Big Sweater Smaller Sweater

There’s a picture of my dad that used to sit on my mom’s bedside table – in the nebulous lore that is my dad’s past, I would place it somewhere around the time he took a break from college and lived in Colorado, getting by teaching other sometime-college-students to ski. In this picture, he’s leaning forward into the camera lens with a grin that tells you how perfectly aware he is of the power of his fluffy mane of 80’s hair, and he’s wearing the platonic ideal of the perfect fisherman’s sweater.

There are two points here –  first, this is a man with standards, and second, I have wanted to knit this exacting man a perfect fisherman’s sweater for the past 15 years.

About 20 years ago, I had a babysitter who could knit. If my memory is at all reliable, she was a woman of no discernible age or facial features that would sit on our sofa while we watched Pixar movies on VHS and crank out stockinette stitch color-blocked scarves like it was nothing. Fast forward a handful of years – I’m now 9 and my 12-year-old sister is doing the babysitting, but a flip had switched in my brain and suddenly nothing would do but turning skeins of yarn into scarves, sweaters, and cross-eyed stuffed animals.

My first actual memory of this need is of my mother parking her silver Honda Odyssey in the gravel parking lot of a knitting supply store, and her subsequent breakdown. No one wanted to teach a 9-year-old how to knit. More people than you could possibly imagine all knit in my hometown had already told her no, and no was not a word she usually took at face value. She’d had the power of the internet at least since my older sister was born and had been wielding that power to homeschool us, manifesting books and curriculum and science classes out of a science teacher’s garage since I had been alive, and she didn’t accept that no one wanted to teach her child how to knit. And why not? I wasn’t loud, I was rarely sticky, and both those things were lies because I was 9 and always and impossibly coated in Elmer’s Glue.

But she didn’t leave, and because my mother is a force akin to the moving tide – initially unassuming, but never stopping- I was allowed to take a seat at a folding table in the back next to the microwave they used to heat up pound cake, and I was home.

It was a partial takeover. In a brilliant ploy my mother pulled off with the help of her Psychology degree, she convinced me my sister was dying to learn how to knit but was just too embarrassed to ask her younger sister to teach her anything. And if I could teach her the basics to see if she liked it, that would be great. And then Mom had somewhere she could drop the both of us while she ran errands and got her hair cut. From there, it snowballed. We started to bring our friends. We participated in an event to knit the largest sock, helped grandmothers with dropped stitches, and started a regrettable knitting club at our church.

But I was not ready for the fisherman’s sweater. For one thing, my dislike of being told what to do extends to knitting patterns. By 10, I hadn’t met a pattern I didn’t wrongly believe I could improve.

Initially and transparently, I took a pattern and made it worse. A cute, semi-realistic stuffed animal, became just the front of a blue bunny that I felted to give it a little width and stop halfway through. A hat with a folded brim, became a shorter hat, with no folded brim, and so on. I didn’t want to knit a gauge swatch, I wanted to dive into a project while the project still sounded fun. I wanted to knit right to left and then left to right so I would never have to purl. I didn’t stop that practice, reversing a line of a pattern in my head and marching back and forth across each row, until I realized the vs of each row were tilting in different directions, like writing with your left or right hand.

At this point knitting lessons had mostly become sitting in the yarn store surrounded by color-coordinated knitting supplies, eating cake, and knitting whatever I felt like. Honestly, I can’t recommend it highly enough no matter how old you are. If I could figure out how to quit my job and live in the backroom of a craft store, I would do it.

But I’m older now. A full-time job – several through the years – has softened my edges just enough, and Covid-19 has taken away the commute, gym, and social life that stopped me from taking on big projects, and I’m finally ready to sit down and make something with structure. I found a lovely vintage pattern off Etsy and buckled down.

It was fairly painless. There’s a lot of wisdom to be found in a knitting pattern. Start with the back to get your mistakes out of the way in an area that draws the least attention, there are more interesting ways to rib than 1×1, etc. The end result feels like I’m giving the gift of my own hair. Which has been thinning during the pandemic, so I’d love to take it back. Watching strand after strand tangle into my stitches made me consider a knitting hairnet to go along with the face masks I’ve taken to wearing to protect my lungs from the fibers floating through the air when I roll a fresh skein.

I cut no corners, even blocking the finished product after washing it gently with cashmere soap like a duckling in a Dawn commercial. But this half-a-blue-stuffed-dog energy has to go somewhere. I was good and followed a pattern to the letter, so my reward once my dad’s sweater was safely tucked under the Christmas tree was allowing myself to use the leftover yarn (6 skeins because I woefully over-ordered) to throw out the pattern and make whatever I felt like. I took what I liked – the smart construction of the raglan sleeves and the folded over neckline – and gave it what I felt it was missing. Namely, a crop top vibe. The pattern is below.

My Sweater Pattern

Materials

Yarn -Patons North America Classic Wool Worsted in Pine, 6 skeins

Needles – size 7 DPNs, size 9 straight

Gauge

Size 7 needles

Stockinette st

10 st and 14 rows / 2”

Abbreviations used

CO – cast on

RS – Right side

WS – Wrong side

K – knit

P – purl

st – stitch

sl – slip

cn – cable needle

H2B – hold to back

H2F – hold to front

BO – Bind off

Patterns

TS – K 2nd st, leave on needle, k first st, sl both st off needle.
TS Rib
(RS) *P1, TS; rep from *, P1
(WS) *K1, P2; rep from *, K1
Pattern 1
Row 1: (RS) *K1, P1; rep from *
Row 2: *P1, K1; rep from *
Row 3: *P1, K1; rep from *
Row 4: *K1, P1; rep from *
Rep rows 1-4
Pattern 2
Work over 10 sts
CR: Sl 3 onto cn, H2B, K3, K3 off cn
Rows 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13 (WS): *K2, P2; rep from *, K2
Rows 2, 4, 8, 12, 14: *P2, K2; rep from *, P2
Rows 6, 10: CR
CR every 4th, then every 8th row
Pattern 3
work over 64 sts
Rows 1 and 35: (WS) *k1, p4, k7, p8, k7, p4, k1; rep from *
Row 2: *P1, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 from cn; rep from *
Rows 3 and 33: *K2, p4, k6, p8, k6, p4, k2; rep from *
Rows 4 and 20: *P2, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, p1, k4 off cn, p4, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 off cn, P2, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, p1, k4 off cn, p4, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 off cn, p2; rep from *
Rows 5, 15, 21, and 31: *K3, p4, k4, p4, k2, p4, k4, p4, k3; rep from *
Rows 6 and 22: *P3, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, p1, k4 off cn, p2, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 off cn, p2, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, p1, k4 off cn,  sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p3; rep from *
Rows 7, 13, 23, and 29: *(K4, p4, k2, p4) 2 times, k4; rep from *
Rows 8 and 24: *(P4, sl 4 onto cn, H2F) 2 times, p4; rep from *
Rows 9, 11, 25, and 27: *K5, p8, k6, p8, k5; rep from *
Rows 10 and 26: *P5, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, k4, k4 off cn, p5; rep from *
Row 12: *P4, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 off cn, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, p1, k4 off cn, p4, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 off cn, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, p1, k4 off cn, p4; rep from *
Rows 14 and 30: *P3, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 off cn, p2, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, kp1 k4 off cn, p2, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 off cn, p2, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, p1, k4 off cn, p3; rep from *
Rows 16 and 32: *P2, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 off cn, p4, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, p1, k4 off cn, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 off cn, p4, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, p1, k4 off cn, p2; rep from *
Rows 17 and 19: *K2, p4, k6, p8, k6, p4, k2; rep from *
Row 18: *P2, k4, p6, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, k4, k4 off cn, p6, k4, p2; rep from *
Row 28: *(P4, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 off cn, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, p1, k4 off cn) twice, p4; rep from *
Row 34: *P1, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 off cn, p6, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, k4, k4 off cn, p6, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, p1, k4 off cn, p1; rep from *
Row 36: sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 off cn, *p7, k8, p7, sl5 onto cn, H2F, k5, k5 off cn; rep from *, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, p1, k4 off cn
Row 37: *P4, k8, p8, k8, p4, rep from *
Row 38: *sl 4 onto cn, H2F, p1, k4 off cn, p7, k8, p7, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 off cn; rep from *
Repeat rows 1-38
Pattern 4
Row 1: (RS) *P1, K1; rep from *
Row 2: *K1, P1; rep from *
Row 3: *K1, P1; rep from *
Row 4: *P1, K1; rep from *
Rep rows 1-4
Sleeve Cable Pattern
work over 32 sts
Rows 1 and 35: (WS) *k1, p4, k7, p8, k7, p4, k1; rep from *
Row 2: *P1, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 from cn; rep from *
Rows 3 and 33: *K2, p4, k6, p8, k6, p4, k2; rep from *
Rows 4 and 20: *P2, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, p1, k4 off cn, p4, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 off cn, P2, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, p1, k4 off cn, p4, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 off cn, p2; rep from *
Rows 5, 15, 21, and 31: *K3, p4, k4, p4, k2, p4, k4, p4, k3; rep from *
Rows 6 and 22: *P3, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, p1, k4 off cn, p2, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 off cn, p2, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, p1, k4 off cn,  sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p3; rep from *
Rows 7, 13, 23, and 29: *(K4, p4, k2, p4) 2 times, k4; rep from *
Rows 8 and 24: *(P4, sl 4 onto cn, H2F) 2 times, p4; rep from *
Rows 9, 11, 25, and 27: *K5, p8, k6, p8, k5; rep from *
Rows 10 and 26: *P5, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, k4, k4 off cn, p5; rep from *
Row 12: *P4, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 off cn, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, p1, k4 off cn, p4, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 off cn, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, p1, k4 off cn, p4; rep from *
Rows 14 and 30: *P3, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 off cn, p2, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, kp1 k4 off cn, p2, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 off cn, p2, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, p1, k4 off cn, p3; rep from *
Rows 16 and 32: *P2, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 off cn, p4, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, p1, k4 off cn, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 off cn, p4, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, p1, k4 off cn, p2; rep from *
Rows 17 and 19: *K2, p4, k6, p8, k6, p4, k2; rep from *
Row 18: *P2, k4, p6, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, k4, k4 off cn, p6, k4, p2; rep from *
Row 28: *(P4, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 off cn, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, p1, k4 off cn) twice, p4; rep from *
Row 34: *P1, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 off cn, p6, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, k4, k4 off cn, p6, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, p1, k4 off cn, p1; rep from *
Row 36: sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 off cn, p7, k8, p7, sl 4 onto cn, H2F, p1, k4 off cn
Row 37: *P4, k8, p8, k8, p4, rep from *
Row 38: *sl 4 onto cn, H2F, p1, k4 off cn, p7, k8, p7, sl 4 onto cn, H2B, p1, k4 off cn; rep from *
Repeat rows 1-38

Back

CO 115 with size 7 needles

K in TS rib for 2.5”. End on an RS row. On the last row evenly distribute 9 sts. 124 sts in play

Switch to size 9 needles

Row 1: (WS) K 20 st in patt 1, 10 st in patt 2, 46 st in patt 3, 10 in patt 2, 20 in patt 4

Continue in established pattern until piece measures 12″ from the bottom of the rib, ending with WS row.

Raglan armhole

Row 1 (RS): P1, TS, P2tog, continue in pattern until the last 5 st, P2tog, TS k-wise, P1

Row 2 (WS): K1, P2, K2, continue in pattern until the last 5 st, K2, P2, K1

When I got to the raglan edge, I realized that the sides would look uneven if I continued in the seed stitch the way I had started. Since I’m using even sts rather than odd, the second seed pattern should be a reverse of the first. That’s why I added pattern 4.

This is also why I’m glad I’m knitting the back first.

Continue in established raglan armhole pattern until piece measures 20″. 68 sts remain. End on RS row

Row 1 (WS): K1, P2, K2tog, K21 in pattern, loosely BO 16 sts, K in pattern until last 5, K2tog, P2, K1. Place left side onto stitch holder. 25 stitches in play.

Back – Right Side

Row 1: (RS) P1, TS, P2tog, K in pattern until last 2, K2tog

Row 2: P2tog, K in pattern until last 5, K2tog, P2, Ki

Repeat rows 1 and 2 until 5 stitches remain.

P1, TS, K2tog

BO last 4

Back – Left Side

Pick up stitches from stitch holder

Row 1: (WS) K1, P2, K2tog, K in pattern until last 2, P2tog

Row 2: K2tog, K in pattern until last 5, P2tog, TS, P1

Repeat rows 1 and 2 until last 5 stitches remain

K1, P2, P2tog

BO last 4

Front

Repeat pattern established for back until 82 sts remain (appx 18.5″)
End on WS row.
Row 1: (RS) Continue in raglan armhole pattern for 33 sts, loosely BO 14, K33 in pattern
Place right half on stitch holders
Front – Left Side
 
Row 2: (WS) Continue in pattern until last 2 sts, P2tog
Row 3: (RS) SSK, continue in established pattern
Repeat rows 2-3 until 24 sts remain. End on RS
Row 1: (WS) K1, P2, K2tog, K in pattern until last 2, P2tog
Row 2: SSK, continue in pattern.
Repeat rows 1 and 2 until 5 sts remain
K1, P2, K2tog
BO
Front – Right Side
 
Pick up right front from CN
Row 1: (WS) P2tog, continue in raglan armhole pattern
Row 2: K in established pattern until last 2, K2tog
Repeat rows 1 and 2 until 24 sts remain. End on RS row
Row 1: (WS) P2tog, continue in pattern until last 5, K2tog, P2, K1
Row 2: Continue in pattern until last 2, K2tog
Repeat rows 1 and 2 until last 5
P2tog, P2, K1
BO

Sleeves

With size 7 needles, CO 46
Row 1: (RS) *P1, TS; rep from * to end, P1
Row 2: *K1, P2; rep from * to last, K1
Repeat rows 1 and 2 until rib measures 3.5″. End on RS row. Increase 2 sts evenly across last row.
Switch to size 9 needles.
48 sts in play
Row 1: (WS) K8 in pattern 1, K32 in sleeve cable pattern, K8 in pattern 4
Continue in established patterns, increasing 1 st on either side every inch until sleeve from bottom of rib measures 18″.
76 stitches in play.
Raglan Cap
 
Row 1: (RS) P1, TS, P2tog, K in pattern until last 5, P2tog, TS, P1
Row 2: K1, P2, K2, continue in pattern until last 5, K2, P2, K1
Repeat in established raglan cap pattern until 8 stitches remain. Place 8 stitches on stitch holder.
Make another.
Sew raglan caps to raglan armholes.

Neck

Switch to size 7 DPNs
Row 1: (WS) Pick up and knit: 8 stitches from stitch holder, 46, 8 from stitch holder, 46. Evenly distribute 108 stitches across DPNs.
K in 1×1 rib until neck reaches 3 inches. BO loosely. Fold in half to sew down to inside of sweater.
Sew side and sleeve seams.

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