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Knitting Workshop: The Swirl Skirt

Jun 6, 2011

A Note from Kathleen: I've never knitted a skirt before, but they're popping up all over the place now that it's summer, and I've been wondering about the practicality of them: how they would wear, how to keep them in shape, and how lengthen or shorten and still keep the pattern intact.

Eunny's here to answer all my questions, in the latest workshop from Interweave Knits. Here she is to discuss the Swirl Skirt!

It's summer, and I'm itching to get some simple knits off my needles and into my wardrobe.

I think AnneLena Mattison's Swirl Skirt from the Summer 2011 issue of Interweave Knits is next on my list: It's a fresh, flirty piece constructed in a clever way that's going to be tons of fun to knit. Let's take a closer look at it!


Yes, really! Knitted skirts are just peachy for the summer—knitted fabric breathes well and moves easily with the body. It releases wrinkles easily. Really, they're the perfect pull-it-on-and-go item for hot days.

Or would be, except for the dreaded word: SAG. Yes, skirts knitted in inelastic summer fibers—cotton and linen—have a tendency to take on the shapes of the body beneath them during the day, sometimes leading to a droopy derriere and a stretched-out waistband. The Swirl Skirt, however, gets around this in a clever way. Read on for more!


The Swirl Skirt attacks sag from two directions:


Fiber: This skirt combines two yarns, one cotton and one wool, for the perfect blend of stability from the cotton and elasticity from the wool. Both yarns are knitted tighter than usual for a firm, stable fabric that fights distortion. The wool lets the skirt spring back if it does get stretched out. And don't fret that the wool will be too warm in the summer—it's used only in garter ridges that stand away from the skin.

Construction: The Swirl Skirt is worked as a long parallelogram in stripes of stockinette and garter. It makes for a dense, springy fabric that can snap back as you sit, stand, and walk. When the parallelogram is put together, the knitting runs on a bias, creating a swirly, stretchy fabric that skims over curves.

This diagram shows how the Swirl Skirt is knitted; the provisional cast-on is grafted to the last row of knitting to create a seamless skirt.

Bias-knitting construction

Bias-knitting when turned on its side, as it is in the Swirl Skirt


Bias knitting is an interesting technique that works the knitting as normal—in straight horizontal rows—but adds at one edge and decreases by the same amount at the other edge on every row or every other row. The result is a piece of knitting with edges that are tilted, relative to the rows of knitting.

When the work is turned to make the edges straight, the knitting is tilted. Bias knitting can be useful for showing off color changes or to create skimming fit, as in the Swirl Skirt.

The flounce on the Swirl Skirt


The Swirl Skirt takes the fun even further with a sweet, flippy rippled edge. This is created by inserting wedges in between stripe sections at the bottom edge only: Worked with short rows, these little wedges turn into small godets, adding circumference and weight just above the knee. This is one skirt that does, indeed, swirl!


This is a fun skirt to customize. It is easy to shorten or lengthen the skirt by however much you want—micro-mini or maxi length skirt, it's up to you. Simply cast on more or fewer stitches, remembering that the bias gauge of the knitting will be different from the square gauge. As a general rule, in the gauge given in the pattern, every 20 stitches equals about 3.5" in skirt length.

The Swirl Skirt knitted short, knitted mid-length with wide godets, and knitted long with long godets
As you raise or lower the skirt, consider making the godets longer, or shorter, or wider. A longer godet, worked by just working more and longer short rows, could create a very dramatic fishtail kind of look.

Shorter godets could create a very small, very flippy flounce. And wider godets, created by just working more short rows (try mirroring the existing pattern for a godet twice as wide) would result in deep, lush volume.

The choice is yours! At Interweave Knits, we love projects that are fun to make and fun to wear-subscribe now to make sure you won't miss an issue.

Happy knitting,

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JanB wrote
on Jun 15, 2011 2:46 PM

Oops. Classic shades is from Universal Yarn, not Cascade.

JanB wrote
on Jun 13, 2011 6:49 PM

I went ahead and swatched my yarns, deciding they were too beautiful to return even if they were too skinny, so it wouldn't hurt anything to open them. They are wonderful but wrong for this project.  I'm on the hunt for just the right pattern to use with them.

Meanwhile, I went to another shop a couple of hours away and found Ty-Dy Dots in the same color that was used for the pattern.  It is a lot more blue than I expected and very soft. ( I really need to touch the yarns)  I paired it with Cascade's Classic Shades in Canyon.  I swatched these yarns and they are perfect.  I can't wait to get started.

KathyAnneW wrote
on Jun 13, 2011 2:44 PM

This skirt really calls to me! I too wondered about what I might substitute fro the yarns specified in the pattern. Right now I am swatching, on a size 5 needle, using Knit One Crochet Too's Ty-Dy 100% cotton (this is not the "Dots" yarn) along with Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash wool. Both of these are noted as 5 sts/1" on 7s. I keyed in to this pair via the Jimmy Beans website and its suggestions for substitutes. My swatch is not complete. I am thinking I might go to a 4 to ensure the tighter knit the pattern describes as well as for stretchiness.

@JanB - might your yarns be a little fine compared to the Knit One+++ yarns?

JanB wrote
on Jun 9, 2011 2:55 PM

I am confused about the size of the yarn needed for this project. My LYS doesn't carry the yarn featured so we worked from the yarn information on page 109 of the Summer 2011 issue, which said that the cotton yarn was 7 ply, 17 wpi and the wool was 4 ply and 13 wpi.   I chose elsebeth lavold Hempathy which is designed for size 4 needles, and Ella Rae Lace Merino, also designed for size 4 needles.  These yarns match the wpi given on page 109. On Ravelry, they describe the yarns used for the pattern as 10 ply, worsted weight, 9 wraps to the inch.  Knit One, Crochet Two describes both yarns as 5 stitches to the inch on size 7 needles.  Help! Before I unwrap my yarns and start swatching, have I made a big mistake in yarn size?

Czinda wrote
on Jun 7, 2011 5:19 PM

I'm surprized that anyone over a size 7 would wear this skirt, uness they have no hips or belly! ...It shows all the "flaws" that I prefer to hide! I prefet to camaflage my not-so-great parts, not bring the eye right to them!

on Jun 7, 2011 11:24 AM

The pattern is in the summer 2011 issue of Interweave Knits magazine.

AnnH@23 wrote
on Jun 6, 2011 7:20 PM

After freezing my buns off last winter waiting for buses on frigid benches I have vowed to make a wool skirt to wear over pants.

Haven't gotten to it yet, but is definitely in the queque.  So I have developed quite an interest in skirt patterns, and think knitted wool skirts have a new purpose as scarves for the cold cheeks

we sit on.  Thanks,

Ann in Falls Church

dee@91 wrote
on Jun 6, 2011 1:04 PM

Do you have this pattern available online?

dee@91 wrote
on Jun 6, 2011 12:58 PM

Do you have the actual pattern for this skirt?

on Jun 6, 2011 10:40 AM

Thank you for featuring my Swirl Skirt pattern in such a nice write-up. I am enjoying wearing my own slightly longer version (I'm 6 ft tall).

on Jun 6, 2011 8:00 AM

I'm a skirt fiend...I love making and wearing arms to worry about. This one is particularly flattering. I have no problem wearing a cotton/wool combo during the summer...especially considering I spend most of my time inside air-conditioned spaces during that time anyhow!