Several firsts here – the first time I’ve knitted top-down and probably also the first time I’ve measured my gauge, ever. I was using the Knitters Handy Book of Top-down Sweaters by Ann Budd. The way it works is that you find your gauge for the needles and yarn you’re using, then decide on your measurements and then just read off all your stitch numbers from the charts. It was super-simple. I used Alice Starmore’s Fair Isle book to pick some patterns and just inserted them into the sections between the increases.
The only part that gave me serious grief was the neck. For some unknown reason, despite the fact I was going to knit it on 5mm needles, I cast it on with 4.5mms. I think I had some vague idea that otherwise it would be too loose. That was emphatically not the case. In fact it was so tight that pretty much anything I tried to do, neckwise, made it completely untenable in terms of being able to get it over the future wearer’s head. I started out by knitting the same bi-coloured rib that I’d finished the bottom and sleeves with but that was too tight. I assumed it was my cast-off, and re-cast-it-off using a different bindoff technique. But that was still too tight. So then I re-knitted the rib in as loose a gauge as I could manage. That was too tight. Then I re-knitted it in the rib but using fewer rows. That was still too tight. At this point I lost the will to carry on and simply knitted two rows of garter stitch and bound off using Elizabeth Zimmerman’s sewn bindoff. Done. And it was a useful learning exercise in terms of exactly how stretchy a bi-coloured rib is (the answer, for the curious, is Not Stretchy At All). And next time I do this I will cast on using the needle size I plan to continue with. Lesson learned.
Anyway, the recipient is grateful and wore it to school the next day, bringing it home with ‘alien slime’ all over it (hence the reddened sleeves). Good thing I’m not too precious about my knits! It’s in Debbie Bliss’s cashmerino aran, which has frogged and reknitted very nicely indeed.