Elizabeth Zimmermann Seamless Raglan Knit-along #2

Before I got started I wanted to make some slippers for friends. What is nice about knitting for others is that you get to use colours that are not your own ideal shades. Orange, or pea green for example. Both these colours make me look a bit unwell. Fine for slippers of course, but I prefer the blue and pink ones…I love these vintage slippers – such a clever and elegant pattern.

OK Knitalongers, let’s get started!

Now we have got our yarns chosen and have a good idea of our gauge, we can cast on for the body piece. This is a simple formulae – your personal gauge [with these needles and this yarn] (say 4.5 per inch) multiplied by the circumference of the chest on your favourite sweater (say 34″ for me) = 153. Obviously different numbers if you are young,  modern or European in which case it is centimetres. That is it. Historically I have done between 140 and 200 stitches depending on what weight of yarn or needle sizes I am using. Mrs Z says 200 is always a good number, and I think she is right, but best to get your own number.

Obviously if you are using DK or four ply this will affect the number of stitches. Similarly on needle size. So that is why a swatch is essential. I usually make a guess and start with a sleeve as if I get it right I can carry on, but I am keen to tell you the proper way here. So make a swatch! Please.

What have I done this (busy, book launch) week?

Well, I said green, and this is what I have;

Green cashmere
Mixture of green yarns

You can probably see that we have a two ply (top horizontal cone) and a double knit (right hand vertical cone) and a mixture in between (mostly four plys). Probably not the ideal combination but I think I can mix and match. Such lovely shades, don’t you think? The little bit of pink is my last supply of bright pink so I will use it sparingly, but I wanted it to set off the greens. I will add a bit of grey, and maybe some mauve I have too, just to liven it up.

My inspiration would be malachite!

Zaire Malachite (Wikipedia)

How to start?

You can do your border first – using ribbing, or moss stitch, or a few rows of garter stitch. All of these methods creates a stable edge to stop your stocking stitch from rolling. But you may like a rolled edge. Or you may wish to create a hem. Choice is yours. If you are hankering for specific instructions you will not like the Zimmermann approach. It is always up to you. Personally I find this freeing, and it starts you designing your sweater rather than slavish following.

Or you can leave the border decision until much later. You can add hems in particular, or any of these finishes at the end (and I will show you how). However I have found that if you are going to do ribbing it makes sense to do this at the start. The ribbing added later is not as stretchy and there is a seam that you could do without.

Helene suggests provisional cast on so you can decide later on lengthening your jumper. I tried provisional cast on once and found it a bit like hard work. But there you go – these are the options for making a start.

Let us cast on and do our border, or just launch into the body tube. For tube it is. We are going to knit one big tube for the body and two smaller tubes for the arms, and then join them just like we did with the colourful yoke sweater. If you have made one of these before you can just rush on to that point if you wish.

Otherwise do your rows of ribbing, for as many rounds as you like – I have done about 3cms. Use a marker for the beginning of the row. If you are a bigger you may want more ribbing; smaller, less. On commercial patterns they suggest using a smaller needle (.5 or .25 less) for your ribbing. If you have lots of needles you may want to do this. Or you could start with a smaller number of stitches, say 10 per cent less stitches and then increase in a regular way to reach your starting number. Either approach will make your border a little neater and slightly tighter. But I don’t bother.

Then you get the marker and you start knitting your jumper. Round and round you go. If you are changing colour frequently to create the stripes you need to decide on how you are going to join your colours. I will be using a knot, but there may well be better ways and we will wait to find out in the comments below.

Making a start on the body
Knitting stripes, using knots and not correcting for jogs

You can see how the “seam” looks on my knitting. The “jogs” are there but I don’t feel they are too noticeable, and the whole thing will be fine when it is finished and washed.

If you want to read more about this stage my previous EZ knitalong will help.

Please use the comments to ask any questions, give advice or tell us how you are getting on.

PS The slipper pattern is in Making Life more Beautiful.



22 Responses

  1. Shelagh

    I’m going to make a baby jumper for my cousin using this technique. I’m using different bits of baby wool I found at my parents house. I’m adapting the pattern to make a cardigan as they are easier to get on to babies. This will avoid the jog problem (not that I think they’re a problem, I like the look of jogs, and if you don’t they’re under your arm so none we’ll see).

    I’m planning to change the colour everyday and if I miss a day I’ll miss a colour. I’m not knitting much at the moment because work is busy so I think this will create a nice uneven but meaningful pattern, we’ll see.

    I love the slipper pattern so I’ll be making a few of those as presents I’m sure!

    • fabrickated

      That is such a lovely plan Shelagh. Whatever you can knit each day. So sweet. And making a cardigan is a great idea. I must make a few more. Just reading this has made me want to crack on with my green one – I still have two more pairs of skippers to make. One in black which is so hard on the eyes!

  2. Elaine Sabin-Simpson

    GORGEOUS colours [perfect for me lol]
    Many many years ago, we used to buy mahoosive bags of tangled ‘yarn’ made from shredded nylon/poly fabrics. Early recycling I suppose. We used to knit it up on thick needles to make teacosies and slippers. They were so popular, my mum [no craftswoman], great-aunt and even my dad, used to make hundreds of the things, and sell them to friends and family. They were probably the most popular gift for many years. I remember us kids all being drafted in to either sit winding the endless balls of yarn, or to knit the slippers.
    The patterns were simple, but the yarn was chunky and could be quite abrasive to handle with such small hands and large needles. Quite a cottage industry for a few years.
    I remember the slippers were fine once worn in, but I hated the knobbliness of the soles on my tender feet!

    • fabrickated

      Thanks for sharing such an interesting story Elaine. I would love to know more. I guess associated with some of the local rag trade? As a kid I used to sell imperfect nylon cloth on the markets of Lancashire and Yorkshire with my cousin. In the old days out-working and taking in washing etc was something poorer families could combine with caring responsibilities. Now people do the same thing and call it a small business or even entrepreneurship.

  3. Lisa

    Finished my ribbing, third row into my second color and I broke the cord between my needles. Saturday night in Australia so counting the hours until the shops open 🙁

    • fabrickated

      Argggh! That’s horrible. I bought a pack of really cheap Chinese circulars. One opened up at the point end which was horrible and made knitting impossible. I also had a set that kept coming undone at one end. I think in this situation you just have to chuck them out and start again.

  4. Viliene

    Nice slippers! I used to make those ages ago. I did the ribbing on three needles in the round though, safed me sewing them up and avoids the visible seam that interrupts the pattern: And you only have three threads to darn in at the end, so possible quicker, too.
    Beautiful colours for your sweater. Where do you buy those cashmire yearns, Kate. I have taken up knitting again on holiday.

    • fabrickated

      Oh that’s such a great idea Viliene! I wish I had thought of that. I may make one more pair just to try it. I get the cashmere from Colourmart yarns. They are a uk firm but postage to everywhere is included in the price. They have some great colours but not always what you want.

  5. Hélène

    Thanks for this post, Kate – your varied green yarns will look fantastic with a pop of hot pink. As you mentioned, I used a provisional cast-on for the very first time and I hope it does look good when I add the border. For reference, I followed Knit Picks’ tutorial in YouTube and it seemed quite easy, but who knows! Finger crossed!

    • Hila

      I have to unravel and cast on again so I think I will have a go at provisional cast on too. Thanks for sharing the link to Knit Picks. I learnt longtail cast on from her YT tutorial.

  6. Chris

    I’m planning on casting on this weekend. The last time I made a striped jumper, I just carried the yarn on up the inside and twisted it with the working yarn every few rows..bit this could get bulky depending on the amount of colours being used!

  7. Michele

    I’ve read Knitting Without Tears from cover to cover, what an interesting read! Purchased my yarn this afternoon and the ladies at the shop were so helpful! I’ve measured my current favourite sweater and I’m ready to test my gauge, I hope to have my ribbing done by the end of the weekend. Feeling very empowered!

    • fabrickated

      Your comment made me feel so happy Michele. This approach is very empowering. I loved the book and I want to make samples of all the suggestions she has. One day….

  8. Hila

    Wonderful post as usual Kate. Your photo arrangements are very pleasing to the eye. I had cast on 190 stitches based on my gauge but I had used my hip measurement rather than my bust measurement. I’ll have to unravel and cast on again. Knitting the hem last a la Zimmerman has piqued my curiosity – so I will experiment with it. I feel like I am on the cusp of “getting” the Zimmerman method. I spent last Sunday revisiting the book and going over the instructions for the raglan sleeve jumper several times. In previous times when I read the book, with no particular project in mind I felt like I didnt understand it enough to start on a project – (a vicious cycle). But now as I worked out my gauge and followed along her calculations it was beginning to make more sense. Sometimes doing proceeds understanding.

    • fabrickated

      I am completely with you on doing proceeding understanding Hila. I know I learn best this way. I actually think 190 stitches would be fine – this jersey is fine if it is a little bit big. You can always pull it in with ribbing at the end. But I think you will like the hems! I love them, and now I wish I was doing them on this green jumper. They feel a bit vintage and unusual, and they are satisfying to do. Mrs Z puts words in them. Dates might be fun too. Or even a bit of inspiration!

  9. ceci

    One wonderful aspect of this knit along is all the new Elizabeth Zimmerman readers it is creating – she has long been a favorite of mine, although I have never ventured beyond her hats; small projects work best for me.


    • fabrickated

      I agree Ceci. And the book is so inexpensive and covers so much useful ground. I have been thinking about gloves, hats and socks recently, especially as gifts. My slippers went down really well and I enjoyed using interesting colours.

  10. Sue

    I am just finishing my second sleeve for the second time! I have used the provisional cast on for the sleeves and the body as I was a bit undecided about the edging. I initially did a garter stitch edge to stop rolling but didn’t like the look, so now I will either do a split hem or something more interesting – to be determined!
    Loving your colours Kate, that pop of pink is delicious.

    • fabrickated

      Oh Sue – you are such a perfectionist! One of my EZ sweaters has no edging at all on the sleeves and because the yarn and fabric is a little bit firm they just play nicely. I really like using garter stitch but it can look a bit too chunky alongside stocking stitch. Helene did a moss stitch edge before that was very nice. I hope to start on my sleeves this weekend, but then I want to be one week ahead of the group. I love your colour palette too Sue. Do you think your colour direction is warm-deep?

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