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Planning yarn amounts for top-down knitting

Oct 25, 2011


Before the winter issue of Knitscene had even gone to press, I started knitting Melissa LaBarre’s Tereza Pullover. This simple top down pullover had a lot of appeal to me—chunky gauge, interesting lace pattern, the ability to add custom body shaping, chunky gauge. I was feeling antsy and wanted a fast-moving project, one that I might be able to wear for my upcoming trip to Colorado. So, I cast on with some old stash yarn, Classic Elite Duchess.

I’ve had this yarn in my stash for years. I often pull it out and consider it for different projects, but in the end always decide that there’s just not quite enough of it. But as I scanned the stash for materials for the Tereza, I paused to do the math—the size 46.25” required 780 yards of the original yarn. I had just under 800 yards of the Duchess. I decided to go for it.

What I did not consider back then, at the dreamy cast on stage, was that I would need to add width to the lower body. The silhouette of the Tereza is an hourglass, with the hem measuring the same circ as the bust. I did work waist shaping in my version, but increased to make the hem several inches larger than the bust, since I am VERY-PEAR-SHAPED.  I also made the body longer. Oops.

So with 3 measly balls left, I have to knit the sleeves. I don’t think there will be enough for two full-length sleeves. My strategy is this: knit one sleeve til a ball runs out, then do the same for the other, and see where I am, with one ball to spare. Of course, the yarn is DISCONTINUED.

Two lessons here: don’t leave yarn to languish in your stash for years and years, letting it surpass its “expiration.” And two, think about how mods will affect yarn requirements before you start knitting!

And oh BTW, I used Amy Herzog’s coordinates to plan my waist shaping, spacing the shaping lines around the body instead of all at the side seams. I think it creates a really lovely, subtle shape. For her tips on placing shaping, see the Fall 2011 issue of Knitscene. 


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AngelaAlter wrote
on Oct 30, 2011 3:37 PM

I just saw a great sweater, "Cotton classic stitch sample Pullover" by Rosemary Drysdale (free download at, knit up at my favorite LYS, Grandma's Spinning Wheel, here in Tucson, AZ. The sleeves on it are in an open lace pattern, despite the body being mostly rib or stockinette. Perhaps your three balls would stretch to accommodate something similar, perhaps using the motif around the yoke of your sweater. I also agree that the 3/4 sleeve is very flattering, it's my preferred length too!

AnneC@5 wrote
on Oct 29, 2011 9:03 PM

There is an alternative - replace the body and sleeve hems with another yarn; I think a black chenille would lovely with this garment. That will probably give you enough yarn to have full-length sleeves. If you want to, you could also add a little of the contrast yarn to the neck edge - maybe I-cord, crab stitch crochet, blanket stitch embroidery, or even a flower made from the black chenille, pinned to one side.

Good luck!

MicheleM@3 wrote
on Oct 29, 2011 5:58 PM

I think what you've done is so beautiful, my suggestion would be to finish the length, and make the sleeves cap sleeves if necessary.  You could wear it with a long sleeved t-shirt underneath for the winter, and in the spring you could wear it alone.  Good luck!

meganniekate wrote
on Oct 29, 2011 9:59 AM

As a knitting instructor, I want to thank you for stories like these. Good lessons to learn, and for new knitters, a wonderful example of how, regardless of expertise, all knitters have to use the "Oops" word.

Hope I get to meet you at a conference one day... :))

chris@59 wrote
on Oct 26, 2011 6:33 AM

Beautiful sweater!  The lace at the neck really adds a lot.   I love the yarn you used.  I also  think the 3/4 sleeve length would go nicely on this sweater.

Oniya wrote
on Oct 25, 2011 11:49 AM

I've occasionally done the 'I meant to do that' yarn change.  In the case of the sweater, I would go with working the sleeves with one ball each, and then adding in a strip of a contrasting color before splitting the final ball of the original yarn between the two sleeves.

Julie@7 wrote
on Oct 25, 2011 11:39 AM

Amy Herzog also recommends elbow-length and 3/4-length sleeves for bottom-heavy girls; the sleeve length emphasizes the waist and brings the eye upwards from the widest part. This could solve your yarn shortage issue, too.