Polonaise Sweater: customizing sizing

Although Polonaise might seem to involve too many complexities for any size adjustments, there is actually a lot of opportunity for customizing sizing. One of the reasons I like to work sweaters flat in pieces and seam them later is the flexibility that this construction provides. So let’s take a look at how and where modifications can be made.

To adjust the body width, simply cast on the desired number of stitches and work fractional repeats of the pattern at the hem, using the guidelines from the previous post. Alternatively, add or subtract stitches after working the lace pattern at the hem, once you start the stockinette stitch section. While the pattern as written is designed to have a convenient number of lace repeats at the top of the shoulder, with all the armhole and neck shaping going on in that region, you’ll be a pro at working fractional repeats of the pattern, and any changes introduced in the stitch count will be easily incorporated. Just make sure there’s an odd number of stitches before starting the neck shaping! The region of stockinette in the middle portion of the body also allows for waist shaping, without disrupting the stitch pattern repeat. I made my sweater straight this time for a comfier fit, but it would look fantastic with a bit of an hourglass shape as well. Fig1

To change the length of the body, work additional or fewer rows in the stockinette portion, or once the upper lace portion commences. The former option will ensure that the lace point of the V will remain in the same place, while the latter will result in the lace point moving up or down.


Adjusting the V-neck depth is a bit more tricky, but not impossible! Once you’ve decided where you want the point of the V to land (relative to the shoulder), calculate the number of rows between the bottom and top of the V neck. You will want to have the same final number of shoulder stitches (unless, of course, you don’t), which means that you will want to work the same number of decreases over the newly-calculated number of rows.


If the number of decreases doesn’t evenly distribute across the number of rows, then work decreases more frequently at first, and less frequently towards the top of the V. A neck that looks like this:


is much better than one that looks like this:


Now that you’ve customized your body length, width, and neck depth, you’ll be ready to tackle the sleeves. The sleeve shape is fairly straightforward, and all the shaping effects are achieved by differences in gauge. To adjust the width of the forearm, simply change the stitch count in multiples of 4. You can restore the stitch count in the first row prior to the start of the lace pattern.


To adjust width in the upper arm, increase or decrease to the desired number of stitches in the first row before the lace pattern begins, and work partial pattern repeats over the extra stitches. Restore the stitch count in the final rows of the cap; the puff sleeves are quite forgiving of variations in stitch count.


Finally, the sleeve length can be adjusted by lengthening or shortening either the ribbed forearm, or the lace sections. To preserve the Gigot-sleeved look of the sweater, ensure that the transition from the ribbing to the lace occurs at or just below the elbow.


Your customized Polonaise will quickly become a wardrobe favorite!






Polonaise Sweater: maintaining stitch patterns while changing stitch counts

My Polonaise sweater features a relatively simple lace pattern, configured in a somewhat more complex arrangement across the sweater front and back. The pattern asks you to both incorporate additional stitches in the lace pattern as you work, and later to decrease them while maintaining the pattern. Here are some tips that will help maintain the lace pattern, without resorting to swaths of interrupting stockinette stitch.

The pattern initially begins with working one lace repeat in the center of the body. The lace pattern is a multiple of 6 +1 sts, which means that a single repeat is 7 sts. It may be helpful to mark the center 7 sts when working the row prior to the first lace row.


This is how it looks after the first repeat has been worked over the center 7 sts.


Now you will want to add one additional pattern repeat before and after the established one. Each additional pattern repeat will be 6 sts (not 7!). On the last WS row before working the additional pattern repeats, place markers 6 sts before and 6 sts after the established 7 pattern stitches, and remove the original markers.


(Those of you with keen eyes might notice that I’ve added an extra stitch at each end. This is only to keep my markers from falling off. In reality, you will have many stockinette stitches on each side of the central pattern repeat). On the next row, work the pattern as described between markers. A central stitch that’s maintained as a knit stitch throughout will be come evident (marked with a safety pin, below). This will become important when you start decreasing.


When it comes time for the armholes, you will have to decrease in pattern. One method is to work the stitches of the pattern repeat in which the decrease occurs as stockinette. But maybe you don’t want a chunk of 5 stockinette stitches at each end of the piece. With this pattern, it is relatively straightforward to work partial pattern repeats, as follows:

Find (and mark) the central knit stitch of the first pattern repeat, indicated here by the safety pin.


(Again, those of you with keen eyes might notice that I’ve decreased away the extra edge stitches I added previously—I no longer need them to hold markers in place! This is for instructional purposes only). The stitches after the marked one can be worked in pattern without any adjustments. In this pattern, all the RS rows have a “yo” within the first 3 stitches of the row beginning and end. To decrease one stitch at each end, simply omit the yo but work the decrease that’s closest to it as usual. One stitch decreased!


In this case I’ve worked the first decrease on Row 2 of the pattern. If you want to decrease again on Row 4, the situation is more straightforward. The omission of a yo on the previous RS row generated 2 stockinette stitches before the central marked knit stitch. These two stitches can be worked together on Row 4 to decrease another stitch. If you prefer to work decreases 1 stitch from the edge, the central knit stitch of the pattern can be worked together with the preceding stitch (at the beginning of the row), or the following knit stitch (at the end of the row).


In this image, the first two stitches at the beginning of the row have been worked together (ssk), leaving the central knit stitch of the first repeat untouched. At the end of the row, the central knit stitch of the final pattern repeat has been knit together with the next one, leaving the edge stitch untouched. Note that this still preserves the knit stitch “spine” in the pattern. Once the central knit stitch has been decreased away, the remaining half of the pattern repeat can be worked in stockinette stitch to accommodate additional decreases.

In this way, it’s possible to decrease in pattern without generating more than 2 stockinette stitches at each edge at any given time, allowing the pattern to flow gracefully along all the shaping lines.



Rosewater Fabric & Lace Cowl

Summer isn’t usually conducive to knitting, but my latest published pattern was designed to be a quick knit for warm weather. The Rosewater Fabric & Lace Cowl, published in the August 2017 issue of “I Like Knitting,” combines my love of fabric and yarn to make a lacy cowl that’s half purchased lace fabric and half knitted lace.


(c) I Like Knitting

By using a sturdy lace fabric, there’s no need to finish the raw edges, minimizing sewing for those who prefer to focus on the knitting.


(c) I Like Knitting

Because most lace fabrics feature floral motifs, I wanted a knitting stitch pattern that would not compete with the floral elements. At the same time, I didn’t want a highly angular or geometric pattern, such as the ubiquitous diamond-based lace designs. After much searching, I found a flowery pattern that wasn’t a true floral. This design will complement a wide variety of floral lace fabrics.


Experiment with different fabrics and color combos—use similar fabric and yarn colors like I did, or try contrasting or gradient colors in either half. I’d love to see what you try!

In sewing news, I ventured into the realm of home dec and made bedroom curtains using a gold/ cream brocade from Mood Fabrics. They’re lined with a very lightweight white cotton fabric. The curtains were 5 years in the making: I’ve been imagining these since we moved in! In the process, I discovered how difficult it is to cut a perfect rectangle out of fabric– the brocade tended to shift around, and the lining turned out to be off-grain. But the struggle with the fabrics was worth it– the curtains are everything I dreamed of!


Springtime sewing

I left off last time with my Flint pants just a hem and hook-and-eye away from completion. Last week I put in the hook and eye, and the pants made their grand debut!



I decided to hand-hem the pants, because the bottom edge is curved. I always have much better luck easing in the curved edge by hand, rather than by machine. I loved the drape and swish of the wide pant legs, and didn’t want to ruin it all with a hem gone awry. I’m thrilled with the result!


After putting in the hook and eye and wearing the pants for the first time, a few issues became evident. The unusual side closure of the pants results in the left pocket remaining open. There’s a bit of a “valley” in the pocket that seems adequate for holding my keys, which are my usual left-pocket inhabitants. However, I wouldn’t entrust the left pocket with much more. I considered putting in snaps along the open pocket edge, but decided it was too much trouble to do/ undo them every time I pulled the pants on or off. The left pocket opening is exactly as advertised, so I shouldn’t have been surprised.


The other issue is that the pants are drafted for the side seam line on the front piece to align with that on the back piece once the ties are tied (seams are marked with arrows below). In my fabric, however, the bulk of the ties creates a bit of a gap in the left side seam, resulting in the left pocket lying not quite right. Perhaps in a lighter weight fabric this would work better, but then the fabric might not be suitable for pants.


In any case, the issues are very tiny, and I’m in love with the pants! I’ve paired them here with the Vogue 7876 wrap top, but I’m looking for additional styling suggestions, so please post in the comments if you have any!


The second recent project was a rushed camisole-turned-dress. I needed a white dress for a Greek-themed ballet that I was performing in last weekend. Initially I decided that I would just buy a dress and get on with things. However, nothing that I saw was suitable—most dresses had either enormous sleeves or shoulder cut-outs, neither of which I wanted. I guess I’ve been spoiled by getting exactly what I want by making it. Since I was under a bit of time pressure, I used an existing pattern, Butterick 5932, and lengthened the camisole by 11” to make a dress out of a polyester charmeuse. I used the matte side out to avoid glare from the stage lights.


The hip line was a bit below the “lengthen/ shorten” line, so after cutting and spreading the pattern, I drew the new hipline at the same height as the former one. I made sure to keep the width at that point constant, and then blended the side seams down to the new hem line (I think I ended up widening the hem circumference by 1-1.25” on each pattern piece). The rest of the construction was straightforward, though the gathering was a bit tricky. When I was finished, I realized that I was not able to kick to full height, so I made 3” slits in each side. The dress, and performance, were a success. Here’s a group photo, with faces of the other lovely dancers blurred for privacy. I ended up doing some last-minute alterations on the dress that’s second from the right, but everything went smoothly in the theater!


Building a practical wardrobe

Time has been flying by, but I’ve been trying to keep up the sewing and knitting. I’ve taken a bit of a break from knitting, after a knitting marathon to produce the Waterfall Cardigan in March/ April. However, I did start on the Loftus shawl while on a family vacation recently. I’m using Llyr yarn, from A Hundred Ravens, which is a beautiful fingering-weight silk/ wool blend. Pink seems to be the color of the year for me (or maybe 2 years!), and this yarn features lovely tonal variations from light pink to dusty rose (but more on the dusty rose side).


In other news, the jacket for my mom’s birthday was a major success. She loved it! Here she is:


I have to give a shout-out to the McCall’s pattern company. I contacted them about a seam that was off by about 0.5” in this pattern, and they responded promptly with a promise to fix it. Fantastic customer service!

On to more recent stuff—I’ve decided to be a bit more practical with my sewing and make things for every-day wear, rather than cocktail dresses for special events. I’m a fabric magpie, I’m always drawn to pretty dresses in shiny fabrics. But I need pants, and tops, and dresses for work/ daytime wear. I’ve recently been working on the Flint pants from Megan Nielsen, using a linen from fabrics-store.com (it’s from the IL032 line, in color “raisin,” which is an apt description for the brownish-purple). I’ve attached the waistband since taking this picture, but still have to place a hook and eye closure at the front, and hem the bottom (ignore the bulge at my left hip, that’s where the closure will be. I didn’t get the pin in quite the right spot). The pants fit just fine (I took out about 1.5” from the circumference), but they’re a little high-waisted for my liking. Nothing wrong with the pattern, it’s just that I wasn’t expecting them to fits as they do. Nevertheless, I’m expecting to get a lot of wear out of these. I’m aiming to have finished pictures for next time!


More recently, I finished the Ansa Dress from Named Patterns. The dress was a pleasure to sew, and went very quickly. I used a rayon challis that I had purchased during a Craftsy sale this winter. I’m thrilled with the fabric/ pattern combo. The rayon was very slippery to work with, but the end result was worth the trouble. The pattern has 6 small pleats at the waist for shaping, and large butterfly sleeves that drape beautifully in the rayon. This one also needs a hook and eye closure (in back), and lots of loose threads finished off.


Up next might be some home-dec, which I’ve never done before. I’m hoping to have curtains, and perhaps linen bedsheets, for our upcoming 5-year wedding anniversary!

Waterfall Cardigan release, and other knitting and sewing

My latest knit design, Waterfall Cardigan, was released this week in the summer issue of Cast On magazine!

It is currently available only to members of The Knitting Guild of America, but will be available to the general public soon. This sweater is worked in Lady Godiva yarn—a beautiful silk wool blend– from Handmaiden Yarns. The yarn was a delight to work with, and showed off both lace and cable designs beautifully. After wet blocking, it developed a lovely drape that allows the fronts of the cardigan to fall gracefully. The stitch patterns are from Annie Maloney’s book “Lace Cables.” I love this collection, and want to design something with every single stitch pattern in there—so far I’ve used 4!

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on more utilitarian knitting. My winter socks have been mended many times over, so I decided to replace them with Anastacia Zittel’s “Cable Look Socks,” which I tested before the pattern release. (The pair I’m replacing is the original test knit). I’m making this pair in Ella Rae Classic, a workhorse worsted-weight wool that’s available in a wide range of colors.


This yarn is on the lighter side of worsted weight, which means that I can make the socks slightly longer than the originals. I’ve finished one sock, and am about a third of the way through the second one. They make for great knitting on the bus.

My sewing plans, as often happens, have gotten waylaid by holidays—Mother’s day and my mom’s birthday a week later. I decided to try something different for her this time, and picked a style that neither of us would typically reach for. I chose V9035 from Marcy Tilton.


When I was at the fabric store with my mom last weekend, I asked her to pick from the selection of silk dupioni fabrics, without telling her the intended use. She chose a lovely sage green, which unfortunately looks a bit sallow in the photos below.


I purchased 2.25 yards, as called for on the pattern envelope for a 60” fabric, but realized after I got home that the fabric was more like 53.” I barely managed to fit the pattern pieces. The construction is highly unusual, but the directions are clear enough, and the sewing itself is straightforward. I finished it in record time, and even did mock-French seams to enclose the seam allowances, which frayed badly. I gave it to my mom today, with only the sleeve hems and buttons/ buttonholes remaining. She loved it! (I was afraid she wouldn’t, since it’s not her “normal” style). My only complaint about the design is how wide the back is. I’m not exactly thrilled with the flappy thing across the back either, but I don’t mind it.


It may work better in a drapier fabric, rather than the stiff fabrics recommended (pattern envelope calls for taffeta, poplin, or broadcloth). I finished the sleeve hems after she left, and now only the buttonholes remain. These are the buttons I plan to use:

Details of the pattern and construction next week!


Ballgown Construction, part 1

It’s been a while since my last post, but I’m determined to keep up with my New Year’s resolution. If you’ve followed me on Facebook, you might have seen that my Dove top (from Megan Nielsen designs) was featured on the Sewing Pattern Review blog. It made my day when to receive an email saying my top had been featured!

I spent quite a bit of last month knitting. I can’t share any pics yet, but the pattern should be published soon, and I’ll post once the pictures are up.

Moving on to the day’s topic, back in February I was persuaded to join a “Red Carpet Worthy Dress” sew-along group on Facebook. The pattern in question is Vogue 1533.


It has a 2-layered “foundation,” which consists of a “foundation lining” (inner layer with boning), and an outer layer that closes with hook and eye tape. It extends from the neckline to just below the waist. In addition, the dress is fully lined. If you are inspired to give the pattern a try, note that many things are called “lining” in the instructions. All fabrics that are NOT the outermost “fashion” fabric are called “lining.” The full lining of the dress is called “lining,” and both layers of the foundation are made of “lining,” of which one layer is the “foundation lining.” Clear as mud, right?

I began by making a muslin of the foundation, which is a basic princess-seamed bodice that closes in the right side seam, and has a hanging thing on the left side. The princess seams had a little too much fabric over the full bust area, so I pinched it out with pins (left picture), and restitched the seam line (right).

I started dreaming of what my ideal fabric would be. I told my mom and husband (I have 2 witnesses here!) that I imagined a black fabric with white or silver flowers as the main dress fabric, and the front contrast panel in black. A week or so later, when browsing the Mood fabrics website, I found the fabric of my dreams. It was even reversible, so I could waffle at the last minute to decide if I want black with white/ silver flowers, or silver/ white with black flowers. Needless to say, I made the purchase.

I then purchased “lining” fabric for the foundation. It is a thin polyester satin, just a bit lighter than a crepe-backed satin (but thicker than the polyester stuff marketed as “lining”). I found a heavier satin for the front contrast panel. Here they are, left and right, respectively.

I started by constructing the foundation. The pattern calls for interfacing both layers. I used a lightweight interfacing for the “foundation” (left), and a much stiffer shirt-weight interfacing for the “foundation lining” (right), which eventually will receive boning. The wrong (gluey) side of each interfacing is shown in the left side of each picture.

I transferred the pattern adjustments to the pattern pieces, and cut and stitched the foundation. The right and wrong sides are shown below.

For the “foundation lining,” I cut the interfacing out of the princess seam allowances for the center and side-front panels. From past experience, I knew the interfacing would be too stiff to ease the curved pieces. I did have to additionally clip the princess seam allowances in a couple of places to keep the fabric lying flat, but otherwise this attempt went smoothly.

The shiny satin displays all flaws in the sewing in their full glory, as well as flaws that don’t exist. The princess seams really don’t have any tucks, despite appearances. After constructing the foundation layers, I was glad that I did not choose a shiny satin for the main fabric.

Here’s the foundation lining pinned into place. I ended up taking a ¼” out of the side seams of both layers near the top.


Up next is ordering and installing the hook and eye tape (I have white tape on hand, but want black for this job). I will also order boning. The foundation calls for something like 13 pieces of boning, which is nearly double of my “usual” amount (not that I’m “usually” making strapless dresses). I’ve decided to use steel spiral boning rather than the featherlight plastic boning I have on hand. The steel spiral boning affords more flexibility than the plastic stuff, and I’ve already found the plastic boning too constricting when used in only half the quantity called for here. Once that’s done, I’ll take a long sewing break to  trace and transfer adjustments onto all the other pattern pieces.

Meanwhile, if anyone knows of any upcoming balls, please send along an invitation. I will soon have a ballgown, with no ball to attend. I’m also happy to lend this to a Cinderella with the opposite problem, though she’d have to be exactly my size for the dress to fit. Any and all Cinderella/ ball pairing recommendations are most welcome.