Knit a sweater from side to side (without ripping)

Chunky wool in natural sheep shades combined with colorwork. Love it!

I’ve been working on the Heritage Cardigan by Sharon Shoji, found in the winter issue of Interweave Knits.  A lover of neutrals and a lover of colorwork, I was immediately attracted to this project. As I worked on the pattern for the magazine, I thought about ways I could modify the project for my plus-sized self. As cool as the wide fold-back collar looks on the model, I’m not sure it would be flattering on me. A shaped shawl collar, though? Hmm.

To change the collar on this vest, I knew I’d have to change the body of the garment as well. This vest is worked from side to side in one piece—from the front edge of the left front (as it’s worn), across the back, to the front edge of the right front. There is some shallow front neck shaping, but not much—certainly not enough to accommodate a deep, luxurious shawl collar. A true shawl collar requires deep V-neck shaping, into which the wedge of the collar can be set. Since this vest is NOT worked from the hem up, I couldn’t just cast on and then figure out the neck shaping once I was several inches in. Instead, I’d have to reconfigure the cast-on number to reflect the left front at the deepest point of the neck shaping, working in increases to create an incline along the front edge. And I wasn’t sure how I’d handle the front bands—if they’d be part of the collar or not—so I decided to cast on for the left front and NOT work the ribbed band to start, as the pattern directs.

I really do know what I’m doing! but I think I was a little too eager to get into the colorwork, and I was a little cavalier about the calculations. You’ll see I’m halfway into the charted repeat for the left front (love the colors!), but there’s a problem. The neck shaping is still not deep enough—I need to rip it out and cast on even fewer stitches. If I worked the whole vest as established, and then tried to set in a shawl collar, it would be a high, short collar, and would appear more bulky than it really is because of the abbreviated space in which it has to fold back on itself and ease around the cut-out neckhole. It would look like a big collar on a crew neck sweater—odd, huh?

So I’ll be ripping this out and doing the thing right. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, here are some considerations for side-to-side garments: Heritage Cardigan by Sharon Shoji

  • They drape differently than up-and-down knits. In most cases, this means the knitting really doesn’t drape on the planes of the body—shaping, drapey fibers and stitch patterns can help with this.
  • The cast-on and bind-off edges, in most cases, become the side seam edges—work provisional cast-ons so you can work a graft or three-needle bind-off instead of sewing the side seams
  • The steps for tailoring change completely: shaping a set-in armhole is done with addition and subtraction of rows, instead of stitches
  • You still need finishing edges: if you’re working in stockinette, pick up and knit a ribbed band along the bottom selvedge after knitting the garment, for a traditional up-and-down hem band; or work a knitted-in band like in the Heritage Cardigan, which has a six-stitch ribbed edging worked at the beginning of right-side rows/end of wrong-side rows
  • Getting row gauge is really important—it affects the width of all the pieces, instead of the length
  • Getting stitch gauge is also really important—it affects the length of the pieces, and once you’ve cast on, there’s no adjusting to get your desired length—the cast-on count has to achieve your desired length from the get-go
  • You can’t knit these projects in the round (at least not in the traditional sense). Colorwork, as found in the Heritage Cardigan, is therefore worked flat in rows. The only way around this would be to steek the bottom body opening of the sweater (and the neck opening. And the treatment of the armholes would get tricky…)
  • Dolman sleeves work really well with side-to-side knits—cast on at the cuff and work the sleeve, then cast on at the top of the sleeve for the body and work the pieces together seamlessly

What tips do you have for side-to-side knitting?




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