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Jennifer Wood of Woodhouse Knits has created some unique designs in Blue Sky Alpacas yarn over the years. Last December, the Evelyn cardigan pattern in Extra yarn caught our eye in particular; featuring interesting construction elements, the resulting cardigan is not only fun to knit, but flattering to wear as well. Jennifer shares her design process and some of her best sweater knitting tips with us in the following interview.
I have my daughter to thank for my learning to knit: when she was in middle school, she read The Witch of Blackbird Pond. The descriptions of colonial women knitting captivated her, and she begged me to teach her how to knit. So I bought a book, some needles and yarn, and we both learned how to knit together. I fell in love! Something about this age-old craft captivated me immediately and I have hardly put the needles down since then.
I started designing in 2009. At the time, I did not know how to knit sweaters, so I was doing mostly scarves and hats. I learned about sweater construction by reading books and playing with designs for them – it was definitely a trial and error process at first! Little did I know how much I would enjoy designing sweaters later down the road. I love to get an idea and then figure out how to make it work. It fascinates me.
“Little did I know how much I would enjoy designing sweaters later down the road. I love to get an idea and then figure out how to make it work.
It fascinates me.”
I really like braided cables and wanted to do something interesting with them. So I thought, what would it be like to start out with a braided cable and have it move into single rope cables which form a pleat on the back of a garment? Since I knew I would be using Extra for this design, I decided that I wanted it to have more of a jacket feel to it. I added the reverse Stockinette to the top and a peter pan collar and made it form-fitting through the shoulders and lots of ease around the bottom, making it like a vintage swing jacket. Extra’s excellent drape was perfect for a swing coat! This is one of those designs that came together fairly quickly: what was in my head worked out quite nicely on the needles!
Definitely make swatches and block them. Making sure you have the correct gauge is crucial to fit. It also helps you know how your yarn will work for the stitch pattern in the design.
Pick a yarn that has the same qualities as the yarn used for the sample, especially for designs that have cable or lace details. If the sample yarn has good stitch definition, pick a yarn with good stitch definition. If calls for both good stitch definition and drape like Evelyn, pick a yarn that has both—I recommend a wool blend like Extra.
Know how you like your sweaters to fit your particular body type. For example, if you are making a sweater that has set-in sleeves like Evelyn, how it will fit you across the back is important. You can adjust the bust while working on the sweater, but the across back can not be adjusted once you begin the sweater. A good approach is to measure a sweater you have that fits you exactly the way you like it, a method you can also use to figure out other measurements such as arm hole depth, upper arm, neck circumference, etc. This will help you to get a better fit.
Use the schematic to help you determine what size to make. Again using Evelyn as an example, check the back measurements on the schematic and pick the size that best matches your desired measurement. Then, if some of the other measurements are different from what you need, you can usually adjust them along the way. If you are not sure how to do this, you can always contact the designe—most are more than happy to help.
Finally, enjoy the process! It’s incredibly fun to watch a sweater come together on your needles.
Jennifer Wood began Wood House Knits in 2009. Her designs unite classic and modern styling with beautifully detailed patterns for a contemporary romantic feel. Most are created with top down construction that is easily adjustable, making them wearable and elegant.
Refined Knits (Interweave, 2016), Jennifer’s first book, showcases 18 of her beautiful designs. She also sells patterns through Ravelry and her own website: woodhouseknits.com. For Jennifer, designing knitwear is a wonderful adventure, allowing her to express her creative impulses and drawing her closer to the Creator of all. The creative process—watching and feeling abstract ideas take on a tangible form—continues to amaze her.