Sweater Workshop: Betty’s Tee

A note from Kathleen: It's time for our Sweater Workshop from the Spring 2010 issue of Interweave Knits. Eunny's here to take us through Tram Nguyen's Betty's Tee, a deceptively simple little blouse that's versatile and flattering. Take it away, Eunny!

Betty's Tee: An Adventure in Entrelac

Betty's TeeThe sweater I'm talking about today just gets more interesting the closer you look at it: Tram Nguyen's Betty's Tee takes a well-loved technique, entrelac, and blows its building blocks up to sweater-size proportions that are really fun to knit and make a flattering finished garment. I'm planning on actually knitting this one for myself eventually—but for now, let's take a closer look at its anatomy.

What makes this garment unique?

Betty's Tee back view1) Adapting a classic technique for modern fit. Entrelac is usually thought of as a flat technique that mainly influences surfaces—because it has some shape and size limitations, it's usually relegated to (beautiful) shawls, panels in sweaters, and straight tubes like those in socks. Betty's Tee, on the other hand, takes the sculptural possibilities inherent in the technique and runs with them—a fresh, modern take on a classic.

2) Intriguing construction that's both simpler and more interesting than it seems. Betty's Tee is essentially knitted in the round—there are only two very small seams to sew. Each entrelac block is knitted flat, however, which means that you'll be knitting back and forth for most of the garment.

The magic is in how these large entrelac blocks fit together. Take a look at Figure 1, below, which represents an exploded view of the garment with some fold lines and construction lines marked: Two large base triangles form the hem of the body. Two large blocks become most of the body. Smaller blocks—still fitted into the entrelac Neck detailpatterning—form extensions that run up and over the shoulder, and two final smaller square blocks become the bridges that connect the front to the back.

Now match notches to notches and take a look at Figure 2, below, which shows how all these pieces fit together: The body and base pieces fit into a neat tube, and the shoulder extensions fold over and join to the opposite side. Very clever! Every new block is formed by picking up along an existing block, so there aren't even any ends to weave in, except after sewing the two small seams that finally connect shoulders to fronts.

 

   
Figure 1 Figure 2

Betty's Tee: detail view
3) Clever detailing.
You've noticed by now that we've been working with straight squares and rectangles and then forming them into a straight tube. But the human body isn't a straight tube, of course—we like our sweaters to flatter. The designer came up with a really clever solution for this—a simple, large-scale rib that gives some elasticity to the fabric, letting it cling where it should and drape away where it shouldn't. Because the ribbing follows the direction of knitting, the ribs run in perpendicular directions, creating a fabric that has great stretch both horizontally as well as vertically.

4) Customizability. This sweater is an amazing blank canvas for surface design. How about throwing a baby cable into your ribbing? Or working a larger-scale cable motif into each block? How about lace, or colorwork that tilts on a bias? You can pattern the blocks however you like as long as your gauge will let you work with the basic construction.

   
Try a cable design. Or even a Fair Isle pattern!

If you've never worked with entrelac before, you may want to learn more about the basics by downloading Beyond the Basics: Entrelac. Once you've got the hang of this basic technique, dive into Betty's Tee with me!

Eunny JangHow will you be knitting it? Leave a comment and let me know!

Have fun,

Eunny

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