Top down Autumn League jumper

Introduction to my new project

I mentioned in my previous post that I was done with Elizabeth Zimmermann seamless sweaters for a while. I want to learn something new. And I came across this.

Autumn League sweater

I have started to have a go at this lovely, loose, sweat-shirt type jumper. It appealed to me as an Autumn project, and had two interesting features – it is knitted from the top down, and although it is in one piece it has seams at the side and along the sleeves, making it quite a different proposition to the sweaters I have been knitting influenced by dear Elizabeth Zimmermann.

These top down jumpers are a slightly more modern proposition than the traditional way of knitting a sweater – knitted from the bottom up and in pieces (back, front, two sleeves). Mrs Z doesn’t like top down for some reason, but I have found it interesting and enjoyable. The key advantage of this top down method over the Zimmermann approach is that you shape the back neck and overall neckline by knitting back and forth to create a wedge shape, before progressing to knitting in the round, meaning you don’t have to do the short rows as we did with the EZ sweaters.

The yarn

I bought merino yarn in “heavy DK” from Colourmart yarns. It is lovely yarn and I bought 450grms in the sale. I made a few pairs of slippers by using the yarn double. I actually only just had enough for left for the jumper, so all the way through I was thinking – I can always unravel my slippers if I need to!

Turquoise blue slippers made with heavy DK merino

The pattern

This particular pattern has seaming to the sleeves and sides – one long seam on each side, with a slight detour for the underarm. The seams provide structure, and although I was tempted to go seamless which I can see is very possible, I stuck to the pattern on this occasion.

I don’t love using a pattern. It means carrying a piece of paper around, and counting stitches and rows and doing what you are told rather than feeling empowered. Nevertheless, as a learner, I gave it a go. I still can’t “read” a knitting pattern and understand it in the way that I can with sewing, so I have to do a toile. I have to actually knit something up in order to understand how it works in terms of method and shaping.

So I have done a toile. But before I did the toile I made a mistake.

The mistake was not to do a swatch. How daft! I have got over-confident with the Zimmermann method and know how many stitches I need in the yarns that I use and, reader, I winged it. I used a 4.25mm circular needle with my “heavy DK” merino from Colourmart. But this created fabric that was too firm. I only worked this out once I had completed the whole yoke and the front, including the ribbing. It was too dense, and small and blurgh. The other thing I did wrong was the little V at the neck with a travelling stitch. I didn’t know what a travelling stitch was and I didn’t follow the instructions correctly and so right at the CF I had a set of nasty stitches that didn’t work properly. So I pulled it all out and started again.

The undoing of me

Second time around I choose 5mm needles and the size magically came good. Also I was able to more or less do the neck triangle right. Not perfect, but I don’t know yet how to correct something like this. I can pick up a dropped stitch, or a sort out a mistake in the ribbing by going down a few rows in just one column. But I couldn’t see the problem with the V until it was too late. So I will ignore it this time and put it right on my second sweater which I will start once this one is finished.

If you like the look of this sweater, designed by Alexandra Tavel, the pattern is free (with ads) or available to buy from Two of Wands. 

Thank you Alexandra for your kindness in providing this pattern free of charge. I am learning so much from knitting in a new way, for me. I hope to have it finished by next weekend….




13 Responses

  1. Viliene

    I quite like the jumper with its little detail at the neck.
    But why do seams if knitting in the round is so much easier and faster. Instead of seams you could purl one stich at the location of the seam, i.e. starting at the underarms. So only two purled stiches per row. If you need to shape the waist you can do that to the right and left of these purled stiches. Same for the arms. It looks almost like a seam, depending on the thickness of the yarn.

    • fabrickated

      Great suggestions Viliene – the designer suggests that the seams give structure and stability. Zimmermann suggests fake seams or a dropped stitch detail to mark the side seams. I will do this jersey as designed and then see how it is.

  2. Rathmore

    So sorry about your problem with the V. Many times I do not see problem spots until I have knitted a substantial amount of length. I am always correcting it seems. And, yes, seams give structure and stability, but I am not sure you need it. I agree with Viliene.

  3. Hélène

    I love this loose style in a very smooth and soft wool yarn. So cozy for fall! I don’t remember precisely why EZ didn’t like the top-down method, but some knitters do prefer to knit and assemble flat pieces for the seams give more structure to the garment. As Viliene said in the previous comment, I wouldn’t bother side seams as knitting in the round is so much faster!

    • fabrickated

      I have more or less finished this first version so I will report back next week. I have started a second one. The main issue for me is where the sleeve is inserted. I want to see if I can raise and slim the sleeve a little.

  4. SJ Kurtz

    The great thing about the top down for kids sweaters is that you can add onto them (frog back from the bottom). The neck doesn’t change drastically for years. And it starts faster (and ends more slowly, it’s true).

  5. Ellen

    I love top down sweaters! The fact that you can adjust fit as you go seems so practical to me. This one looks fun and comfy–might have to give it a try!

  6. Chris

    I really like top down knitting…there’s comfort in knowing that the awkward parts are gotten out of the way early! It also means you can try it on as you go rather than finding out too late that the size/ease is wrong. The main difference between seamed vs seamless is that seamless garments are actually a slight spiral (which becomes more obvious with stripes), which in sewing terms is like having the grainline slightly off. But in reality the softness of knit means it’s not usually an issue.
    I think I good time saving compromise would be to knit the body seamless with selvedge stitches included for seaming up later. Karen at Fringe Association mentions it on her blog.

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