Prepping for Dissent: Sizing, Yarn, & Swatching
My new sweater, Dissent, is a top-down yoke cardigan inspired by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s famous dissent collar. It’s a fairly simple construction, but there are some intimidating bits, so I want to create some supportive blog posts to ensure you’re all as successful as possible in making your sweater. (If you missed the introductory post about Dissent, you can read it here.) The topics I’ll be covering are:
Prepping: Choosing a size, getting yarn, and swatching
Today I’m going to just get you started with the basics.
Choosing a Size
When choosing a size, think about how roomy you like your sweaters to be and have a look at the models.
Wongela, wearing the grey and blue sample, has a 31 in/79 cm bust and is wearing the 34 in/86.5 cm size. So the sweater has about +3 inches/7.5 cm of positive ease on her.
Larissa, in the gold and black sample, has a 45 in/114.5 cm bust circumference and is wearing the 46 in/117 cm size, giving her about an inch/2.5 cm of positive ease.
I recommend about +1-4 inches/2.5-10 cm of positive ease to get a look similar to what’s shown in the photos. You want to be sure it stays on your shoulders (the neckline is relatively wide), but that it’s not so tight that the buttons gape. If you have a larger bust relative to your shoulders and waist, you may want to round down to avoid having too much fabric in the shoulders.
The pattern offers eleven sizes:
Bust Circumference with Bands Overlapping:
34(37.25, 40.5, 43.5) [46, 49.25, 52.5, 55.5] (58, 61.25, 64.5) in/
86.5(94.5, 103, 110.5) [117, 125, 133.5, 141] (147.5, 155.5, 164) cm
I’m going to talk about the pullover hack in a later blog post, but I want to mention here that I did make a pullover for myself with about +9.5 in/24 cm of positive ease because I wanted a super relaxed version. I love it and it definitely works for what I wanted, but it does have a lot of fabric in the shoulders due to the construction method, and it doesn’t fit the way the samples fit the models. If you want a big, oversized thing, go for it! Just know it’ll have a different look than it would have at the recommended ease. (That link above also shows my pullover on a different model, Parm, who has a bigger bust than me, so it may be helpful in deciding size as well. Parm’s wearing the pullover with about +1.5 in/4 cm of positive ease.)
The yarns I chose for my samples are Spincycle Yarns Dream State and Magpie Fibers Domestic Worsted. Both yarns are super wash, but they’re also pretty woolly. Neither have a super draping or slippery feel to them, which is really helpful for adult-sized garments. Both are also grown and manufactured entirely in the US and created by women-owned companies who I know and admire.
Of course I love the Spincycle Dream State for the colours. Every skein is unique and creates a gorgeous shifting shades that looks super dramatic. It’s also soft!
Magpie Fibers Domestic Worsted is a dense, worsted spun, plied, very bouncy super wash Merino. It comes in such a great range of colours too, so I know you’ll be able to find one that sets off your Dream State perfectly. And it’s soft too.
I think you’d be super happy if you chose these yarns for your sweater, but since I know folks like to be creative and have different priorities, I’ve also got suggestions if you want to substitute a different yarn.
The most important factor to consider is weight. Make sure you’re using a worsted weight yarn that you like at the pattern gauge of 20 stitches = 4 inches/10 cm. I designed the sweater with a somewhat dense gauge for durability and to keep it from growing vertically since there are no seams. If you choose to use a woolen spun or loftier yarn, you can get away with a less dense fabric since those kinds of yarns are lighter and don’t weigh themselves down as much, but remember that density adds durability and takes away drape. Too dense and the fabric will look stiff on your body, too draping and your sweater will wear out more quickly.
I always pick wool. Avoid slippery fibres like silk or alpaca. Because this sweater is worked without seams, slippery fibres could cause it to grow vertically over time. (Though the colour work yoke helps maintain structure, the body can still grow.) If you’d like to use something with another fibre, I’d recommend a wool blend. Something like Quince and Co. Owl might work even though the alpaca content adds drape and makes it a bit more slippery because it’s got a lot of wool in it and it’s a very light yarn. I don’t recommend plant fibres or anything else very slippery. If you want extra warmth, consider using something with a bit of mohair, but remember that if it’s got a halo (fluffy surface), it’s likely to obscure the colour pattern.
So you’re following my recommendation to use wool, but you’re wondering about that superwash question. First, if you want to use another set of superwash yarns, I’d be careful to choose ones that have similar characteristics to the pattern yarns. They shouldn’t be super slippery or draping.
Because I chose superwash yarns for my samples, I recommend the sewing machine method for reinforcing the steek because it’s more secure than the crochet method. If you don’t have access to a sewing machine, I suggest going with a non-superwash yarn instead.
I usually stick with non-superwash yarns for sweaters, even more so if I’m going to steek them. So if that’s your inclination, go for it! Remember, you’ll want a worsted weight yarn that creates a sort of dense fabric at the pattern gauge of 20 sts = 4 in/10 cm. If it’s too dense, your sweater will be too stiff and if it’s too loose, the garment could lose its shape since there are no seams. Dense fabric is also more durable. When you swatch, be sure you like the fabric before settling on that yarn even if you do get gauge.
I used a very woolly wool for my pullover version - Daughter of a Shepherd Ram Jam. It only comes in natural, un-dyed colours and I really love the grey-on-grey look. If you like a woolier sweater, you might love using Lettlopi or a woolen spun farm yarn.
If you choose not to use superwash yarn, you’ll probably be fine using the crochet method of steek reinforcement, but the sewing machine method in the pattern works too. I’ll have a post about steeking soon.
If you want your colourwork to stand out, it’s important to choose one light and one dark colour. What shade they are (red, blue, yellow) is less important than their relative value - lightness or darkness. If you’re not sure whether your yarns contrast enough, take a black-and-white photo (most smart phones have a black-and-white filter). If you can still tell the difference between the colours, you’re all set, but if the colours look about the same in black-and-white, they probably won’t contrast enough to really show off your colourwork. Some colour ways of Spincycle Dream State have a lot of colours in them, so be sure that all the colours in the skein contrast strongly with the solid background colour.
Since this sweater is worked in the round, it’s important that you swatch in the round too. I’ve got a whole tutorial page just ons swatching in the round, so I’m just going to link to that here. Remember to swatch in plain Stockinette and colourwork, and remember that most knitters work more tightly in colourwork, so it’s likely you’ll have to go up a needle size or two from your stockinette needle to get consistent gauge in colourwork.