Friday, February 26, 2010

Why I love February...

I'm back at long last and ready for a little show and tell.  Things have been busy in the Guinee family infirmary...I have been knitting, knitting, knitting don't cry too hard over my illness.

The two projects I am most anxious to share are my new February sweaters.  Yes, sweaters with an "s" at the end—as in more than one—I loved this project so much that I actually made two, one right after another {and I have another variation of it on the needles as we speak—I think this making multiples might be getting to be a new trend for me—strange}.
Here's what I ended up with—one springy green tunic...
 and one lacy tunic in a color I call Annri plum {in honor of the sweet friend who put Elizabeth's book in my hands}...
The green is made in chunky Lanaloft by Brown Sheep.  I love how chunky yarns handle lace...always a surprise and always so cool.  
 and the Plum is Mountain Mohair by Green Mountain Spinnery.
Look it twirls!...
Anyway, as I mentioned in an earlier post these sweaters were based on Elizabeth Zimmerman's February baby sweater from Knitters Almanac.  I could go on and on about Elizabeth Zimmerman—I have long been an admirer of her no nonsense approach to knitting, and have always had a special love for her work and her writing.  She is the one who really got me designing, the one who made my knitting just knitting.  Way back, when we were living in Ann Arbor, a very special friend introduced me to EZ through the book Knitting Without Tears.  This book forever changed my relationship with sticks and gave me the confidence I needed to begin making sweaters that were tailored to my taste and needs, and before I even knew it I was designing.  I have been wanting to go through her books textbook style {especially Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitting Workshop} for quite awhile, and I decided at the end of last year that it's time to start working toward that goal.  So here is my first step...
I started here...with the month of February in Knitter's Almanac and that cute little baby sweater in the  corner of the picture in the book...
It's a simple sweater, worked from the top-down with a garter stitch yoke and a lace body.  I don't need a baby sweater just now, but I do need a nice tunic, something comfy, easy to wear, warm enough for our drafty old house, one that is ready and willing to conceal a multitude of holiday indulgences and that will still make me feel pretty.
I am going to walk you through the steps that I took to get from baby sweater to tunic.  Bear in mind that, in true EZ style, this will be a "pithy" discussion of the how-to, but I think you will be able to follow along just fine.  I'm working on a more detailed description of the process, by way of an adjustable pattern, if there is any interest.

First I grabbed a shirt that I love—one that fits just like I wanted my sweater to fit.  I measured the bust of the shirt and recorded that number {this measurement will be the bodice circumference at the bust}.

These sweaters have a square neckline and to get the neckline depth and width that I wanted, I tried on my t-shirt and taped the neckline off like so...
Then I took the yarn and made a gauge swatch in garter stitch {the stitch used for the bodice}.  I made the swatch a little tighter than I would normally in anticipation of the stretching that the sweater would get once the piece was completed.  I didn't worry too much about row gauge, but was careful to get an accurate stitch count to get the measurement of the stitches per inch.  I multiplied the bust measurement by the stitches per inch to get the number of stitches required for the bodice of the sweater and recorded that number.

I calculated the number of stitches needed for the neckline by multiplying the neckline circumference by the stitches per inch.  I cast on and joined the work in the round.  Somewhere along the way decided that I wanted an eyelet border {to put a ribbon through the edge of the neckline} so I did a simple K2tog, yo, around the upper edge.

The way the yoke of the sweater is constructed is pretty simple.  Markers go at the corners where the strap stitches and the center meet, and increases are worked on either side of the markers every other round.  I used a YO increase on the center sections and a M1 on the strap sections.  That's what gives that single row of holes from the neckline edge to the armholes.
On the plum sweater I decided that I wanted a center lace panel like the pattern used on the peplum.
 When the neckline was the depth I wanted {almost to my armpits—I tried it on}, I bound off the stitches for the straps as I worked my way around...
At this point I counted my total number of stitches and compared it to the number of stitches required for the bodice/bust of the sweater.  This told me how many stitches I would need to increase to get to the total number of stitches needed for the bustline.  Depending on the type of armhole you want, you could cast all of the needed stitches on at one time—half at one armhole and half at the other {this would give you a square armhole}, or you could increase gradually by working a few rows on the front and back in rows {flat, back and forth}.  For both of my sweaters I put the stitches for the front of the sweater on a holder and worked a few rows flat, back and forth, increasing at the beginning and the end of every other row.  I then put the back of the sweater on a spare needle and worked the front of the sweater in the same manner.
After that I rejoined the sweater in the round, casting on extra stitches at the underarms to reach the total number of stitches needed for the bust.  

Armhole increases...

After that it's just knit a round, purl a round, continuing in garter stitch until the bodice is the depth desired—again, I tried it on.

The peplum of the sweater is worked in the gull lace stitch pattern from EZ's baby sweater.  This lace pattern is a multiple of 7 stitches, so you might have to fudge a stitch or two to get from the bodice stitch count to the skirt stitch count.  This is perfectly legal and in complete keeping with EZ's style of knitting—to accommodate for the 7 stitch pattern, you could either increase or decrease your number of stitches, depending on your preference and the look that you are going for {if it's just a stitch or two, it probably won't change the look of your garment at all}.

To begin the peplum, I went up a needle size.  You could make your sweater straight, up and down, without the a-line shaping by continuing with the same needle {or one size smaller than the one that you used for the bodice}.  I wanted my sweaters to be more forgiving than that and so I continued to increase my needle size as I worked my way to the hem {I eventually ended up with a needle 3 sizes up from the size that I used for the bodice}.  If you wanted your sweater to be very flouncy, with more of a skirt, you could even add stitches at the lower edge of the bodice before beginning the peplum—this would give the skirt a gathered look. 

I finished the sweaters with a round or two of reverse stockinette stitch {but you could also use garter stitch} and then I washed and blocked them.   A quick word about it! won't be sorry! honestly makes the difference between homemade and handcrafted {especially where lace is involved}...
...cute corgi optional.

Gotta get back to Strepapalooza!...the remaining three of our family started antibiotics today {that makes all five at one time!...woohoo!  A big shout out to Alexander Fleming for developing those magic meds—hello z-pack, bye-bye strep!...that's what we're hoping anyway!  Take care, stay healthy and, as always happy knitting! 



  1. Thank you! I've been struggling to get ok with February, and here you've given me two-plus great things to love about it! Your tops are beautiful; yes, that is absolutely a plum for me. I love seeing your pretty smiling face, dear Alison. I like the green on you.

    What's the next EZ item? Maybe I'll have my ducks in a row enough to join your EZ-a-thon...?

    xo - Annri

  2. I am going to read that again in the morning - I know I should be able to do it, I just panic! I love both the versions you made - I am hoping the desire for one of my own will out strip the panic. Great news that the antibiotics are doing the trick - keep getting better :D

  3. Thank you, ladies!...and please don't panic Ms.Mousy!...I know you can do this and if you need additional help rest assured I am halfway through typing up a more detailed version of the process. I started it in blogger, but realized that it was getting to be unwieldy and a very long post. So I moved it to a word doc and am planning on offering it as a pdf. In the meantime, feel free to email me and I can walk through the whole thing as you go—I would be more than happy to do that, so please don't hesitate!

    Take care and thanks again!...

  4. Those tunics are great! You look so cute and happy and not at all streppy. Yes, the magic of Z-pack. Huge fan, I am.

  5. Those look fantastic on you! I especially love the green one with your black 'under' clothes. About how long did it take to make one?

  6. I meant to comment on your tunics last week! How adorable! :)

  7. Wow! what a lovely project. I'm not (gasp) a knitter, but am aware of the awesomeness of Elizabeth Zimmerman! Thanks for visiting duo fiberworks!