Spotlight On: Sweaters 101 - Teddy Bear Sweater - Cast on and Yoke

Pattern and supplies at the ready; it is time to cast on the sweater!

There are three rules I live by when knitting a sweater or, quite honestly, any project. Read the pattern carefully, think about your knitting (does this look right?), and count.

  • Read the pattern carefully - I cannot tell you how often I have been sitting in my chair knitting away, assuming that I am such a great knitter, so I know what happens next without looking at the pattern. Wrong!  Because I didn't refer to the pattern, I discovered I had missed a step or done something wrong.  Read the pattern as you go and let those highlighted sections (see last week's blog post) guide you.
  • Think about your knitting; use your common sense - if something looks odd, stop and assess it. Put your knitting down and look at it from a bit of a distance. Don't keep mindlessly knitting. If your neck opening looks huge or your stitch count is wrong, stop and fix it. 
  • Count - and recount - Stop and count often. This one step will keep you on track, and you will be able to see if you missed an increase or a decrease within a few rows.  It does take a couple of minutes to do so, but it can save you hours of ripping back and re-knitting. It is worth the time.

Ok, needles and yarn in hand, cast on. Do not cast on too tightly.  When I first started knitting, this was a very typical thing for me to do. You need the neck opening to go over the head of whomever you are knitting for.  The last thing you want to do is finish your sweater and realize you cannot get it on!  Over time, the tension in my cast-on has improved, but if you tend to cast on a bit tight, go up a needle size or two. (Don't forget to switch it back to the correct needle size when knitting the ribbing!)

Recount your cast-on stitches, so you are 100% certain you have the correct number of stitches to start. Next, you must join your stitches to knit in the round. Make sure you do not twist the cast on. I knit a couple of stitches and then put my knitting down on a table and push the cast-on edge into the center of the circle. I know I am good to go if they all lay in the center of the circle.  If you see a twist, tink back and re-join in the round.

Knit your ribbing and then place the markers as the pattern directs. Once you finish this step, count again to ensure they are all in the correct place. If these are in the incorrect place and you knit, your yoke will be skewed, and you will have to rip it out and re-knit.

My pattern called for short row shaping at the back of the neck while knitting increases on the yoke. First off, why short-row shaping? Short rows at the back of the sweater improve the fit by raising the back of the sweater to be higher than the front. The way the sweater sits on your shoulders and back is greatly improved. Very Pink Knits has a great video on German Short Rows.

My advice when working short rows is to block out a bit of time when you will not be disturbed and can complete the whole process.  You can easily lose track of where you are if you do not pay attention to your knitting.

The bee marks the beginning of the round, and the triangle markers delineate the raglan shaping for the back, sleeves, and front.

The next step in the Teddy Bear Sweater is very straightforward: you do your raglan increases every other row. As a practice, I count my stitches every four to five increase rounds. I ensure the count of the sleeves matches and the number of stitches for the front and back matches. If you are off, you have missed an increase. Stop and fix it before you continue.

When I am all done with the yoke, what do I do? Count my stitches to ensure all is well before I move on to the next section of the sweater. If I were knitting this sweater for myself, I would transfer the stitches to a TKB cord and try the sweater on to ensure that I like the fit of the yoke. Like counting, it takes a minute to do, but it is so worth it. 


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  • lucie on

    I am also working on this teddy bear sweater! I am working size 4-5yo but I couldn’t get enough neckline stitches on a short circular needle (pattern specified 3.5mm/16 inches – mine are 10inch cable with 4 inch needles) and have to do dpns, magic loop, or 2 circular needles. I am doing the latter. Did you also run into that?

    There have also been a few instances where I cannot make sense of the pattern instructions. After finishing the short rows, the pattern says to do 22 raglan increases for a total of 258 stitches (for size 4-5yo). I did the math and I get the total 258 stitches once I hit 18 increases. 22 increases would be going way over the total count. Wondering if you encountered this as well?

    Thank you!

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