In the Winter 2023 issue of Crochet World magazine is an amazingly beautiful textured tunic, the Icy Trails Tunic by Jane Snedden Peever. If you have been following along with our series, Making Crochet Garments That Fit, you have slowly been learning all you need to know about how to get the perfect fit in your garments. But you may still find this one a bit intimidating so I wanted to take some time and go through some of the parts of this particular sweater.
One of the first things to do when getting ready to make a sweater is to examine the schematics and review the sizing information. When you look at the schematics for this sweater, you discover a couple of things. First, the sweater is worked in pieces, which yes, means you are going to need to seam this baby together. Second, it is worked from side to side; not bottom to top as you might think. Look closely on the schematics for the body and the sleeve. You can see arrows. Those arrows show you the direction you will be working each piece. For these your starting chains will be along the side and you will work across the body of the pieces to the opposite side.
What does this mean for you when you are working the piece? Well since we are working it side to side, your rows and row height are going to determine your width and your stitches are going to determine your length. When you work your gauge swatch, you need to try and match both as closely as possible. Being off on your row gauge means your piece will come out more narrow than expected. (Pick up some yarn to get started here or this one would make a nice substitute.)
Gauge Swatch: Let’s talk about that swatch more closely. Since you are getting ready to make a garment, you want to make a decent sized swatch. No baby swatches of like 2 inches square. That’s not going to show you how your fabric is going to behave! Try to make a swatch at least 6 inches by 6 inches. (Learn all about gauge back in these posts.) Work the swatch in the main stitch pattern. Measure it before blocking and record the information. Now wash it as you plan to wash the sweater and block the swatch. Once it’s dry, carry it around with you a couple of days and kind of check it out and tinker with it a bit. When you wear your actual sweater, it’s going to be moving around and getting a work out. Do the same with your swatch. Then check the gauge after a couple of days. Are you on gauge? You need to be as close as possible. Even being off by a small amount can change the size of your sweater.
Since there is a lot of shaping in this piece and it is worked side to side your row gauge is going to be very important. I would match it first and foremost. You don’t want to try and figure out how to adjust the numbers to make something else work. We all pull our yarn up a bit differently when we crochet and that can affect the height of your stitches. (Check out this video for more information and tips.) You may need to do more than one gauge swatch with more than one hook size until you find that perfect combination to match the gauge.
Choose Your Size: Once you’ve got the right hook for the job, it’s time to choose a size and get started. Take the advice from the Making Crochet Garments That Fit article. Think about ease. How tight or loose do you want it? You make think you are a size small but is that size going to give you the fit that you want? If I were making this sweater, I would want a little bit of positive ease, meaning a little loose…not fitted…but not crazy big because I don’t want to look frumpy. I have a chest measurement of 35 inches and a hip measurement (at the widest point) of 43 inches. Yes, I am a bit pear shaped but this has a split hem so I really shouldn’t need to worry about my hips too much. That split will allow some room. Since this garment is pieced, I need to double the measurements stated to figure out which is going to give me the fit that I want. The smallest size would be 37-ish inches when finished giving me 2 inches of positive ease. (I say “-ish” because you will lose just a tad bit when you seam.) That’s about an inch extra on each side of my body…that’s not a lot. The next size is 41.5 inches, which would give me 6.5 inches of positive easy or about 3.25 inches on each size. That’s a lot more room but not too crazy. If I kept going I know it would be way too big. So I need to pick the best option.
Let’s look back at that gauge swatch again…was my row gauge spot on? If spot on, no worries, I think I would go with the second size to ensure a bit more positive ease without it being crazy. If it is off a bit…is it off making the swatch more narrow… or wider? If it’s more narrow, I should take a look at the 3rd size and kind do a comparison between it and the second size. If it is wider, I may be fine going with the smaller size. You can work some crazy math and figure how many rows per inch you have and how many rows are in each size to get the closest guesstimate on your finished sweater size.
I have found that even though I do everything right when I swatch, when I work the real piece, my gauge usually is a bit different. For this reason, once you pick your size and get crocheting, you want to stop after about 3-4 inches and check your gauge and measurements again. Remember back when I said to measure the swatch before blocking? Did the overall size of your swatch change once you blocked it? Some fibers (yarns) grow a lot when blocked; others do not. If you are using a yarn that grows a lot, keep that in mind when you check your measurements at this point. You could even go ahead and block this bit you have done to check things more closely. This is the point to make adjustments to your hook size to get the measurements right. It would really be a downer to finish the ENTIRE back piece and then discover it is no where near the size you thought it was going to be. Undoing and giving it another go at this point is much less daunting.
Once you have your body pieces done, it’s time to move on to the sleeves. Again they are worked from one side to the other side. This is a raglan style sweater which means there is a slope to the top of the body pieces and also to the tops of the sleeves. These slopes will match up as you shape the sleeves. As you work the sleeves, I would lay them along the upper portion of one of the body pieces to ensure they are matching up. Being off a little bit isn’t a big deal, you can finagle a bit. Being off a lot will make seaming hard and your pieces look weird and not fit properly. Check fit and measurements often. It’s a lifesaver.
You start the sleeves, where the green circle is on the schematic. You then increase stitches working back and forth across the sleeve from one side to the other. Eventually as you work you start decreasing to get to the same type of edge on the other side of the sleeve as what you start off working on the sleeve. Now your pieces are complete, you are going to do a bit more finishing work.
Seam the sides of your front and back pieces, leaving a side slit. If you are a bit hippy, you may want your side slit a bit longer than the stated 6 inches. Adjust to fit your body!!
Here’s a flat view of the pieces with the sides seamed. The next step is the Raglan Armhole Edgings. You are going to work down one side of the raglan (let’s say the back edge, following the green arrow) and then over and up the other (front) raglan edge. You will work 3 rows of edging in this area and then repeat in the other opening. Please keep in mind your piece will be a tube at the point of working these edgings. It was just easier to put together a flat diagram. You will repeat a similar edging on your sleeve raglan edges. Once that is done you will seam your sleeves into those openings. That’s the look is achieved on the raglan seams of this sweater.
The collar is worked as a little ribbed rectangle; separate from everything and then you seam the start to the end to make a tube and sew that tube to the neck of your sweater. Definitely the easiest part of this whole endeavor.
But you should be VERY PROUD of yourself for completing the entire thing! Crocheting a sweater is so satisfying because it is this work of art that you can wear around everywhere for folks to see. I would even suggest randomly proclaiming, “Yes, yes I did make this!”, every where you go!
—Britt Schmiesing, editor