Jerry knitalong part 3: back and fronts

Welcome to the third installment of the Jerry cardigan knitalong, in which I describe the bizarre shapes of these pieces and how they all fit together!

 
Stephen wearing Jerry!

Stephen wearing Jerry!

 

Fronts

The Front pieces are the most complicated to knit, with a lot of increases and decreases happening at once: armhole shaping, v-neck shaping, and shawl-collar increases at 4 different points. (Luckily, the buttonhole rows on the Right Front are completed by the time you start shaping the upper body.) The shawl collar and buttonbands are all one piece with the Fronts, with a facing that's folded over and stitched down on the wrong side so that the collar and bands are double-layer fabric. This construction combines with the collar shaping to create a Front piece that looks like this:

 
Right Front shape

Right Front shape

 

Shoulders

The shoulder slope and seams are also atypical for a handknit sweater, because all the shoulder shaping is done on the Back piece. This construction hangs nicely on all sorts of shoulder shapes. It's also a detail that's common in ready-to-wear sweaters -- because shaping and short rows are time-consuming, you'll frequently see machine-knit sweaters that displace all of the shoulder shaping to the back piece in order to knit the front piece(s) more quickly.

 
Back and Right-Front shapes

Back and Right-Front shapes

Jerry shoulder seam close-up

Jerry shoulder seam close-up

 

The sleeves are regular old set-in sleeves with a shallow cap. Sewing them in is a bit unusual, because you can't use the shoulder seam to mark the center of anything (as it's displaced onto the Back, as shown above). I'll share a quick photo tutorial in the Finishing post.

Coming up next: blocking, seaming, and a LOT of fun finishing!

Jerry knitalong part 2: that weirdo cast-on

Once you’ve chosen yarn for your Jerry, the Handsome introduction has all the information you’ll need to choose a size and select your custom options. You can adjust the sleeve length or add body shaping (A-line, V-line, or X-line).

For my Jerry, I chose a size with about 3” / 7.5cm positive ease. I’ll be using the custom sleeve length and X-line shaping calculators.

Remember that, if you use custom calculators that make your Jerry longer or larger than the pattern version, you may need more yarn than the pattern estimate. Make sure you have enough yarn!

Adjusting body length

The book doesn't include instructions for custom body length, but it can be lengthened quite easily. Just add length to the body by working extra rows after/above the last buttonhole, before/below the underarm shaping. This will lower the v-neck by whatever length you add, but it's a high V to begin with, so unless you're lengthening by several inches, that shouldn't be a problem. And if you have to add more than a couple of inches, you can just throw in an additional buttonhole. (Shortening the body length would be more difficult, but still possible for adventurous types -- you'd just have to recalculate the button spacing.)

To calculate out how much length to add to the sweater body, use the formula below. Measure your desired Total Body Length as instructed in the Handsome Introduction; the other figures can be found in the Jerry schematic.

lengthen Jerry body.png

casting on: the fine and fiddly details

Okay, I expect this is the first of many times I will say sorry-not-sorry for a fiddly detail on the Jerry sweater.

But I think taking extra care with the details is truly worth it for Jerry, and sets this design apart from other handknit sweaters. In the end, all of that patience and attention to finishing means you end up with an heirloom-quality sweater that looks really, really good.

That said, the cast-on is one place where I’ll tell you how to cut some corners if you so choose.

For Jerry, I've used a pretty cool cast-on for 2x1 (K2, P1) rib. Starting with an alternate cable cast-on, you cast on 25% more stitches than you actually need. Then, on Row 1, you 1) rearrange the stitches so that the knits and purls are in the correct order and 2) decrease those extra stitches away. The result is a fabulously flexible edge that blends nicely into the 2x1 rib.

 
JERRY edges.jpg
 

Below is a step-by-step photo tutorial for this cast-on. If it’s not your thing, please feel free to substitute the flexible cast-on method of your choice. I’d recommend a German Twisted / Old Norwegian cast-on. In fact, if you’re using custom body shaping, the custom instructions for the Back and Fronts will tell you to use the German Twisted / Old Norwegian method, since your new numbers may not work with the 2x1 cast-on.

If you choose to use this weirdo cast-on method — and I hope you will — here’s the step-by-step explanation of what the pattern instructions are asking you to do.

the initial cast-on stitches

First, the instructions tell you to use an alternate cable cast-on -- a cable cast-on that alternates between knit and purl stitches. Here's what that looks like on the Left Front piece, which also uses a regular cable cast-on for the stockinette buttonband. (The Handsome appendix includes written instructions for the cable cast-ons, but if you prefer video tutorials, I've linked to some good ones in the text above.)

 
After the initial cast-on stitches of the Left Front

After the initial cast-on stitches of the Left Front

 

Row 1 and the c2k1p2tog

You'll begin Row 1 by knitting the first two stitches. And then you're ready to work the first c2k1p2tog -- cross 2, knit 1, purl 2 together.

jerry CO 2.png

Written instructions for c2k1p2tog are in the Special Techniques section of the Jerry pattern, but here's what it looks like on the needles.

jerry CO 3.png
jerry CO 4.png
jerry CO 5.png
jerry CO 6.png

Congratulations! You've swapped the first two stitches on the LH needle, crossing the second (knit) stitch over in front of the first (purl stitch). Now, on your RH needle, you have one selvage stitch and the first K of your K2, P1 rib pattern. The next stitches to be worked on your LH needle are: knit stitch (the second K of your K2, P1 rib), purl stitch, purl stitch. In the next step, you'll knit 1, then work those two purl stitches together.

jerry CO 6.png

Rib on!

If you're working the Back or a Sleeve, you'll keep chugging along with [k1, c2k1p2tog] until you've decreased half of the purl stitches and rearranged everything into (K2, P1) order. Then you'll just continue to work the cuff/band in 2x1 ribbing as you would with any other cast-on.

If you're working on one of the Front pieces, you're also dealing with the Stockinette buttonband, which is worked on an a different, larger circular needle. Here's what that looks like after several rows.

jerry CO 8.png

Again, it's fiddly! But worth it! And you only have to juggle the two different needles until the bottom ribbed band is complete -- the rest of the Fronts are worked on just the larger needle.

Shaping

Once you've completed the ribbed bottom band of the Back and Fronts, you'll work them in stockinette as written, adding any body shaping from the custom calculator. (I'll write up a separate post about the construction of the Back and Front pieces.)

Starting a New Skein (with spit!)

Finally — and I'm doing this for every single knitalong in this series — I want to enthusiastically promote the felted join (aka the spit splice) as a method for joining new lengths of yarn. If you’re working with any yarn that has a large percentage of non-washable wool, this is an awesome way to avoid weaving in ends and I LOVE IT SO HARD. There are instructions in Handsome for working a felted join, but here’s a quick video tutorial from VeryPink Knits, for the visual learners. She shows the method I like best, which includes removing half of the plies on each end, so that the joined area isn't any fatter than the rest of the strand.

Next up, we'll talk about the construction of the Back and Fronts, and how it all fits together.

Don't hesitate to ask any questions in the Ravelry Handsome group! And please share your swatches and pieces and challenges and success there too. #HandsomeKnitting #JerryKAL #ManSweaters

Jerry knitalong part 1: choosing your yarn

OMG IT'S JERRY TIME

 
Jerry on Stephen.jpg
 

For those just joining us, this is the third of six knitalongs I'm hosting -- one for each of the designs in Handsome: Man Sweaters for Every Body. I'm making a version of each sweater in the collection for myself, using Jill Draper Makes Stuff yarns. Folks can share their projects, questions, and knowledge in the Handsome Ravelry group.

The Jerry KAL will take place over the months of December 2017 and January 2018, and I'll be posting here about all the steps it takes to make your own sweater, from choosing a yarn to finishing techniques. Knit along with us and post your stuff!
#HandsomeKnitting #JerryKAL #ManSweaters

The first step is to choose the yarn we'll use for our Jerry sweaters. I'm going to talk a bit here about the different yarns I've used for Jerry, and the different qualities those yarns give the finished sweater. Then I'll share some tips for yarn substitutions, in case you want to use something else from your stash or LYS.

The original Jerry sweater (seen below on, yes, Jerry) was made with Quince & Co. Osprey yarn.

 
JERRY.jpg
 

Osprey is a fluffy 3ply yarn made of 100% American wool. It's soft enough to wear next to the skin, and v pleasant to knit with because of its smooth texture and bounce. At 4 stitches per inch, it's a true Aran weight -- not fine, but not too chunky.

Stephen and Kevin's versions of the Jerry sweater were made with two strands of Elsawool Cormo woolen-spun sport-weight yarn.

Worked at the same gauge, a fluffy sport weight yarn held double makes a fabric that's more cohesive than an Aran weight, with stitches that are less clearly defined.

 
Jerry on Stephen - collar.jpg
Jerry on Kevin.jpg
 

Elsa's woolen-spun Cormo yarn might be my favorite yarn on Planet Earth. It's incredible. It's light, lofty, soft, and an utter pleasure to knit with. The fabric it creates is heavenly, and it only gets softer with age and wear.

Woolen-spun yarns have fabulous loft and lightness, but aren't as strong as worsted yarns. In this case, holding two strands double lends additional strength. (The Shetland wool geniuses at Jamieson & Smith have an excellent explanation of the two structures -- woolen/woollen and worsted.)

As you can see, the smooth Aran-weight yarn is a good choice for the vintage varsity style of Jerry's Jerry sweater. And the cohesive fabric of the fluffier doubled sport-weight gives Stephen and Kevin's sweaters a proper gramps vibe.

Finally, I'm making my own version of Jerry with Jill Draper Makes Stuff Empire yarn.

empire punkin.jpg

Empire may be best known for the ginormous 1280-yard hanks Jill puts it up in, but it's so much more than just massive yarn balls the size of a human infant. Empire is an Aran-weight yarn made from soft, springy 100% Rambouillet wool that's grown in New York State. It's strong and elastic and, as always, Jill's colors are magnificent. And if you need more than 1 Empire yarnbaby for your Jerry, but less than two, Jill also has a mini-Empire line, put up in regular ol' 213-yard hanks.

My plan is that the Empire will strike a balance between the smooth Aran-weight Osprey and the fluffy doubled Elsawool, creating a fabric that's chunky like the Osprey, but with less clearly defined stitches and thus a vibe more 1970s grandpa than 1950s grand slam.

And if you want to learn more from someone much more skilled than I am at assessing and writing about yarn, please read Clara Parkes's reviews of Empire, and of Elsawool Cormo.

I also swatched for this sweater in Cestari's Mt. Vernon 2-ply Worsted, which works up beautifully at this gauge. I haven't made a full Jerry with it yet, but it would be a lovely choice, similar to Osprey, so I'm including it in the comparison table below.

yarn content qualities cost
Quince & Co. Osprey 100% U.S. wool smooth, strong, 3ply, good stitch definition
$.08 per yard
Elsawool woolen-spun sport 100% Colorado/Montana Cormo wool light, lofty, 2ply $.13 per yard*
Jill Draper Empire 100% NYS Rambouillet wool elastic, strong, 4ply $.13 per yard
Cestari Mt. Vernon 2-ply Worsted 100% Virginia fine Merino soft, smooth, 2ply, good stitch definition $.06 per yard natural colors; $.08 per yard kettle-dyed

*Remember that doubled sport weight yarns will require twice as much yardage as Aran weight!

YARN SUBSTITUTIONS

Some things to keep in mind if you're planning to make your Jerry sweater with a yarn not described here:

  • YARN WEIGHT: As we've seen, the Aran and doubled sport-weight yarns create different fabrics and looks. This design includes some fine and fiddly details that are made slightly more fiddly with a yarn held double, so do bear that in mind. (In other words, if you don't tend to have much patience for finishing work, Aran might be your best bet.)
     
  • GAUGE, GAUGE, GAUGE: Make a few swatches with different sized needles, wet block them, pin them neatly into shape without stretching until dry, and then measure the stitch and row gauge. You're looking for 16 stitches and 24 rows over 4 inches of stockinette stitch, after blocking.
     
  • FABRIC and FEEL: You should also verify that you actually like the fabric your yarn creates at pattern gauge. After you block and measure your swatches, spend some intimate time with the swatch that got pattern gauge -- squish it around in your hand, rub it on your face and neck. Imagine a whole Jerry sweater made from that fabric, and be sure it's what you want.
     
  • YARN & FIBER QUALITIES: Make sure the characteristics of your yarn work with the design in a way you're going to like. If you want a sweater that feels a little sportier, choose a smooth Aran-weight yarn like Osprey with strong stitch definition. If you want something that makes a more cohesive fabric, choose something heathered, lofty, and/or sport weight. (And for more information about choosing the right yarn for a project, check out one of my #1 knitting bibles, Clara Parkes's The Knitter's Book of Yarn.)

So go read the Introduction to Handsome and use it to take measurements, choose a size, and select your custom options!

Next up, we'll talk about the general shapes of the Jerry pieces, how it's constructed, and the weirdo cast-on I unvented for you.

Rushaan knitalong part 4: finishing

Since we knit Rushaan using seamless construction, what we have now is a big floppy piece of unblocked knitting. But we also have zero seaming to do!

Of course, we have to do other stuff to turn this floppy blob into a wearable sweater. In his final installment of the Rushaan knitalong, we'll walk through the steps to finishing the thing.

button and buttonband plackets

The buttonband is worked bottom-up, and the buttonhole band is worked sideways, both in garter stitch. After you've picked up the stitches at the base of the buttonband and worked a few rows, your piece will look something like this.

 
Rushaan buttonband in progress

Rushaan buttonband in progress

 

The idea is to work the buttonband so that it's just slightly shorter than the sweater placket, to keep the thing nice and firm. I like to sew the band to the edge of the sweater as I go, using mattress stitch, so I know how much further I have to knit. Every inch or two, I just stop knitting and work a bit of mattress stitch.

Using mattress stitch to seam stockinette to garter stitch is simple. On the stockinette sweater edge, work through the horizontal bar between the outermost column of stitches and the column next to it. On the garter buttonband edge, work through the outermost column of purl stitches.

 
Rushaan buttonband in progress, sewn to front sweater edge

Rushaan buttonband in progress, sewn to front sweater edge

 

For the buttonhole band, you'll pick up stitches along the opposite sweater edge and work the garter rows perpendicular to the sweater front. Once the two are finished, here's what you'll see. The instructions have you sewing down the base of the buttonhole band later on, but feel free to do it now if you'd like to tidy things up.

 
Rushaan placket bands, completed

Rushaan placket bands, completed

 

neckband

The next step is to pick up stitches around the neck opening and work the neckband, following the pattern's row-by-row instructions. What you'll end up with is a henley collar that's gently rounded in front and lengthened with short rows in the back. Then you can graft the underarms using Kitchener stitch, weave in your ends, and admire your work!

If you used a particularly heavy yarn, or if you made one of the larger sizes, your sweater might benefit from a bit of added stability to prevent it from stretching and losing shape over time. One easy way to provide this is to use a run a line of crocheted slip stitches inside the sweater, along the columns of seam stitches outlining each armhole and shoulder. Because the seam stitches are purled on the right side, they pop right out on the wrong side of the fabric as a column of knit Vs. Just use a crochet hook the same size as your main needles and work a slip stitch right through both legs of each V, keeping to the wrong side of the fabric.

Since you haven't blocked anything, and there's a mix of garter and stockinette stitch with different row gauges, your unblocked sweater will warp in all sorts of unattractive ways.

 
Unblocked floppy blob of finished sweater!

Unblocked floppy blob of finished sweater!

 

But after a warm bath and some buttons, everything will straighten out beautifully. As your sweater is drying, be sure to pin everything neatly into shape.

Rushaan finishing finished.jpg

Rushaan knitalong part 3: the upper body

The next part of the Rushaan pattern is where all the action happens! We join the Body and Sleeves into a single big piece on a long circular needle, and then work the Upper Body, seamlessly shaping the sleeve caps and shoulders. 

the joining row

Starting at the center front, you'll work across the right front Body stitches, the Right Sleeve, the back of the Body, the Left Sleeve, then the left front Body stitches. The stitches you held on waste yarn for the underarm will line up at the Body and Sleeve pieces, and you'll graft them together with Kitchener stitch once you've finished working the Upper Body.

How the joining row works. The stitches held on waste yarn line up at the underarms.

How the joining row works. The stitches held on waste yarn line up at the underarms.

shaping the Upper Body

Once the body and sleeves are joined, we'll use decreases to shape the back, fronts, shoulders, and sleeves in one seamless piece. If you were knitting a seamed sweater with set-in sleeves, you'd work a sleeve cap by binding off a handful of stitches at each edge of the sleeve, then completing the sleeve cap in a bell shape. We're going to do much of the same shaping, but seamlessly. The lower part of our sleeve cap is shaped like a set-in sleeve cap, but instead of binding off stitches, we've got them held on waste yarn to be grafted together later. And where the front and back pieces meet, instead of a shoulder seam, there's a wide saddle with the garter-stitch panel in the center.

 
RUSHAAN shoulder.jpg
 

This Upper Body shaping happens in four different segments. Each segment includes decreases that consume either Sleeve stitches or Body stitches. To help you visualize what the pattern instructions ask you to do, here's a visual to show how the sweater is actually being shaped:

  1. Decreases Sleeve stitches on every other row to gradually shape the lower part of the sleeve cap.
  2. Decreases Sleeve stitches on every row to more dramatically shape the upper sleeve cap.
  3. Decreases Body stitches on every row to shape the upper body.
  4. Working just the saddle stitches, one side at a time, joins the saddle stitches to the front and back, using decreases that consume Body stitches.
The Upper Body shaping on Rushaan. Note that, while you're working Step 3 (shaping the upper back and fronts with body decreases), you'll also shape the front neck.

The Upper Body shaping on Rushaan. Note that, while you're working Step 3 (shaping the upper back and fronts with body decreases), you'll also shape the front neck.

The whole neckline looks a bit raggedy here, but the buttonbands and neck finishing cleans it up beautifully. We'll talk about finishing in the next and final installment of the knitalong!


Rushaan knitalong part 2: casting on, Body and Sleeves

Once you’ve chosen yarn for your Rushaan, the Handsome introduction has all the information you’ll need to choose a size and select your custom options. Because the Rushaan sweater is so simple in design, there are loads of options for customizing its size and shape. You can adjust the body length and sleeve length, add body shaping (A-line, V-line, or X-line), and/or work a short-row belly.

For my Rushaan, I chose a size with about 2” / 4cm positive ease. I’ll be using the custom body length, sleeve length, and X-line shaping calculators.

Remember that, if you use custom calculators that make your Rushaan longer or larger than the pattern version, you may need more yarn than the pattern estimate. Make sure you have enough yarn!

Casting On

The body of the sweater is worked as a seamless tube. This means that if you add body shaping, your increases and decreases will be done at the beginning/end and halfway point of the round — where side seams would be, if the sweater had seams. Of course, it also means that, if you’re working a short-row belly, it’s done on the front half of the stitches only.

The alternating/alternate cable cast-on called for in the pattern is a simple, flexible cast-on that works nicely for 1x1 rib. The cast-on stitches blend right into the rib, instead of creating a solid cast-on edge. I used this cast-on for my Rushaan, and it looks smashing (if still unblocked and kind of rumply).

 
tubular.jpg
 

Here's a straightforward video tutorial from Clare Devine of Knit Share Love, complete with jazzy music:

 
 

Shaping

Once your cast-on is complete, you’ll work the ribbed bottom band, and then begin the body of your sweater, working any body shaping from the custom calculator.

And once you reach the underarms, you’ll set the body piece aside while you knit the Sleeves. The Sleeves are worked just as the body is, except that the increases for shaping the sleeve happen only at the beginning and end of a round.

Starting a New Skein (with spit!)

Finally — and I'm doing this for every single knitalong in this series — I want to enthusiastically promote the felted join (aka the spit splice) as a method for joining new lengths of yarn. If you’re working with any yarn that has a large percentage of non-washable wool, this is an awesome way to avoid weaving in ends and I LOVE IT SO HARD. There are instructions in Handsome for working a felted join, but here’s a quick video tutorial from VeryPink Knits, for the visual learners. She shows the method I like best, which includes removing half of the plies on each end, so that the joined area isn't any fatter than the rest of the strand.

Next up, we'll JOIN the Body and the Sleeves in one giant mess of a sweater monster, to finish the upper body in a single seamless piece.


Abram knitalong part 4: seaming and finishing

It's time to seam up our Abrams and add the finishing touches!

 
Olga's purple Abram, with its pretty, pretty neckband.

Olga's purple Abram, with its pretty, pretty neckband.

 

This is where you're going to be very, very pleased with yourself for taking the time to block these pieces so beautifully, with crisp clean edges that make seaming a breeze. I'll walk you through the various seaming and finishing steps here. Instructions for these techniques are in the Handsome appendix, but I'll also link to other people's excellent photo and video tutorials at each stage.

First, join the shoulders with a three-needle bind-off.

 

This three-needle bind-off tutorial from Purl Soho helpfully uses contrast-color yarn.

 

Next, lay your front and back pieces out flat, and introduce a sleeve to the mix. The center of the sleeve's bound-off stitches should line up with the shoulder seam you just made, like so:

 
(In this blurry floor photo, the sleeves have already been sewn on, but you get the idea re: placement.)

(In this blurry floor photo, the sleeves have already been sewn on, but you get the idea re: placement.)

 

Next, join the sleeves to the body.

Thread your needle with a nice long piece of yarn, and you're ready to sew. Beginning at the edge of the Front piece, join the curved underarm of a Sleeve to the curved armhole of the Front using mattress stitch.

Once you've joined the short curved sections, you'll reach a long straightaway on both the sleeve and the armhole. Here, you're working with perpendicular fabrics. That is, the stitches of the Sleeves are at a 90-degree angle to the stitches of the Back and Front. Kelbourne Woolens has a great photo tutorial for invisibly joining perpendicular knit fabrics. If you prefer video, Wool and the Gang has this tutorial, which helpfully uses their massive fat roving yarn.

 
 

Once you reach the curved, shaped sections of the Sleeve and Back piece, just return to using mattress stitch. Now your sweater looks like mine does above.

Then join the Front, Back, and Sleeves together at the side seam.

Beginning at the bottom edge, where your provisional cast-on is, use mattress stitch to join the Front to the Back, then continue on to join the Sleeve seam all the way to the provisional cast-on at the cuff edge. For guidance, I think Staci's mattress stitch tutorial is a good one:

 
 

Tack down the bottom and cuff hem facings.

Next, you'll unravel the provisional cast-on and tack down the released live stitches at the hem and both cuffs. I like to fold the hem facing up at the turning row and pin or baste it in place before I start sewing. I tug on the provisional cast-on chain to release the stitches one at a time. As each new live stitch is released, I run my tapestry needle through it, without twisting. Then I run the needle, from bottom to top, through the nearest purl bump on the back of the sweater fabric and pull the yarn through. Working through the purl bumps allows you to follow a straight line, so that the hem facing will lie flat.

Finally, add a neckband.

Here's a quick video tutorial from Berroco Yarns showing two different methods for picking up stitches around a neckline. I prefer the first method -- the ridge that it creates on the inside will be covered by your neckband facing when you turn it inward and tack down the live stitches as you did for the hem and cuffs.

 
 

I like to give my seams and hems a good heavy steam with my iron, then gently press them flat with my fingers.

And that's it! You have an Abram sweater all ready to wear!


Rushaan knitalong part 1: choosing your yarn

 

Let's knit Rushaan!

 
Rushaan pair
 

For those just joining us, this is the second of six knitalongs I'll be hosting this year -- one for each of the designs in Handsome: Man Sweaters for Every Body. I'll be making a version of each sweater in the collection for myself, using Jill Draper Makes Stuff yarns. Folks will be sharing their projects, questions, and knowledge in the Handsome Ravelry group.

The Rushaan KAL will take place over the months of October and November, and I'll be posting here about all the steps it takes to make your own sweater, from choosing a yarn to finishing techniques. Knit along with us and post your stuff! #HandsomeKnitting #RushaanKAL #ManSweaters

The first step is to choose the yarn we'll use for our Rushaan sweaters. I'm going to talk a bit here about the different yarns I've used for Rushaan, and the different qualities those yarns give the finished sweater. Then I'll share some tips for yarn substitutions, in case you want to use something else from your stash or LYS.

The original Rushaan sweater (seen below on, yes, Rushaan) was made with Quince & Co. Chickadee yarn.

 
the Rushaan sweater, knit with Quince & Co. Chickadee yarn

the Rushaan sweater, knit with Quince & Co. Chickadee yarn

 

Chickadee is a soft, springy, 3ply yarn made of 100% American wool. It's soft enough to wear next to the skin, and I find it an utter pleasure to knit with because of its smooth texture and bounce. When it's worked at 6 stitches per inch for Rushaan, the resulting fabric is of moderate warmth, perfect for folks who might overheat in thicker wool sweaters. It's also fairly lightweight, so it's a good choice for garments with seamless construction, even in larger sizes. (Though in the later stages of our knitalong, I'll suggest a few ways to add stability to your Rushaan sweater, even without seams.)

I used short-row belly shaping on this one, and this heathered colorway (Sabine) camouflages the short rows beautifully.

 
Close-up of Chickadee's fabric

Close-up of Chickadee's fabric

 

Jason's version of the Rushaan sweater was made with Mountain Meadow's Cody sport-weight yarn.

 
Jason's nubby textured Rushaan sweater in Mountain Meadow Cody

Jason's nubby textured Rushaan sweater in Mountain Meadow Cody

 

Mountain Meadow is a family-operated spinning mill owned by Karen Hostetler, dedicated to supporting local ranchers and revitalizing the American wool industry through eco-friendly operations and fair prices for ranchers. The "Mountain Merino" of their Cody yarn is fine, soft, and silky, and spun into a bouncy 2-ply yarn.

But my favorite thing about Cody is its slightly irregular texture. Not only does that texture produce a fabric that's really pleasant to the touch, but it also obscures minor wear, pilling, and fuzz -- my only beef with most fine Merino yarns. Compared to a smooth yarn like Chickadee, the fabric Cody produces has a more casual, rustic feel.

 
Close-up of the Cody fabric

Close-up of the Cody fabric

 

Finally, I'm making my own version of Rushaan with Jill Draper Makes Stuff Mohonk yarn.

 
Jill Draper Makes Stuff Mohonk yarn, in colorway Pine Shade. Photo (c) Jill Draper.

Jill Draper Makes Stuff Mohonk yarn, in colorway Pine Shade. Photo (c) Jill Draper.

 

Mohonk is made from 100% New York State unregistered Cormo wool. It's spun into a 2-ply sport weight, with a little of its natural lanolin. It's spongy and soft and lovely to knit with, and Jill's kettle-dyed colors are to dye for (lol GET IT?). In terms of texture, Mohonk produces a lightweight fabric with less of Chickadee's smooth stitch definition, but that isn't quite as nubbly as Cody.

yarn content qualities cost
Quince & Co. Chickadee 100% U.S. wool smooth, sturdy, moderately warm, 3ply
$.05 per yard
Mountain Meadow Cody 100% Wyoming mountain merino wool soft, warm, nubby-textured, 2ply $.06 per yard
Jill Draper Mohonk 100% NYS unregistered Cormo wool soft, spongy, warm, 2ply $.09 per yard

YARN SUBSTITUTIONS

Some things to keep in mind if you're planning to make your Rushaan sweater with a yarn not described here:

  • GAUGE, GAUGE, GAUGE: Make a few swatches with different sized needles, wet block them, pin them neatly into shape without stretching until dry, and then measure the stitch and row gauge. You're looking for 24 stitches and 34 rows over 4 inches of stockinette stitch, after blocking.
     
  • FABRIC and FEEL: You should also verify that you actually like the fabric your yarn creates at pattern gauge. After you block and measure your swatches, spend some intimate time with the swatch that got pattern gauge -- squish it around in your hand, rub it on your face and neck. Imagine a whole Rushaan sweater made from that fabric, and be sure it's what you want.
     
  • YARN & FIBER QUALITIES: Make sure the characteristics of your yarn work with the design in a way you're going to like. If you want a sweater that feels a little dressier, choose a smooth yarn like Chickadee, or one with a little bit of silk or alpaca for drape. If you want something more rustic, then a woolier wool like Cody is probably more suitable for your Rushaan. (And for more information about choosing the right yarn for a project, check out one of my #1 knitting bibles, Clara Parkes's The Knitter's Book of Yarn.)

So go read the Introduction to Handsome and use it to take measurements, choose a size, and select your custom options.

Next up, we'll talk about the alternate cable cast-on and how this sweater is put together.


Abram knitalong part 3: sleeves and blocking

Sleeves

The sleeves on the Abram sweater are worked in the same manner as the front and back pieces. You'll begin with a provisional cast-on, work the hem facing (ideally in a jazzy contrast color), work a turning row, then knit the main part of the sleeve with shaping.

And of course, you can customize your sleeve length with the custom calculators. If you like sleeves to hang down over your hands a little bit, add an inch or two to your Single Wingspan measurement.

I want to share a bit about how this sweater and its sleeves are designed. Abram uses modified drop-shoulder construction.

The most basic plain old drop-shoulder construction is a T shape, where a rectangular body meets rectangular arms.

 
drop-shoulder-construction.png
 

It's called "drop" shoulder because the body piece actually drops over the shoulder, with the sleeves attached beneath. It's a classic casual shape for a lot of cool sweaters, including many with oversized fits, plus Scandinavian ski styles like these vintage Spinnerin designs.

 
vintage ski sweater.jpg
 

But the major downside to drop-shoulder construction is that you end up with a bunch of excess fabric under the arms, which tends to get in the way unless the sweater is quite oversized. So some smart folks a long time ago decided to nip out a notch of that fabric, inventing what we now call modified drop-shoulder construction. It's got the casual ease of a drop-shoulder sweater, but with less underarm bulk.

Here's what your modified-drop-shoulder Abram pieces will look like before you seam them together.

 
modified-drop-shoulder-construction.png
 

Blocking

Once you've completed the Front, Back, and both Sleeves, you're ready to block! There are detailed instructions for wet blocking in Handsome, but I'll add some extra bossy tips here.

  1. PIN. Pin your pieces into shape as they dry. Wool fibers like to snuggle up together as they lose moisture, so your pins (and blocking wires, if you use them) are the only things keeping your pieces to the measurements you ultimately want.
     
  2. MEASURE. Measure every part of every piece, to make sure you pin it into a size and shape that matches the schematic and/or your custom measurements from the calculators.
     
  3. HAVE PATIENCE. Let the pieces soak in lukewarm water for a full 30 minutes. Take the time to squeeze out all the water you can. And let them dry fully before you remove them from the blocking board.

I used Jill Draper Makes Stuff Rockwell yarn for my Abram sweater. As I mentioned in Part 1 of the knitalong, it makes a pretty firm fabric at this gauge, so my finished sweater pieces are woolly and thick and crisp as h*ck. I can't wait to seam them up!

 
IMG_20170927_201615_865.jpg
 

Abram knitalong part 2: casting on! Back and Front

Once you’ve chosen yarn for your Abram, the Handsome introduction has all the information you’ll need to choose a size and select your custom options. Because the Abram sweater is so simple in design, there are loads of options for customizing its size and shape. You can adjust the body length and sleeve length, add body shaping (A-line, V-line, or X-line), and/or work a short-row belly. You'll also choose between the broad and narrow/average shoulders option.

For my Abram, I chose a size with about 3” / 7.5cm positive ease. I’m going with the narrow/average shoulders option, and I’ll be using the custom body length, sleeve length, and X-line shaping calculators.

Remember that, if you use custom calculators that make your Abram longer or larger than the pattern version, you may need more yarn than the pattern estimate. Be sure to buy enough yarn!

Casting On

The Back and Front of the sweater are worked identically from the bottom up to the neck shaping. (If you’re working a short-row belly, of course, it’s done on the Front piece only.) 

The Handsome e-book includes instructions for a crocheted provisional cast-on that begins with a long crocheted chain. The chain has little horizontal bumps in the back that look like purl stitches, and you pick up and knit your first row of stitches in those bumps. Once the Back and Front pieces are blocked and seamed together, you’ll unravel that chain to liberate a row of live knit stitches, fold the body up at the turning row, and sew the live stitches down to make a proper hem.

This is what my Back piece looks like, with the hem facing plus a few inches of body. You can see the crocheted chain of my provisional cast-on (done in rainbow sock yarn) and the purl bumps of my turning row. My main yarn is Jill Draper Makes Stuff Rockwell, and I'm using some pink mystery yarn from my stash for the hem facings.

 
Abram back cast-on
 

Check out Purl Soho’s photo tutorial for this provisional cast-on method, or Staci’s video tutorial (below).

 
 

I often use a different provisional cast-on method, in which you crochet the foundation "chain" right onto a knitting needle. The resulting cast-on is the same, but you avoid having to pick up and knit in all those little bumps.

Check out Ysolda’s photo tutorial for this method, or this Purl Soho video tutorial (below).

 
 

Shaping

Once your cast-on is complete, you’ll work the contrast hem facing, work a single turning row, and then begin the body of your sweater with the main color, working any body shaping from the custom calculator.

I’ve got very gentle X-line shaping on my sweater — just a single decrease row, then a single increase row, which takes my sweater in less than 1” / 2cm at the waist.

Once you reach the underarms, you’ll work the armscyes. Abram has a modified drop-shoulder construction, which means you’ll bind off at the underarm, work a small number of decrease rows, then continue straight on up to the shoulder shaping. This section — the armhole — is where the Back and Front pieces differ, since the crew-neck shaping dips lower on the Front than on the Back.

Starting a New Skein (with spit!)

Finally, I want to enthusiastically promote the felted join (aka the spit splice) as a method for joining new lengths of yarn. If you’re working with any yarn that has a large percentage of non-washable wool, this is an awesome way to avoid weaving in ends and I LOVE IT SO HARD. There are instructions in Handsome for working a felted join, but here’s a quick video tutorial from VeryPink Knits, for the visual learners. She shows the method I like best, which includes removing half of the plies on each end, so that the joined area isn't any fatter than the rest of the strand.

 
 

Abram knitalong part 1: choosing your yarn

Folks, it's time for our first Handsome knitalong.

Let's all knit the Abram sweater!

Abram - Abram + Olga

For those just joining us, this is the first of 6 knitalongs I'll be hosting over the coming year -- one for each of the designs in Handsome: Man Sweaters for Every Body. I'll be making a version of each sweater for myself using Jill Draper Makes Stuff yarns. Folks will be sharing their projects, questions, and knowledge in the Handsome Ravelry group.

The Abram KAL will take place over the months of August and September, and I'll be posting here about all the steps in making your sweater, from choosing a yarn to finishing techniques. Knit along with us and post your stuff! #HandsomeKnitting #AbramKAL


The first step is to choose the yarn we'll use for our Abram sweaters. I'm going to talk a bit here about the different yarns I've used for Abram, and the different qualities those yarns give the finished sweater. Then I'll share some tips for yarn substitutions, in case you want to use something else from your stash or LYS.

The original Abram sweater (seen below on, you guessed it, Abram) was made with The Fibre Company's Knightsbridge yarn.

the Abram sweater, knit in The Fibre Company's Knightsbridge yarn, pictured with Dr. Wiggles

the Abram sweater, knit in The Fibre Company's Knightsbridge yarn, pictured with Dr. Wiggles

Knightsbridge is a blend of 65% baby llama, 25% Merino wool, 10% silk. The silk adds to llama's naturally fancy luster and drape, while the wool gives the yarn a bit of bounce and lightens it up. When knit at 5.25 stitches per inch for Abram, the resulting fabric is drapey and very warm, but not overly heavy, even at larger sizes (plus, Abram's seamed construction adds stability to keep the sweater from losing its shape). My favorite thing about Knightsbridge is that the different fibers absorb dye differently, so each colorway is beautifully heathered. The color Beaverden looks like brown from a distance, but actually includes a super-cool melange of blues and purples when seen up close.

 
the many-colored Beaverden

the many-colored Beaverden

 

Stephen's version of Abram was made with Thirteen Mile Yarns undyed yarn.

 
Stephen's woolly marled Abram sweater in Thirteen Mile yarn

Stephen's woolly marled Abram sweater in Thirteen Mile yarn

 

Thirteen Mile Yarns are spun from a mix of fine wool breeds raised at Thirteen Mile Lamb and Wool's Certified Organic ranch in Montana. They come in natural, undyed shades -- including two-tone marled combinations like the one you see here -- as well as plant-dyed colorways. In contrast to Knightsbridge, this fabric is lightweight and classically woolly. The resulting sweater is a versatile casual basic, especially in one of the marled colors.

Olga's femme adaptation of the Abram sweater is made with Catskill Merino sport weight yarn.

 
Olga's femme adaptation of the Abram sweater, in Catskill Merino sport. If you're planning to make this oversized femme version of the sweater, I'll include instructions for adapting the pattern at each stage of the knitalong.

Olga's femme adaptation of the Abram sweater, in Catskill Merino sport. If you're planning to make this oversized femme version of the sweater, I'll include instructions for adapting the pattern at each stage of the knitalong.

 

Catskill Farm's Saxon Merino wool is spun into a 2-ply sport weight at Green Mountain Spinnery, then hand-dyed at the farm in small, limited-edition dye lots. 100% Merino is a joy to knit with, springy and elastic and easy on the hands. The finished sweater is more likely to fuzz and pill than one made from Knightsbridge or Thirteen Mile yarns, but will be sturdy and wonderfully soft to the touch. Because the femme adaptation is oversized, I chose a yarn that has some body but isn't too drapey -- the silk and llama in Knightsbridge would make it too heavy for this version, putting stress on the seams and the sweater at risk of losing its shape over time.

Finally, I'm making my own version of Abram with Jill Draper Makes Stuff Rockwell yarn.

 
my first swatch of Rockwell

my first swatch of Rockwell

 

Rockwell is a 3-ply yarn made with Cormo-Merino crossbred Moorit wool grown and spun in New England. It’s spongy and round, and fluffs up beautifully with blocking. Rockwell comes in gorgeous “mono” colorways, as well as multi-colors like the one I’m using, which is made from three different natural colors of undyed wool.5.25 stitches per inch is quite a snug gauge for Rockwell, so my sweater will be very warm, thick, and sturdy, but still fairly lightweight.

yarn content qualities cost
Fibre Co. Knightsbridge 65% baby llama, 25% Merino wool, 10% silk drapey, lustrous, very warm
$.06 per yard
Thirteen Mile Worsted 100% certified organic Montana wool warm, lightweight, woolly, 2-ply $.08 per yard
Catskill Merino Sport 100% Saxon Merino soft, squishy, elastic, 2-ply $.09 per yard
Jill Draper Rockwell New England Merino/Cormo crossbreed warm, lightweight, spongy, 3-ply $.11 per yard

YARN SUBSTITUTIONS

Some things to keep in mind if you're planning to make your Abram sweater with a yarn not described here:

  • GAUGE, GAUGE, GAUGE: Make a few swatches with different sized needles, wet block them, pin them neatly into shape without stretching until dry, and then measure the stitch and row gauge. You're looking for 21 stitches and 30 rows over 4 inches of stockinette stitch, after blocking.
     
  • FABRIC and FEEL: You should also verify that you actually like the fabric your yarn creates at pattern gauge. For instance, Rockwell's fabric at that gauge is thick and warm, which is perfect for the sweater I'm trying to make. But if you'd like something that drapes a bit more or looks a bit less rustic, then it's not the right fabric for you. So after you block and measure your swatches, spend some intimate time with the swatch that got pattern gauge -- squish it around in your hand, rub it on your face and neck. Imagine a whole Abram sweater made from that fabric, and be sure it's what you want.
     
  • YARN & FIBER QUALITIES: Make sure the characteristics of your yarn work with the design in a way you're going to like. If you want a sweater that feels kinda fancy and drapes around the body, then something with silk, alpaca, or llama (like Knightsbridge) might be a good choice. If you want something lighter weight, then a woolly wool like Thirteen  Mile is probably more suitable for your Abram. (And for more information about choosing the right yarn for a project, check out one of my #1 knitting bibles, Clara Parkes's The Knitter's Book of Yarn.)

So go read the Introduction to Handsome and use it to take measurements, choose a size, and select your custom options.

Next up, we'll talk about those custom options. Then we'll look at the Back and Front pieces, including two different methods for crocheted provisional cast-ons.


introducing HANDSOME: Man Sweaters for Every Body

Hello! I am super effing thrilled to announce that Handsome -- the product of two years of research, design, and awkwardly measuring my friends -- is now available for purchase.

 
 

Handsome: Man Sweaters for Every Body is an e-book collection of six menswear sweater patterns designed to fit every size, shape, and gender of adult human.

The Handsome collection features:

  • a wide range of sizes (from 30" to 66" chest circumference);
  • extra sizing and style options in each pattern;
  • online calculators to further customize each sweater with body shaping, short rows, and personalized body and sleeve lengths.

I've created a Ravelry group for the collection, where folks can share and discuss their projects, ask questions, exchange ideas, and just generally have a supportive online community for Handsome-ing.

Over the coming year, I'll be hosting a knitalong here and in the Rav group. Every two months, I'll make a different sweater from the collection, customizing each design for my own self using Jill Draper Makes Stuff yarns. I'll also post photos and tutorials as we go, clarifying some of the more challenging parts of each design.

Please knit along with me! Here's the schedule so you can plan ahead:

Abram sweater

Aug-Sept 2017: Abram
my JDMS yarn: Rockwell
Abram KAL

Rushaan sweater

Oct-Nov 2017: Rushaan
my JDMS yarn: Mohonk
Rushaan KAL

Jerry sweater

Dec-Jan 2018: Jerry
my JDMS yarn: Mini Empire
Jerry KAL

Kale sweater

Feb-Mar 2018: Kale
my JDMS yarn: Windham

Robert sweater

Apr-May 2018: Robert
my JDMS yarn: Hudson

Elliot sweater

June-July 2018: Elliot
my yarn: Brooklyn Tweed Loft

For an updated list of blog posts for each KAL, check out the Handsome knitalongs page.

For more information about each sweater in the collection, check out the Lookbook.

To buy Handsome right freaking now, just click here.

And to access the custom calculators for each design in the collection, visit the custom calculators page.