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Knitting a Dahlia

May 20, 2013

The Dahlia Cardigan by Heather Zoppetti
One of my favorite flowers is the dahlia and one of my all-time favorite cardigan knitting patterns is the Dahlia Cardigan by Heather Zoppetti, which originally appeared in Interweave Knits, Fall 2011. I love the drape in front, the decorative leaf detail on the sleeves, and most of all, the fabulous square of lace on the back.

This sweater is certainly beautiful to wear, but it's so much fun to knit, too. The construction is unique: the lace square is knit first. Stitches are bound off along the upper and lower edges of the panel, leaving live stitches on the two sides.

The rest of the back fabric is worked in two sections that start in the middle and work out, incorporating the live lace panel stitches. A section of stitches worked with waste yarn on either side mark the position of the armholes. The fronts are simple continuations of the back stitches, still worked from side to side.

Finally, the waste yarn marking the afterthought sleeve openings are snipped, stitches are picked up on either side, and the sleeves are worked in the round from the top down. The only seaming this sweater needs in the end is to sew the bound-off top and bottom edges of the lace panel into the back fabric. Very clever!

Sounds easy, and guess what? It is!


Sheila's beautiful Dahlia Cardigan

My friend Sheila knit the Dahlia Cardigan a couple of years ago (see photo at right), from a subtly variegated cotton/alpaca blend. She really enjoyed knitting the cardigan, but she did say that it was a lot of stockinette knitting that took quite awhile because she used size 4 needles. It was worth it, though, and Sheila wears her Dahlia Cardi a lot.

A Different Way to Cast-On

The Dahlia Cardigan pattern suggests using the crochet provisional cast-on to start the lace panel. It starts with just four stitches, immediately increased to eight on the first row, and then you're instructed to divide the stitches onto four DPNs and begin the lace chart. When the sweater is complete, you carefully remove the waste yarn from the provisional crochet cast-on, thread the tail on a tapestry needle, draw the tail through the four original stitches, pull tight, and weave in the tail.

I thought maybe this whole process could be simplified by substituting a little-known but really handy cast-on: Emily Ocker's Circular Cast-On. Here's how you do it:

Emily Ocker's Circular Cast-On
This technique comes from Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac (Dover, 1981). Make a simple loop of yarn with the short end hanging down (Figure 1). With a crochet hook, *draw a loop through main loop, then draw another loop through this loop (Figure 2). Repeat from * for each stitch to be cast on (Figure 3). After several inches have been worked, pull on the short end (shown by arrow) to tighten the loop and close the circle.
Using this Emily's cast-on, all you would have to do is weave in the tail after you get a few inches into the lace panel. I really like the idea of not having to pull out the provisional cast-on at the end of the project—what if you dropped some stitches? Horrors!

Anyway, it's always fun to try a new cast-on!

Get the Dahlia Cardigan pattern today, along with many more patterns and great knitting information, in Interweave Knits Fall 2011.


P.S. P.S. Have you leared a new cast-on recently? Share it with us below in the comments!

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on May 26, 2013 4:19 PM

I would really like to getvthe Dahlia pattern but like some of the others,the sale price does not appear when one gets to the checkout. There doesn't appear to be a coupon or promo code come ? babsd

J.W wrote
on May 25, 2013 11:04 PM

Be sure to check out the pattern notes that knitters have left on Ravelry while you work on this project.  Some of the suggestions could save you some time and trouble.

jasonmom wrote
on May 25, 2013 7:41 PM

Can somebody who has this pattern tell me the size range it is available in?   I have a feeling it is only for the skinnies . . . but before I spend $6.99 (nope, I couldn't get the sale price to ring up either) . . . I would like to know how large the largest size is on the pattern.

on May 25, 2013 3:14 PM

What is wrong with the gray sweater pictured?  Is something wrapped around her waist?  Is this the sweater?  Would love to see picture of the front, not just back and side views.  Would love to be able to enlarge picture of the back, can't really tell what's going on.

EVElLYN wrote
on May 25, 2013 2:11 PM

  This is EXACTLY  why I gave up on : down-loading this or that : great deal.

This happens to me every time I try it!!!

NattyNana wrote
on May 25, 2013 9:55 AM

I had the same experience today as drdsemo did. I would love to download at the sale price!

drdsemo wrote
on May 25, 2013 8:15 AM

This page indicates the Interweave magazine is on sale for $3.49. After adding it to my cart, the price is $6.99. Anyone know why or how to get the sale price? Love the sweater, just curious about whether it's on sale or not.

KimW@2 wrote
on May 22, 2013 11:25 AM

Yes, I've recently learned the Twisted German Cast On; this gives you stretchy edge, good for hats & socks.  Once I "got it," I noticed it was like a dance between needles and yarn; not only only useful, but fun to use!

Dmsiino wrote
on May 20, 2013 11:53 AM

Maybe I'm the only one who is sensitive to this, but lately Interweave has taken to offering an entire online magazine when it is featuring one of the patterns inside, instead of an easy-to-read separate digital file (pdf) of the pattern.  The problem with this is that the original magazine format was larger than 8-1/2x11, so when it is shrunk down slightly to fit regular printer paper (as it is when they sell you the digital edition of the entire magazine), the print is really small.  Additionally, if your printer is running even slightly low on ink you aren't going to get the sharp black print contrast on white paper, and the problem is even worse.  I am sure they have gone to this protocol to save money, but this practice is really hard on us customers, especially those of us whose eyes aren't as young as they once were.  PLEASE Interweave, always provide a separate pdf, that is easy on the eyes!!

gerdaporter wrote
on May 20, 2013 11:53 AM

Thanks for reminding me of this sweater I want to knit another one with long sleeves and longer length stunning!

on May 20, 2013 11:40 AM

I will be knitting this beautiful cardigan as my next project, definitely for myself.  I love a challange and because of the unique construction it may well be.  For those who don't 'get' the provisional cast on, it is only to be able to draw the few stitches at the center of the motif tightly together. I too, think that the 'Emily Orker's Circular Cast on' is a less fiddlely and easier if one can do the simpliest stitch with a crochet hook.  This demostrated in Kathleen's May 20, 2013, newsletter.  I missed this magazine, and was happy that you brought my attention to this lovely pattern and the others in the Fall 2011 issue.  This is why I should NEVER dropped my subscription!!  It is one of my favorite publications.

Thanks Kathleen.


PhyllisV wrote
on May 20, 2013 10:27 AM

I just bought yarn for this sweater last week and read over the pattern again.  I wondered again why the instructions called for a provisional cast on since there was no need to have live stitches available for pick-up.  I had just decided to either do a circular cast on or use dps.  I was happen to see my decision validated.

Sharon V wrote
on May 20, 2013 8:20 AM

I cast on the Dahlia sweater last weekend and used the provisional cast on, which was a pain in the neck!   I knew about Ocker's cast on, but clearly I didn't think the pattern through before casting on.

Unfortunately, I knit about 17 rows in the round, realized I didn't have a copy of the pattern to write on and I needed a 'kacha' (row counter), which I was using with a pair of socks.

That said, I'll have to rip out what I already did (can't remember what row I'm on), but this time I will use the Ocker cast on.  Everything's easier the second time around, right?

leslie nall wrote
on May 20, 2013 7:33 AM

Knitting the Dahlia right now!  I used the long tail cast on method and used just three DPNs at first.  I thought using four DPNs was a little much with so few stitches.  I love the lace panel and it was my first lace ever.  I have my fronts on waste yarn while I knit the sleeves so I know exactly how long or short I can make the fronts without running out of the yummy royal alpaca in plum I am using.