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knitting muslin

dotty | Posted in Knitting and Crochet on

Has anyone out there played around with the equivelent of a muslin before embarking on a sweater? I’d love to hear your approaches and what you use as fabric. I never see sweaterknits for sale let alone cheap ones to use for experimenting.


  1. katina | | #1

    Hi Dotty

    Are you intending to knit a sweater or sew a knit fabric into a sweater?


    1. dotty | | #2

      Sorry I wasn't clearer. I'm intending to knit a sweater. Actually I'm in the middle of a sweater and would like to verify that the sleeves I've drafted will be OK. But its something I'd sort of like to do anyway considerig the time and money aspect of knitting these days. I've gotten in the muslin habbit for sewing. Why not apply that to knitting?

      1. katina | | #3

        Hi again

        What sort of armhole is the sleeve to be attached to? Is this a set-in sleeve? drop-shoulder? Are you concerned about the length of the sleeves?


        1. dotty | | #4

          its a set in. Actually its a very slight drop (1/2") to accomidate the pattern stitch. I was thinking of doing a provisional cast on and adding the cuff last so I could make them a little longer if need be.

          1. katina | | #5

            You are obviously a skilled knitter! Where possible, I knit sleeves from the top down so I can try the item on and adjust sleeve length. Provisional cast on works the same way - you can sew the sleeves into the armholes and then try the sweater on to determine final sleeve length. Keep us posted on your progress.


          2. dotty | | #6

            Skilled- I'm not so sure, but always trying to learn new stuff.

          3. JanF | | #7

            Gosh - how's this done? Can it be done following a commercial pattern - or do i have to be a lot better, more intuitive knitter? I can see the logic and improvement in doing this - but i don't know how!
            Can u give me some pointers?
            Thanks Jan

          4. katina | | #8

            Hi Jan

            You mean how to knit the sleeves down? or how to do a provisional cast on?

            Both very easy when you know how! What I love about knitting is that you can be as skilled as you want to be, very quickly, if you have the info and want to do it.

            Let me know how I can help.




          5. JanF | | #9

            I think I could cast on into the shoulder seam, knowing how many stitches I needed but !
            Would you cast on at centre top with the same number of stitches as the last to cast off in the sleeve pattern, and then work down adding a cast on stitch as u worked down the sleeve 'till got the correct number of stitches needed for the last part of sleeve (as if u were knitting up the sleeve??? - does this make sense?)
            would u pick up the amount of stitches in the 1 lot as u start, by distributing the number of stitches needed around the armhole?
            Then how easy is it to follow the pattern backwards re. shaping?
            If its got a pattern to the knit - how do u work the pattern backwards?
            Is this question
            a) making any sense
            b)too silly a question -
            I can see how knitting from top of sleeve would be good - particularly as I have shorter arms than standard size and always end up adjusting the amount of rows I have to knit normally!
            I also have a long-waisted body - but thats another one of my many body "problem" areas
            along with
            big boobs
            fat a..e!!!
            One of the reasons I'm trying to get to grips with modern knitting patterns - but only if they don't end up making me look like "mitchelin man"
            Big knits = big girl!
            I'd appreciate ur thoughts on this!

          6. katina | | #10

            Yes, absolutely your questions make perfect sense. Let me answer you very simply to begin with by using the basic drop shoulder seam sweater as a starting point. You know the kind I'm referring to? the sweater body has no armhole shaping. Are you familiar with schematics? These are drawings of the shapes of the knitted pieces and have the various measurements written on them. Forgive me if I'm being too simplistic, but have you seen these? I'll wait to hear from you before going on to the exciting part - the sleeve shaping. This is such fun!


          7. dotty | | #11

            I've never tried knitting anything from the top down. Though I think its in the near future for me. I would imagine that except for plain stockinette, you couldn't do part of the garment the usual way and another part top down. I would think some stitch patterns wouldn't work at all top down.

          8. katina | | #12

            Hi Dotty

            You're going to love knitting top down. Yes, stockinette is foolproof this way, but other stitch patterns can and do work in certain circumstances. Various rib-based stitches look the same from top to bottom and vice-versa, as do seed stitch combos and a great many others. Stranded colorwork where the design 'reads' the same when turned upside down will work too, so you can still knit the body from the bottom up, and the sleeves from the shoulder down.  However, you can knit the whole garment from the top down - a method which has great advantages.  The classic book on this subject is


            Hope this helps.



          9. dotty | | #13

            Hi Katina
            That book has been on my list of books to check out for a while. Now I'll do it. I have two of her stitch pattern treasuries. One of them is enough for a lifetme's worth of sweater ideas. But I'm still a glutton for such things.

            Edited 5/3/2007 5:02 pm by dotty

          10. katina | | #14

            Ah yes, a glutton for such things - me too. They're just irresistible! You will really enjoy reading this book.


          11. JanF | | #19

            yes i'm familiar with the schematic - in as much as i have seen them and understood them to be like a template of the shape and size - am I correct?
            I really have only seen them on some patterns - usually ones with lots of patterning or shaping that needs explaining in diagram form!
            bear in mind here that its a few years since I made any sweaters!
            Just looked at link to book - notice that a few reviewers have mentioned that dreadful word - MATHS!!
            I may be a teacher - but maths has never been a strong point - will it hold me back??

            Edited 5/4/2007 2:12 pm ET by JanF

          12. katina | | #21

            No, it won't, really! The book is dated, yes, but the info is excellent. You can't go wrong if you just work through it, and as a teacher, you know how important that is. A schematic shows you the finished size/s of the knitted pieces. It's a very useful tool because you can tell immediately how wide, eg, the back of the garment is, or how long the sleeves are, how deep the armhole. Just by studying the schematic you can tell what the fit will be, and so you can determine what changes you may want to make. If you don't have a pattern book with schematics available, perhaps you can drop into a bookshop and check out the knitting books to get an idea of how the schematic helps you to knit the garment.

            Good luck!

          13. JanF | | #22

            Thanks Katina - will try to get the book - i can see the logic of knitting from the top down for the whole garment - I think that just might keep the brain a tickin!
            I'm trying to find the wool for a pattern from a book I was given - domiknitrix!!(see my post from a while ago - but check u spell it correctly if u go to search it!!) which appears to be knitted this way - however got to get to grips with American instructions too - yarn =classic elite provence -also abbreviations not what I'm used to! here we dont always have the same yarns!I like cotton yarn - but a suggestion for a good one that doesn't loose its body after washing?
            Thanks for the encouragement!
            Any suggestions for the best type of fine "wool" which doesn't bulk up - yet isn't itchy - and isn't sweat retaining (a problem for me with a lot of synthetics)[sounds "posh" doesn't that - a bit tongue in cheek there!]sorry to mention bodily functions!!)Damn this middle aged, menopausal slant on what I think about!

          14. katina | | #23

            Hi Jan

            Oh yes, the dominknitrix mix up - hilarious! I felt for you, must say. I'll see if I can suggest a good substitute yarn for you. Cotton yarns have great advantages, but they also have their bad points - stretching being one, and also weight. Ever notice how heavy a long-sleeved cotton sweater is?

            Abbreviations shouldn't be a problem - all good knitting books have lists of the commonly used US/UK ones.


  2. Teaf5 | | #15

    I don't make a separate muslin, but when I'm making sweaters, I always check them against sweaters I already have that fit the way I like. Handmade sweaters tend to settle lengthwise, so I try to end the hems and sleeves a little shorter than I want the finished garment to be.

    1. dotty | | #16

      I've had the best luck in my knitting copying sweaters I know fit. I've done several variants on one particular sweater. I've learned a lot abouut how the look of a style is affected by yarn choice. I guess I was asking about using "muslin" in the hopes that I could expand my repetoire in a sensible way. I do a lot of ripping out and reknitting.

      1. katina | | #17

        Hi Dotty

        I agree totally with you - that's how I've been doing it for years. You may find my muslin method useful. You need gridded pattern paper - several types are available. I have a roll that's got a one inch grid on it which I bought online several years ago, but you can get various kinds at stores like Hancock's. You lay the favorite sweater out on it and place pins at the strategic points, eg from shoulder seam to shoulder seam, along the neck depth, etc. The gridded paper makes it very easy. Trace off the shape of each piece - sleeve, body, etc. and cut out. I've made several basic shapes for the different types of sleeve, like raglan, drop shoulder, set in and so on. As you knit, you check the work against the basic pattern pieces. Keep a tapestry needle and some smooth knitting yarn, like a mercerised cotton handy, or a heavy perle embroidery thread. Use this to take the stitches off the knitting needle onto a long length of this holding yarn so that you can open the knitting out fully and be able to measure accurately. A smooth, non-fluffy yarn is best for this, and preferably in a strong contrasting color so you can clearly see the stitches. Hairy holding yarns might leave small bits of fluff on your line of knitting stitches when you pull it out. When satisfied with your fit, put the stitches back on the needle, make any necessary adjustments and carry on with your knitting. I do hope this helps.


        1. dotty | | #18

          I do something similar to that. The stitch pattern I'm working on right now is rather complex. I was having a hard time working some of the shaping out. I printed out some of the proportional graph paper found on one of the knitting sites, taped the pieces together and drew in how the repeats landed along the armhole curve,neckline and shoulder. When I get confused by where the pattern and the shaping meet, I check it against my full scale chart. I don't have every stitch drawn in, just boxes around the repeats in the tricky areas. Then I count out the stitches within the box if need be.
          Your idea of transfering the knitting to a holding thread to try on is going to be put into action soon.

          Edited 5/4/2007 2:10 pm by dotty

          1. katina | | #20

            When faced with complicated stitch patterns and shapings, sometimes I find I can keep a few selvedge stitches in stockinette or garter stitch - this might work for you.


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