Sunday, May 2, 2021

 Here is Newsletter #1 that was sent on April 5. I don't know if I will continue posting these every month so if you want to subscribe, log into If you don't see the subscription form at the top of the next page, click "Help" at the top of the screen and you will see it there.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Measuring for a Woman's Sweater

I have been asked a few times, "Do I take the chest measurement across the bust or at the high bust area?" So I think it's time I answer that here. 

The simple answer is that it is probably better to take the measurement in the high bust area.

Here is what Amy Herzog says about it in her book Knit to Flatter:

Your upper torso circumference [or high bust measurement] is the single most important measurement you can take when knitting sweaters because it can and should be used as your "full bust size" when selecting a "base" pattern size to knit for yourself. When you choose a size based on your upper torso circumference, all of your seaters will fit nicely in the hardest area of the sweater to modify: the shoulders.

This is true of the Phrancko Sweater pattern as well. The shoulder width is determined from the chest measurement and it is constant no matter what fit is chosen because your shoulders do not get wider just because you want to work a looser fit. 

This is, in fact, one of the advantages of creating a custom-fit Phrancko Sweater pattern. Patterns published as Small, Medium, Large, etc. increase the shoulder width and all other measurements as you go up in size. Notice that the Phrancko sweater has only one size for shoulder width, neck width, and arm length for every fit because these measurements do not vary with ease.

If you have a sweater that fits the way you like, then after entering the high bust measurement for your chest circumference, simply measure the width of that sweater and choose the fit that gives the same chest measurement in the schematic on the page before you purchase it.

For large busted women however that may produce sleeves that are wider than desired (even though the shoulders will fit nicely). In that case, one could select a more standard fit to generate your "base" pattern and then modify it as necessary to either add darts or short rows in the front. The pattern does not describe how to do this so that depends on your ability to modify patterns to suit you. Again, I refer you to Amy Herzog's book for suggestions how to do that.

As a side note, remember this: Any and all inputs may be modified until you purchase the pattern. So pay careful attention to the schematic on the "Submit Payment" page. If anything does not suit you, click the "Change Sizes" button, then click other buttons to return to any page where you have input data. For instance, if you really think the shoulders are too narrow, go all the way back to your measurements and make the chest measurement larger. This will increase the shoulder width as well. Then choose a tighter fit to get the chest measurement back down to where you wanted it. Be careful though! The shoulder width may look narrow to you because the sleeves are set in. The mock seams between body and sleeve should be straight lines directly up from the underarm to the shoulder for a true set-in sleeve fit. So making this modification should only be done if you are experienced enough to know exactly how wide the shoulders should be for your set-in sleeved sweaters.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Updated Calculation of Bell Shaping

In the latest version of the pattern (Version 1.14 07-07-20) I have made an improvement to the bell shaping of the sleeve cap. What motivated the change? How did the shape change? How different is it? How has the pattern changed? Here are the answers...

What motivated the change? 

As I worked my latest sweater, when I got to the sleeve cap shaping, I noticed something that bothered me. The shaping usually is worked in three stages, each with different numbers of rounds between increases. For instance, the first stage may work increases every other row, the second work increases every third row, and the third every other row again. These three stages are intended to approximate the bell shape used in the caps of set-in sleeves. But sometimes, and in fact more often than I liked, one or even two of these stages had zero repeats. In particular the pattern I am currently working, had exactly one repeat in the first stage, 14 repeats in the second stage, and zero repeats in the third stage. That means there is almost no shaping and the cap has gotten reduced to having straight sides. We sometimes call that construction the "witches hat" sleeve cap, because it is flat across the top and has straight angled sides and then is flat again across the bottom. Well, actually Phrancko sweater patterns are never completely that way since there are always a couple of rows of rounding at the top and then a diagonal section at the bottom. But nevertheless, the collapse of the shaping into straight sides bothered me. So I took another look at the algorithm.

How did the shape change? 

Instead of having three stages of shaping down the sides, I have introduced five stages of shaping. Where they typically did increases every 2, then 3, then 2 rounds (or 3, then 5, then 3 rounds), the new shaping does increases every 2, then 3, then 5, then 3, then 2 rounds. Or alternatively they may use other ratios, like 1/2/3/2/1 or 2/3/5/3/2 or 3/5/8/5/3 or less likely even 4/6/10/6/4 or 5/8/13/8/5. (You may notice my use of the Fibonacci sequence here, 1 2 3 5 8 13, which is intentional.) With more stages, the pattern does not so easily collapse into straight angled sides when one or more stages has zero repeats.

How different is it? 

The change is actually very slight, amazingly enough. In fact it deviates only one stitch away on each side from what the pattern formerly did. Here is a mapping of one side of the sleeve cap which compares the original shaping with the new shaping:

Since the tiny key at the bottom is illegible (thank you,, the blue lines indicate the original shaping and the dark red lines indicate the new shaping. As you see, the cap is only a total of two stitches wider in the top half and two stitches narrower in the bottom half. But it is in fact closer to being a bell-shaped curve.

How has the pattern changed?

The only part of the pattern that changed is the Sleeve Cap Shaping section. Here are the instructions from the earlier version of the pattern for the sweater I am currently working on:

Sleeve Cap Shaping

CONSTRUCTION NOTE—Work increases as follows (these incs are on the sleeve cap, not on the body):

  • Sleeve Cap Increases: Work pat as est to marker, sm, M1L, knit to next marker, M1R, sm, continue pat as est.

Shape the caps as follows:

  • Work an Increase Row/Rnd every other row/rnd, 2 (0, 1, 1, 1, 1, 0) times—21 (19, 22, 23, 23, 24, 24) sts between sleeve markers.
  • Work an Increase Row/Rnd every third row/rnd, 9 (12, 12, 13, 14, 15, 19) times—39 (43, 46, 49, 51, 54, 62) sts between sleeve markers.
  • Work an Increase Row/Rnd every other row/rnd, 1 (0, 0, 0, 0, 1, 0) times—41 (43, 46, 49, 51, 56, 62) sts between sleeve markers.

As you see, it's a 2/3/2 stage pattern where the Standard size (the bolded numbers) has only one repeat in the first stage and zero repeats in the third stage, reducing it to almost a straight line--not exactly a bell-shaped curve. 

And here are the instructions from the updated version of the pattern:

Shape the caps as follows:

  • Work an Increase Row/Rnd every other row/rnd, 3 (1, 2, 3, 3, 3, 2) times—23 (21, 24, 27, 27, 28, 28) sts between sleeve markers.
  • Work an Increase Row/Rnd every third row/rnd, 3 (4, 4, 3, 4, 4, 6) times—29 (29, 32, 33, 35, 36, 40) sts between sleeve markers.
  • Work an Increase Row/Rnd every fifth row/rnd, 1 (1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2) times—31 (31, 34, 37, 39, 40, 44) sts between sleeve markers.
  • Work an Increase Row/Rnd every third row/rnd, 3 (5, 5, 4, 4, 5, 7) times—37 (41, 44, 45, 47, 50, 58) sts between sleeve markers.
  • Work an Increase Row/Rnd every other row/rnd, 2 (1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 2) times—41 (43, 46, 49, 51, 56, 62) sts between sleeve markers.

So now we have a 2/3/5/3/2 stage pattern where every stage has a few repeats. Even if it doesn't make much difference in the actual shape of the cap, I find that much more satisfying as a bell-shaped set-in sleeve cap. 

For comparison, the diagram above is made precisely from the Standard size of these two variants of the pattern I am currently working.

And a final note

If you download your pattern now, you will get the latest version. However, since the change was localized to this section of the sweater, I was able to preserve the previous version for anyone who has started the older version without printing it and is still in the middle of the sleeve caps. There is a link in the header box that will allow you to revert to the older version. This link will not be there forever, however. So I hope anyone who is in that state will print the older version of the pattern now, before it goes away.

Happy sweater knitting!


Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Two new how-to videos

I just posted two videos to demonstrate how to work two of the most difficult steps in working a pattern at They both are related to the Crew Neck pattern, but soon there will also be a V-neck pattern that will use these same techniques.

Here are the videos:

How to pick up stitches to start the front of a Phrancko sweater

How to pick up stitches across the tops of the sleeve caps

Happy knitting!


Saturday, November 9, 2019

Should you work your swatch in the round?

The answer to that question is, "It depends." Some knitters can get away with working the swatch flat and some may need to work the swatch in the round. If your knit stitches are not the same size as your purl stitches, then you definitely should work your swatch in the round because the sweaters from patterns are all worked in the round. So they are made up entirely of knit stitches (except for a little bit on the shoulders of course). So naturally if half the stitches in your swatch are purled then your gauge for the swatch would not match the gauge on the sweater. So you would need to knit your swatch in the round and enter that gauge when you create your pattern.

How can you tell which you are? There are two ways to find out.

  • If you have a Stockinette stitch swatch that was knitted flat, look carefully at the back of the swatch and see if there are gutters between every other row of purl bumps. The gutters are the result of knits and purls being two different sizes. So if your swatch has them, you should knit your swatch in the round. Here are pictures of a swatch that has gutters.  Notice that you can also see enlarged rows of knit stitches on the right side. But sometimes these are even harder to notice. By looking across the swatch, the gutters and the enlarged rows, also call "rowing out," are more visible. 

Gutters, looking straight at the swatch
The same gutters, looking across the swatch
Rowing out, looking across the swatch

  • However, some people who are not used to looking for gutters just don't seem to see them when they are there. I know because I review submissions to the Master Hand Knitting program of TKGA and the first thing to do in the program is knit a swatch and answer the question, "Do you see gutters on the back?" It is not uncommon for people to say "no" when I see very prominent gutters. So if you are not sure, here is the sure way to find out. Knit a swatch in the round and then knit a swatch flat and see if the two gauges are the same or not. You don't have to do this every time you start a project. Just do it once and then you'll know whether you need to work your swatch in the round or not if the project is worked in the round.

How to knit a swatch in the round

You should always knit your swatch using the same needles you will use to work the garment. I assume that since we are knitting sweaters, that means you are using circular needles (I guess you could use very large double-pointed needles. I don't recommend that though). The obvious, but slower method, would be to cast on enough stitches to knit your swatch in the round, probably using the magic loop method or the two circular needles method to avoid having to work a 16 inch circular swatch. You could then steek (cut) the swatch from top to bottom, flatten it, block it, and then take your gauge measurements. 

But here's a simple method. Using your circular needles, cast on enough stitches for a 5 or 6 inch swatch plus about 5 or 6 extra stitches. Knit a row and then push the stitches back to the other needle. Drape a loose section of working yarn across the back of the swatch and knit another row. Push the stitches back to the other needle and continue in this manner until you have worked the size you need to work.

You can still use the two swatch method I described in an earlier blog entry. Just create each one as I just described with drapes of working yarn across the back.

You should block your swatch before you measure the gauge since blocking can change the gauge. And you also should cut the loops of yarn that are draped across the back so they don't mess with your measuring. Finally, there will be as many as three loose stitches at each edge of the swatch, so don't include them in your measurement. That's why we added 5 or 6 extra stitches when we did the cast on.

And please do not skip the swatching step. As I said in the earlier post, there is nothing more important to create a garment that fits. Your gauge will almost never match the gauge on the yarn band. 

My Workshop Last Weekend

I had the great privilege last weekend of leading a workshop for the What the Knit Guild in Bakersfield, CA. Sixteen women took part and worked through all the details of knitting a crew neck and a saddle shoulder sweater using the pattern on We has such a good time and I can't wait to see the sweaters they now produce. Check out (or click the Forum link at the top of any page) to meet some of the women who were there. Hopefully we will also get to see their works in progress and their finished garments as well.

The What the Knit Guild is led by one of my favorite teachers, Suzanne Bryan. If you are not familiar with her videos, check out her channel Knitting with Suzanne Bryan.

Happy knitting!


Saturday, October 19, 2019

Crochet Cast On - New Video

Crochet Cast On

Yesterday my sister Carol Ann asked me if I could help her learn how to do the crochet cast on that I recommend using at the underarm in the patterns generated at I first made a video just for her, but then I realized it might be useful for everyone to see how I do it. Also, that first video only showed how to get the stitches onto the needle, but did not include how to pick them up later, which can also be a bit tricky. All the patterns tell you to cast on a number of stitches but then later tell you to pick up one more stitch than you cast on. You may be wondering why that is the case also.

So I expanded the video to produce a full explanation of the crochet cast on, how to work it, why there are more stitches in the opposite direction than you originally cast on, and how to pick up those stitches when you are ready to do that.

Happy knitting!

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Picking up Stitches at Cast On Edge in the Crew Neck Pattern

UPDATE: There is now a video demonstrating how to do this. Check it out at:
How to pick up stitches for the front of the sweater

The following is the original blog post:

In the Crew Neck pattern, one of the most confusing parts, yet very important to do correctly, is this line:

Front Shoulders

With WS facing and CO edge of left side at the top, using the needle emerging from the sweater's left side below and a separate strand of yarn for each piece, pick up purlwise and purl XX sts from the middle of each st of the CO row—XX sts on each piece.
I have tried to explain it in response to a question in the PhranckoForum but it is very difficult to put into words. However, knowing the proverbial "picture = 1000 words" here is a picture that I hope will make it perfectly clear:

As you see, we have "the WS [wrong side] facing" and we are looking only at the "left side" of the sweater, the one that does not have the right side marker, and we have oriented it with the "CO [cast on] edge at the top." We are about to use the needle that is "emerging from the sweater's left side" which is actually on your right side. And we have positioned the point of the needle to pick up purlwise starting in the selvedge stitch directly above where needle emerges from the work.
Now it's perfectly clear, right? I sure hope so. This is the most important reason for marking the right side of the sweater. Without that, would you know that this picture is looking at the left side? It's upside down and wrong side facing. Now that is very confusing!

How do we then pick up the stitches purlwise?

We want to pick up the same number of stitches that we cast on in the beginning. That means we need to pick up one stitch in every single cast on stitch, including the selvedge stitch at each end. Each stitch other than the selvedges looks like a V, when you are looking at the fabric on the right side and also not upside down. You want to pick up a stitch in the middle of every one of those V's, right next to the cast on edge. For the selvedge stitches, you just have to find a good place to pick up a stitch since it doesn't look like a V. But the main thing is not to forget to do it or you will not have enough stitches and the connected edge will not be flat. 

To pick up purlwise, you insert the needle from the RS (i.e., the far side since the WS is facing you) through to the WS, wrap the needle and then pull it through the fabric. Then you insert the needle in the next stitch from the RS to the WS. It will feel like you are purling since you insert the needle towards you as in making a purl stitch, hence the name "pick up purlwise."

A Wonderful Visit with my Sister

I just completed a visit with my sister in Maine and we had such a great time together. She has a couple of friends who came over to let me show them all how to get started on the crew neck sweater pattern. We worked from a baby-sized pattern so we could get through the entire process of creating the shoulders and starting the sleeve caps, the only difficult part of the pattern. We had such a good time!

Here are the three beautiful knitters patiently enduring my hovering over them to make sure they did everything exactly right.

And here I am reminding my sister how to do the standard long tail cast on. She taught me to knit when we were teenagers. Since she always uses the knitted cast on, it was so nice to return the favor all these decades later and show her some things in return.
We also went to a yarn store and bought yarn for her sweater, so the next day we generated a custom-fit pattern for her and started her sweater. The picture above, as you can see, was taken on her plaid table cloth and it is a picture of the start of her sweater using Cascade 220 Aran yarn.

Happy knitting!