false start.

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This past Wednesday, I didn’t have any classes to teach, or students to meet, or workshops to run – so I worked at home! And, since working at home is pretty much the only time I can rummage through my stash yarn and swatch for stuff without Madrigal “helping”, that’s what I did:

Some swatching on a dreary winter day. (A grown-up Stripes! cardigan for me, with Eco Wool as the neutral).

I dug out the skeins of Knitpicks Chroma, and a giant hank of Eco Wool, and wound the Eco Wool up into a ball that was nearly the size of my own head, then swatched. While I’m not madly in love with the orange shade that happened to be first on the ball of Chroma, I am madly in love with that combination of corrugated rib and vikkel braid.

Not a fan of the orange, but as part of the rainbow of stripes, I think it's fine. Can't get over the combo of corrugated rib + Vikkel braid + stripes.

In case it isn’t completely obvious, I was swatching for a Stripes! cardigan of my very own. Having ascertained my gauge with Eco Wool + Chroma (since I suspected it might be a bit different than the 100% Chroma sweaters I’ve made for M), I was ready to go, so I did some math, cast on my stitches, and proceeded to knit on it as much as I could over the next few evenings. It was looking lovely…

Working on my Stripes! cardigan. That vikkel braid took FOREVER (but it's worth it!)

…but also looking a bit…long. I was aiming for something a little more relaxed in fit than my Stripes! pullover (because I want it to be that sort of cardigan, not a super-fitted one), but this was looking a bit beyond that. Sure enough, I counted my stitches, and I somehow had cast-on 20 extra. At 4.5sts/inch, that’s…a nontrivial amount of extra fabric. So, I’ve got to rip.

But here’s the thing. I’m actually kind of glad to have had this false start, because it gave me a bit of time to think, and I’m actually thinking that I’d prefer to knit/design the grown-up Stripes! cardigan as a top-down knit, rather than bottom-up. Here are some reasons why:

1. Fewer stitches to cast on. Ok, so this is not actually the primary reason, but hey, it makes it way more likely that I’d notice if I screwed it up, right?

2. More control over the colors that are up near my face. This IS a big reason for wanting to go top-down. While I embrace the rainbowness of the Chroma, that orange that’s in the swatch is really the LAST color I want up near my face. But if you’re knitting from the bottom-up, the color at the yoke is kind of a crap-shoot. You can’t easily guess what it’ll be. Whereas from the top-down, I can choose what part of the color repeat I want to start with at the cast-on. (In fact, I’ll probably start with the colors that I started with in the false-start bottom hem!)

3. More control over the shaping. Ok, so “more control” is not the most accurate way of putting it (you can execute the same shaping whether it’s bottom up or top-down, at least for a yoke!). But I’ve been feeling like my intuitions about fit and shaping (both as they specifically relate to my body and translate to knitwear, but also more generally, for whatever reason) have kind of evaporated since I got pregnant with M, and I think knitting from the top-down will make it easier to try on as I go, and to course-correct if the shaping/fit doesn’t seem right. This is especially important to me because making a striped yoke that fits WELL is actually not trivial, since a well-fitting yoke is going to involve some short-rows, and short-rows + stripes = wonkiness, if you’re not thoughtful about it. I’m not entirely happy with how it worked out on my Stripes! pullover, though it’s not bad. I’m actually eager to tackle that end of things FIRST instead of last, you know?

My only worry, really, is that I do aim to write this up as a pattern (once I’m solid on the fit stuff again – designing my first grown-up sweater in several years has me nervous on that front!), and it seems odd to me to have babyStripes! be bottom-up and cardiStripes! (or whatever I call it) be top-down. Not that I couldn’t rewrite babyStripes! to be top-down – it’s not like I’ve published that pattern yet. I also don’t know whether top-down designs are appealing to knitters (e.g. for the reasons I listed above) or if there are reasons why they’re less popular (e.g. the fact that knitting sleeves down from an already-knit body can kinda be a pain). I’ve kind of fallen in love with top-down with those hats and mittens I’ve been knitting lately (whose pattern will be published soon). What do y’all think, dear readers?

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6 thoughts on “false start.

  1. I find that knitters want top-down patterns and will often convert bottom-up patterns. I’m working on upsized versions of three bottom-up kids patterns and they’re all top-down now. (Of course, I don’t know how the response will be.)

    • Good to know! I’m really loving top-down these days. I was such a bottom-up person when I started knitting sweaters (I blame/credit EZ), but top down just seems SO much better for personalization. > > >

  2. There certainly are proponents of bottom-up, but top-down definitely has some distinct advantages. You’re not going to please everyone no matter what you choose, so I say do what makes the most sense to you in whatever given context you’re working.

  3. Duni

    I like top- down, myself, because of the colors-near-face issue and sizing is easier to do/fix. I also knit the sleeves first, tuck them inside the body and then knit the body, which is much easier than trying to wrangle the body while making the sleeves. Try it and see if it’s a tip to work into the pattern.

  4. Yeah, I’m with others re top down vs. bottom up, both make sense to me, it just depends on the pattern. Your logic would apply for other folks, re: color placement, so I say it’s something to press on with and put in the pattern notes. :)

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