Category Archives: Top-Down Empire Pullover


So here we are at the beach again, seizing a weekend unoccupied by renters, to enjoy our place in North Truro.  It’s not as warm as it can be in full summer, but it’s plenty comfortable enough for lounging on the beach, wandering the shoreline, and nosing around Provincetown.

And what’s lounging on the beach without a knitting project?  It can be difficult to knit from a complex pattern on the beach – hard copy pages get damp, and tend to blow around.  It’s often too bright to knit from designs stored on the iPad, the screen washes out in the sun.  So I tend to look for projects that are mindless, memorized, or free-form.

So here’s the latest, photographed in full sun on our deck.


I’m working entirely without a pattern, using a rustic style Aran weight wool.  I’ve got several skeins of well-aged Bartlett two-ply Maine wool, that are taking up all to much room in my stash boxes I’d prefer to put to other use.

I have a couple of heathered garnet red; a couple that are ragg-mix of one ply of the garnet, and one of a navy; and a couple of a medium blue which is too light to use in combo with the others.  None are enough for an entire adult sweater but it’s time they earn their keep.  Also the ragg style blue/red mix would overpower most texture work.  So what to do?

A unisex, simple raglan, worked top down was the obvious choice.  No pattern, no gauge.  I started by casting on 100 stitches, and working a rolled stockinette collar on a US #8 (5mm) needle.  I changed to a US #10 (6mm) needle.  I’ve now got about 172 stitches around – roughly a 44-45-inch chest circumference.  The fit is slouchy and sweatshirt-like, and the high lanolin content rustic yarn (though a bit itchier than Merino, and hand-wash) guarantees a hard wear sweater ideal for cool weather hiking, and winter sports.  It’s a bit small for me, but between spawn, and a huge army of nieces and nephews, plus lots of outdoorsy friends, it’s bound to fit someone.

So, what do I call this no-pattern piece?  The Wesley Crusher, of course.  Named for the ubiquitous shoulder-colorblock casual sweaters and uniform blouses worn by him and the rest of the STNG crew.

Minor discovery during the course of this one.  Many circular needles in larger sizes have a noticeable “bump” where the needle part slims down to the cable’s thin diameter.  It can be annoying to shuffle stitches up that steep incline as you knit in the round.  But you can minimize the problem if you are using an interchangeable needle set.  I’ve outfitted one of the circs with a size #10 on one end, and a #8 on the other.  Since stitch size and gauge is dictated by the needle you are using to form the stitches (as opposed to the one being knit from), the smaller size needle sits on the “feed” side of the round, and its slightly smaller diameter presents less of an impediment when shuffling the stitches around into “knit me” position.  Give it a try!

And in other knitting news, I have finished the leaf shawl/scarf:


It looks like work/home will crawl back to a more manageable schedule, so I hope to be posting more regularly again in the weeks to come.  Next up is a tutorial on a simple method to finish out a sampler into a backed hanging.


In all of this observational and research posting what’s been missing has been reporting on my own projects.

I’ve been busy since finishing the Ganeshji piece.  I’ve finished Younger Daughter’s red pullover:


Purists will note that we ended up eliminating the belled lower sleeves.  They ended up being a bit too much for India’s climate.  The thing fits quite nicely.  My only caution is that in the chosen cotton DK it’s quite warm.

I also knit up a small teddy bear as an as-yet ungiven gift.  I used the free Berroco Foliage Bear pattern, and Bernat Mosaic on US #9 (5.5mm) needles.  There’s enough in one skein of multicolor Mosaic to knit at least one more bear of this size.  Stuffing was cannibalized from an inexpensive throw pillow bought at the local supermarket; crafts stores and virgin stuffing materials not being exactly common in Pune.


Special thanks to long time needlework pal and multi-century enabler Kathryn, who gave me this wildly bright acrylic skein to share with my kids.  I sheepishly admit that it crept into my backpack, and I diverted it to my own use.

I also finished yet another pair of socks.  I’ve taken to knitting at the bus stop while waiting with Younger Daughter in the morning.  This pair is done, and there is another behind it, well along on the needles:


It’s my standard figure-8 cast-on, toe-up sock, but done on log-huge US #1s – 64 stitches around.  The lacy meander on the side is from the first Duchrow collection (page 35).  I’ve used it before on a baby blanket.  These stripy blue socks are also meant as a gift, along with the men’s pair I’m working on now.

And I’ve started doodling with Kasuthi embroidery.  I’ve got a large piece of somewhat even-weave fabric.  Big enough to make a half dozen napkins.  So I am doing a different motif, totally double sided, on each one.  I will stitch all six motifs, then cut apart the cloth and hem the napkins.  Motif Number One is complete:


You can see the stepwise logic of the filling pattern in the star flower’s petals.  The resemblance to stepwise Western band patterns (like Jane Seymour’s famous cuffs and Anna Meyer’s sleeves) is even more pronounced in Kasuthi border/edging designs.  A couple of those are on deck for future napkins.  But first, I’ve GOT to do one of the traditional elephants…


What is this wadded, folded red object?


The red top-down pullover, of course. I’ve finished both sleeve caps.  They were worked onto the body rather than seamed on later, and were done both using the short-row method described in the pattern.  More or less.  There was some fudging and work-arounds to maintain the lacy rib pattern, and I ended up having to do an extra row after pick-up because try as I might, I could not pick up as few stitches as were specified without leaving unsightly gaps and puckering.  So, I picked up an appropriate number (mid way between my chosen size and the next one up), then worked an additional row of strategically placed decreases to slim the count down to the pattern’s number.  That means my lacy rib starts one row after the seam instead of butted up against it, but unless I point that out, it’s not noticeable.  (Oops.  I just did.)

Why is it all folded up?  Because now that I’m in the post sleeve cap arm section, I am knitting both sleeves at the same time, using the two-circ method.  This will guarantee that they are both the same length and configuration. 

I often do the same thing for socks, mittens, or other things that come in identical or mirrored pairs.  I even knit cardigan fronts side by side when working flat, for the same reason.  You can barely see a pink stitch marker attaching the two sleeves together in the center, just above the working needles.  This is a small trick I stumbled on that has eliminated hours of grief for both two-circ and flat production of side by side pieces.  Securing the two pieces together in a fixed orientation helps me keep on track, knitting both items in the same direction and minimizing the “Drat! I just loaded everything onto the same needle” mistake.


The red top-down pullover is growing at a good pace. I’m finding the Cascade Yarns UltraPima to be a very easy cotton to knit – easy to keep tension, non-splitty, and fast to work.  I’m averaging about 3 inches per evening. 

The true color is rather more tomato than fuchsia, but you get the idea:


The pattern is of the type I haven’t seen for quite a while.  It’s not written for new knitters. As I warned before, if you are intimidated by things like “repeat as for left, reversing shaping,” or if you have problems calculating back to add panels of an established pattern to newly cast-on stitches, you will want to sit down with this one first, making plenty of notes and figuring out what is meant before you plunge on ahead. 

One extra hint – the increases and decreases in this piece happen at long intervals, for the size I’m working in one case every seven rows, in another, every 14.  Keeping track of that can be a pain, but I use one of my Stupid Stitch Marker Tricks to do it.  I have a marker indicating the first stitch of the round.  I take a contrasting color marker, and advance it one stitch away from the first-stitch marker on each round.  When seven stitches have accumulated between my first-stitch marker and my counting marker, I am ready to do my decrease. I find this method more immediate and less difficult to forget than using tally marks on paper, counting stones, or a stitch counter gizmo. 

But I’m past the tricky bits now.  I’m into the section below the empire waist, where the “skirt” area is slowly increased to make a baby-doll A-line silhouette.  Easy.  The next tricky bit will be the sleeves, which I intend on making shorter than the original.

On yarn consumption, I’ve just wound and tapped into Skein #3.  I figure one more after this one on the body, then possibly 1.75 to 2 per sleeve.  I’ve got plenty and should not have to dip into the odd-lot extra skein in my mixed dye lot bag.

I’ll post more on expat life this week, once I’ve retrieved the pictures from family cameras.


A mixed post today.  First on knitting, I’ve embarked on a quickie project – a pullover for Younger Daughter.  I’m starting with this commercial pattern, the Empire Waist Top Down Pullover, from Vermont Fiber Designs (#172):


But I’m making two changes.  The first is that I’m knitting it in Cascade Yarns UltraPima cotton DK.  The original is written for a wool or wool blend DK.  That means that the piece will be more massy and less elastic than the original designer’s intent.  The other is that I’m shortening the sleeves.  I’m moving the garter stitch band up somewhat, so that it aligns better with the band at the waist, and proceeding with the belled sleeves from there, so that the whole sleeve is closer to 3/4 length than back-of-knuckles length.

And here’s my initial progress on the back:


On the yarn – I like it.  It’s relatively painless for a multistrand cotton DK.  It isn’t splitty, and it’s a bit more forgiving in stitch irregularity appearance than is Cotton Classic, my go-to all-cotton DK.  It’s also shinier than the Cotton Classic. 

On the pattern – I note that the range of sizes it includes is superior, from extra small all the way up to 6X.  This does make for a confusing pattern presentation though.  I made a photocopy and have highlighted all of my chosen size notations.  Those who struggle with tiny type will probably want to photo-enlarge this one, too.  (To reassure copyright protection advocates, under Fair Use provisions I can do this provided I own the original, and either keep the resulting copy with my original, or destroy it after I’m finished.  I cannot give away, sell or otherwise share the copy). 

So far the pattern has presented no problems, although I would not call this a pattern for those who have not worked from an classic style one before. For example, you’ll need to know that a hypothetical direction that states something like “increase 0(2,4) stitches 0(3,1) times” means that for the smallest size, you’d increase nothing no times (in effect, skip this direction); for the middle size increase 2 stitches 3 times; for largest third size you need to increase 4 stitches 1 time.  The “increase 0” direction can cause distress.

I’ll keep posting progress here as I wade deeper into the project.


On the India Travelogue side of the house, I present more monsoon scenes and contrasts.  First, It’s been pretty uniformly cloudy here over the past month, with only one morning showing a breakthrough sun. But there have been many afternoons of spectacular cloudscapes.  This is a view over my shoulder:


And here’s the promised view of the hills near Younger Daughter’s school, near Manas Lake in the Bhukum area on Pune’s outskirts:

monsoon-2 India-Jan2013 073

Contrast this lush verdure with a dusty shot of the same area taken this past January.  And January isn’t even the depths of the dry season.  The driest time is May and the beginning of June, just before the rains arrive in mid-June.