A Seamless Neck for the Ondawa

Here we go. I’ve finished both the front and back, and determined how many stitches will be left live in the centre of the Front and Back for the neck.

1. Bind off one side steek.


2. Flip the sweater inside out so the WS is facing you, and start working a three-needle BO for the first shoulder. Use a needle size slightly larger than sweater needles to avoid puckering. And yes, if you’re stuck at the beach without a larger needle, it’s legal to use a golf tee. Be sure that the last two stitches you bind off are purl stitches (ie, knit stitches on the RS).


3. Elongate the last stitch and pull the yarn ball through to seal the BO.


4. Flip the sweater right side out, work across the neck, and repeat steps 1 through 3 on the other side.

5. Knit across the neck to the shoulder which was bound off first. Since the last shoulder stitches you bound off were RS, knits (Step 2), the last stitch remaining on the neck before the shoulder BO will be a purl. Work that stitch, then pick up and knit a stitch from the shoulder BO point. Work across to other shoulder and pick up and knit a stitch. This will maintain a 1×1 rib across the entire neckline.

6. Finish with a tubular BO on the live neck stitches.

Shoulder and neck done! Gratuitous picture of luscious cables:


Giving Shape to Ondawa

A post full of shaping details, you have been warned!

Neck Shaping
I was determined to dip the front neck of the Ondawa pullover, with short-rows, so I drew myself a diagram:

 01 ondawa diagram

First, I measured my desired length from shoulder to hem – 19 inches. So the Back, a rectangle, would be 17 inches of cable and 2 inches of ribbing. Next, how low did I want my neck to dip in front? Around 4 inches. But 2 inches of the neckline is ribbing. Which means that the cables in the centre front had to stop at 6 inches below the full length of the Back, then the sides of the Front would have to be built up with short rows for 4 inches, followed by a final two inches of ribbing to bring everything to the level of the Back.

However, I was working this in the round, so needed to determine the placement of armhole openings as well. Since this is a drop shouldered style, I measured my bicep at where I thought the armhole would fall, and divided that in half to get the length of the armhole opening on each piece – 5 inches.

All the above was just to help me get the actual knitting sequence. Thus: work in pattern for 13 inches; start short-rowing across Back and sides of Front; after 1 inch of short-rows introduce armhole steek; continue short-rowing till Back is 4 inches higher than centre of Front; start working in the round again to get 2 inches of ribbing; finish steeks and neck.

I did start steeking the armholes, but abandoned the idea after a few rows because:
a) It was really tedious working long stretches of WS rows. It turned out much easier to work back-and-forth on the Back first, and then do the short-rows on the Front, till both were ready for the ribbing.
b) Because the end of round fell in the middle of my loooooong short-rows, I had to work one side of the Front’s cable crossing rows from the WS. Agonizing!
But once I started with the neck ribbing I reintroduced the steek because ptbl was painful!

First, I calculated row gauge by steaming out the bottom of the pullover to get an actual stretched reading (since I was lazy and didn’t swatch in the round). With the row gauge in hand I calculated the number of short rows to be worked. For 4 inches I needed 42 rows, or 21 turning points (since each turning point adds 2 rows). I did not have 21 purl columns on each side of the front, so used 3 sets of 7 points each. The picture below shows only one side for clarity, but imagine that on the other side too, each set leaving a central panel and some side columns unaffected.

 02 ondawa short rows

Seamless neckline finishing next!

WIPping Things into Shape

So much progress on both the Sewaholic Robson Trench and the Ondawa Pullover! Both are pretty intense, frankly, and I used one as a break from the other.

As planned, I bound off three stitches at the underarm of the Ondawa, cast on six stitches over the gap in the next row for the steek, and continued with the yoke. However, by that time I had already started doing short rows to shape the neck, so the steek was quite redundant. After a few rows I abandoned the steek and started working back and forth. I couldn’t work in the round while short rowing anyway, and doing the front and backs separately at least divided the WS rows into shorter stretches.


Meanwhile, the Robson Trench reached …

Stage III: Sewing

To remind you where we are, here’s the fabric cutting diagram.

003 pieces

The large pieces with seam binding and underlining look like these, from left to right:

three seams

a) Simple, with both edges bound and horizontal edges stay stitched
b) Mixed, with one edge bound and the other stay stitched.
c) Complex, with at least one edge is partially bound and the other partially stay stitched.

In all the above, the bound edge is always finished first, and then the remaining edges (horizontal or vertical) are stay stitched.

With that out of the way, I could finally transfer notches. Not, obviously, by notching my beautifully bound edges, but with thread (yes, I’m adding that to the list of how I over-complicated this project).

The seaming for the project goes fastest if you do all similar pieces together. It also sidesteps thread changing frenzy. I did all the bits and bobs first, top stitching and all. Then the large seams: pockets and welts to corresponding pieces, back to back and sleeve top to sleeve bottom. After seaming together, the seams are pressed open and top stitched twice from the right side (except pockets, see below). If any internal curved seam allowance was unbound…


… I trimmed it, bound it with bias tape, and only then top stitched it.


Because my seam allowances are opened up, I did the pocket in a slightly different sequence:

a) Stitch Pockets to corresponding Front and Side pieces, leaving 5/8 inch only unsewn at top and bottom edges. Press each seam allowances towards its corresponding Pocket (very important step!).
b) Move both Pockets and their seam allowances towards the Front, and top stitch the entire Side piece, catching only its own seam allowance.
c) Spread apart Pockets and their seam allowances, and top stitch just the Front piece, only between the notches (ie, only along the Welt).
d) Hold Pockets together and stitch around the edges. This will be possible since the previous steps have left the top and bottom of the Pockets unsewn and uncaught by top stitching. While stitching this curved line, keep the Pocket seam allowances pressed towards the Pockets, sewing through several layers of fabric at the beginning and end of this seam.
e) Finish the curved seam just sewn with bias binding.
f) Complete top stitching on Front princess seam, through all layers, from underarm to top of Welt, then, separately, bottom of Welt to hem.
g) Finish Welts and Pockets as in the pattern.


I did almost everything according to pattern, except the shoulder seams which were joined wrong sides together, to keep the inside of the garment clean.

Whew, ok, some more sewing and finishing next. But first I have to devote some time to my Ondawa.

A Long Journey

Some time ago, I got around to starting the Sewaholic Robson Trench coat. Not in beige cotton gabardine (classic? bah! boring!), but in a slubby black-cream silk. Lined and underlined with chartreuse silk!

I’ve intended to make more sewn winter wear for a while, but always wanted to start with a thick wool coat. The Robson pattern, with its waist shaping through the tie belt, recommends either using lighter fabrics or adding shaping through pattern changes with a thick fabric. I didn’t want to mess around too much with a slightly unfamiliar construction, so I settled upon the silk+silk combination to provide warmth while still remaining thin and allowing me to belt. Anyway, I’m not planning on Arctic exploration with this one, although the original trench coat, made out of tightly woven cotton, was the outerwear of choice for Shackleton’s Antarctic exploration. Who knew? Cotton at the poles!

I was a bit leery of the Robson pattern because of all the little bits and pieces and also because it’s a Proper Trench Coat. But making Sewaholic’s Minoru proved to be so easy, and I still look at it in awe, not quite believing I made it… so I figured Robson from the same pattern company couldn’t be that difficult.

It did take me a while, though, so I’m breaking the sewing across posts. The key to this project is to approach it knowing it might take weeks or months (depending on how much sewing time you can devote to it). Each stage was pretty intense, so I took breaks in between.

Stage I: Size Selection and Pattern Changes
I ironed all pattern tissues and stuck them to ironed newspaper for strength. Then I rough cut the pieces, and measured them at the shoulders to determine size 0 was a good fit (trench shoulders are supposed to lie along the outer shoulder line, so they can be worn over another layer). I also measured at key points at the bust and hip, and decided to cut a size 0 throughout…

…except that I did an illegal FBA at the bust: instead of the proper procedure, I just graded the lines out to the next size and back in again at the bulgiest parts of the princess seam. I’m sure this would be disastrous in a usual princess seam of a close-fitted dress. But the waistline in this coat is created mostly through the belt tie, and the bust falls almost straight to the waist. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my illegal manoeuvre will work!

002 grading

Next, I raised the waist a bit, to create the waist indentation at a higher point. Which meant repositioning the buttons and pocket openings. Finally, I also drew in optional shorter hems (7 inches less), which I think will be more flattering for me.

Stage II: Fabrics and Cutting
I always wished to make it a lined coat, but shrank a little from the work involved in drafting the lining pattern. Even in the original (unlined) pattern, I must admit I was bewildered by the sheer number of pattern pieces. Eventually I sorted them out. In the original pattern, there are two fronts, two backs and two sides which are single layers. Two front facing pieces cover half the front pieces from the inside. Then there are collars, storm flaps, pocket flaps, etc, all self-lined with the main fabric. For simplicity, I used a combination of lining and underlining and with my pattern changes, squeezed everything out of 4m of both fabrics.

I used these fabrics:001 fabrics

a) Black-cream matka silk, in a slubby herringbone weave – outer shell and pockets

b) Chartreuse silk – lining and underlining
(i) The large outer pieces (fronts, sides, backs, sleeves, pockets) are underlined, meaning the chartreuse pieces are joined to their corresponding black pieces before they are sewn together.
(ii) Some pieces (the storm collar assembly) are lined, meaning the black pieces and chartreuse pieces are sewn independently, then joined around the edges and turned the right way out.

c) Gingham cotton print – as sewn in interfacing for the bits and bobs (pocket flaps, epaulets, etc), meaning the gingham is basted to their corresponding black pieces. I interfaced pieces according to pattern instructions except the front facings since that area would already be four fabric layers thick with underlining.

Here’s the cutting diagram:

003 pieces

a) Everything with red lines is cut out of black outer fabric.
b) Everything with green lines is cut out of chartreuse lining fabric.
c) Everything with blue lines is cut out of interfacing.
d) Lines going in one diagonal indicate pieces to be cut once from folded fabric, giving mirror image pieces (separate or on the fold).
e) Cross hatching indicates that piece has to be cut twice from folded fabric – ending up with four pieces. However, I went overboard with this; only the pocket flap, pocket and belt loop need to be cut twice (the second belt loop piece forms the key strap). That is why there are exclamation marks reminding me to cut the other cross hatched pieces only once! once!
f) Finally, are you curious about the thick green incomplete outlines? Check out this really cool method of underlining and seam binding in one go! Of course, this only works on vertical-ish lines, that’s why the fabric extensions stop at the curvy parts of princess seams. In the first stage of basting, with just the outer edges lined up, they princes seam areas look like this:

004 side1

And after the lining is folded to the other side, and the remaining raw edge stay stitched (the matka silk was determined to fray), it looks like this:

005 side2

I’ll finish the raw edge with actual bias tape once the princess seam has been sewn and curved seam allowances clipped.  Think of the advantages of doing things this way! No endless seams to bind with bias tape, while manoeuvring large pieces through the machine! By the time you start sewing pieces together, their edges are already bound!

As you can see in the cutting diagram above, I cut a couple of lining squares to make bias tape; these were much smaller than I would have needed to finish all seams this way!

Ok, enough for now! Sewing next!

Grey Print Laurel

Another Colette Patterns Laurel, a simple little template pattern made a teeny bit unsimple.

small 03

I’d made some permanent changes to the smallest size already:

  • Eliminate the CB seam (so that the piece is cut on the fold) and remove another ¾ inch down the whole length.
  • Deepen and lengthen the darts slightly.
  • Flatten out the back of the sleeve – it was very puffy and rounded originally.
  • Deepen the waist indentations at the side seam and move them by an inch or so.

With these changes, the pattern fits me decently enough, and most importantly, doesn’t require a closure, which is way too much work to install for a simple shift dress. When I’m feeling less lazy, I will probably add an inch through an FBA; it is currently a tad too tight. And lower the bust dart by one inch too.

For this particular dress, I deepened the neckline by 1.5 inches (I should probably make that a permanent change) and added a keyhole with a tie. The sleeves were short to begin with (I was using fabric remnants from a couple of other projects) so I scooped them out even more. They’re now 1.5 inches long at the underarm seam, and about 4 inches from the top of the shoulder.

small 02

Pattern: Colette Patterns Laurel
Size: smallest
Fabric: printed cotton (it’s not quilting cotton, but I don’t know the exact name of this fabric) with lining material used for bias binding.
Time to make: one weekend.

I find that sometimes my life acquires colour themes. Check out the colour of the binding above and my Ondawa: twins separated at birth! And it’s not even my colour in any way!

2nd skein

I’m plugging away at the gazillion cables, but did find time to enjoy the winter sun by shaving a couple of sweaters. Such a soothing and gentle way to pass time! And look at the difference it makes to the two sleeves, below (top unshaved, bottom shaved)!

shaved sleeves

I left the fluff in tree branches for birds to line their nests with, but the last time I checked the ungrateful wretches hadn’t taken any.

A Million Cables

Ondawa. This pattern is probably the complete antithesis of everything I knit. It’s large, unshaped, and is designed with tremendous amounts of positive ease. It is also utterly, utterly gorgeous and after a while, I couldn’t resist.

I swatched with Madelinetosh DK and got a pleasantly drapey fabric – important because I wanted a more fitted look in the garment. I had originally ordered this yarn for a Man Sweater, but the colour in real life was just too bright green to be Man-like. It is also not very me-like; I prefer more complex colours, and this yarn is almost a poisonously vivid bottle green. But then I thought a really striking sweater deserved an equally striking colour, and should probably be worn with obscenely striking accessories. We shall see!

1st ball small

I want to retain the feel of the garment suitably modified to my shape and tastes, so here are the changes I’m planning:

Length: cropped sweaters just don’t do it for me, so mine will be a regular mid-hip length.

Ease: The smallest size has 13” of ease, while the sample is photographed with 19” ease. Nineteen inches!! Not happening on my turf. I’m aiming for a modest 8” ease.

Gauge: The pattern uses worsted weight yarn, and I’m using DK weight. Instead of complicated and tedious gauge matching adjustments, I swatched the three main patterns, calculated their widths and then made up the additional ease with twisted 1×1 rib. The pattern does exactly the same to grade between sizes – the central panel remains the same and width differences are made with ribbing – so I knew I was on the right track to keeping the structure of the sweater the same.

Shaping: With so much ease there really is no need for bust shaping, and the original pattern is basically four rectangles sewn together. But I don’t like boat necks, so I’m going to add short rows along the sides of the front, locating turning points in the purl columns between stitch patterns, to keep the centre front low while raising the sides to match the back. I’ll also make the neck opening smaller – a simple matter of making the shoulder seam longer – to ensure the front neck remains curved instead of straight.

Knitting: There are about 11 million twisted stitches in this, so it’s going to be knit in the round. That is non-negotiable! I may even steek the arm openings.

Others: I’m considering several more refinements like tubular BO and CO, 3-needle-BO on the shoulders, etc, but most of these will be spur of the moment decisions while I knit.


1st ball close small

2014 Roundup

Another year, another chapter closed! I managed to put out an ok-ish number of projects this year, but with unprecedented amount of travelling, my output was  considerably lower than last year. Behold:

002 2014 knit 1

From top left to bottom right, Milk Maiden, Undergrowth, Strawberry Hat, Rosamund’s Cardigan, Opposite Pole, Chestnut Cable Knee Highs, Bubbly Cowl, Boticelli Tunic, Sweet Copper Beret.

I also did a Man Sweater:

small whole 2


And released a Custom Fit Recipe:


I also sewed a bit:

002 sew 2014 1

From top left to bottom right, Border Print Taffy, Project Bag, Sleeping Pajamas, Ruffled Top, Colette Dahlia, Botanical Taffy, two more Project Bags, and Sleeping Shorts.

I hope you all have a wonderful new year full of things you want to come true!





And it is done!

small whole 1

I had to do a fair bit of thinking and research before casting on. First, I needed to see if such a thing was possible at all, ie was there anyone similarly crazy enough to attempt making a giant man-size sweater in fingering weight yarn. A second, and more pertinent reason was to find recommended ease. But here I drew a blank. Most searches threw up obvious information, that ease = wearing ease + design ease. Err, yes, I know that already! I was searching for hints on amounts of ease that flattered men, just like for women’s pullovers a little bit of negative ease in the bust and some positive ease in the waist is recommended. But I found no equivalent for men.

So then I measured some of my husband’s RTW sweaters. They were gigantic in some parts and I did not want that much ease.

Finally, I search Ravelry: Patterns for males in fingering weight. But many of these turned out to have held the yarn doubled, or had projects worked in thicker yarn, so they weren’t much help. After trying several search combinations, I found the best results searching under Projects with fingering weight, tagged with “male”, “men” “boyfriend”, “husband”, etc. There was still no explicit information on ease, but I could see how these sweaters fitted wearers and make guesstimates from there.

So I decided to have 3” ease in the torso, and 2” in the sleeves, except the wrist which had 3”. The hem is 2” less than the chest, with regular increases along the sides. Three columns of 1×1 twisted ribbing continue from the hem in columns along the sides, creating a good fit. I omitted the planned zip, turning it into a pullover, since I wasn’t sure if the thin fabric could support the weight without getting warped.

small side rib

All these decisions were based on the intended sweater being worn as a thin layer, perhaps with a t-shirt inside, but still non-bulky enough to pull a jacket on over it.

The neck echoes the hem’s 1×1 twisted ribbing, but with mitred corners.

small mitre

Before starting the saddles I added some short rows to the back, raising the centre for better fit.

small short rows

Finally, the sleeves. I wanted to get an accurate estimate of the length, so I cast on provisionally just above the cuff, and worked the cuff ribbing downwards after the sweater had been washed, blocked, and tried on. However, I had to take out a chunk of length at the bottom after the sweater was test-worn; clearly I’m no expert on estimating sleeve length for sweaters with man-ease in the shoulders!

Knitting this was great fun, especially the genius shoulder/yoke/saddle shaping. I see many more in the future!

small whole 2

Pattern: Seamless Hybrid with Shirt Yoke
Yarn: Madelinetosh Merino Light; 420yd = 100g; 100% superwash merino; fingering wt; 6 skeins; “Grey Garden”
Needles: 3.0mm circular metal for everything

So Many Sockses!

Because everything sounds better in Gollum-speak, right? Sockses, pocketses, needleses!

Socks I knitted nearly four years ago are now showing definite signs of wear. I’ve written before about how I makes socks tough, so I won’t repeat all that. However, I’m always surprised by how most instructions create a reinforced heel back flap, while leaving the entire sole in a single, weak layer. Perhaps I walk differently than others, but my heel bottoms wear out first! I started (three years ago) to reinforce my heel bottoms with the slipped stitch columns used typically for heel flaps, and just that one little step contributed significantly to their longevity.


My Hedera socks: made with light fingering weight yarn, thin and lacy, and yet they’ve held up really well over the years. The leg and instep are in great condition and only the heel bottom has worn out. Interestingly, you can see clearly here that the only columns to retain a ghostly presence still are the slipped and reinforced ones – the regular stockinette columns in between have totally disappeared!

01 cols

I planned to re-do the area with duplicate stitch weaving. So I created guidelines …

02 threads

…and started duplicate stitching. This however was so tedious I couldn’t go on! So I darned the area with regular weaving …

03 weave

… and then did a diagonal weave to fill in the gaps. The result is ugly, but functional and comfortable.

04 diagonal

For the next sock, I picked up stitches from a non-frayed section, knit a flap and sewed it down. I reinforced every stitch on the flap: k1,sl1 on the RS; p1, sl1 on the WS. This created a dense good fabric but also really shrank the size of the flap. If I did this again, I’d use larger needles than what the socks were knitted with.

05 knit

Also, I finished my Chestnut Cabled Knee Highs!

01 back

I made them thigh high with long ribbed sections. The cables go different ways on each sock for finicky symmetry. They do fall down as my knee bends with walking, though. So I’ll attach an elastic garter or a drawstring around the top soon. Apart from that problem, they are warm and comfortable.

02 symmetry

Pattern: Little Cabled Knee Highs
Yarn: Dragonfly Fibers Dragon Socks; 100% merino; 357m = 114g; fingering wt; 2 skeins; “That Ol’ Chestnut”
Needle: 2.5mm bamboo dpn

And finally, I’ve started the Knotty or Knice socks in DIC Smooshy. I’ll make these knee high too. The cable crossings are super fussy, but at least after the first repeat you don’t have to look at the chart again, they quite logical and easy to remember.

02 foot

Thousands of Ways to Show You Care

The Blob is done, but am waiting for an opportunity to take the final modeled FO shots!


One last step before that: how to maximize mileage from hand knit gifts. After all, such gifts are best given sandwiched between a bit of emotional leverage on one hand and dire threats to the recipient if anything happens to the sweater on the other. I’m sure you can handle the threats – this post is about really enhancing the potency of emotional leverage via…

… Stitch Counts!

Simply put, add up stitch counts in each section of the sweater and stitch a reminder of the total somewhere on the sweater. I’ll demonstrate the first section to get you started.

1. Sleeve
a) Cuff = 78sts x 18rows = 1404
b) Straight section = 78sts x 17 rows = 1326
c) Increase section (2 sts increased every 5th row 25 times)
= 80sts x  5 rows + 82sts x 5 rows +  … + 128sts x 5 rows
= 5[80 + 82 + 84 + … + 128]
= 5[80 + 80+2  + 80+4 + … +80+48]
= 5[80×25 + 2+4+…+48]
= 5[2000 + 2(1+2+3+…+24)]

Now substitute the simple summation formula (basically, to add a series of numbers starting from 1 and going to A in increments of one, you multiply A and A+1, and divide the product by 2; so for example, 1+2+3+4+5 = 5×6/2 = 15):

= 5[2000 + 2x(24×25/2)]
= 5[2000 +600]
= 5 x 2600
= 13000
d) Straight section = 130sts x 23 rows = 2990

Adding subtotals a) through d), one sleeve = 18,720
Total of 2 sleeves = 37,440

Working this process for each section I got:
2. Body = 74,572
3. Yoke = 54,818
4. Neck ribbing = 3,240.

Adding 1 through 4, the grand total is:

small label

Which means I pulled a tiny loop through another, with a tiny needle, at least one hundred seventy thousand and seventy times while making this sweater! Actually more, since I had to reduce the sleeves at the end. If those unravelled bits were added then the stitch count would be even higher.

Can’t let anyone forget that, can I?!


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