07 Nov 2014

A sweater knitting story, in three acts.

ACT I: A truth universally acknowledged about sweater knitting, is that just-off-the-needles garments with fit issues are unlikely to be worn.

It’s too big. That, my knitsibs, seems to be the general consensus. The sweater featured in Today’s Sweater, the one I talked (and talked and talked) about in Epic Bind Off, is just too damned big. Which explains why I made the decision last Saturday to frog the sucka, but reveals nothing of the pain that this decision caused. While I love that I can rip, and a little ripping is good for a knitter’s soul, ripping out large expanses of stockinette is a painful, nasty business.

There are a couple of ways to go with sweater now that’s down to yoke and sleeves. The fix I talked about last week, to work more decreases in bodice, might sort the body fit issues. Some. Probably. But the sleeves also suffer from excessive bigness at the underarms, and fixing the body won’t do a thing to help the sleeves fit. It seems clear I need to rip the sleeves as well, and work a shallower yoke.

Before committing to this course of action, however, I deemed it prudent to check the Ravelry project gallery for this sweater, to see if anyone else had similar issues. And, because I am nothing if not distractible, whilst there, I did a quick search on the Jaeger Extra Fine Merino, just to see what other people have been knitting in this yarn. Not that I was planning on abandoning Baby Cables altogether. No. Just to see. For curiosity’s sake.

There are lots of hats, but a dearth a sweaters, which is to be expected with a yarn that was discontinued long before Ravelry was born. There are many cabled projects, which is also not unexpected, considering the yarn.

Jaeger Extra Fine Merino is a cabled yarn, made up of twelve singles plied together in twos. The six 2-plies are then plied again, and the result is a yarn that’s rounded, bouncy and perfect for cables, which is why I chose it for the Baby Cables project in the first place. It came as no surprise to find so many cabled projects, but the one that really caught my eye was (quel surprise) a sweater. A sweater awash with cables. Fairly dripping them. It was this one: Silver Bell, by Debbie Bliss.


ACT II: If you’ll recall, the reason I worked all those increases at the side seams in the first place is that I wanted a less hour glass shape. Something fitted through the bodice and flaring out to skim the hips. An A-line shape. This shape.

I think it’s clear where I’m going with this.

Looking through the Project Gallery for the sweater, I see a lot of gorgeous Silver Belle Sweaters. Sweaters that nip in at waist, and flare out over the hips. Sweaters that are very, very flattering.

RCCHeryl’s Coral Belle, has the length that I’m going for (just below the “Good China”).

DebinVancouver’s version has more of an empire waist, but is nonetheless flattering.

HannahSmith’s Silver Belle was one of my favourites, with a perfect fit, and a cabled neckline and cuff mod that I’l probably steal. HannaSmith nailed it.

I am seeing some fit issues with the underarms on this sweater, and there are a lot of too-big projects that knitters aren’t happy about (I can relate) so that’s something to watch.

I searched for DK versions and, in addition to Rossero’s Jaeger Extra Fine Merino version, the one that sent me down this rabbit hole in the first place, there are enough other DK versions of Silver Belle that I feel confident a Jaeger Extra Fine Merino version can be attempted. Of course there are issues.

The gauge is wrong, so it means designing a version with more stitches. The largest pattern size fits a 40″ bust. I’ll spare you the rant on pattern grading. I think that’s too small for me, but because the bodice is knit cuff to centre back, the schematics aren’t much help in predicting the finished fit. The bodice construction is exactly like the Summer Soltice/Autumn Equinox sweater I frogged in order to reknit the yarn into Baby Cables and Big Ones Too. Silver Belle has enough going on that the project won’t be as boring to knit as Autumn Equinox, however, Silver Belle is worked in pieces, and sewn, and I am too enamoured with top down construction at this point to embrace seaming wholeheartedly.

And. I may not have enough yarn to knit the pattern as written. I had a kilo when I started. The frogged balls and the existing yoke and sleeves of Baby Cables weighed in at 800 grams.


ACT III: Enter MichBrum’s extremely clever mashup of silver Belle and February Lady. Top down. Check. Lots of cables. Check. That peplum with the shaping I love. check, check check.

What the Feb Lady mashup lacks are those gorgeous sleeve cables, an element of the original pattern I really like, but the placing of which presents some challenges with raglan shaping. At a total of 40 stitches across, the two charts make for quite a wide sleeve at the cast on edge. That means fewer stitches left for the back and front, and a change to the shape of the neckline.

This assumes that I work the raglan shaping every other row, like February Lady. This rate of increase is the easiest to work, but is not carved in stone. I’m devoting an entire chapter in my book to advanced, non-standard raglan shaping, where the increases for sleeves and body are not worked at the same rate. It can be done.


I swatched the raglan shaping with the smaller cables in the seam, and used just one of the larger cable charts on the sleeve, and found it wanting. I really think it needs two.

There’s also the issue of the cables at the bottom of the bodice, which need to be worked sideways. I could knit that cabled band onto the bodice, much like the cabled neckline edge of HannahSmith’s sweater, and then pick up stitches on the edge of the cable to work the peplum. We’ll see. Much to think about; many decisions ahead.

The result of all these mods is that I’m basically designing a sweater from scratch, using Debby Bliss’s cables. It’s going to require extensive tweaking. It’ll need lots and lots of math. It’ll be a TOTAL pain in the ass. I’m very excited. I can’t wait to get started.

I’ve been truly overwhelmed by the comments on the last podcast, as well as the Rav messages and email I’ve received this past week. From time to these past nine years I’ve learned that the podcast had a wider reach than I ever suspected. I’m still surprised, and quite humbled to discover that it touched so many people, in such remarkable ways. Thank you.


The Knitsonik Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook is garnering much well-deserved praise. The give-away drawing is tonight, with the winner announced in the next post.

Posted on November 7, in Blog


  1. Wendy in Loveland wrote:

    And then there are those of us who didn’t even comment yet on how much you have meant to us. I discovered Cast On as an inexperienced fairly new knitter and went back and listened to all the episodes up to that point. The was a few years ago and I’ve listened faithfully since then. You taught me so much about knitting, about the joy of wool, about frogging being a necessary part of knitting sometimes, about the beauty of Wales, even. I feel like you are family, though of course, the person I know is podcast-Brenda. She’s a pretty cool person. I’m going to miss your podcast, but I’m so excited for you. Hope whatever comes next is just as wildly wonderful, for you and maybe even for us!
    Oh, and Silver Belle is lovely. The sweater you’re designing sounds beautiful and like it will be so much fun to make. Thanks so much for everything.

    Posted on 11.7.14 ·
  2. Emily wrote:

    i did a mash-up including the Debbie Bliss silver Belles cables years ago when I was on Oz. Love it still.

    Posted on 11.8.14 ·
  3. Tori in Loveland Too wrote:

    I listened to the Cast On podcast for the first time today – the final episode. I’m sorry I didn’t find you sooner but glad to know that the back episodes will remain available!

    I came here to comment, for a chance to win the book but it looks like I might be late to the party … as usual?


    Posted on 11.11.14 ·
  4. Burgundyann wrote:

    WoHeLo. Thank you.

    Posted on 11.12.14 ·
  5. Carrie wrote:

    You are celebrating my birthday with me. We planted a eucalyptus tree in my back yard. You continue to inspire me . I am proud to call you a friend . Next time your on my side of the ocean , I will see you . (please be on my side of the coast Florida ).
    Thank you for coming to work today . I am living my dream.

    Posted on 11.13.14 ·
  6. Jane wrote:

    Recently I visited Cheshire and the British Peak District because my husband had a business meeting to attend there. It was our first time in the UK. I rented a car and drove by myself to visit Conwy, Wales. I was interested in visiting Wales because of your podcast. Thank you for teaching us so much about this beautiful place over the years!

    Posted on 11.15.14 ·
  7. Marybeth wrote:

    Hi Brenda. I knit a Silver Belle years ago, it came off my needles and was immediately put into a cardboard box in my closet. I told my knit sibs that I felt like one of those weird monkey soldiers in the Wizard of Oz when I put it on. You have inspired me to pull it out tomorrow to see if it’s really that bad. I’ll let you know.
    Anyway, reading your blog makes me feel better. You’re still here.

    Posted on 11.18.14 ·
  8. Pam wrote:

    Wow, that Silver Belle sweater is so gorgeous. Of course I had to check out all the lovely versions on Ravelry. I like the slightly empire waist versions with the longer peplum. Those sleeves do seem like they bunch a bit under the arms don’t they? I howled with laughter at Marybeth’s comment above about her looking like a Wizard of Oz monkey soldier. You know that if I ever see you in this sweater I’m going to start humming the flying monkey song.

    Posted on 12.2.14 ·
  9. Casey wrote:

    Hi Brenda,

    I am so sad also to hear that this podcast is over. I haven’t listened for a while – it’s true, but for a couple of years you were one of my favorites. I still remember one where you were outside in the snow walking as you did your podcast and you were talking about how beautiful it was over there. I think I listened to that one three times. I am from Massachusetts. My Grandfather was from Wales and my Grandmother from Bristol; I have only visited once but really wanted to learn more about my Welsh heritage at the time, and still haven’t accomplished that very well. My knitting went to the wayside a year or so ago but I was thinking how I needed to bring all of it back to my life. In doing so, my first thought was I have to see if your podcast was still out there! So of course I go to Cast-on.com and “WHAT???” You are done? I’m going to see if I can still download all I missed and catch up to the goings on with you and your loved ones. I will miss you! Even though I left you for a little while – you pop into my thoughts each time I re-attempt to pick up the needles and cast on!

    Posted on 3.4.15 ·

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