Flip Your Sweater: Convert a Sweater Pattern

Crocheters and knitters love to tinker as they make sweaters. Pull up any pattern page on Ravelry and you can see a long list of design mods. Switching seamed to seamless, adding waist shaping, morphing a cardigan into a pullover—we go way beyond adjusting sleeve length. Truly committed sweater engineers especially love turning construction methods upside-down, switching top-down construction into bottom-up or the other way around. Sometimes we do it just for the fun. Other times, it’s advantageous to convert a sweater pattern: when you’re working in the round on a raglan, turning the construction method upside-down can offer some advantages.

Why consider making a bottom-up/top-down switcheroo? (Either way, your sweater will require minimal finishing, so that’s not a factor.)

convert a sweater pattern

If you’re thinking about converting from one construction method to the other, first consider these issues:

• Does the design include stitch patterns that will look funny upside-down? Stripes, symmetrical cables, and colorwork motifs can all work, but lace (unless it’s a simple mesh pattern) often won’t look right if knitted in the opposite direction.

convert a sweater pattern

The designs above are all strong candidates for sweater-flipping. You can easily stitch horizontal or vertical stripes in either direction. The cabled sweater features symmetrical patterning on the yoke, the cuffs, and the hem; these cables could easily be worked upside-down. Clockwise from top left: Saturn Sweater (Interweave Crochet, Fall 2012); Zen Sweater (Interweave Crochet, Spring 2015); Eliza Pullover (Interweave Knits, Weekend 2010); Biscotti Sweater (knitscene Winter 2016).

However, the sweaters below won’t look the same if they’re flipped, due to lace patterning on yoke, front, hem, and/or sleeves. Clockwise from top left: Limpet Lace Top (Interweave Crochet, Summer 2016); Mica Pullover (Interweave Crochet, Winter 2013); Humboldt Raglan (knitscene Spring 2013); Brick Lane Pullover (Interweave Knits, Spring 2014).

convert a sweater pattern

• Plan your increase/decrease stitch conversions. Top-down patterns use increases throughout the yoke. Knitters will need confidence in their math skills so that stitch counts work out in a flipped pattern; for a design with complex stitchwork or color patterning, flipping the pattern may substantially change the sweater’s look. Crocheters will need to decide if skipping stitches or working two or three stitches together will best replicate the increase method. Bottom-up patterns use decreases throughout the yoke—again, plan carefully to keep the stitch counts the same.

• When converting to a bottom-up sweater, think about sleeve construction. If you’re sure of the length you want, it doesn’t matter whether you work sleeves from the bottom up or top down. If you’re not sure, work the yoke without sleeves: knitters can cast on provisionally for the sleeves, complete the yoke, then pick up sleeve stitches and work downward. Crocheters can work the same number of chains or foundation stitches (rather than the provisional cast-on) for the top of the sleeves, complete the yoke, then return to work in the starting chain or foundation stitches at the top of the sleeve and crochet downward. This method, however, won’t look quite as seamless as the knitter’s provisional cast-on trick, so try your best to figure out the length of sleeve you want first to avoid any awkward change in stitch direction around the yoke and top of the sleeves.

Process to Convert a Sweater Pattern

1. Read through the pattern carefully and note the stitch counts at strategic places. You’ll want to match these numbers when you turn the pattern upside-down.

• Yoke at bind-off/cast-on for neck opening.

• Yoke + both sleeves before dividing for body.

• Sleeve after dividing for body.

• Body after dividing for body.

• Body before and after waist shaping (if any). Also note the body’s length before and after waist shaping, so the shaping occurs at the appropriate places.

• Body at bind-off/cast-on for hem.

• Sleeve at bind-off/cast-on for cuff.

convert a sweater pattern

2. Choose your increase or decrease stitches based on the garment’s appearance. For knitters, many increase and decrease stitches slant left or right—keep that slant consistent as you flip the pattern. For crocheters, decide if you can skip a series of stitches without creating a large hole or if you should work a series of multiple repeats of two or three stitches together to blend the decreases with the stitch background.

3. Write down any special notes about stitch counts, construction, and so on. You shouldn’t have to rewrite the whole pattern, but it’s never a bad idea to jot down memory aids before or while you work.

It’s worth planning an upside-down conversion for a pattern—even if you never make the garment—just to better understand sweater construction. Deb, a knitter and inveterate yarn chicken, prefers the hybrid approach (bottom up for the body and yoke, top down for the sleeves) because then she gets the best of both worlds: stable shoulder seams, psychological advantages, and yarn chicken wins.

Sara looks forward to making her first top-down seamless crochet sweater to compare results with her bottom-up projects and projects with seams. We both find that the more we know about garment construction, the better our choices as we create beautiful sweaters.

—Sara & Deb

Convert a Sweater Pattern!


One Comment

  1. Gloria W at 5:42 pm May 24, 2017

    yarn chicken…that’s hilarious.

Post a Comment