Friday, May 22, 2015

Top Down Baby sweater variation

Top down baby cardigan - front
Starting with a basic sweater pattern, it is fun to fudge and change bits to suit the yarn you have on hand and how you want the finished piece to look.  In 2000, Victorian Video / Yarn Barn of Kansas put out my video for crocheting a top-down cardigan.  The DVD version came out in 2005.  I like this pattern because the neckband has a bit of shaping so the front neck is lower than the back.  Also, the button bands use a solid stitch (bag stitch) to be sturdy.  

I have made a couple of these in my own size, to wear as everyday sweaters.  The first one (made in 1999 or so) is starting to wear out.  The pattern still works, which is nice to know, but it is for a basic cardigan.  

Recently, I had 3 balls of Baby Ull (a fingering weight, machine washable wool), one each in three colors, and chose a 3.75 mm hook.  Since the yarn is thinner than the suggested DK weight (and 4 mm hook) in the pattern, I followed the instructions for the 2T size - I knew 150 grams of yarn would be enough.  It came out small, which is not surprising, and the finished chest size is 19.5 inches, a small baby size.  

Top down baby cardigan - back
I liked this yarn combination for a baby/toddler sweater.  Starting at the neck, I stitched the yoke, changing yarn each row to make stripes.  The pattern stitch alternates 1 row double crochet with 1 row single crochet.

Then, for the body, which is just a rectangle, without any shaping, I wanted something more fun, so I switched to just one color and threw in a sampling of cables (on a double crochet ground), with V-stitch on the sides.  This is not given in the video - it was simply a good place to doodle with the stitches.  The gauge was tight, so I increased 4 more stitches at each underarm than the pattern called for.  It turned out there was just enough yarn for the body, with very little left over.  The finishing single crochet row for the lower edge includes decreasing 10% - same as "sc8, sc2 together to decrease 1".  This is handy so the bottom edge will keep its shape over time.

The sleeves used a variation on the yoke pattern stitch, alternating 1 row double crochet and 1 row (sc, skip 1, ch1).  I switched the colors from one sleeve to the other - it just looks funner that way - edging the cuff with the contrast color.  Because the end of each row joins to the beginning of the row (no seams to sew), I could change yarn each row.

The button bands are one contrast color, with the other used for the neckband/collar.  Then the edging around the whole thing is with the neckband color.  For all the edgings, including the cuffs, instead of the normal crab stitch, which can make a hard cord, I chose a light crab stitch, alternating 1 crab single crochet and 1 chain stitch.  This lighter crab stitch is really good for a simple edging in general.

The whole sweater measures 10 inches from the center back neck to the lower edge - it is a small sweater.  With the combination of different design elements, a simple sweater concept comes out looking pretty fancy.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Crocheted cable sweaters

It's been a while since I stitched up a cable sweater, but a friend wanted me to make one for her.  So I pulled out a bunch of handy Aran-style sweaters from ages ago and thought about how to proceed.

Crocheters have a bunch of different ways to create cable effects.  Since I am aiming for a wearable garment, comparable to a knit, I prefer to mimic the structure of knitted cables, working on a ground of double crochet.

Back in ancient history (70s/80s?), McCall's Needlework and Crafts magazine had a series of 6 contests, each with a different yarn company, challenging readers to interpret a specific garment shape with a specific brand of yarn.  This bright pullover is from the contest co-sponsored by DMC, with a challenge to make a short-sleeved pullover with a square neck.  I had wanted it to be blues and greens, but could find only red/orange/yellow thread.  This won 3rd prize (the first 2 were knitted), and has the structure of a traditional flat 4-piece garment.

I didn't finish the turtleneck pullover one in time for the deadline for another one of the contests (I entered only 2 in all), but it was fun to make -- a picture sweater with a blue sky leading to a mountain top with skiers shown as cable lines down to the trees.  I used front/back post double crochet for a mock ribbing a lot back then.

Then I started working out the specifics of top-down construction and threw in cables.  This one has increase lines in the regular raglan positions, but it also has increases at the top of the shoulders, so the sweater has little pointy bits at the top of the shoulders, making it weird to wear.  Learning curve.
Then there was the toddler sweater using a sport weight yarn and following the traditional gansey shape described in an article in Threads magazine.  It had both cables and lattice with different stitches.

The last big cable sweater I made had a lattice fabric, with different pattern stitches in the lattice space, also using a sport weight wool.  By then, I had worked out the concept for the top-down, one-piece construction, with the saddle-shoulder shaping that isn't as casual looking as the standard top-down construction.  With the large grain fabric of crochet, it is fairly easy (once you see your stitches) to choose what line you want the increases to form.  The project starts with all the important bits right away, and then once that is done, it's just straight stitching until the piece is big enough or I run out of yarn.  Understanding the construction, then, means I can throw in any pattern stitches I want, and the sweater becomes a doodle.

After looking at my past, I worked up a sampler of possible stitches to figure out what I wanted to do.  The yoke start looks kind of scary because there is so much going on:  shaping, neck shaping, pattern stitches, all at the same time.

This current project for my friend uses Plymouth Homestead, a worsted weight wool.  This is less than one skein (100 grams) of yarn:

I generally figure 600 grams of worsted/DK yarn for a medium lady's sweater, which ends up about 40 inches around at the bust, about 22 inches long at the center back, and with long tapered sleeves.  At the end of two skeins, I had finished the yoke and was about 3 inches down the body.

The edges look a bit wobbly, and since crochet stitches are  not perfectly up-and-down, there is a hint of torque.  But it seems to work out in the finishing just fine.