Saturday, 25 September 2010



This is what has come to be known in Knitting circles as a 'recipe'. It's a guide, a 'how to' and is not going to provide you with row by row instructions.

However it is in my very humble opinion a truly wonderful and liberating way to knit!
I believe that if you love to knit for a finished product, then learning to knit around your body (and I am very much still learning!) is an exciting thing to try.

I'm sure all of us have been frustrated with the fit of a shop bought item, or perhaps loved a particular shape, but the colour or fabric wasn't our preference.
That's the real beauty of knitting to me, The endless possibility!
The chance to create something that is completely to my specification, whims and loves.

Of course you could only ever knit from well written patterns, perhaps without modifying a thing, yet still produce wonderful unique items, unlike anything you can buy in a shop.
You only have to look at the yarn substitutions and different colours chosen for a popular project on Ravelry to see the scope available to those of us under the spell of the needles.

Wren is a really simple shape.

The yoke is knitted side to side, then the body is picked up and knitted down.

I think it's a very forgiving way to dip your toe into the world of winging your knitting if it's new to you.
For anyone who's modified or made changes to patterns already this will be nothing extraordinary.

You will need...

The patience to knit a tension square/Gauge swatch. (I was lazy with mine, and was lucky!!! Don't be a fool like me)

Tape measure


Pad and pen

Circular needles (80cm)

Waste yarn or Stitch holder.

Stitch markers.

Yarn (vague I know)

You will need to be able to...

Cast on

Knit (a lot)

Purl (not very often)

Decrease and increase.

Cast/Bind off.

One more thing to bear in mind is your chosen yarn.

I'm fairly sure I'm not the only person who's chosen completely the wrong yarn for a project! ;)
It's very important to (Using your swatch) get to know how your fabric behaves.
The sideways garter stitch will grow when the weight of the body is added.
How much? Well honestly I don't know.

My fabric was quite drapey (as you can see on my shoulders the fabric opens up a little and hangs nicely)

I used 4mm needles for the Garter stitch. 3.75mm for the stocking stitch body and 3mm for the ribbing.

Also the yarns I used, Posh Yarns Sylvia - 50% Merino 50% Silk and Posh Yarns Miranda 70% Baby Alpaca, 20% Silk and 10% Cashmere, were a factor in how the fabric behaved.

So knit your swatch and give it a gentle tug at either side. Does it stretch a lot? Not much? You will need to be aware of the give when you decide it's time to stop increasing.

I'll explain how I decided I'd done enough in the notes....

The Notes! (Finally)...

Let's assume you've knitted your tension square/gauge swatch to the generally recommended 10x10cm in your preferred yarn/needle combination for a pleasing fabric. Measure your stitches and calculate how many sts you have to 1”. Write this down.

I used 4ply/fingering weight yarn and 4mm needles and got a tension of 6sts and 5 rows to 1” in Garter Stitch.

Next decide where you would like your sleeve to hang? Cap? Long? Midway like I chose?
I used the highly technical method of looping the tape measure around my arm at this point.
I knew I wanted it to be loose, so I looped loosely. :)

You (as a far more patient person than I) could do it properly and measure your actual width at the chosen point and then decide on ease.
3” positive? More? Less? Simply multiply this number in inches by your stitches per inch.

So for example (working with my final numbers) if you had an actual arm width of 10” and you wanted 3” of positive ease and your tension/gauge was 6sts to 1” you would multiply the numbers.
So (Even I didn't need a a calculator for this) 6 x 13 = 78....and that's your cast on! (well it was mine)

So I cast on 78 sts, insert your number :)

I then worked straight. Knitting two rows with each yarn then swapping.
For 14 rows.

On row 15 I increased 2 sts.
I K1 then kfb, Knit to last 2 sts, kfb, k1. This is how all increase rows were worked.

I increased in this manner every 6th row a total of 5 times. (Total sts 88) Then (as I'd had my aha this knitwear will grow under it's own weight moment)
I increased in the same way every 12th row for a total of 3 times. (Total sts 94)

Now this was when I decided I'd increased enough. I know this is vague and I am sorry, but I can't see your fabric...or boobs! :)

I have (as you can see) a very understated bust-line! The difference between front and back does not reach double figures (by a long shot)...a source of self consciousness as a teenager that morphed into relief as a knitter! ;) All I can do here is tell you how I determined I'd increased enough


I folded my sleeve in half and balanced it on my shoulder. :/

There I said it!

My lack of technical skills are embarrassing to share. ;}
In my defence I wasn't sure how many sts I'd cast off for the neck at this point. I did eventually decide on 4.

So lets assume you'll be casting off 4sts too If you want a neckline similar to mine. Simply put loops of waste yarn either side of those 4 sts and use those as a way checking the piece is...erm...centred on your shoulder correctly.

The piece now reached around nipple level.
Of course nipples can be all over the place!
So to be slightly more specific, just over 3” from where I wanted the garter stitch to hang to.
This worked out perfectly for me when the body was attached. My garter stitch fitted under my bust just where I wanted it.

When you've used your crazy knitting intuition (or a more logical approach...please tell me) and you have enough sts, is your sleeve long enough?
Mine wasn't so I worked 33 more rows straight before I divided for the neck.

The Neck...

I wanted a wide neck so I decided to make my opening from between boney tips of my shoulders, so my bra straps would be just covered.

On the RS I knitted across 45 sts, cast off 4sts, then (and It gets a little foggy here) I believe I worked to the end, and then across the WS to complete my 2 row stripe. I then slid the sts to the other end of my circs and slid the 45 sts (Without yarns attached) onto a holder. Just my way, you can do it how you prefer of course.

Then I simply knitted straight until the neck was at my preferred Length (width). Broke the yarn, Popped those sts on hold and repeated for the back.

When both are the same length you need to knit across, cable cast on 4 sts and knit the 45 sts that were on hold.

Now you simply have to mirror your first sleeve to finish.
Using k2tog 1 st from either edge in place of the increases.

You'll need to measure around your bust to decide how far to seam each sleeve. I left a little bit of ease.

Seam them!

Okey dokey, Now you need to calculate your stocking stitch section. Again swatch, measure and note. I dropped to 3.75mm needles for this part, as I didn't want as much looseness as in my garter stitch.

I can't tell you my numbers, because I was clearly giddy with confidence at this point (read lazy) and I made no more notes...however my ability to retain random information tells me that I picked up a stitch at the end of every row of garter stitch
(ooh you could calculate this by counting your garter stitch rows before seaming your sleeves to get the correct number! Brainwave...goes for a lie

So I picked up my sts and magically had a good number for my body (measured under bust and multiplied by tension as before)

Then in my darker Sylvia yarn I purled 1 row, then began my 2 row striping as before.
(Pur-ling? What is this purling?)

I added some waist shaping.
Again, you need to measure and calculate. I could have got away with no shaping, but I live for such periods of excitement.

Then it's just knit to the finish line!:)

Only you know where this is, and where to begin (like me) your 2x2 ribbing or the hem of your choice (remember to make sure your numbers work!)
For me the end was simple...I didn't want to break into any more yarn. I made mine from 2 skeins, (to a few yards)

In true vague style I can't say how much yarn you'll need. Your body is unique to you.

...However if you are also a flat chested short-arse, 2 skeins of fingering might well be enough!)

If you have any problems I'll do my best to help, but I think you may have come to realise I'm not really a logical sort of thinker. So be brave cast on and have fun!

Happy Knitting! xxx