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I’ve been “nose to the grind-stone” recently working on my ladies sweater design “Sorella Robina“.

This version is actually for my sister, appropriately.  She picked out the color in a nice wool-free yarn from Knit Picks called Shine Worsted.  In my head, it started as a loose idea of making my sister a lovely, flattering and face framing scoopneck.  The spring green sent me off on a leaf-motif tangent, resulting in the detailed leaf edging.  She is one of the very few on my “to knit for” list, and she’s been extremely patient.  I checked the blog, and the shopping trip which inspired this whole affair was way back in Feb. 2011!  Well, the sweater for her is finally complete and in the process, perhaps inspired by sisterly love, I finally had a “top-down triumph”!

You see, When I created the very first version of this leaf-edged sweater, I had wanted the entire pattern to be top-down.  I love to work this way because it allows for length adjustments quite easily, and with the leaf neck edge being worked first, I thought picking up and working down made the most sense, and creates a lovely gathered appearance around the neckline.  Well, while making my Orchid Robina, I tried to work the sleeves as a top-down set-in sleeve three times, then worked two more sleeves bottom-up, then sewn in.  I had become convinced that top-down just couldn’t give me the snug fit I was looking for.  Finally I realized that the whole time I had been working with the wrong gauge number in my calculations.  For anyone who is interested in designing, let me say it now – you won’t always get it right the first time, or the fifth.  Be prepared to rip and return to the start, over and over.  It’s that whole inspiration/perspiration thing.  On the sixth time, with a corrected gauge in place and some further cap shaping tweaks, I finally got a nicely fitted sleeve, but it was bottom-up.  I went with it because frankly I just wasn’t game for any more trials on that particular garment, and it fit my arm perfectly, but I was a little cranky about the fact that it was not officially “top-down” anymore.  I felt a little twinge that I had “given up”, but the sweater was done, and I was happily wearing it, so for a time, the design itself went on hold.  Here’s a picture which shows the first sleeve style in place.

Well, months later I returned to the design in order to complete the original vision of the sweater.  This time, the bodice was done a little differently and I moved the short row shaping way down on the front of the bodice.  The jury is still out on this being an “improvement”.  It also required grading the pattern to my sister’s size, and I refined how the joining and stitch counts were managed around the neckline.  The bodice was complete without any trouble, and there I was at the sleeves again.  This time, I let it percolate.  My Mother, many years ago, very wisely advised me that when something doesn’t come to you right away, you have to walk away, and just let your mind work on it in the background.  We coffee lovers call it “percolation”.  I did just that.

The bodice was set aside for another few months, and my conscious mind pursued all kinds of other things from crochet work to tutoring math, and designing software GUI’s.  Then, one night just before heading out to my Tuesday night Stitch ‘n’ Bitch, something “clicked”, and it occurred to me that I might have just mis-understood how to calculate the stitch count for a top-down sleeve.  My assumption that the top down method did not yield a nicely fitted sleeve was simply wrong.  You see, I had seen the sweaters in Modern Top-Down Knitting and they seemed to fall off the shoulders a bit, which I didn’t really like.  I think it was the models, not the sweaters, that created this look.  A few quick calculations from the counts and schematics in that book, and I was off and running again.  The “duh!” moment was this:  You don’t have to pick up the number of stitches matching the armcye measurement, you can use a bicep measurement and the work will ease out to meet the seam.  Here is a nice shot of the top-down “seam”, from the front:

And the back:

I did have to pull the joining row’s thread nice and snug after finishing to really make the “seam” flawless – but that was what was amazing: it really looks like a flawlessly joined sleeve!  I am so happy I came back and figured this out.  It is possibly the nicest sleeve “seam” I have ever done.  Just in case you are wondering, I did do a short sleeve on this version, unlike the original.  The pick-up and stitch count is identical however, so the fact I went with short sleeves would not really impact the way it looks or fits.

Now I can’t wait to get some pictures of my lovely sister, with all that lovely red hair of hers, in her new sweater!