The Dress Like Frida Sewalong Week 1

Printed voile Victoriana ruffled blouse with rick rack, worn with a striped bias cut skirt

My last post got a fantastic response – over 25 comments, and many of you have signed up to the Sewalong. A sewalong, for those who haven’t had a go before, is an opportunity for a group of people to work on a similar project and to share their ideas, learning and results. By working together (virtually) we can help each other and compare notes, and at the end I will bring together photographs of us dressed like Frida!. There will also be an Instagram hashtag #dresslikefridasal. OK!

I have already gathered a few resources for you and I don’t want to overwhelm anyone. This could be quite a big project. So I thought I would outline the “programme”, so you can see when I will deal with each subject. I will post every Tuesday for the next seven to eight weeks.  I know some of you want to make a Huipil right now! I sympathise sister! I have made two already. This is a very exciting project for many of us. My excuse is that I need make a few things in advance so I can offer useful advice and guidance for those who are less confident or experienced. I suggest you just pause for a week and have a think about what you are going to do, and make a little plan.

The programme

Week 1 (17 July): General discussion on Frida Kahlo’s style, influences, and the main wardrobe items. You can start making relevant items,  but having an overall idea of the outfit before you start is a good idea, especially with regards to colour. I suggest you use this week to think about how you would like to look, and to gather suitable materials such as fabric, sentimental items, yarn, braid, and any small items you want to incorporate. For example I have a little cat bell that I have to get in somewhere (Frida had them on her shoes).

Week 2: (24 July) How to make a Huipil – potential patterns, and for those who don’t want patterns, just the measurements, and suggested construction methods

Week 3: (31 July) Embellishment – for your Huipil, skirt or shawl

Week 4: (7 August) The skirt

Week 5: (14 August) The head-dress

Week 6: (21 August) Shawls, jewellery, make up and styling

Week 7: (28 August) Final discussion, learnings and hopefully some photographs. With dogs, monkeys, or even rotund muralists. The choice is yours! There are likely to be a few people who take a little longer – if so I will do a second photography post later in September.


Week 1 Frida’s Style

Printed blouse with lace yoke, over a full length black skirt, with short woven apron or over skirt, and cut work shawl

Firstly have a look at images of Frida herself. There are many photographs of her throughout her relatively short life. Her German father was a professional photographer and she was frequently photographed; in love, in bed, in her corsets and naked, and even after death. And in most photographs she is dressed up. She presents herself as an object, in a very particular way, for the viewer to appreciate and enjoy. Despite her poor health, painful conditions and significant disabilities she always dressed artistically and deliberately. She arranged (and, at one point, cut off) her hair; she wore make up, jewellery, fresh flowers, and extraordinary clothes, many purchased especially from the Oaxaca region where indigenous people, many of whom do not speak Spanish, have a wonderful range of folk traditions, including textiles and embroidery. Frida was especially attracted to these fabrics and styles and incorporated them into her everyday wear. Frida’s mother was Mexican and she already adopted many local looks, and made clothes including for the young Frida, using elements from Mexico’s indigenous and traditional styles.

In addition to the marvellous photographs, including for Vogue magazine, there are of course paintings. Frida’s subject was more or less herself, and most of her work is the self-portrait. These are the most telling and intriguing artefacts we have to consider, and these add depth to our understanding of Frida’s dress and appearance.

When you look at these image take in the attractive colour combinations Frida created. Look at the proportions and balance she achieved. The full hair and decorative elements on her head balance out the fullness and length of her outfit. Consider if you want a similar silhouette or if you are going to do something different to ensure the elements of the outfit suit your figure and colouring.

Look at the fabrics you will use for the huipil and the skirt. Are they good together? They may match, or co-ordinate, or may complement each other in an interesting way. If they don’t really “go” is there something you can do with your trimmings or by introducing a new printed element to draw them together?

Finally don’t get completely caught up in the Mexican aesthetic. Frida looked marvellous in jeans and a cardi, with a gingham blouse. And a monkey. We are trying to take something of her spirit and style. We want something we can wear at home, or to go out in, not Fancy Dress (I’m not stopping you if that is what you want to do, by the way – but my main intention is to adopt something of her artistic creativity in dressing for our contemporary lifestyles, rather than just taking her influences and copying them).

Frida in wide legged jeans, gingham blouse with white buttons and a ribbed red cardi

I have put together a Dress like Frida Pinterest page.

Whose culture is it anyway?

Frida wearing traditional brightly coloured embroidered skirt and blouse from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca

Interestingly, but understandably, some of my North American friends are sensitive to any possible accusation of cultural appropriation if they were to dress up in Mexican styles. I don’t think there is the same anxiety in the UK. But in any event most of the elements of Frida’s style can be seen in just about every folk tradition, so you may wish to pick something closer to home.

I have Welsh ancestry, and of course a Welsh surname. Here are some Welsh outfits that share many of the elements we see in Frida’s dress. Long full skirts with aprons or overskirts, lace, locally woven fabrics, short blouses, wrap jacket or shawls, mixed fabrics and patterns, and elaborate head-coverings. (I love the nonchalant knitting too!)

You will find lots of similar ideas across Europe – German, Swiss, Danish, Spanish, Romania, and Russian folkwear all undoubtedly contain a range of very similar elements. Here are some girls from Brittany, in Northern France, wearing versions of their traditional and colourful, regional dress. There are flowers, ribbons, strong colours, hand-made lace, layers, gathered skirts and uniformity of silhouette.


Of course there are versions from India and African countries too – here are just a few historic and modern interpretations.

You may notice large, showy jewellery, locally produced fabrics, print and pattern mixes, long oiled hair with centre partings, full skirts, T-shaped tops. Frida was appropriating traditional elements of her own national dress – why not discover what your ancestors wore and see if you might include an element of two in remembrance of them? Helene is going to research French Québécois traditions.

How would you sum up Frida’s wardrobe style? Is there anything particular you like about Frida’s style? What are you planning to make? Are you going to bring in some sentimental or vintage items? Do you have extraordinary elements you are dying to use? Do you have a colour scheme in mind? Have you pulled together your own fabrics and ideas? If so please share below or on Instagram (use our hashtag #dresslikefridasal) or Pinterest. And if you want a free Huipil pattern in the meantime, here is one that the V&A  prepared earlier. I’ll suggest a different approach next week.


Elizabeth Zimmermann Seamless Raglan Knit-along #6

posted in: Uncategorized | 10

Is your Elizabeth Zimmermann sweater nearly finished?

I am pleased to say I got mine done, but was easily beaten by Fadanista Sue. What a wonderful colour scheme she has chosen! Deep, warm colours. So vibrant and fun and just what I had hoped we might achieve. Well done for coming in first and setting the bar high Sue. I hope I can get a model pic from you soon.

Zimmermann seamless raglan
Sue Stoney: EZRaglanKAL

I have been following what everyone has been doing via Instagram (although I know not everyone is on there). We have had a lot of fun using up small bits of yarn. We have enjoyed choosing colours and seeing how they work together – being a textile artist rather than buying someone else’s colour choice (eg a RTW item, or variegated yarn). Making your own textiles is such a wonderful and freeing experience. Putting a palette together that suits your colouring and personality is really satisfying. Sue S has chosen a great palette here, although I know she frogged it more than once in a fruitful search for an interesting and lively style. Sue N from New Zealand started with a lot of warm yellows and browns but found the mix unsuitable, so added some greys and blues and it has come out beautifully. Michelle experimented with different widths of colour (mainly turquoises) until she was happy with the balance. I think her finished jumper will be wonderful too. So hopefully as well as going off piste and knitting without a pattern, the Elizabeth Zimmermann way, we have all gained a new sense of creating our own fabric, in our personal colour scheme. I can’t wait to see all those beauties, modelled by their makers.


Let’s cover what needs to be done to finish your jumper . Once you have completed enough short rows to create the kind of shaped neckline you wish for then you need to apply the border of your choice at the neck. I chose the old 1×1 ribbing favourite, but I noticed Sue used a garter stitch finish (although I have not seen her EZRaglan being modelled yet). Others have gone for moss stitch or possibly a 2×2 rib. Now if you want a little more build up at the back you can do it on the border, adding a couple of short rows where you need it – maybe from the mid-sleeve point or further towards the back. Certainly with ribbing this is very easy to do, again using that lovely German short row technique.

On my green sweater  I did ribbing at the start of the bodice and sleeves so all I had to do at the end was some ribbing at the neck.

The other very nice finish is of course the hem, although I have found this less good at the neck line. But it can be done. But you can use different borders of course and I have done hems at the cuff and at the hip, and then done ribbing at the neck. I will link to how to do the hemming as it is a very nice technique.

Once you have your borders done all you have to do is to sew up your sweater at the underarm and then weave in your ends.

Sewing up the underams

The underarms are joined with Kitchener stitch. i always go back to the same tutorial from Craftsy. I seem (excuse the pun) unable to do this stitch without the instructions. Every time I do the underarms this way I get a little better, but I struggled a bit with this sweater. I had to pull one out and do it again. You do have to concentrate and keep it nice and clean. However, done well, it is lovely and discrete.

Finishing the sweater

And finally weaving in the ends. This is the down side of stripes! The payback for all the fun we had as we stripe’d away.

How do you do it? I just get a needle and put the TV on, and do the best I can to make the ends disappear on the inside of the bodice and sleeves. It is a bit of a bore. To be honest apart from the ones near the cuffs and hem you don’t have to do every single one, because no one will ever know. But then I am a bit of a naughty bodger and many of my dressmaking adventures have been worn before they are truly finished. Luckily we have Helene knitting along with us and she is old-school, and correct and makes the most beautiful things properly, by the book and to an extremely high standard. So she may have some better advice.

And finally there is the soaking and blocking and of course you know I don’t bother. I just put the jumper on and wear it as many times as I can before the careful first wash (in a washing machine I am afraid). There is lots of advice on blocking and soaking but I haven’t got round to trying it yet. Again I shall let someone more experienced than I guide you there.

Finally I will leave you with a photo of my efforts but I don’t want to be alone out here. It was cool in the Cotswolds on Friday evening and I was glad to have a jumper to put on.

As soon as you finish please send me a photograph. I will do a final post (or two) with your pictures over the next week or two.

Elizabeth Zimmermann seamless Raglan sweater


Want to dress like Frida?

Since seeing the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum I have been thinking of being more like Frida. At least in terms of dressing. Could I make a blouse and skirt that I could wear in London, influenced and inspired by Frida, without looking exactly like this?

Mexican dress

The key elements of the style are a round necked (occasionally square necked) waist length, boxy, blouse that is usually worn over a skirt. This T shaped garment is sometimes white or lacy, often brightly coloured and sometimes embroidered. The skirt usually matches or coordinates, and is either below the knee with a longer under skirt, or with a white lace floor length border. An even simpler look is a long, full skirt, a loosely fitted blouse and a shawl draped over the shoulders. Hair is usually worn up and enhanced with flowers, ribbons or plaits. Jewellery includes showy necklaces and earrings. Here is Frida, in New York, where they went crazy for her style.

So here is my suggestion. Fresh from my success in hosting a knit along, what about a Frida sewalong for those that don’t knit?

Shall we spend a month or two (finishing by the end of August say) making a Frida influenced outfit?

You don’t have to interpret this completely literally, but you could. Even though they can be worn together for dramatic purposes, I am thinking a maxi skirt and a blousey top would blend into most wardrobes, and would be fun to make. They could both be embellished with lace, braid, panels, hand or machine embroidery, or they could be relatively plain. You could use one main fabric, or several co-ordinating fabrics in bright colours. You may have an old table-cloth or embroidered hand towels or African prints, or Chinese embroidery or even Mexican artefacts you could combine? If your local climate is considerably cooler than Mexico you might want to think about using velvet, wool or heavier fabrics – this might make a splendid Christmas Day outfit. If you are in a hot climate then this outfit would be perfect in lighter weights. By making separates we get lots of wear – the little top with jeans, or the long skirt with a shirt for work or formal occasions, maybe.

I will look up some simple patterns that we could use or adapt and I will share them over the next month.

Today, the Huipil. Pronounced like Pupil, but with an H.

It’s a simple doubled over rectangle to produce a square. The effect is a bit like a cap sleeved blouse, with no shaping or fastenings. So it can be pulled on over the head. The basic shape is so very simple that all the interest comes from the fabric or embellishment. The Huipil is not essentially different from a T shirt.

I haven’t seen a feasible pattern on the internet so I will make one and share how I did it next week. If you want to buy a pattern Marilla Walker has a “Maya” pattern on Etsy, which is a modern version based on similar Guatamalan Huipul. The key issue is less the shape than the fabric or the embellishment. Many of these blouses are created in strong bright colours, but black/navy or white is equally attractive. And if you go in for some embroidery black or white backgrounds are the best as they make the colours come forward. But braid would be good too, or lace. I am planning a white one as I am not so good with black. The embellishment is traditionally just stripes or geometric patterns but there are many flowered versions too as you can see in the top photograph.

I have put together a Pinterest board with some inspiration on it, but I am going to use what I already have at home. This project is a perfect excuse to use up some of those ethnic fabrics you may have collected, or bought on holiday, but struggle to fit into your day to day wardrobe. Or to use some of those flashy trimmings that you were attracted to on market day but are now sitting sadly in a drawer.

Having just had a look in my cupboard this is what I have found that might come together in a nice outfit. In many of the photographs of Frida we see she has chosen a red-green-white colour scheme, the colours of the Mexican flag. While I don’t find British nationalism the least attractive I thought I might try a red, white and blue colour scheme. Mainly because I have two pieces of fabric I dyed with Indigo, a plain piece of blue silk, some 1930 windmills and houses I got in a charity shop, an old piece of Chinese embroidered silk and a Spanish embroidered tray cloth. It needs more red, but I think I can do that.


Frida Kahlo sew along
Frida Kahlo sew along

Let me know if you will be joining in – maybe just with one item that you will make. It would be great to finish this with images of us all in our home environment, including ready to wear items if you like, with hair, make up, flowers and trimmings, monkeys and hairless dogs if you have them. What do you think? (Grace I am relying on you!!)

Elizabeth Zimmermann Seamless Raglan Knit-along #5

Welcome back! We are engaged, internationally, in the creation of unique but matching jerseys!

I hope to have only one more set of instructions and discussion post after this one, which deals with how to make the faux raglan seams on this seamless jersey. I had a few new thoughts about this last week if you want to check back before we start our decreases to bring the jersey – which now consists of a body piece and two sleeves – together. We will be knitting the yoke and shoulder area, before coming in finally to finish the neckline.

I am planning to depart a little from the classic Elizabeth Zimmermann instructions as I feel her neckline treatment is unattractive and dated. But you may well prefer her approach so please do follow her instructions if you want the neckline to come up high and completely enclose the smallest part of the neck.

I will be knitting a much more open necked sweater because I find that a more comfortable finish and I think it is nice to show a little bit of what you are wearing underneath – your collar or your T shirt perhaps.

Have you finished the bodice and sleeves now? Are you ready to go?

Sleeves ready?

At this point I suggest you go back to my earlier post, or to Elizabeth herself in Knitting Without Tears, and read at least one of them.

I find the Zimmermann regulation yoke too long at 1/4 of the body circumference measurement. I  suggest 1/6th instead or even 1/7th. In my case my yoke is about 5″. Check it out on your own body. Measure from the bone cup under your Adams apple to the line above the bust where your arms join your body. Or from wherever you want your neckline to end to the place where you want the sleeves to join the body of your jersey.

seamless raglan sweater
Measure where you want your arm scye/sleeve join and your neckline

The reason Mrs Z and I disagree on this is because, compared to her prototype, I want my jersey to be a different shape.

Zimmermann sweaters are relatively voluminous with high tight necklines and cuffs.

I prefer a slightly shrunken, close-fitting, petite looking item.

Maybe yours are somewhere in between. Whatever. The real value of freelancing on your jumper design and construction is that you can please yourselfSo the exact arrangement of sleeve insertion position is down to comfort in wear, style, body type and fashion. You decide.

A good, flexible sleeve, allowing the full range of movement comes up high into the armpit. In certain periods of history it joined the bodice lower down (bat wing or dolman sleeve), but many sweater patterns have quite a lot of ease in the sleeves and I feel these look old fashioned today. When Zimmermann was perfecting her design the join point for the sleeve would be rather lower than mine, going in about two inches below the underarm. You can bring it right up to zero-ease if you prefer.

Personally I don’t like the sloping shoulder associated with a tailored raglan sleeve on me, but the Elizabeth Zimmermann sweater allows a raglan “seamline”, but actually gives a nice close fit over the shoulder.

Elizabeth Zimmermann seamless raglan
Elizabeth Zimmermann seamless raglan


After you have joined your sleeves and bodice, with the correct number of stitches (8%) left on waste yarn at the underarm (shorthand: 10 stitches is usually enough), you mark the joins at four points, ie both ends of both sleeves with a sleeve marker. Decide which is the back and have a colourful or special marker for the start of the round at the back, left seam.

Now at the first, start of round marker, slip the marker, knit one, knit two together and knit to the next marker. Just before the next marker knit the last two stitches together, slip marker, knit one, knit two together and knit to the next marker. Do the same thing for marker 3 and 4. Finally knit to the start of round marker and just before you reach it knit the last two stitches together, slip marker. Now knit a whole round with no decreases.

Then repeat the above paragraph. Essentially you are decreasing eight stitches every other round. It makes a nice pattern but I find the markers essential. Mrs Z uses a safety pin in the fabric, but I prefer the markers.

Elizabeth Zimmermann seamless raglan
Decreasing to make the yoke, shoulders and neck

Keep up this pattern of decreases until you get to the length of yoke you want. For me that is four to five inches. Now the stitch at the CF is the last one you will do before you put on your border. However the back and sides need to be built up a bit, unless you want a wide boat neck.

The way we are going to do this is to knit until the half way point (middle stitch) on your sleeve. insert a new marker, and knit to the half way point on the other sleeve and use another marker. Between these points we want to do short rows, moving in two or three stitches (you decide) on each turn. I use German or Continental short rows. Mrs Z wraps the yarn which I don’t agree with. I find around six or eight short rows is sufficient to get the look I want.

You can also put more short rows before you get to the neckline – between the two back raglan seams – the odd couple will lengthen the back. I did this on the EZ Raglan I made for my husband.  I am not an expert on this, but I used my instinct for shaping and basic understanding of anatomy (the back is longer than the front) to achieve a reasonable outcome.

I may need to add that with stripes your short rows will be more obvious. But somehow, other than indicating which is the back when you are putting it on, this doesn’t seem to matter much.

I always try my jumper on at this point. The best way to do this is to thread a piece of elastic through the live stitches and try on and look in the mirror and measure to your hearts’ delight. You can use two circular needles but you need to be quite careful the stitches don’t slip off. You will soon see where there is a space that needs filling – at the back or sides of your neck – to create the neckline you want. Do any short rows where you want to build it up.

Remember you can also use the border finish (eg ribbing) to include a few additional rows at the back if you need them.

The final stage is to finish the neckline and the sleeve and bodice hems. We will do that next week.

Frida Khalo exhibition at the V&A


Years ago I read an article about how Frieda Khalo’s personal wardrobe, make up, accessories and artefacts had been carefully preserved for over 50 years. I decided then that one way or another I would get to see this fascinating and priceless collection even if it required a trip to Mexico.


Imagine my delight when I discovered that some of the collection was coming to London to our Victoria and Albert museum. Another friend, Grace (of @MadeinMaida) contacted me as soon as it was announced (about a year ago) to see if we could go along together. We waited patiently. And last week we went along.

Frida Khalo exhibition
Grace, outside the V and A

The exhibition is phenomenal. I know it has had mixed reviews, but they are somewhat superficial in my view. That she has been commercialised, that it is all about style and brand and not the art, that it is “sad” and “depressing”. We didn’t find it so.

Both Grace and I have been interested in Frida for decades (well, Grace is half my age so not so long in her case). Grace speaks Spanish and has spent time in Latin America; she has read as much as she can about Khalo; she makes films for a living and understands photography.  In 1979 my first husband completed his thesis on the art of Diego Rivera, and we were both influenced by Leon Trotsky and other communist authors. I have always regarded Khalo as a style icon and have loved her look. Grace and I both sew, and knit, and embroider and we identify with Khalo for various reasons. Coming to the exhibition with our own preconceptions and interests Grace and I immersed ourselves in it, read every caption, looked carefully and took a few photographs. And at the end we went to the shop and dressed up in the clothes and jewellery that was “inspired” by Frida, and Mexico, and the colours that she wore. I didn’t think it was tacky or commercial, although Grace kept saying – “you could make this yourself”. Which is true.

Look at this photograph. Frida is about 10, and she is already dressed in a dramatic way with a huge bow in her hair, a lace blouse, necklace, over dress with embroidery. Her father – a German immigrant photographer, and her Mexican mother – clearly influenced her appearance and pose. Yet she is already strong, determined, artistic. Her appearance mattered and conveyed a message. Later she bought and wore the dress of Zapotec women of Tehuantepec, in Oaxaca. This look included long skirts (enagua), embroidered tops with a simple square or T shape (huipil), and colourful woven shawls (rebozos). In addition she would normally wear important earrings, pre-Columbian necklaces and flowers in her hair.

The clothes she chose celebrated Mexican nationalism, and she found beauty and value in the styles and work of indigenous people. She wore men’s clothes and trousers too, and applied mascara to her facial hair, revolting against over-feminised views of beauty. But her clothes also covered her withered, then amputated leg, her corseted torso and the scars of multiple operations. The exhibition brings her personal pain and suffering to the fore, as it reveals some of the contraptions, medication and cosmetics she used to “make herself up”. Much of her social life was conducted from her bed where she also painted, using mirrors and other means to keep on living, learning, creating, and loving. And laughing. Frida wrote “Nothing is worth more than laughter. It is strength to laugh and to abandon oneself, to be light. Tragedy is the most ridiculous thing.” Frida turned pain into beauty. She was not self-pitying despite the most appalling disabilities, medical interventions and limiting conditions. She just got on with it and used her imagination and artistic skills to soar above her personal difficulties. I love her for this.

The fact that a number of people found the exhibition sad and depressing surprised me. But then we worked it out. When we visited there were a few technical hitches. We had to look at some of the photographs with our phone-torches, most of the videos were off and there was no sound track. Not a major issue – we intend to go again. But we realised that the doom-laden sound track may have unhelpfully contributed to the idea that the exhibition is deep and dour. For me you don’t dress up everyday, carefully comb and oil your hair, plait it carefully, pile it on the top of your head, then pick fresh flowers to adorn it, if you feel that life is futile.  If you have a house full of dogs, monkeys, artefacts, colour, light, water and friends you are basically happy and creative and engaged with life. You paint your nails, your eyes, and then you paint and make art.

I will write about Frida’s wardrobe, and style, next week. In the meantime, if you can, do go.

Elizabeth Zimmermann Seamless Raglan Knit-along #4

posted in: knitting | 21

The weather is so wonderful in the UK at the moment. I used up one my lovely Japanese fabrics to make a little light summer dress. This tried and tested Butterick pattern has featured on the blog many times and both Esme and I have several versions. Everyone needs a one piece dress and I have never been able to buy one in a shop as my top half is at least one dress size smaller than my bottom half. The Nani Iro fabric is based on a water colour painting and I just love the ethereal colours and strong turquoise detailing. Of course, as ever, I didn’t have enough fabric (1.5m, when 2.20m was specified) The dress is cut with the selvedge running across, rather than down, the fabric; the sleeve facings are cut on the bias, and the facings were made out of what was left. The double gauze is very nice to wear in this hot weather.

Butterick 4386
Butterick 4386

Nick and I spent a really great day in Blockley, Gloucestershire. Historically it was a major centre for silk production, although now it is just a very beautiful place with wonderful walks nearby. And horses.

Back to our knitalong!

Where are you now?  Sue is miles ahead with both sleeves done, and Mags has got the ribbing done. So a range of achievements. Have you managed to finish your bodice yet? This is where we were aiming to be today. If not, don’t worry. The overall pace is relaxed and I will feature the finished jerseys in two hits – those finishing with me, and those finishing a little later.

Bodice seamless knitting
EZ seamless raglan: Bodice done

But I am going to assume you have done the bodice and you are going to start on the sleeves. If you have already done the EZ colourful yoke sweater I don’t need to tell you what to do. This is the same as before. 

I can’t really improve on those instructions so please have a look at the older post. The key idea is to divide your overall number of bodice stitches by 5 to get the quantity of stitches for the wrist, to increase two stitches every fourth row, until you get to your bodice stitch number divided by 3, and then knit to the required length and then stop.

One thing I have found, but it may be me, is that I prefer to increase every sixth row. This makes a slightly more slender sleeve, and you will probably be increasing almost to the end.

Also I am going to say one thing that you may like to think about.

When you get to making the raglan “seams” – actually where you do the decreases, you may find that the jumper goes almost to a point at the neckline, as the sleeve stitches get used up in the decreases more rapidly than the bodice (as they have less stitches).  I have been thinking of increasing the sleeves just a bit more than Mrs Zimmermann specifies in order to have marginally more width at the shoulder point. I am not recommending a new percentage – say 50% of the first number rather than 33%. But if you want slightly more than 33% I would say that might improve the look. It is up to you! Also, in passing, I will mention that Mrs Z also includes a saddle shoulder look which I tried once and failed with, but I might be able to tackle that now I am more experienced. Maybe that is the project for another Knitalong – maybe next year. There is a nice one on pointy pointy sticks blog. 

Anyway let’s get back to the raglan that we are knitting! I am obviously having problems with my concentration at the moment. Here is a view from the house.  This year our swan pair have six cygnets which is a joy to behold.

Swan pair and six cygnets
Swan lake

This week we will try to do both sleeves. With stripes I feel the sleeves should match each other. Personally I don’t mind if they don’t match the bodice line by line, stripe by stripe. If you are short of colours you could do your sleeves in one plain colour. Courtney of @blackyarns has made beautiful sleeves in her main colour (black) but with a band of stripes. It is going to be wonderful. Another idea is to use a block of colour from the wrist to the elbow, as this can look effective, and may help with over-striping! But I am going for very srtipey!

You may remember I am a “magic loop” knitter. If you haven’t tried this before I really recommend it as you can make your narrow tubes (sleeves) with the same circular needles as you used for the wide tube (bodice). Zimmermann never mentions this method so I am not sure she knew it. But we do and it is magic. So let yourself go and do it. I had one go with dpns and found it much harder. But of course use your preferred method to make a seamless sleeve. Let us all know how you are getting on and I will see you next week.


Elizabeth Zimmermann Seamless Raglan Knit-along #3 – selecting the right length

This week was my Mum’s 90th birthday, so the whole family went to Lancashire to celebrate with her. She had 60 or so friends and relatives round and thankfully used a caterer so the food was fantastic with no washing up.

Margaret Barlow
Great Grandma on her 90th birthday

It’s been a busy week!

I managed to get quite a lot of knitting done on the long car journeys, although I had to do two more pairs of slippers too. I wish I had seen Viliene’s advice to knit the ribbing in the round first. That is such a cool idea. I bought the black and light pink yarn in the Shelter shop so these were my cheapest make (about 50p). (Can you tell I like pink?)

I also watched one football match over the weekend which was Portugal v Spain. I don’t really like football, but it was a fantastic match, or as our friend Gordon Taylor put it (at Mum’s birthday party) “Football at its best”. Yes.

Discussing football with an expert

So how is everyone doing with the knit-along. Do tell! I will share an old post which should help at this point. It covers colours (for the colourful yoke sweater) but it covers making the body tube. Try to finish that this week. The only major decision you have at this point is the length you want.

Where could it end?

One thing to bear in mind is the length of your upper body compared to your lower body, with the waist being evenly placed in a “balanced” body. Many people are longer in the top or bottom half. If you are longer in the legs you may want a longer top than if you are relatively long waisted. The hemline will generally create a strong horizontal across your figure so choose where you end it carefully. Also think about your stripes. Do you want a strong, deeper stripe at the base of your sweater or something more subtle.

Cropped is usually a few inches above the waist. These looks were very popular in the 1980s where wide was a fashion trend. But there is something a bit silly about a sweater that leaves a gap of tummy on show. If your abs are extraordinary why not? But probably better on that holiday or festival, and maybe in a lighter material than wool. Cropped can look good over a high waisted skirt or trousers.

Cropped jumper

Waist length sweaters can be very pretty, just ending on the waist of your skirt or trousers. I wear these a fair amount, but usually with a tucked in long sleeved T-shirt underneath.

Waist length jersey

The high hip (about 4″ down from the waist) is my preferred length. It keep the eye above the fullest part of my body (hips) and emphasises my waist, while being comfortable and practical. Also there is not too much fabric flapping around. But I like a fairly close fit and lots of people like their sweaters baggy, which I completely get!

High hip hem

The hip line (about 8″ down from the waist) is the next place many people finish their sweater. An ideal spot if your hips are on the slim side.

Hip line

Thigh length. Another 1980s throw back, or perhaps a 1930s look. I know quite a few people who choose this length to “hide” or cover their bum. I am not sure it works. It can emphasise the bottom as the hem comes in underneath, especially if the legs are relatively short. But there is always something rather romantic about the boyfriend jersey look. Too big, sloppy, cosy and enveloping, very casual and outdoorsy. There is definitely a place for this look.

Thigh length sweater (dress)

So keep on knitting, round and round, using that lovely knit all day stocking stitch. Until as Mrs Z would say you are “sick of it”. I think that is me. This time my boredom threshold was about 17″.

Maybe your eyes are hurting from all these stripes…

Try to get to the same stage by next Saturday, when we will do our sleeves. Hope the pace is good for you all.

There are a group of us on Instagram if you look at our hashtag #ezraglanKAL – most are doing stripes and there are some wonderful colour combinations out there. I am beginning to wish I had two on the go!

Do tell us how you are getting on, ask any questions, or share your learning. Many thanks Ladies!

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.



EZ Seamless Raglan Knit-along #1

posted in: knitting | 25

Thanks, everyone, who has signed up for the Elizabeth Zimmermann seamless Raglan knitalong. I am very excited by all the participants this year. Knitting together and learning from each other and getting new ideas from others is what this is all about. While I have knitted seven or eight of these sweaters I am still learning, so this is self-help rather than instruction. If in doubt Elizabeth herself will guide you through her lovely book Knitting without Tears.

I hope you have worked out your gauge by now – instruction were provided last week. 

Today we are going to discuss colour and stripes.

Here are some designer items for you to consider.

What do we see? Actually on the whole we have exciting and very novel approaches to colour combining, differential widths of stripe and a few interesting details. Have a look at some well-known fashion houses – many of them have some nice striped jerseys at the moment. You may also notice how terribly expensive these items are, reflecting small runs and an exclusive look. But, ladies, our sweaters will be even more exclusive. We are making made-to-measure one offs. And we have the wonderful advantage of chosing colours that harmonise with our colouring.

Colours that suit your colouring

Apart from a couple of muted colourways I have gone for fairly bright examples here as they tend to suit me better than deeps or lights. Think about choosing a set of colours which go your colouring. If you have black hair maybe choose deep colours, with a few brights thrown in. If you have warm colouring what about greens and orange? And if you have light colouring look for subtle, gentle light colours that almost blend as you knit them. The Pringle monochrome is a nice sweater with its shading from light at the base to deepest green near the face. I would have reversed this arrangement so you have the deeper colour around the hips/waist and the lighter colours over the bust and nearer the face, but if you have a large bust you may want to have the deeper shades at the top.

Colours that work with your wardrobe

A striped sweater is a real wardrobe staple as it can go with so many things. When you choose your colours you can introduce colours you wear often – your best neutrals for example – denim blues, grey, black or brown. Or if you like a contrast with your mainly blue wardrobe include pinks, yellow or orange. For me green is a colour I am a bit low on, so I am going towards green this time.

One of my previous seamless Raglan striped sweaters features neutral colours – greys and beige, with a little light pink, lemon and white. This has proved to be a very nice, versatile item. The shades also harmonise well with my hair that includes  beige, blonde and grey and silver. Although I generally like to wear colour in my jumpers this neutral colour scheme is a keeper and I am surprised that it is often complemented. I think it is quiet but a bit different – and compared to a plain grey or beige sweater it does have a bit of excitement.


I made one in gray cashmere (you can see this is a try on picture as the underarms are not yet sewn and it is paired with running shorts…). I actually lengthened this with ribbing later on, but you can see how one colour can work well with stripes. I really like wearing this sweater as the cashmere yarn is so very soft it feels marvellous and warm.

Grey #EZRaglanKAL

My third version is much more colourful. I used whatever I had for this one, with grey and beige playing their part. It includes quite a few blues and greens, deeper reds and purple too, so it works well with lots of my skirts, especially a deep red corduroy one I have, and navy.

Stronger colours

I also made a couple of these with an ombre look which might appeal to you. This is easily achieved by using an variegated yarn, or just doing slightly more subtle stripes. The bright pink was a plain yarn, and the rest of the jersey uses the variegated yarn. I have a small amount of the bright pink left and am thinking of using this up with my green yarns this time.

Elizabeth Zimmerman raglan
Zimmermann raglan sweater

What colours to mix together

While I have made suggestions on tending to stick to one colour scheme, there is also the issue of how you balance and blend colours together. I like to mix neutrals in. I find colour after colour can be a bit tiring, whereas when you add some neutrals it helps the colourful colours along. Some neutrals can really make other colours stand out – particularly if you chose white or black consistently. Helene is planning on brights against black, and recently Helen used rainbow colours against white. These are both the most effective backdrops for the clear colours. But if your colours are a bit softer or mixed then grey or beige will be easier. My stronger colour jumper above has beige, grey, and a few pastel colours in.

Using what you have

And then there is economy and using up what you have. I was sort of following this principle with all my jerseys so far, but when I was buying I had this idea in my mind. I think you can mix just about any colour with any colour, but if you stick with one palette eg deeper, or cool, or muted colours, you will get a harmonious look. In my stronger colour jumper all the shades I have are cool (with a blue undertone), or they are neutrals which go with anything.

Stripe size and placement

I tend to stick to two to six rows. This means my stripes are fairly narrow, but also varied. You can do this too, or use larger stripes, or stick to smaller ones. Generally if you are larger you will suit a bigger stripe, and vice versa. If you are making for a child or a man, bear scale in mind. Also look at what the designers have done. I would steer clear of an obvious pattern like four rows of navy, followed by four rows of white, ad nauseam. This will look like RTW and is more boring to knit. BUT the choice is yours, of course.

How to join your colours

This is a tricky one. I have tried all the techniques and I do get a bit of looseness around the interchange. In the end I do the simplest thing and knot the two colours together. The other method seems to be to knit one or more stitches that include both colours. I don’t have a brilliant solution here, so I will wait to see if anyone can suggest a better method.

The issue of “jogs” will irritate some of you. The method that Helene showed me involves slipping the first stitch on the second row of the new colour. I think this is very neat and you could try this. Personally I don’t care about jogs.

What colours are you planning to use? Any colour, sizing or gauge questions?

And any tips on joining your yarns?


Seamless Raglan Knit-along – Introduction

posted in: knitting | 28

It’s June already. Lovely summer weather in the UK makes thinking of a knitted sweater a little challenging. But you know it won’t last.

Who is in?

As Karen wrote “Bringing the world together through knitting”. What a nice thought as we gather to knit the same thing, in completely different styles, colours and sizes. I am pretty sure we have people in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and UK – probably other places. So far the following knitters (four joined me last year) have said they are keen:


  • Chris
  • Cynthia
  • Geo
  • Giorgia
  • Helene
  • Hila
  • Karen
  • Kerry
  • Kim
  • Michelle R
  • Michelle S
  • Nadia
  • Sue S
  • Susan W


Maybe some will drop out, and maybe some will join in, but a dozen or so is a good number. (with Geo and Helene now added!)

If you have already completed one or more Elizabeth Zimmermann seamless colourful yoke sweaters this project is very easy as it follows on in a logical way. If not, don’t worry. It is a straight forward project suitable for a beginner.

If you want to do the yoke instead here are the instructions.

Now I am going to assume that most of us are going for stripes! That is because this jumper just looks lovely in stripes and it is nice and eco-friendly to use up small pieces of yarn. I always feel sad when I waste yarn or silk, feeling the animal has worked hard to create the product and we just throw it away. Silly sentimental feeling for silk worms (who of course usually perish) and sheep who are probably glad to lose all that hot fleece. But I hope there are a couple of knitters who go with plain as it is always interesting to see the variations.


So, from past experience, you need 500 grams of yarn. I find 300 grams more than enough for me, but I am saying 500 as you don’t want to run out and you may want a really big, baggy one, or you may like a large size. I suggest for quick results double-knit yarn and something like 4.5 to 6mm circular needles. You can also do this in 4 ply and smaller needles, or just about any variation. In this Knit-along we all take responsibility for our own gauge (I will hold your hand if this is a new area for you). Buy or borrow the book if you don’t have it, Knitting without tears, by Elizabeth Zimmermann. But if you can’t get hold of one, don’t worry. You can knit this sweater just through following the blog posts. I will be suggesting a more comfortable and modern neckline you might like to try, and I (or a more experienced knitter) will answer questions as we go along.

#EZRaglanKAL Gather your materials

The yarns I am looking at are the last knockings of some soft DK merino yarn sets I got from Colourmart yarns. I also have some green cashmere in odd bits from the same source. You may already have a colour scheme in mind, but next week we will talk about colours for a striped jumper. I am thinking green this time as it is such a good colour to go with my wardrobe. Now might be a good time to see if you have yarns you can use up. The received wisdom appears to be to stick to one fibre content eg merino, alpaca, cotton, silk, acrylic, or of course a mixture.

If you are itching to get started, work out your gauge. I will reproduce my instructions from the last KAL.


  1. You can check the gauge by using say 5mm needles and DK yarn; or say 3.5mm needles and 4 ply yarn. This is just a suggestion – you do have to make your own mind up, or use what you have! Cast on say 20 stitches and knit in stocking stitch for say 20 rows. Then measure one inch or 2.5cms across and count how many stitches are included in this length. It is likely to be a whole number and a part of a number eg 4.25. This is the figure you multiply by your chest/bust circumference measurement to find out how many stitches you need to cast on. The width is the most important measurement – depth is not as important as will be measuring the length of the jersey with your tape measure, or against your body, as you go along, rather than counting rows.
  2. Now you know how many stitches you need to cast on for the body. For me (s8 UK), with my personal knitting tension, I have used 160 stitches for DK and 200 stitches for the four ply. This is just a point of reference – you may be smaller or bigger, and knit tighter or looser. The other casting on you do is for the sleeves and the number of stitches is a percentage of your first cast on number for the body ie 160 or 200 in my case. I will explain this as we go.
Striped knitting
Striped sleeve

I will be back next Saturday to discuss colour and stripes before we begin to knit. Do ask any gauge, sizing or fitting questions at this point – or anything else you would like to know.