Crocheted Top Down sweater construction

Here are posts related to the top-down construction:


Manipulating Increase Lines

Single increase on each
side of a center point
Single increases
centered over
several rows
Increases stack over each other to create a visual seam line.  When increasing only one stitch, you can increase in the first stitch of the increase in the previous row (see picture on left) - so from one row to the next the increases balance out to create a line over several rows.  The reason that top-down sweaters tend to be raglans is that the increases are centered over each other, like corners on a motif.  Often there is a point (see picture to right), and the stitcher increases one stitch on each side of that point stitch, with the increased stitches get added to its own side.  The effect at that whole increase point is to add 2 stitches.

Another option is to make a double increase in the point stitch.  That visual line can be manipulated:  Increases don't have to be centered over each other.
Double increase
centered over each other
Increase to the sleeve for 3 rows,
then to the front for 4 rows - we
don't know which way the increase
at the top of the picture goes.

To manipulate the visual line, the increases still have to line up over each other, somehow -- just not centered.  In the next increase row, choose whether to increase in the first stitch, or in the last stitch, of the previous increase point.  That way, the increases from the previous increase get allocated to one side or the other.  Notice that where the current increase being made is going (like the top double increase in the picture to the left) hasn't been decided yet -- that gets decided in the next row.

What is tricky about this is how to write it in a pattern.  In the case of adding one stitch on either side of a marker, if you look at the fabric, you are adding 1 stitch  in the 2nd stitch of the previous increase, then in the 1st stitch of the next previous increase - which sounds really complicated.  It sounds easier to say simply "increase 1 on each side of the marker." The orientation of the instructions is to focus on the relationship between the increase and the marker -- not on placing the current increase in a certain relationship to the previous increase in the line, which involves looking at the fabric structure.  It is easier to write the instructions that way.  On the down side, it creates a dependency on instructions and plays down the relevance in knowing what is happening in the fabric.

If the relationship in the project is between the stitcher and the yarn, with the pattern on the side, it is easier to look at the stitches, see what structure is going on, and simply say, "Increase to the front (or to the sleeve, or to the back)."  If more knitters and crocheters engage with the fabric, maybe that kind of pattern-writing will evolve.  It could happen.

LABELS: , , FRIDAY, JUNE 6, 2014

Round and Round Pullover or Top to crochet

works fine for dolls, too
An enduring quality of knitting basic socks is that the process is blissfully brainless except for a couple of places to think a little bit.  Pulling together my samples, I came across a bunch of sweaters and tops – for myself, for 18” dolls, and for smaller teddy bears – all from the same ‘round and round’ pattern concept that is pretty brainless, except for a couple of places to think a little bit. 

Schaefer Lisa 3, a lightweight yarn
I start with a narrow band of single crochet rib for the neck – skinny for a simple neckband, wider for a collar.  Making the strip long enough to be a pullover and the front will be low enough that it won’t rub my neck.  The sweater is identical front and back.  Mark 4 points for where the increases will be, then continue in a coil until the yoke is as big as desired.  Then joining front and back, adding a few stitches for the underarm and skipping the sleeve stitches, continue in a coil with no more increases for the length of the body.  Going back for each sleeve, rejoin yarn and stitch in a coil for each sleeve.  And that’s really about it.
Persio bulky weight yarn

Of course, there are Measurements That Matter:  bust, sleeve length, upper arm.  The actual numbers vary depending on the measurements I start with.  The initial increase points can just be set up in quarters along the starting long edge, but for a more fitted top, the sleeve sections are smaller than the front/back sections – and there’s arithmetic for that.  I usually mark the underarm point and do a double decrease every 4th round to taper the sleeve.  Decrease 10% at any lower edge if you want it to look trim before finishing off.  

Using sweater yarns and a simple pattern stitch (like the one below), the focus is on the yarn/texture/color.  The results have been consistently satisfactory.


Standard Body Measurements

Following a pattern for a crocheted garment can be tricky because gauge is tricky in crochet. You might match the stitch gauge but not the row gauge. You might want the fabric to be looser or more firm than what you are getting by following the pattern. You might very well be using a different yarn than the pattern indicates. There are lots of factors.

So, knowing what kinds of measurements are involved can be really useful. And it turns out that there are size charts out there that include a lot more information than just the bust/chest measurement that we usually depend on when buying ready-made garments. The Craft Yarn Council has pages on their website with this information. Here are some links:

The kinds of information shown on this page and listed in the body charts


and there are charts for women and men, too)

give you a clue of what kinds of measurements to look for, for example, with making doll clothes, too.

These charts are handy tools in my information kit.


Finally finishing!

Here Harper has made a gorgous baby bonnet and really cute baby socks, and I'm finally finishing the blue cardigan in time to set it aside to wear in the spring or summer (it is a cotton/silk blend, and the fit is to go over a sleeveless top, not to go over long sleeves).
It looks a lot like a cardigan, which is a good thing because I want to be able to wear it to work in a grown-up office, and I am not making any kind of a craft statement about myself.
My next one will have pockets and be suited more for winter, with larger proportions to wear over long-sleeved shirts.
As Harper pointed out, as nice as it is to start new ideas, it is really nice to finish things, too.


Finishing the yoke and then some

This is a lot of writing for a pattern, but it is the idea of the thing that is exciting. Now that you can see how the increases line up in each row of the yoke, there is more shaping to do:

Since I started the front parts after having worked a while on the back, there are a few rows where I add to the sleeves instead of the back (because the back is wide enough), but still adding to the fronts. So, once the back is the right width, start increasing to the sleeve caps, and not to the back, like this:

Start the row and work to the first increase point. Increase in the LAST sc of the increase in the previous row (to increase to the front), then
Continue to the next increase point, and increase in the LAST sc of the increase in the previous row (to increase to the sleeve cap), then
Continue to the third increase point, and increase in the FIRST sc of the increase in the previous row (to increase to the sleeve cap again -- no increases to the back), and finally
Continue to the last increase point, and increase in the FIRST sc of the increase in the previous row (to increase to the front).

Repeat this row for a while, until the fronts have about the same number of stitches together as the back. Then it is time to increase only to the sleeve caps:

Start the row and work to the first increase point. Increase in the FIRST sc of the increase in the previous row (to increase to the sleeve cap), then
Continue to the next increase point, and increase in the LAST sc of the increase in the previous row (to increase to the sleeve cap), then
Continue to the third increase point, and increase in the FIRST sc of the increase in the previous row (to increase to the sleeve cap again -- no increases to the back), and finally
Continue to the last increase point, and increase in the LAST sc of the increase in the previous row (to increase to the sleeve cap).

Repeat that row to grow the sleeve cap. What is interesting here is that when the sleeve cap is about as wide as I want the upper arm to be around (for me that would be about 14 inches), it will turn out that the armhole depth will also be just about right, too. Amazing how that works.
To finish off the yoke, for a few rows, increase only to the fronts and back, and not to the sleeves. The rows are getting really long by now. It should look about like this:

Then, in the last row, set up the body like this: work across the front to the the first increase point, chain a few stitches (about 2 inches for an adult size; make sure it is an odd number so the pattern stitch will work), skip the sleeve stitches and sc to the next increase point. Stitch across to the third increase point on the other side of the back, chain the same number of stitches as before, skip the other sleeve stitches, sc in the last increase point, and finish off the row. There is a question here: Do you sc in the first or second sc of the increase point? That depends. You can go either way (but you want to be consistent). Often, it turns out that either the sleeve or the body is a tiny bit on the small side or almost too big. That clue tells me which side I want that last set of increases to go to. Once you get to that point, you will see what I mean.
From here on, work back and forth in rows, no more increases, for the body of the sweater. When it is long enough, finish off.
For sleeves: Rejoin the yarn at the underarm with the wrong side of the last sleeve edge row facing. Keeping in pattern, start on the sleeve: stitch along the underarm, along the sleeve cap edge, and finish off the row at the underarm again, joining with a slip stitch to the beginning of the row. I count my stitches after the first row to make sure the other sleeve has the same number -- it is good for sleeves to match. Now even though I’m working back and forth in rows for this stitch, there is no reason not to join the end of the row to the beginning and work the seam as I go. That way there is no seam to sew at the end. I like my sleeves to be fitted, so I decrease 1 stitch at each end of every 4th row. This makes a centered seam line and tapers the sleeve so it fits at my wrist.
You can decide your own tapering: By this time, you’ve stitched enough to have a really good gauge swatch -- the body of the sweater. Figure out how long you want your sleeve to be. How many rows is that, based on your gauge? How big do you want your wrist to be? You can figure that number of stitches from your gauge information, too. Knowing how many stitches you worked in your first row (A) and how many you want to end up with (B), along with how many rows you want to work (D), figure how many stitches you need to decrease and how often to decrease: (A-B)/D. Now this number has to be a whole number because you simply cannot decrease a fractional stitch. Usually, it works out to 1 stitch every 2 rows for a single crochet-type pattern stitch. To have a centered seam line, you need to decrease at both ends of the row, so that would be decreasing 2 stitches every 4 rows. Your numbers may differ, but you have all the information to decide for yourself.
It is amazing how many words it takes to describe the concept behind a shape that makes so much sense. But it really works. 


Growing the yoke

Part 3:

So far, all there is is the back and the shoulder bits of the sleeves -- there are no fronts yet. The next step is to start the fronts. The increases at the 4 increase points have nothing to do with the neck edge increases from here on out. For a cardigan that comes together at the center front, increase to the neck edge as many stitches at there were on the back in the very first row. I started with 19 stitches across the back in the foundation stitch row, so I want to increase 9 stitches on each neck edge. That leaves a little gap, which will be filled in later with the button band.

So here is what to do for the next set of rows:
1. For a V-shaped neck edge, add 1 stitch at the end of the next 18 rows (that adds 1 stitch to each side of the neck edge every two rows).

2. AT THE SAME TIME, start the next row and stitch to the first increase point --
a. Increase in the LAST stitch of the increase of the previous row (to increase to the front)
b. Increase in the FIRST stitch of the next increase point (to increase to the back)
c. Increase in the LAST stitch of the next increase point (to increase to the back)
d. Increase in the FIRST stitch of the next increase point (to increase to the front)
e. Continue to the end of the row, and sc 1 more in the last stitch to add to the neckline for a total of 9 times on each side of the front. (This is the same as step 1 (above). Once these stitches have been added, skip this step and just work even on the row ends.)

Repeat step 2 for quite a while.

For this section, you will add 2 patt stitches to the back in each row and 1 patt stitch to each front side and 1 stitch to the front neckline in each row. The number of stitches in the shoulder/sleeve bits will stay the same for this time.

When the back is as wide as you want it to be, it is time for the next step. You can tell by measuring between the increase points on the back. Not including the increases, the distance should measure what you want across the shoulders. So for me, for example, the distance across the back, between the increase points, will be about 15 inches.

Since the neck shaping is not related to the over-all increasing going on for the yoke, if you don’t finish your neck shaping before you reach the end of increasing to the back, that is ok. But in this case, I finished the neck shaping first, so the instructions above worked as written.
Here's about what your work should look like now.
The next phase will be finishing adding to the front and starting the sleeve caps.


Starting the top-down sweater

Here is a picture of my sweater so far. My measurements are about a size 12. Since I am using sc-lite, a pattern stitch that is a 2-stitch repeat, each row has an ODD number of stitches -- that way every row begins and ends with a single crochet.

You may wonder why I don't use straight single crochet or straight double crochet. If you experiment with different stitches in crochet, you will see that each has strengths and weaknesses. Single crochet by itself makes a really stiff fabric if you work it at a firm gauge, and it stretches out of shape a lot if you use a loose gauge. I wanted something that would hold its shape and have a nice drape. I like the look of this stitch better than the look of straight double crochet for this type of thing.

WARNING: If you are not used to seeing your stitches, this may be tricky. If you don't want to be bothered and it seems like too much work, that is just fine. There is plenty of room in the world for all kinds of folks, and this technique is most likely not for everyone.

When you start at the center of something and work outward, you need to increase. Since the yoke of a sweater is a lot like a doily or a motif with the center cut out of it, I think about how many stitches to increase to make something that lays flat. For a single-crochet-type stitch, I need to increase about 6 stitches in each row for the piece to lay flat. Since I have 4 increase points for the yoke of a sweater, I will choose to increase 8 stitches per row. If I wanted to get tricky, I could increase for 3 rows (3x8=24) and then work without increases for 1 row -- that way, I would increase an average of 6 stitches per row over 4 rows.

Unfortunately, I would also have to think more: I would have to remember to count rows. I would have to look more closely at my fabric to make sure that on the row AFTER the row without increases I restarted the increases in the right place. I don't feel like thinking that much, and the net result -- for me, right now -- isn't worth the effort. So I am increasing 8 stitches per row, or one pattern stitch at each increase point.

Looking at the picture, you can see a visual seamline from the neck out along the shoulder, then down a bit of the armhole, then out again to the underarm. Kind of like a saddle shoulder design.

Now, there is actually one more bit of the line.

Row 1 actually starts at the neck back, so the little bits of the neckline that are up-and-down at the shoulder are also part of the visual seamline of increases.

And here is how I got there:

I like my neck-back edge to be about 5 inches across. Using foundation stitch for the first row, chain 2. (Sc, ch1) 3 times in the 2nd chain from the hook. This represents the point where 2 increase points come together, so it is a double increase. The chain that those single crochets went into is the Base Chain for those stitches.

For foundation sc-lite, do this: *Yarnover, insert hook in base chain of the last single crochet. Yarnover. Draw up a loop -- 3 lps on hook. Yarnover, pull through 2 loops -- what you just did represents the ch-1 space between two single crochets. Yarnover, pull through 1 loop -- this makes the Base Chain for your next pattern stitch (trust me). Make a note of that chain stitch you just made. Two loops remain on the hook. Yarnover and pull through those two loops -- just like finishing a single crochet, which is what you just did. Chain 1, like normal.**

To make the next foundation single crochet, repeat from * to **. Repeat until the piece measures (in my case) about 5 inches long. To end the row, (sc1, ch1, sc1) into the last base chain made -- for another double increase. You survived. It is all good. Just for the heck of it, count the number of single crochets across the back (not including the double increase stitches.

At this point, you have no way of knowing whether these increases were made to the front, sleeves or back. That gets decided in the next row.

RULES: For this pattern stitch, in every row, work sc into sc and ch over ch. That is the rule. Always ch1 to turn. To make an increase, (ch1, sc1 into the same sc) to add one patt stitch.

So here we go:

Row 2: Ch1, turn, sc1 into last sc made. (ch1, sc1 into same st) to increase. Ch1, sc into next sc. Ch1, sc into next sc. Ch1, sc1 into same sc to increase 1 patt st. (Notice that you have increased into the first and last sc of the double increase in the previous row.) (Ch1, sc1 in next sc) all the way across until you reach the double increase at the other end of the row. Increase into the first of that three-some. Work even for one patt stitch. Then finish off with an increase into the last sc.

Wow. Now look at your work. Doesn't look like much, but here's what you should have:
  • An increase
  • A little bit of shoulder edge
  • Another increase
  • A stretch across the back
  • A third increase
  • Another little bit of shoulder edge
  • And a final increase at the end of the row.
For the next few rows, continue this way: Begin with an increase. Work even to the nexe increase point. Increase on the first stitch of the next increase point. Work even across the back. Increase in the Last stitch of the next increase point. Then work even to the next increase point, and finish off with an increase in the last stitch. In this way, you will add 1 patt st to the sleeve bits and 2 patt sts to the back in each row. After about 2-1/2 inches (half the width of the back edge), it will be time to shift the line and start creating the front.

What you have now should look something like this


Top-down crocheted sweater

You can almost always tell a top-down sweater because it has raglan sleeve shaping. Almost always.

Thing is, you get a raglan line because the increases (from the neck down) are centered over each other. If you don't center the increases -- make the increase in one row at the beginning or at the end of the increase in a previous row -- you create a visual seamline in any shape you want by increasing 'to the sleeve' or 'to the fronts' or 'to the back'.

I am starting a cardigan at the back of the neck, and it will have a saddle shoulder visual seamline, which looks more dressy than a casual raglan line. The advantages to top down include:

1. I have a limited amount of yarn and want a sweater from it. Dealing with the important stuff first, I can handle shorter sleeves or a shorter length and still have a sweater I like at the end. This way, I use as much of the yarn as possible and have virtually none left over. And even if I have plenty of yarn, working in one piece from the top down means I can make the sweater as long as I want, without any angst about running out.

2. Using a tape measure, gauge isn't the most important information to start with. In crochet, what you measure is pretty much what you get, since your stitches aren't restricted on needles. So my approach deals a lot with numbers and measuring. Some people don't like this; I am one of those who find this comforting.

The yarn I am using here is called Crespo, a cotton/silk/nylon blend in a light worsted weight (recommends #6 needle and 5.25 sts per inch for knitting). I have 8 balls of it, at 125 m per 50 gram ball -- about 1000 meters in all -- and I want to make a size 12-ish cardigan. I am using a size H hook. My pattern stitch of choice: I call it sweater stitch or single crochet lite --

Over an odd number of stitches, sc1, (ch1, sk1, sc1) across. Row 2 for pattern: Ch1 to turn. Sc1 in last sc, (ch over ch, sc1 in next sc) across.

I will have pictures in a few days.


Mike and Julie said...

I have been searching for just such a series of articles on how to create a top down crochet sweater without having to buy a pattern every time I want one. Such clear explanations--they help me understand the process so I don't have rely on someone else's pattern. Thank so much!

Practical Crocheter said...

Thank you. That was the point of the exercise. Enjoy!