Spectra Sweater: Done! Tips and Tricks

Dear Kay,

Triumph! A finished new sweater!

Time for some tips ’n’ tricks—this is a knitting website, so buckle up! Here are things I noticed along the way, to help everybody thinking about making Cecelia Campochiaro’s Spectra Sweater.

First thing: I love this sweater. I wove in the final ends and immediately put it on over my PJs.

I have had it on for two days straight and I may never take it off.

The Isager Tvinni doubled makes a lovely DK-weight fabric, lofty and airy with the perfect bit of warmth. The yarn reminds me a bit of Shetland wool, one of my favorites.

Size up! I wanted my Spectra to be a very loose layer. I craved a tunic, a ponchoesque schmatta, a slanket with little narrow flipper sleeves. To that end, I made the fourth size, which is one size larger than my usual. And by accident (don’t ask) I added ten rows to each side, which added four extra inches of ease to the circumference. Whoops! Excellent! Total ease for me: 27 gigantic inches (68 cm).

And I made my sleeves at least 6 inches (15 cm) longer. Result: comfort garment.

Before you start, really and truly read the pattern. All the way through. Make a doodle, underline stuff, do whatever you can to understand the way this thing is knitted. I’ve never done a sweater like this before—you cast on in the middle of the front and back, then knit to the cuffs. I would have spent less time doublechecking my counts had I taken a bit more time on the front end.

Get your counting game set. This project is screaming for a clicky counter thingie, a pencil, a sticky note.

The rhythm of it all is clear by the time you finish the first quarter. I didn’t even write down counts for the second half.

Marl as you like. This pattern will accommodate your marling wishes—knock yourself out making it your own. I ditched the sleeve stripes. I mostly followed the pattern’s marl sequences for the center stripes on front and back. My colors: 46s, 8s, 12s, 22s, 4s.

However: I did a major alteration by making the big side panels and sleeves marled using two colors, 22s and 46s, rather than doubling a single color as specified. (That’s the CM microswatch.)

Shoulder/sleeve seams? Bigger needle. Three-needle bind-off here. To pick up and knit (the first part of doing three-needle bind-off), I used a size 3 (3.25mm) needle rather than the size 0 (2mm) called for in the pattern. I don’t own a size 0 circular and probably most of you don’t either. I bound off using the size 6 (4mm) as specified. The result is that the three-needle bind-off looks a bit more decorative—little holes on either side of the bind-off. Be sure to bind off loosely—you want the seam to lie flat and not draw up at all. I think my right sleeve is a bit snugger than my left. But I have learned to love this and by love I mean I would never, ever, wever undo all that seaming to adjust it.

Love this.

Side seams? Sew them so they’re visible. Due to the way this is knitted, the side seams on Spectra are actually bound-off edges, chunkier than a typical stockinette edge. My go-to mattress stitch would result in a chunky, puffy seam.

So I did a sort of made-up semi-reverse-mattress-stitch seam: put the wrong sides together, work on the right sides as you sew up the seam, pairing up the stitches as you go. The result?

A seam that I like a lot, dimensional and tidy.

Sleeve seams? Mattress stitch. Once you’ve done the side seams, you arrive at the underside of the sleeves, where all of a sudden, you’ve got a regular stockinette edging.

That’s the sleeve at the top, the body below.

Shift here to good old mattress stitch—it’s perfect for the underside of sleeve that you want to be smooth.

The neckline. Definitely take your time on this and get your stitch count correct and spread evenly around the neckhole.

It’s a clever bit of finishing, with a structural purpose of snugging up the neckline.

One sweater with three different seams. I feel like freakin’ Patty Lyons or something. I’m off to admire myself for the rest of the day wearing what is already my favorite sweater of 2022 and it’s not even 2022 yet.

Love,

Ann

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