Sunday, 8 March 2015

Berry Marion

I am a bit behind with posting my finished hand knits. I have finished a jumper and a cardigan in 2014 yet to be blogged. Here is my most recently finished hand knit. I started it on 1 January 2015 and finished on 7 March 2015.

This is the Marion cardigan from Untangling Knots. I absolutely love it! There is something about cardigans that makes them extra special. Maybe it's because they are more fiddly to make, with the button bands, buttonholes and the neckline decreases. Maybe it's because you're getting two to three looks for the price of one by wearing it buttoned, unbuttoned, half buttoned etc.

I've always loved the Marion. The cables give a relaxed but dressed feel. This garment marks my first attempt at altering a pattern to suit my measurements. I'm not talking about adding a few rows here and there. I'm talking shoulders, armhole depth, neckline, bust, the lot.

This wasn't meant to be my first project in custom fitting. I wanted to knit the Marion from the pattern but the more I looked at others' projects I could see there was divided opinion. Everyone loves the pattern but the results on fit can differ. For some the shoulders fall down the arms, and the cardigan appears big. For others the fit looks perfect.

I did a few calculations and I felt that Andi had not taken into account the width of the button band around the neck and body when doing the shoulder and waist circumference in her schematic. I did raise this with Andi but she said you have to allow for the cables compressing the fabric. Anyway I decided to bite the bullet and do a total re-write to make the pattern fit my measurements. (As you do … I don't do things by halves when I get going).

It took a bit of extra time as for each section I had to think what the pattern said, work out the proportions, and then convert it to my gauge and measurements. The other benefit of doing this is that you can adapt the pattern to suit your own swatch. Endless swatching on different size needles to try and match the designer's gauge does not appeal to me.


I am delighted with the cardigan and my first foray into custom fitting. I am particularly pleased with the fit at the shoulders and the armholes. I've been listening to podcasts with Amy Herzog talking about her popular Custom Fit software. She has passed on some very useful tips, like the importance of the gauge and getting the fit at the shoulders right based on the high bust measurement.

I don't necessarily agree with everything Amy had to say. For example she advises that seamed hand knits are preferable to seamless because the seams add structure and it is easier to custom fit individual pieces.

I have no problem with lack of structure on any of my hand knits (which have all been seamless). Granted I have only made relatively small cropped sweaters and Amy may be right for larger projects such as men's sweaters or an Aran jacket.

I can't see that altering single pieces is easier than altering a seamless garment. For example, when calculating the waist decrease section of the body on the Marion I used my waist circumference minus the width of the button bands and then inserted the waist decreases at either side of the half way points. When working out the flat portions of the Marion, such as the fronts and back before they are joined in the round, you can work these out individually as Amy does. For example I worked out my shoulder to shoulder measurement for my back and deducted that from 50% of my high bust measurement to get the amount I need to increase widthwise for the armhole shaping.
I can see where she is coming from as you can focus on one piece at a time and this may make the knitting time seem shorter. However I do not like the idea of not being able to try on a garment as you go.

Making a seamed garment must also add to to knitting time because you have to take a few hours at the end to seam it all together. (It would probably be more like a few days for me!) Maybe this extra time is off-set by the fiddly parts of seamless knitting such as picking up the stitches for the sleeves.

Amy is selling the Custom Fit software which I understand works out a flat pattern for your measurements, based on a seamed garment. Having the software work it all out is undoubtedly a benefit. However it is possible to do it yourself with a lot of help from Openoffice spreadsheet calculations and a calculator.

I am now making my second custom made sweater, this time adapting the Chuck pattern to suit me. I am hooked for now. Maybe I am making a rod for my own back with all this extra work but I am enjoying it.

I set out below some further details about the construction of this cardigan.


Knit Picks Wool of the Andes, Hollyberry colourway,
100% Peruvian Highland Wool
Worsted weight 


My blocked gauge on 5.5 mm needle was 8.5 stitches x 11.5 rows (4 x 4 inches). For all my converting I used the 1 inch equivalent of my swatch: 4.25 stitches x 5.75 rows.


I went with zero ease when converting the sweater to my measurements. If I make this again I would make the arms a bit snugger by having maybe 0.5 inches of negative ease in the upper arms and having it a bit more fitted on my lower arms.

Shoulder Shaping

The Marion pattern appears to only have short row shoulder shaping at the back of the garment and not the fronts. I changed the short row shaping to have it on both. I also changed the shoulder shaping to the method in my Obladi sweater pattern (by Lyrical Knits – yet to be blogged). This leaves a nice back neck edge slope as well as a shoulder slope.

When working out my shoulder stitches I added 1 stitch on each side to allow for the fact that they will be lost in the armhole and neckband seams when picking up stitches later. My shoulder slope was one inch, so the cardigan is one inch higher at the neck edge of the shoulder than at the arm edge. If I were to do the pattern again I would do the front portion of the shoulder shaping in reverse stocking stitch to match the reverse stocking stitch in the cable pattern.

Cable pattern

They are not enjoyable to knit. They pull in where the cable twists appear. I did notice on the pattern that you increase by 4 stitches on the front shoulders so this seems to accommodate for the pulling in you get. The cardigan cables look a bit of a mess when it is a work in progress but bear with it. Once the button bands are knitted and you get that extra width the cables then pop out. They come into their own once they are blocked.

How I did the conversion to my measurements

I started off by taking all my key measurements:
  • Waist
  • Full bust
  • High bust (or just under the arm pits)
  • Armhole depth (from shoulder to high bust level) (from end of shoulder)
  • Armhole depth (from the neck edge of the shoulder to the high bust level)
  • Shoulder to full bust
  • Full bust to waist
  • Shoulder to waist - front and back.
  • Shoulder width
After working out my stitch and row gauge per inch, I went through Andi’s pattern for the section I was about to work on. I did not work it all out from start to end in one go. That would have been too boring but also it is better to do it in sections to check you are on track and to try it on as you go.
Using Andi's stitch and row gauge, and her schematic, I tried to work out the proportions. For example I worked out that her button band was about 1.3 inches wide.  I tried to work out where her neckline shaping started and so on. I then adapted these proportions to my measurements.
The decreases for the neckline were tricky to work out. I used an on-line knitting decrease calendar to help me in places. I then worked out the decreases for the bust to the waist, worked out how many under arm stitches to cast on and so on.


I had  had a lot of help from these sources:

By Gum By Golly (Tasha) - tutorial on drafting your own knitted set in sleeve. 

Paula Ward - You Tube Videos on designing your own knitted sweater, in particular the Sleeve Cap videos in two parts. 

Barbara G Walker - Knitting from the Top - seamless set in sleeve instructions.

There were some great tips on all three sources and I have used something from each one. For example:

Barbara G Walker 

You measure your upper arm to determine the amount of stitches you need for your sleeve circumference. To determine the rate at which you pick up you need to count the number of rows on your armholes from the main body. (This is after subtracting the number of under arm stitches you cast on because you always pick those up at the rate of 1 stitch for every one cast on.) This gave me a rate of picking up 1 stitch for every other row on the armhole. It could have been two for every three, four for every five and so on.

Paula Ward 

She instructed you NOT to leave a gap in the pick up rate of more than two stitches. This will leave a gap in the armhole. Even if this means you are picking up too many, don’t worry, you can reduce down later. For example do not pick up two and skip two stitches. Instead you can pick up two and skip one stitch.

By Gum By Golly 

I finished my short row shaping for the sleeve cap at the point that I started my armhole shaping. On Barbara Walker’s method you continued this until the under arm stitches. I went with By Gum By Golly’s method as I thought this would produce a snugger fit.

Knitting the Body

I changed to a 4.5 mm needle to knit the waist ribbing. After doing 8 rows of ribbing as per the pattern I kept the waistline stitches on a holder until after I had finished the sleeves. This made it easier to lengthen later after the sleeves if I wanted to. I ended up doing 13 rows of ribbing to match the ribbing on the sleeves.

Short rows

For all my short rows I use the German short row method. You need to adapt the pattern slightly to do it. I use two videos which explain how to do them and how to to adjust a wrap and turn short row pattern direction to German short rows (see here and here).

Bust short row shaping

I added some short row shaping at the bust. It sounds fancy but I just added a few more rows in the front portions only to accommodate the bust. I only added two rows in case it looked odd. Next time I may be a bit more fearless in adding more short rows. The cardigan when worn is slightly shorter at the front than the back.

Bind offs
I used the 2 x 2 sewn bind off to bind off the ribbing at the arms and the waist using this video this video.


I used the horizontal buttonhole method to do the buttonholes (see link). I also used this excellent video for the horizontal buttonhole method. I like the tip to use the purl cable cast on when working the buttonholes. 

My buttonholes were 3 stitches wide and my actual buttons 18 mm. I used this buttonhole calculator which worked out my buttonhole spacing.

When planning the spacing for my buttonholes I had the top button at the full bust point. I have noticed on finished objects for this pattern that this top button seems to be high. Mine also come out high despite trying to be careful. It may be better to allow for the top button to be slightly lower than the full bust point. The cardigan looks fine with 4 buttons closed though.

Button Bands

I did 11 rows of the button band in a smaller needle, 4.5 mm needle. (The pattern has 8 rows on a 5 mm needle.)

I used button band tips from Gail in her knitalong posts for the Miette. I picked up a whopping 205 stitches using a pick up rate of picking up 3 stitches for every 4 rows. (To put this in perspective, the medium size on the pattern has you pick up 182 stitches and I believe my cardigan may have ended up more cropped than the pattern.) I then decreased 1 stitch at the neck in the first row so my ribbing pattern would work. I changed the ribbing pattern so that on the right side there were 3 knit stitches at the very bottom of each side of the bands. In the pattern the bands end on both sides with 2 purl stitches.

I also twisted the first row of the button band. I did an ordinary bind in pattern off for the button bands.

I have re-inforced both sides of the button bands with lining and interfacing strips. I used the sewing machine to add buttonholes and I sewed on the buttons using the machine. I also did these bands on my Agatha and I explain how I did it in this post. 

I hope to be back soon with some of my other finished knitted projects.