit the yoke upward, then put the provisional stitches on a needle and knit the rest downward.

  8. Heidi Kirrmaier’s Snow flower pattern does the color work yoke a similar way, a provisional cast on and the yoke bottom up, the rest top down. I would leave colorwork off waist/hip for myself. Loving your sweater!

  9. Well, we have exactly the same bust and hip measurements. I know how you feel about bottom up. I only design in that direction when it’s absolutely necessary for the construction/ stitch pattern to work (example: Petrova). In such cases, I inevitably use an existing sweater as a template to get the length and shaping right, but it’s much more iffy than with top down. I think you may have influenced me to try a black sweater next.

  10. That worth the efforts to redo what you didn’t like. At the end, that sweater will be perfect to your taste and you will weare it a lot.

  11. I’ve also used this method, knitting in 2 directions from a provisional cast on, when I was using a limited quantity of precious handspun. I wasn’t sure how long I could make a sweater. This would also be useful to lengthen the sleeves of children’s sweaters knit bottom-up – rip out the cuffs, pick up and keep knitting down. Thanks for such a detailed post and for the invigorating discussion following.

  12. Just catching up here…the stop-motion action photo sequence is quite the feast for the eyeballs! I was also concerned with how shallow the yoke depth was so I added a few extra rows in MC after joining the sleeves and before starting the colorwork yoke. After trying it on it seems to be just right so thankfully don’t need to do as much tweaking and hacking as yours ;)

    • Had I realized, or stopped to consider, that’s exactly what I would have done, along with adding a couple of sts at the underarms. But in the end, I’m glad I ripped it out and made all the changes I’ve now made.

  13. I’ve been away, Karen, and had no access to the internet…so I’m just seeing this for the first time. I applaud your decision 1000%…as I feel as if I “rip out” more than I “knit in!” If there’s something I don’t like for one reason or another, I know it will bother me every time I wear it…so rip, rip, rip! I also like your decision to knit color work in the yoke only – and keep the bottom a solid color. You’ll be happier with the finished sweater in the end…so knit on and be happy with your decision!

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