Now that this short bit of sadness and regret over not filming the leafy sweater from the get-go is out of the way, let us talk about how you can make your sweater like this, should you want to!
This pattern is done as a top-down, raglan increase, which turned out to be easier than I thought and more enjoyable than bottom-up sweaters since all the hard work of the shoulders and the sleeves gets addressed first thing.
For reference, I am using 3 mm circular needles (UK size 11, somewhere between a US size 2 and 3), one 40 cm long and one 80 cm long. The yarn I am using is Sølje Pelsullgarn, which is a thin finger-weight wool from one of the Norwegian short-tail landraces. It is naturally mottled and surprisingly light wool, making it excellent for larger garments and quite long per 100 grams. I bought 600 grams of yarn, and my finished sweater weighs 540 grams.
You’ll want to make sure to do a swatch test with your needles and yarn of choice for this since we are about to embark on a journey to the land of doing-whatever-we-want (but with a plan)™.
We are starting with a rib knit, and there is a lot of leeway in how many stitches you start out with, mostly dependent on how sensitive you are to having things close to your neck. Less sensitive and want more warmth and snugness? Fewer stitches. More sensitive and need to have the collar further away? More stitches.
I love the closeness and started out with something like 132 stitches. Just make sure it is divisible by 4 so you can do a seamless 2 knit, 2 purl rib-knit. Knit it twice as long as you want it, so we can fold it down and stitch it double later. Mine was about 10 cm /4 inches in total for a finished collar of 5 cm /2 inches.
Explaining the pattern
Once we have finished the collar, we move on to the leaf pattern. And there will be so much leaf pattern going on. I hope you are comfortable with your increases and decreases.
The pattern diagram we are using comes from this shawl pattern.
We will be using diagrams A.3 (increase towards the left/on the right side of the raglan stripe), A.4 (no increases, just leaves), and A.5 (increase towards the right/on the left side of the raglan stripe). As we increase with diagrams A.3 and A.5, we will get an increasing number of A.4 pattern repeats in the middle of each section, making up the shoulder expansion and top part of our sweater.
I have attempted to illustrate what I mean:
If you prefer written instructions, our plan after our rib knit is thus:
- Increase or decrease to 160 stitches, provided your rib knit was somewhere in that vicinity.
- Place one stitch marker (1st raglan stripe, this stitch marker is also your round marker, and should be clearly distinct from your other stitch markers), following the pattern diagrams, start knitting A.5, 3 x A.4, and A.3 (this will be the front).
- Place your next stitch marker (2nd raglan stripe), knit A.5, 2 x A.4, and A.3 (the right sleeve).
- Place another stitch marker (3rd stripe), knit A.5, 3 x A.4, and A.3 (the back).
- Place your last stitch marker (4th stripe), knit A.5, 2 x A.4, and A.3 (the left sleeve)
- You should now be back at your first stitch marker. Continue on with the next row of the pattern.
All our increases will happen in the four corners, where we will also be getting our raglan stripe. As a guideline, if the above is confusing, the row of plain knit stitches (left side in diagram A.5, right side in diagram A.3) should always be towards the raglan stripe (of which there are four in total) for a seamless but endless cascade of leaves.
Increasing for the shoulders
Now we just knit the diagram over and over. Each corner will always have new leaves growing from the raglan stripe on either side, which over time will become full-size leaves and “graduate” to pattern A.4, of which you will get more and more.
Now get your measuring tape out and measure how wide one or several of your leaves are, on average. Measure the circumference where your bust and armpit overlap, including your arms. Measure your neck to the armpit and the widest point on your arm while you’re at it.
This will give you an understanding of how many leaves you will need to increase to in total for it to fit you, as well as how long it needs to be for the armscye to fit when you pull it on (though we will add more leaves under the armpit later, so it only needs to reach the armpit, not be all the way underneath).
I wanted oversized for this one, so I made sure I was at least a couple of leaves “too wide” than my actual measurement.
Splitting for the sleeves
Once you have a “collar” that fits you over the shoulders and can reach all the way to your armpit, it is time to split our work into three: the main body and a sleeve on each side. Take all the stitches from the sleeves on either side and transfer them to new circular needles or stitch holders. You can now choose if you wish to continue the body or the sleeves first (I did a bit of both to get away from the fiddly underarm ASAP). I make sure to do this at the point where the leaves are the widest (12 rows from the bottom), just before we start a new decrease into the tip of the leaves/increase for the other leaves.
At this point, we are done with diagrams A.3 and A.5 and will continue, following only repeats of pattern diagram A.4. The raglan stripes will get counted into the new leaves under the arms and will cease to exist beyond this point.
There will be a gap in your stitch count where the stitches for the sleeves used to be. Measure the widest part of your upper body but without your arms this time (usually bust or belly). Count your remaining leaves, and add an even number of diagram A.4 (14 stitches for each repeat) under the arms on either side. Again I kept it slightly above my actual measurement (I added three A.4 repeats on either side) for a nice, loose fit.
I prefer to check the widest point on my arms too at this point, so I can add the same number of pattern repeats to both the body and the sleeve later.
Wherever you keep your raglan stripe, it will now cease to exist. Make sure you subtract that from however many stitches you add on either side.
The first stitches you add and make under the arm can be more than a bit fiddly. Do your best, use as many stitch markers as you need and it will work out! It will also be under your arms and so the least visible part of the sweater. Once you figure it out you really just keep repeating diagram A.4 again and again for a seamless cascade of leaves. Keep going until it is pretty much as long as you want it.
PS: If you can’t try it on, make sure to accommodate your body’s curvature. It’ll be shorter on you than lying flat! I compared mine to a sweater I already had whose length I was comfortable with.
In the end, we switch to rib knit again for some 5-10 cm /2-4 inches.
Cast off, weave in ends and on to the sleeves!
Just like for the body, we are going to add more repeats of diagram A.4 under the arm. It is slightly easier this time though, as we can pick up the already existing pattern from the body. Make sure you double-check that this will actually fit the widest point on your arms. If not, you can always sneak in another pattern repeat or two, or even if you just want even poofier sleeves.
Stitch more repeats of diagram A.4 ad infinitum.
Once almost satisfied with the length (again, the length held up to your body will be shorter than when you actually put it on because our bodies come in 3D), I halved my stitch count (you could do more. Again, preference) before diving into the rib knit for the cuff.
Cast off your first sleeve. And make sure you meticulously count how many leafy repeats of diagram A.4 you did, so your sleeves end up being the same length.
If you haven’t woven in all your ends yet, make sure you do that and also stitch down your collar.
Now that your wondrous new creation is done, you might wish to put it on straight away. You might even be slightly disappointed, as a freshly knitted garment, if made of wool, is often quite itchy on account of us having bent and twisted the wool fibres any which way while we knitted.
You could either suffer through multiple itchy hours of wearing the thing before the fibres eventually lay flat, or we could block it.
Blocking is just one helpful way to speed up this process, and also even out our stitches while we are at it. Simply submerge your knitted creation in warm water, into which you’ve mixed some wool-friendly soap. This could be a little bit of wool-approved laundry detergent, or in my case, I use some of my own plain, unscented cold processed soap (a benefit being that it turns my water cloudy, so it is easy to see if I have rinsed it out properly after). Let your leafy wonder or other creation sit in the warm water for 10-20 minutes (it will not be hurt if you forget and leave it for a bit longer).
Once soaked, drain the water and rinse with more clean, warm water until the water runs clear, squishing your knit with your hands to drain more excess water as you go.
Grab at least two large towels and roll your wet knit up in the first one, squishing it some more to expel more of the water. Hang the first towel to dry.
Now take your second towel and lay flat on the floor or similar, ideally in a place with ample ventilation. Drape your sweater carefully on top, as you wish it to look when it is dry. Leave it to do just that (do not hang it to dry or tumble dry. Hanging it will stretch the finished product, and tumble drying may very well shrink it. Be patient).
The next day, your first towel should be dry again. Place it on top and flip everything over. Rearrange as necessary and hang the second towel to dry.
Repeat the above steps as necessary until your marvellous creation is dry, ready to use, and amazingly less itchy compared to putting it on straight off the needles!
Re-blocking a garment can also help if you have something that has stretched beyond recognition or just needs a little bit of freshening up. It certainly doesn’t hurt to try!
I hope this rambly and pretty wordy explanation of this leafy sweater, and a general sweater process that you could adapt to other patterns with similar increases, was helpful to you! I would certainly love to hear it if any of you give it a go and more autumn leaf pile garments make their way into the wild.
Soot says good luck!