I meant to knit this skein up into a baby sweater a while ago but I never quite got around to it until this past month. It was sure worth the wait!
After I hung up the phone from scheduling a 6-month photo shoot for Tadpole, I had the brilliant - and delusional - idea that I would whip up a new sweater for her to wear in the pictures. I had a week and that was enough time, right?
This was a quick knit but not that quick. It took me two weeks instead of the one I had planned.
Yarn: About 9/10 of a skein of Madelinetosh Tosh Sock in the flashdance colorway
Needles: size 2 addi lace circulars (magic loop on the sleeves)
Size: 19" chest circumference, which fits 7 month old Tadpole over a long sleeve onesie
Pattern: A sheet of scribbles loosely modeled on the Tea Leaves Cardigan
This is the first top-down baby sweater that I've done completely from scratch. The top-down method is pretty simple but what had always stumped me was knowing how many stitches to cast on for the neck. It's all smooth sailing after that but everything (especially if you're using the EPS) follows from that first number. I worked backwards from the chest measurement and got the figures I needed but afterwards I sat down and came up with a formula that should work every time.
Here we go . . .
Basic Formula for a Top-Down Yoke Increase Baby Cardigan
We'll do the math first and then the "pattern" second.
1. Knit a swatch. All you really care about is stitch gauge here so work the quickest swatch that will get you that number. Write down your stitch gauge.
2. Figure out how big around you want the chest of the sweater to be. 19-20" should be safe for a 6-12 month old baby. Err on the side of making the piece too big since babies will always grow into the sweater eventually.
3. Multiply your stitch gauge by your desired chest circumference to get your key number (K).
Quick digression: since this is a baby sweater, you probably want a cardigan instead of a pullover so you might need to tweak your K a bit so that the piece divides nicely in the front. Round your K to the nearest multiple of 4.
Why 4? You'll need to make button bands for the cardigan that lay one on top of the other. If the center of the garment lies in the middle of the chest, half of the band stitches come from the right front and half come from the left front. In order to have a left front and a right front that are each 1/4 of the total chest circumference, you'll need a chest circumference that is a multiple of 4 stitches (you can't have a right front that is 25.25 stitches wide, even if that's what your calculator tells you the measurement should be).
4. Calculate how many stitches you need to cast on for the neck: K x 57% = neck stitches (N). Now add your button band stitches. I used a 4-stitch garter button band so I added 8 stitches (4 for each band) to my N to get my cast on figure. But N is what you'll use for the next calculations.
5. First Increase Row: ignoring the button bands, (k2, m1) across the entire row. You'll now have 50% more stitches than you had before.
6. Calculate the number of Yoke Stitches (Y) you will need. This is where the Elizabeth Percentage System (EPS) comes in.
- Body Stitches = K - underarm stitches (8% K on each side) = 0.84 K
- Arm Stitches = 30% K - underarm stitches (8% K on each side) = 0.22 K (one arm)
Total # stitches on yoke needle = 0.84 K + 2 x 0.22 K = 1.28 K
You may need to adjust this by one stitch since your stitch count on this row (after the increases) should equal 1.28 K. To do a quick check before working the row, multiply your stitch count from the previous row (omitting button bands) by 1.5
If your projected stitch count is one stitch too small, work m1, (k2, m1) across the entire row.
If your projected stitch count is one stitch too large, work (k2, m1), end k2 across the entire row.
Now that we have all of the math taken care of, here's the basic outline of the sweater:
Cast on (N + button bands) stitches. Work neck band in whatever stitch pattern you prefer. Switch to your pattern stitch and continue in pattern until the piece is about an inch and a half long. Work your first increase row. Knit in pattern for another inch and a half or so before woking another increase round. Knit for yet another inch and a half or so and then separate out the sleeve stitches as follows. Work the button band and 0.21 K stitches (the left front minus half the underarm stitches). Place the next 0.22 K stitches on a holder (this is the first sleeve). CO 0.08 K stitches for the underarm and work across the next 0.42 K stitches (this is the back). Put the next 0.22 K stitches on a holder (this is the second sleeve), CO 0.08 K stitches for the second underarm and work across the last 0.21 K stitches and the last button band.
You just put the sleeve stitches on holders to work later and now have K stitches plus the button bands on the needle for the body. Work the body until the desired length and finish with a hem of your choice.
To work the sleeves, pick up and knit 0.08 K stitches from the cast on edge at the underarm and work with the sleeve stitches on the holders until the sleeve is the desired length, finishing with a hem of your choice. Repeat for the second sleeve.
Where did my inch and a half yoke lengths come from? You want to space the two increase rows evenly through the yoke. So figure out how long the yoke should be and divide that number by three to get how far you should knit before working an increase row. Right now, Tadpole wears sweaters with about 4.5 - 5 inch long yokes. One third of that is 1.5 inches.