Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The MOST important step for a good fit

I know most who read this will hate to hear it. But the most important step to get a good fit for a sweater is to knit a gauge swatch before you begin. You cannot depend on the yarn band to tell you what your gauge is because everyone knits a little differently.

Now that you know what I'm going to talk about, please continue reading anyway because I will give you a tip to make this much easier before the end. And it's a tip that I have not heard anywhere else, though of course nothing is really new in the 1000 year old craft of knitting.

Just to drive the point home, suppose the yarn band says the gauge is "20 sts = 4 inches" using Size US5 needles, but in fact your gauge is 22 sts in 4 inches with those needles. The band is claiming 5 stitches per inch, but your fabric is going to be 5 1/2 sts per inch. If you knit a sweater that is supposed to have a 40" chest circumference and the pattern calls for (40 x 5 =) 200 stitches around the chest, your 200 stitches will be only 36" inches around. Your sweater will be 4 inches tighter than you wanted it to be!

There is no way to be sure you will get the fit you desire if you don't start by getting accurate stitch and row gauges for your work. That means, knitting a swatch and blocking it the same way you will block and wash your sweater after it is completed, and then measuring at least 4 or 5 inches and counting the stitches or rows in that measure. Blocking can also change the gauge, so make sure you block your gauge swatch before measuring. Suzanne Bryan even suggests carrying the swatch around in your pocket or purse for a week or so in order to get it to be exactly the gauge your sweater will have after being worn for a while.

Why don't we all do it?

I know, we all have excellent reasons. But it basically boils down to this. You found a pattern you love, hopefully one you created here on Then you picked out the yarn that will make a spectacular piece of work. Now you just can't wait to get started on the real thing. Taking time to knit a throw-away little piece just seems like an unbearable task! But, trust me, you don't want to spend weeks knitting a sweater only to try it on and realize you have to find a much smaller or much larger person to give it to. The whole point of designs is to allow you to create a sweater that perfectly fits the person you are creating it for. Please don't ever think that our custom fit patterns do not fit because you did not first work a swatch. I beg you!

Now the good news

Guess what! You do not have to knit a 5" by 5" swatch to get accurate row and stitch gauges. Instead, knit two swatches, one for the row gauge and one for the knit gauge. The row gauge should be enough stitches to create a 5 inch wide swatch, which you then work for 1 1/2 inches and bind off. Then you create a 1 1/2" wide swatch and work it 5 inches for the row gauge. I recommend 5 inches in each direction rather than 4 because the more stitches or rows, the more accurate the gauge.

The 5x5 inch swatch you may have worked is a total of 25 square inches. But the two swatches you will work is only 15 square inches! You have avoided 10 square inches of swatch knitting and you still have 5 inches of work to measure in each direction.

Surely it is worth the time to knit 15 square inches of fabric to make sure you will love the finished project.

The next question is, should you knit your swatch in the round? I answered that in a later post.

Sunday, July 14, 2019


Welcome! As I get ready to launch this website, let me tell you what you can do at once it goes live, and also tell you a little about myself. But first, if you would like to be alerted when the website goes live, enter your email in the box at the right and I will create a blog entry here on that date and you will receive the notice of that blog entry.

I was motivated to create this website to share with you an innovative method of knitting sweaters with set-in sleeves, which I have developed and improved over the past year. You probably know that a sweater with set-in sleeves fits better than some other styles as it does not produce the bulk of fabric under the arms like drop shoulder and modified drop shoulder designs. But you may also have heard that set-in sleeves are the most difficult to work. Traditionally, these sweaters are worked in several different pieces. The body is created with holes where the sleeves are attached and then the sleeves, worked separately, are seamed into that hole. But that seam is one of the most difficult to get right.

An alternative method that has gained in popularity in recent years avoids that difficult seaming task by working the body first and then picking up stitches around the sleeve opening, working short rows across the top of the sleeve cap, and then finishing the sleeve in the round from there to the wrist. 

In both of these construction techniques, even if the lower body is worked in the round, the back and the front of the body from the underarm to the shoulder seam must be worked flat. This makes it difficult to use a pattern that is not conducive to alternating right side rows and wrong side rows, like for instance Fair Isle patterns and Austrian-Bavarian/Alpine patterns (which, unlike Aran patterns, usually call for cross-overs on every row, not every other row). So even if you use the easier alternative construction technique, you are still limited in the style of patterns above the base of the armhole.

The origin of Phrancko's Seamless Set-in Sleeves

Of course nothing is new in the thousand year old craft of knitting, so it is unlikely that I have invented something no one else has ever done. But as far as I know, no one is currently suggesting the exact algorithm of shaping the set-in sleeves that I now call "Phrancko's Seamless Set-in Sleeves." A less developed form of this technique was briefly described by Barbara Walker in her book Knitting from the Top.  After following up on some suggestions by JC Briar, I have simply expanded on that technique to create a true bell-shaped sleeve cap. I also published an article called "Learn Something New--Phrancko's Seamless Set-in Sleeves" in the Fall 2018 issue of Cast On magazine describing a simplified version of the calculations.

The beauty of this technique is that you work in the round from the neck down, including both the front and back of the sweater at the same time as the sleeve caps.  The two initial patterns presented here are a traditional crew neck sweater and a saddle shoulder sweater, also with a crew neck, both worked from the top down. Only the part of the sweater at the very top at the sides of the neck is worked flat, allowing for all kinds of pattern designs to be used on the chest, back and sleeve caps.

The algorithm I have developed has been tested using ordinary gauges for sizes child through adult as well as with yarn weights from Light (#3) through Jumbo (#7). It may in fact work for other sizes, gauges, and yarn weights, but frankly I have not been able to try all the thousands of possible variations.

Customized sweaters from

This website was created to allow you to enter the exact measurements of a person for whom you are knitting a sweater. You also describe the yarn you are using along with the needle size as well as the stitch gauge and row gauge for that yarn and needle size. Finally you enter a few specifics for the sweater itself, like the hem length for this particular sweater and the fit (or multiple fits) you desire for this pattern to produce, for example undersized, tight, standard, loose, or oversized. A customized pattern is then produced for all the fits you selected for that particular person using your specific yarn and needle size. These are not your usual Small, Medium, Large, etc. sizes. The multiple sizes you may choose to have in your pattern are all custom sized for the same person, just different fits.

In short you are generating a pattern for a custom sized sweater for a particular person, possibly with different fits, using the yarn and needle size of your choice.

My Story

My name is Frank H. Jernigan, aka Phrancko. I retired in 2005 after a 28 year career as a software developer at the age of 59. A few years later I took up knitting as a hobby. I had learned the basics and knitting a few things thirty years earlier, but I had put it aside to focus on my software career. I was immediately smitten with my new craft. A couple years later, after knitting a few scarves and a couple of sweaters, I heard about the Master Hand Knitting program offered by The Knitting Guild Association (TKGA). I immediately signed up for the course and charged ahead, driven by a desire to learn everything I could about my newfound craft. Two years later, in September, 2017, I was awarded the Master of Hand Knitting Certificate. Since then I have published at least one pattern in every issue of Cast On magazine starting with the Spring 2018 issue. I no longer tell people I am retired. I have started a new career as a knitwear designer. And I am well into my 70's! I guess that proves it's never too late to get started when you find something you love to do.