I came across this test knit opportunity on Instagram. This was love at first sight. I was first attracted by the ribbon tied back. Then I realized how intricate the sleeve design was. I was a little bit intimidated at first. But once I read through the instruction, I got a hang of it.
I used a little under three skeins of Less Travel Yarn in Peppermint Bark.
Though the pattern instructed to work on the body first, I started with the sleeves since that was the most complicated part of the project. I made seven repeats for the sleeves pattern before joining the body, and made another two and a half repeats after joining. I learned how to knit central double decrease and box pleats. The box pleats are so much fun to knit that I look forward to future patterns with box pleats!
The body is knit from bottom up. I envisioned a tunic instead of a pullover with the sleeve design. I sized up two for cast on and decrease four stitches every ten rows. For example, I was knitting a size 36. But I cast on with size 44 and slowly decrease to size 36. I also added a few more inches to the body.
I added a side seams to my piece. Each side has five stitches of p2k1p2. I learned this from knitting the Woodwardia. I thought it added some definition.
Another thing I learned in this pattern was to insert a lifeline. It’s so useful when you had to undo quite a few rows.
This is also the first time I knitted a fold hem. It’s meant for the ribbon. It also provided a really nice finish.
Lastly, casting off. It was kind of tight using the “normal” cast off method. I looked up stretchy cast off method on Youtube and found a method taught by VeryPinkKnits very simple and useful. It perfected the piece.
Overall, I’m super happy with how this turned out. Looks very simple with nice touch on the sleeves and the semi open back.
Now here a little Q&A from the designer of Casagrande, Sharon Hartley!
- Tell us about yourself
My name is Sharon, I live near Washington DC with my husband. I work full time as a geotechnical engineer – for my job I design special deep foundations for buildings. In my free time, I am all knitting, all the time – and of course I do plenty of daydreaming about knitting while at work! I like to spend time with my family – I am fortunate that almost all my extended family lives within my state (Maryland) and we see each other often. I feel like I’m always knitting a baby blanket for another niece, nephew, or cousin.
- When and how did you learn about knitting?
My grandmother tried to teach me to knit when I was probably 5 or 6. I was just too young and impatient for it, but I still remember the ball of purple acrylic and pair of straight needles she sent me home with. I never touched them again. Instead I did cross stitch, beading, latch hooking, any other activity I could get my hands on… for years I said the only craft I couldn’t do was knit. I didn’t even consider it until my sister picked up knitting while I was in high school. She taught me how to cast on, knit, and purl. I fumbled my way through teaching myself the rest. I started improvising simple “designs” here and there – a hat, a headband – often because I didn’t understand what gauge was, and I needed to make up my own pattern that fit the yarn and needles I had. My mother-in-law, a talented knitter and designer herself, always encouraged me to write down my patterns, but it just seemed so complicated!
My skills really took off only a few years ago when I discovered my LYS and started regularly working with and hanging out with other knitters. I learned so much from just listening to people talk about their projects and the techniques they were using. The encouragement from the community of knitters led me to start tackling more and more complicated patterns and eventually move into designing my own garments. I owe them so much!
- How did you come up with the Casagrande design pattern?
I think I had the bits of Casagrande floating around in my head for a while. I had an idea for the silhouette and ribbon closure from sweaters I had seen in stores. I had been fascinated with the idea of box pleats for a while, dreaming up different ways to incorporate them into a garment. But these ideas didn’t come together until I saw a call for STEM-inspired knitting designs. I had this memory of my geotechnical engineering education of the Casagrande soil test, which is where a soil sample is pressed into a dish and a deep groove is cut into it (other stuff happens to it in order to figure out the soil properties, but you didn’t come here for a lecture on geotechnical engineering!). I just pictured the imagery of the deep cut in the soil translating into the sleeve of a sweater. I started assembling the pieces together in my head, imagining the box pleat at the top and bottom of the sleeve, opening into the “cut” of the lace panel. The ribbon was a last minute addition, but it tied the whole thing together (literally!).
- What are some of the challenges you encountered while putting together this pattern?
Surprisingly, the challenges in this pattern were mostly psychological. The whole process was filled with a lot of self-doubt. As I said previously, I had created this design as a submission to a knitting magazine, and I was really proud of the design.
But it wasn’t accepted.
I knew that it was most likely because the magazine had a different vision in mind. Even though I told myself it wasn’t anything against my pattern, I still came away feeling like the rejection meant the design wasn’t very good or interesting. I put it aside for a long while, without any motivation to work on it or make up a sample.
In the end, the only thing that made me actually pick it up again is the fact that I told the dyer, Traveling Yarn, that I would self-publish the design. But I still had that self-doubt. I worked on my sample quietly. I didn’t show anyone my idea. Every time I ran into a hangup in the pattern, I’d hear myself think, “what’s the point of solving this, the design is going to be a flop.” Even as I made improvements to the original design, I wondered whether anyone would like it anyway.
Eventually I finished my sample and posted a picture of it for the first time, asking for testers. The next time I got on my virtual knit night with my LYS friends (this was early in quarantine), to my utter shock they all started telling me how much they loved the sweater. They wanted to know when it was coming out, if they could test knit it, what kind of yarn they should use so they could start looking… I was so surprised! Here were people who actually liked the design, and were excited about making it! It was a total revelation to me. I hadn’t realized how much I had internalized that rejection and let it affect my view of my work.
- What are you working on next?
I have a colorwork yoke sweater on my needles, and a simple cardigan design that I have had tech edited. I’m also now exploring putting together a line of designs for my LYS as well. I always seem to be jumping from one type of design to another, and my brain and notebook are bursting with ideas, I can’t get them written fast enough! I hope to be releasing a lot of new designs over the next year so stay tuned!