Knitting a Dahlia

The Dahlia Cardigan by Heather Zoppetti

One of my favorite flowers is the dahlia and one of my all-time favorite cardigan knitting patterns is the Dahlia Cardigan by Heather Zoppetti, which originally appeared in Interweave Knits, Fall 2011. I love the drape in front, the decorative leaf detail on the sleeves, and most of all, the fabulous square of lace on the back.

This sweater is certainly beautiful to wear, but it's so much fun to knit, too. The construction is unique: the lace square is knit first. Stitches are bound off along the upper and lower edges of the panel, leaving live stitches on the two sides.

The rest of the back fabric is worked in two sections that start in the middle and work out, incorporating the live lace panel stitches. A section of stitches worked with waste yarn on either side mark the position of the armholes. The fronts are simple continuations of the back stitches, still worked from side to side.

Finally, the waste yarn marking the afterthought sleeve openings are snipped, stitches are picked up on either side, and the sleeves are worked in the round from the top down. The only seaming this sweater needs in the end is to sew the bound-off top and bottom edges of the lace panel into the back fabric. Very clever!

Sounds easy, and guess what? It is!

Sheila's beautiful Dahlia Cardigan

My friend Sheila knit the Dahlia Cardigan a couple of years ago (see photo at right), from a subtly variegated cotton/alpaca blend. She really enjoyed knitting the cardigan, but she did say that it was a lot of stockinette knitting that took quite awhile because she used size 4 needles. It was worth it, though, and Sheila wears her Dahlia Cardi a lot.

A Different Way to Cast-On

The Dahlia Cardigan pattern suggests using the crochet provisional cast-on to start the lace panel. It starts with just four stitches, immediately increased to eight on the first row, and then you're instructed to divide the stitches onto four DPNs and begin the lace chart. When the sweater is complete, you carefully remove the waste yarn from the provisional crochet cast-on, thread the tail on a tapestry needle, draw the tail through the four original stitches, pull tight, and weave in the tail.

I thought maybe this whole process could be simplified by substituting a little-known but really handy cast-on: Emily Ocker's Circular Cast-On. Here's how you do it:

Emily Ocker's Circular Cast-On
This technique comes from Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac (Dover, 1981). Make a simple loop of yarn with the short end hanging down (Figure 1). With a crochet hook, *draw a loop through main loop, then draw another loop through this loop (Figure 2). Repeat from * for each stitch to be cast on (Figure 3). After several inches have been worked, pull on the short end (shown by arrow) to tighten the loop and close the circle.

Using this Emily's cast-on, all you would have to do is weave in the tail after you get a few inches into the lace panel. I really like the idea of not having to pull out the provisional cast-on at the end of the project—what if you dropped some stitches? Horrors!

Anyway, it's always fun to try a new cast-on!

Get the Dahlia Cardigan pattern today, along with many more patterns and great knitting information, in Interweave Knits Fall 2011.


P.S. P.S. Have you leared a new cast-on recently? Share it with us below in the comments!

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