This is the Riley summer top from Pompom Quarterly issue 25 (summer 2018). Ooooh I was waiting in such anticipation for this issue — so many beautiful, colourful, stripey patterns in lovely summer-weight yarns. Even though I have been a Pompom subscriber for over a year, I’ve never knitted one of the patterns for a variety of reasons worth a whole other post. Anyway, I was determined to knit something from this issue of Pompom and after some deliberation, I settled on the Riley sweater.
The yarn I used is the one suggested in the pattern: Berroco Corsica.
Corsica is a 90% cotton and 10% cashmere blend and is quite lovely to knit with. I think it’s the cashmere that makes it a little more slippy (in the best possible way) than 100% cotton. The yarn is knitting up into a springy, not-too-heavy fabric.
Yarn selection & fabric stretch after blocking
I chose Corsica because I’m still new to knitting garments and not quite up for making creative yarn choices just yet. However, I did mix it up colour-wise, choosing to knit Riley in ‘cork’ (off-white) with a ‘shark eye’ (pretty sky blue) contrast colour, rather than the sample contrast colour, clover (a gentle blush pink).
I’m still feeling rather nervous about how a given yarn will behave as a knitted fabric. My last garment — my first ever, the Flax sweater by Tin Can Knits — ended up *quite* a bit bigger than I had intended, despite my diligent (albeit small) gauge swatching.
That sweater has been frogged and returned to balls of yarn that I’ll attempt to knit into a sweater that actually fits: Flax 2.0!! While it was difficult to rip it out, I learned a couple things:
- Bigger gauge swatches may be the way to go. A bigger swatch will let me get enough fabric to demonstrate how the weight will cause the fabric to behave and provide a better sense of how much it will stretch.
- I knit the Flax sweater in the yarn that the pattern called for: Sweet Georgia Superwash Worsted yarn. What I didn’t know then is that the aggressive and environmentally unfriendly process of creating superwash wool** strips wool of its natural scale, which makes the yarn ‘grippier’ and therefore less likely to grow after blocking.
**I can’t believe this is something I hadn’t learned sooner. Why don’t we talk more about it?! Superwash wool is first treated with chorine gas and then coated with plastic. To learn more about this, I recommend this very informative post from Woolful.com. I first heard about the fact that superwash treatment is problematic from the wonderful ‘Crafting Consciously’ roundtable held at PomFest and shared on Pomcast 46.
For the baby version of the Flax sweater that I knit for my new nephew, I scaled down the needle size and it worked a treat. Of course, baby garments are significantly smaller, so the stretch was much less of a problem.
In a recent episode of the ever-delightful Pomcast (episode 52), Sophie mentions that she knitted the beautiful Tarmac top and even though she made a swatch, her linen-heavy choice of yarn translated into a garment that stretched after blocking and was bigger than she had planned. Even though I was sorry to hear about this outcome for Sophie, I was kind of heartened to hear that this phenomenon is not unheard of and can even be a problem for folks who have much more knitting experience than I do.
Applying all this to Riley
I have typically had a looser gauge than the patterns and so scaling down my needle size is usually required. I also think that erring on the side of scaling down will help combat stretch later. Is this a thing?
The Riley pattern gauge is 44 rows & 22 stitches per 10 cm achieved with US 5 needles; I went for size US 4 (3.5 mm) needles and achieved a gauge of 44 rows & 24 stitches per 10 cm (before blocking). With my swatch being slightly under-gauge width-wise, I feel less nervous about knitting a size 2 (my bust measurement + 10 cm positive ease).
Pre-blocking: I’m feeling quite good about how it’s turning out.
Adjusting the length
Trying the sweater on while knitting also led me to shorten the body, knitting it a few inches shorter than the pattern suggests. I actually knit up the back panel according to the pattern, then knit up the front and decided the V-neck was going to be too plunge-y at that length. So I knit the front to my desired length and then ripped back the back panel to take off 2 inches and knitted it up again to match the front.
It felt so difficult to make myself rip back the back panel!! But I’m really glad I went for it. I have good knitting intuition. Like, I *knew* I shouldn’t continue without getting the length just right.
The finished sweater: pre-blocking
Good god there were a lot of ends to weave in. Took me the better part of a train journey from Manchester to Edinburgh to do it, plus some additional time on the sofa, but in the end: all done.
Off I go to block! I’m eager for blocking to give it a bit more length and looseness… although not *too* much.
Post-blocking: did it work?
Yes! The sweater grew very modestly in length, relaxed a little, and developed a lovely drape. I’m so pleased that blocking did not ‘ruin’ the sweater, as I’d feared.
I’ve been so pleased to wear this sweater and it has proved the perfect garment for a changeable and breezy Scottish August!