When the Fronts Don’t Close: Design and Fit in a Dolman Jacket

I’ve known Amy Christoffers for several years. First, as an independent designer whose work I kept seeing pop up online and in magazines. We began to work together in various ways on knitscene and Interweave Knits magazines. And then, a few years into our long-distance correspondence, we got to meet in person at the TNNA show in Long Beach, California. She was tall with long drifty hair and had a personable but shy demeanor, the kind of whimsical seriousness that I’ve seen in so many knitters—creative, curious, but practical and strong as nails under it all. I liked her immediately.

More years passed; Amy wrote a book; I took on the editorship of Interweave Knits and knit.purl magazines. And then Amy became the design director at Berroco Yarns and I was thrilled! An awesome yarn company and an awesome designer together!

Now I get emails from Amy that say things like: “Check out this new yarn for spring! It’s a really cool cotton-alpaca-wool blend.” That precisely describes the new Berroco Fiora, a smooth plied sportweight that consists of 40% cotton, 30% rayon, 15% alpaca, 10% nylon, 5% wool. Now that’s a bounty of fibers! All with unique characteristics, wrapped into one yarn.

Amy designed a spring jacket in the new yarn and submitted it me for consideration in knit.purl spring/summer 2015. Her sketches were super-cute and I said yes yes yes. The Lace Dolman Jacket, worked up in the color “ray,” is the result.

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Lace Dolman Jacket, knit.purl Spring/Summer 2015

I love the look of the lace with differing orientations—the upper body is perpendicular to the lower body thanks to the unusual dolman construction. You work each sleeve from the cuff to the upper back, join the two halves down the center back, and then pick up and knit the lower body downward from there. Trim rib edges the whole design.

I decided I wanted to make my own Lace Dolman Jacket and ordered the Fiora yarn in color “Cornelia,” a lovely teal with a good bit of gray to it—it’s a subtle and sophisticated turquoise, not a riotously bright one. Amy blogged about the design over on the Berroco blog and she talks about the color options in Fiora—all those earthy neutrals just call to me!


I’ve started work on my jacket; here’s the first sleeve.


I am making the second size, which yields a back width of 20” from underarm to underarm. When you look at the sizes for this project, you’ll see they’re listed as back width measurements, not full bust circumferences. That’s because the fronts are not designed to close and they do not add up to the total back width. (A wide collar is added in finishing, which is not shown in this schematic. For more on understanding schematics and what does and does not go into them, see my video). When you put on this garment, the back width is a set indicator of fit (your arms are in the sleeves, so the space between them in the back needs to fit that space!). But the fronts will hang open and can be any width, really. Hence we list the back widths for the sizes.

Dolman schematic
I chose the 20” back, which in theory means a 40” total body circ but we know the fronts don’t close. My actual back measures 16” from armpit to armpit across my bra line in back. So 20” gives me 4” of positive ease across the back, which is ideal in a garment meant for layering over shirts, and for a dolman construction, which tends to have roomy sleeves and looks best with a roomy fit in the upper body. My full bust circ is 41”, so if I just doubled the back width and determined the second size equaled a 40” sweater, I’d think the second size was too small for me. So look carefully at the back width when you choose a size in this garment, and yes, doubling the back width for a rough idea of total body circ is wise, but don’t let that be the sole determining factor for you. Measure your back!



Which color would you choose for the Lace Dolman Jacket? I’d love to see a version worked up in that “Elberta” color. It makes me think of lacey Boho dresses and tan cowgirl boots and the way summer light catches in the tall brown brush of the Colorado foothills, so close to our Interweave offices. Lovely. Thanks, Amy!




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