Sweater Design: Questions about percentages and lace

Hi. I started Cosmic Pluto’s Top Down Sweater and am really happy with how it is turning out. It’s a quick knit despite the fact that I am using double-knitting and 4.5mm needles. I thought that the yarn that I originally bought was going to be chunky and it turned out to be double-knitting, oh well, those are the breaks.

I would now like to start designing my own top down seamless sweaters and have two questions:

  1. What are the percentages that I should start off with for front, back, and sleeves? I found Barbara Walker’s book unintelligible and Elizabeth Zimmerman’s percentage system is from the bottom up and I prefer to make things from the top down so that I can see how they are progressing.

  2. How would I make an allover lace pattern while knitting all of the increases and decreases that would need to be made in your average sweater pattern? I hope that this question makes sense, I would like to stay in pattern while still making the increases and decreases. Please don’t refer me to Barbara Walker’s book as I found her directions for this impossible to understand as well.

Thanks in advance to those who respond.

I don’t know about any percentage references, but the Interweave Knits FAll 2006 issue has an extensive article about increasing and decreasing in lace.

I hope you like raglans, because Walker is really the only choice if you want instructions for top-down and seamless patterns other than raglan or yoke sweaters. Her book is very unique in that respect, and no one whom I’m aware of (and I researched this pretty thoroughly last year) has done work in that particular area.

If raglans are okay, there are lots of patterns out there, many free. Here is one pattern generator you can try, though that particular pattern doesn’t include any short row shaping to make the neck lower in the front than the back – which can be a bit stifling if you want a crew neck. This one requires a little math, but includes the neck shaping. I’ve seen similar instructions in Vogue Ultimate Knitting and various sweater design books, too. It’s a pretty basic pattern, though individual “recipes” might vary a bit in the percentages they use. One book you might want to take a look at is Ann Budd’s The Knitter’s Handy Book of Sweater Patterns which includes a lot of other kinds of sweaters you won’t be interested in (most are seamed), but which does have a section on how to incorporate stitch patterns into the basic designs, which can help you figure out how to do the lace.

If you ever want to venture out of the world of raglans, do look at Walker again. If you’re really having trouble following her, you might want to take a look at Maggie Righetti’s Sweater Design in Plain English – she’ll give you both a conceptual and technical understanding of traditional sweater constructions of all types – reading through her book a few times might give you a foundation that’ll help you better understand what Walker’s trying to accomplish.

Ah, I should mention one more thing… when it comes to percentage systems, don’t always expect a perfect result – they’re based on averages, so if you don’t have an average body, you might want to make some adjustments. The same thing goes with yarn… because the percentages are based on averages, if a particular yarn has a stitch gauge to row gauge ratio that strays far from the norm, you may have surprising results. But for the most part you should be okay.

ETA: Now that I think about it, the raglan in the Budd book might be bottom-up… unfortunately I borrowed it from the library so I can’t check for you. Maybe some one else can confirm.

Thanks for your response. Actually, I don’t like raglans so much that all of my sweaters would be raglans. I had trouble understanding the advice that Barbara Walker gave for set-in sleeves. I would much rather make set-in sleeve sweaters. Do you have any advice for this? Have you made any set-in sleeve sweater:

I also have the Ann Budd book but I have zero interest in seamed sweaters as they were the reason that I was not able to finish sweaters in the past. I like to knit but do not like to sew up pieces and since I am a perfectionist, I would worry that the pieces would not align correctly and would look weird. Now that I know about seamless sweaters, I am never going back.

Thanks in advance for your response.

I made the set-in sleeve sweater in the Walker book. In fact, that’s the only sweater I’ve ever completed because I never finished the others I started – there are two that have been waiting for months to be completed, and numerous others that never got very far before they were frogged. What can I say? I found socks and realized I like immediate gratification. That said, you can do the set-in sleeve if you put your mind to it. You might want to do something less challenging than lace to start, because you’ll need to do some short row shaping in the beginning, and maintaining your pattern while doing that, and just trying to just follow what Walker is asking you do, would probably be more challenge than you want. My best advice is to be patient. Have your work in front of you as you follow the instructions. You may have to read some parts through a dozen times. You may have to frog. But you have the KH folks to help you when you get stuck.