I am a third generation maker, with my grandmother being a seamstress by trade and my mother was both a sewer and a knitter. I have been knitting sweaters for many years now, and I have had a preference for knitting sweaters flat. Harking back to those influential seamstresses in my life, I believed that knitting flat and seaming up the individual pieces was just how it was done. Then I met the Doocot Sweater by Katie Davies. I might not ever go back to flat work again! Joking, not joking!
As a slow knitter, this type of sweater construction is a game changer. While it is cropped, which does speed things up a bit, this has been the fastest sweater I have ever knit. If you haven’t tried this type of sweater construction, I highly encourage you to do so. This particular sweater starts out knitting flat, back and forth, then after splitting off for the sleeves, you join for working in the round. Of course, doing a gauge swatch is the number one rule of getting a finished sweater that resembles the pattern you desire. Some of us; however, have purl stitches that create a difference in flat knitting versus knitting stockinette in the round.
Tip: I always buy an extra skein of yarn just to be on the safe side.
To get gauge, I ended up doing 8 swatches. After all of that swatching, I ended up with was a size 3 needle for the flat knitting back section, and a size 5 needle for knitting in the round (I have very fat purl stitches). I was able to get the number of stitches per 4 inches gauge for both, but the row count was off on both so I just needed to do a bit of math to make adjustments.
If you don’t know how to swatch in the round and are more of a visual learner, you can check it out on this video WEBS video.
Here’s how I go about swatching in the round:
Using a circular needle, you cast on, and instead of turning your work, you move it back to the right needle, and knit across, again not turning your work, but moving what you just knit back to the right needle, continuing this way until you have enough rows for checking your row count. There will be yarn floats at the back of the work that you will cut after soaking your swatch, but before wet blocking. In the photo above, the swatch with the fringe is my swatch for knitting in the round.
Another thing I do is try the sweater on as I go. In the case of knitting flat, I hold it up to myself or the recipient to make sure I am on track. In this case, I was making the sweater for Katherine and I am so glad I had her try it on! I made a rookie mistake by looking at the length dimensions that were in centimeters and acting as if they were in inches! So, I got the opportunity to rip about 5 inches of stockinette.
Trying on as you go is extremely important. I always have written down my pre-blocked and post blocked gauges so I am aware of the differences, and I still try on the sweater mentally noting that it might be fitting a bit more snug then after blocking.
My fiber preference is wool, or wool blends with natural fibers. While I have many environmental reasons why I choose wool, what I really love about working with wool is that it is very forgiving. I may not be the best knitter, but after a bath in warm sudsy water and wet blocking, those wool fibers just line up with each other and create such a beautiful fabric. I was fortunate to learn about knitting from people who find the importance in blocking, so I have always wet blocked everything I knit. In my opinion it is a step you never want to skip.
In making this sweater, I followed some of the basic rules that I was taught many years ago:
- Always swatch and get gauge, or at least the fabric you want and then do the math (In this case, swatch for both flat and in the round).
- Keep notes on your unblocked and wet blocked gauges.
- Try it on as you go allowing for unblocked and wet blocked differences.
- Once completed and your ends are woven in, give your sweater a nice warm bath with soap appropriate for wool, and wet block.
These simple steps helped get my Doocot sweater to look this beautiful! What are some of your basic rules you follow when you knit?
Doocot Pattern: Kate Davies Designs link
Yarn: Purl Soho’s Good Wool