Ahhh, the classic raglan sweater. A piece every person (even I need a good one) ought to own (IMHO). It’s such a simple silhouette, and a staunch wardrobe workhorse in the winter months. I do own one. It’s a color-block number that I picked up at Mango for no more than fifty bucks. It’s cool, but that’s about it. It isn’t super soft and luxurious like the sweaters in our dreams (but really, no $50 sweater is) and it pills! (I think I’ve shaved it almost every time I’ve gone to wear it. I should have expected as much—$50. Hello, Tayler!)
And really, the sweaters of our dreams, the ones we spy on Net-A-Porter for hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars (we’re looking at you *Chloé) made from the softest cashmere or alpaca, are still made by a machine (I’m assuming here). They lack that special something that comes with hand knit sweaters; eh, let’s say hand-knit charm.
<<This conjures up an idea for a whole ‘nother post…hmmm…the wheels, they turn.>>
So this brings me to my latest challenge:
my first improvised, top-down, raglan, chunky-knit, funnel-neck sweater…..phew, (a bit excessive, no?) A sweater that embodies some of my favorite design elements in a good top. I am always inspired by late 50s to 60s style tops with their tall, stovepipe necks and boxy shapes.
I approached this challenge with two sources of guidance, Karen Templer over at Fringe Association and her wonderful series on How to improvise a top-down sweater (if you’re new to sweater knitting, like I am, you need to check out this series), and Maggie Righetti’s tome on sweater design called Sweater Design in Plain English.
One thing I can tell you for sure is to be prepared to take a lot of notes! Because you aren’t following a pattern, but rather relying on your gauge swatching and measurements to lead the way, you need to record a lot of information and do a lot of math to get the dimensions right. That sounds scary. I know. But take it from me, someone who is quite good at teaching math to elementary school-aged children, but has little love for it otherwise, this is actually quite empowering. As I approach portions of the process that require me to stop and solve an equation for sizing and fit, I actually get excited and feel a bit like a real-life, grown-up, knitwear designer!
You definitely want to have a grid paper design notebook handy. I suppose it doesn’t need to be grid paper, but why not have it handy in case you want to map out some of your own stitch patterns down the road? I mean, we are big, tall designers now! 😉 The one I use is a smallish leather bound black book I picked up at Barnes and Noble. I’m pretty sure it was less than $10.
At this point in my process, I am working on the body. I have little shaping to do here since I am looking for a more boxy shape, but will most likely add a few increases near the hips to make room. You know. For the hips.
Check back soon! There’s more to come in my adventures in improvised sweater knitting. Soon enough I’ll have my very own raglan wardrobe staple!