Top Down in the Round

This past June I spun this yarn from BFL (Blue Faced Leicester) fiber that I had dyed myself. I had a couple of braids of bright fuchsia and a few different reds. I split them apart and randomly spun the colors together and then 3-plied the singles. The last little bit of red on the right was left over on a bobbin that I chain plied. I had been wanting to spin this for a long time and since I wasn’t knitting very much (bad shoulder, remember?) I had time to spin. It ended up being somewhere between DK and Sport weight, 438 grams.

I decided to knit a plain sweater with this yarn, without any fancy stitches because the yarn is bright enough and I wanted the yarn to be the star of the show. I am still hoping that I have enough! But what type of construction should it be?

I looked through Ravelry. I looked through my knitting library of books. In an effort to keep things simple, I decided on top down, in the round, raglan. Raglan sweaters fit me fine and it’s easy TV knitting to make increases in specific places every other round. BUT, which pattern to choose?

I really don’t like (“don’t like” is a polite way to say that I really hate) rectangular necklines and wide boat necks. Why are all the most popular designers creating these necklines, that don’t fit necks? I suspect because it’s easy to design this way. Fewer calculations. Easier directions. But not a great fit. I looked around until I fount this pattern – #265 Neck Down Mid Weight Pullover on the web site “Knitting Pure and Simple” and that is a very apt description. So many basic patterns that do just what you want them to do – fit and flatter. You can also find the pattern and more info on Ravelry here. And my sweater on Ravelry is here. What I especially like about this pattern is that the neckline is cast on for the back and shoulders and knit back and forth, increasing for raglan shaping, and after about an inch you begin shaping the front neck, eventually casting on for the lower front neckline and begin knitting in the round. Great neckline shaping without short rows. After you knit the sweater you go back and pick up stitches for the ribbing around the neck, which also adds some stability and strength to the neck (as opposed to starting with the ribbing and just knitting down from there).

Now, lots of people believe that the incredible life changing benefit of top down sweaters is that you can try them on for size as you knit – as if you CAN’T do that with bottom up, which as you can tell from my tone of voice, I think is nonsense. You can certainly try on a bottom up sweater just as well. In my mind the advantage of top down is that if you aren’t sure if you have enough yarn to make a sweater you can decide as you go along to shorten the length of the body or sleeves or both in order to have a finished garment with the amount of yarn you have. Otherwise, honestly, I don’t see what the big advantage is. One DISadvantage to knitting top down is that you are swinging around a lot of sweater when knitting the sleeves, which is kind of annoying.

Anyway, I had made my decision so off I went. My gauge was a little bit off, so I am knitting the 3rd size (42″) to end up with a 38″ sweater, on size 5 US (3.75mm) needles.

I got to the part of the instructions where you should slip the sleeve stitches to waste yarn while you continue knitting the body in the round. Here is where you really REALLY need to check the size to be sure you should do this step, or knit further to make it bigger, or rip back to make it smaller. So I tried it on.

Well, unless you have someone to help you by holding the knitting down, making sure it’s laying on your body right, etc., I don’t see where this helps a lot. Sure, it fits around my body, but is this the correct length to take the next step? Beats me. So I decided the better check would be to compare it with sweaters that fit me well.

First I compared it to this fingering weight top down circular yoke sweater.

At first glance my knitting looked a little short compared with this sweater. The fit should be pretty much the same.

But after laying it out more carefully, matching the top of the shoulders, the points of sleeve hold were the same. So far so good! Let’s compare another sweater.

This is a DK weight sweater with a rather rectangular neckline, that I’m not so fond of, and you can see how the shoulders slope dramatically down. The sweater actually doesn’t fit all that great, but it’s cozy and I do wear it a lot.

Compared to this sweater the point of separation is a little short, but honestly, this blue sweater is long in the armpits so I’m happy that the new red sweater is not as long.

In summary, I think it is more useful to compare your knitting with a sweater, or sweatshirt, that fits you well to see if you are on the right track with sizing.

Yesterday I put my sleeves on hold and started knitting down the body in the round. I’m thinking that I might put this on hold after an inch or two and knit the sleeves. At least I won’t have all the body weighing me down when I’m knitting the sleeves in the round. Here is my progress so far, pinned down on my ironing board. The color is pretty accurate. This is such easy knitting that I expect to be finished well before Christmas. It looks like a PRETTY Christmas sweater to me!

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