Freestyle knitting is my favourite kind. The kind where you have an idea, you work out some numbers and get knitting.....not even sure about the end, just sure you want to start it.
My favourite sequence of doing this means that there is time to make the decisions. It gives you space to begin the knitting without fear or worrying. You go in with an "it'll all work out in the end" sense of freedom.
Let me tell you a little about the process. It's very simple but the order is key.
Step 1: First I always start at the bottom and knit up, knitting the body first.
Step 2: Then I provisionally cast on for the sleeves so that I can knit the yoke next.
Step 3: Finally I knit the sleeves.
The reason for this plan is that
- Even if I haven't finalised the design of the sweater when I start I know how I like my sweaters to fit around my belly. I like them loose and I like them aline. I have sweaters I've made and sweaters I've purchased that I can get measurements from. So that's a great place to start.
- It gives me time to think about how I want the yoke to look and also to get an idea of how the yarn looks knit up over a bigger piece of fabric than my swatch.
- Knitting freestyle means that you are often unsure of how deep the yoke will end up being. This can massively affect the sleeve length - the longer the yoke the longer the sleeve - and this can be annoying as there really is a perfect sweater sleeve length for each individual sweater. They can only tell you this when you try them on with the yoke knitted up.
As an aside, I normally knit the sleeves flat. For me this is always faster. Knitting tiny tubes is an acquired taste and one I don't have. As Ms. Templer said to me on instagram the other day after seeing my half-done flat-sleeved photo #flatsleevesforever. Word.
In the case of my Riddari, my plan was not to make Riddari at all. I had some new yarn burning a hole in my cupboard and I really wanted to make a colourwork sweater. I wasn't sure what exactly but I knew that I wanted my favourite a-line sweater shape with a split hem.
So late one night, at about 11pm, I accidentally cast on. I knew my gauge as I'd already swatched, and so away I went.
But then after I did the bands - it might have been about 1am by this stage (on a school night but I was in the flow) - I decided that my bands weren't actually wide enough to make the sweater a-line enough. Nae bother. I just added a little panel of 8 stitches in either side - the kind of decision that you don't actually make. You are in the flow of the project and things just happen. Little panel it was.
I went to bed. Eventually.
I knitted the body over the next few days, getting up to the underarms and had big plans to knit a yoke I'd sketched out while I was knitting. It did not work which I talked about in the post the other day. So I ripped it without pain or remorse and looked to Riddari. I had already purchased the Riddari as I was thinking about making it (because it is an almost perfect yoke) so I just subbed in the pattern.
The added advantage of getting the first yoke so wrong, was that I got to try the sweater on as I had the whole thing off the needles just before I ripped out the yoke. This lead me to realise that I needed some short rows to raise the back of the neck up. This was a simple process - I think I did 6 short rows in total, and the whole thing sat much better.
After the short rows I knitted a single round to alter my stitch count by about 4, so that the total number of stitches I had, was a multiple of 8 stitches (what the Riddari chart is). And then play on.
The beautiful Riddari yoke, breaks a couple of Elizabeth Zimmerman's rules about colourwork. In the one instance you were using three yarn colours in a single row AND there is a also a row where you have floats longer than 5 stitches. Another no no according to the lovely Elizabeth but for a yoke this pretty who cares. A bit of awkwardness (for the three yarns) is a small price to pay.
I knitted the sleeves top down and played yarn chicken with the caramel. The pattern on the arms were added as I ran out. A happy accident that for me made the sweater that bit prettier.
Now there are some issues with the whole freestyle thing in this case. I made a bit of mistake. I didn't make it wide enough under the arms and therefore it has a bit of side-boob-pull. I'm probably the only person who will notice - other than you lot as I've pointed it out. Also the fact that the main yarn is caramel and I did all of the decreases in one round and for some reason decided to do one in the front middle of the arm. Nice work Felicia? And then there is the weird little panel on the sides. A decision made in the middle of the night that maybe wasn't my best. I'm not sure I'm a big fan of what is known as the "weird little panel". It's too little to look right. But it's there and the sweater is done so hey.
Overall though the freestyle is what made this sweater. I couldn't have dreamed it up as it was the knitting itself that told me what the sweater should look like. A classic case of freestyle knitting luck.
A beautiful pattern and a super fun knit.
PS. I heard from a woman on instagram that she had just begun freestyling after seeing my last freestyle post. If you felt like trying a freestyle top-down sweater then the Fringe and Friends KAL this year is the perfect place to start. The KAL starts today. I'm hoping to join in.
PPS. And we have some top down freestyle classes in Country Vic and in the Southern Highlands if you fancy learning some skills with the very talented Anna Maltz (and me) next month. :)