At the end of 2019 I was asked to dye up a sweater quantity of a colourway I had in my yarn range at the time called Dry Stane Dyke (or in English, dry stone wall). I hadn’t written an exact recipe for the colourway, but knew the two main colours involved, a charcoal grey and a mix of yellows. How hard could it be?
The original was on a merino bamboo base, but the commission was for a 100% organic merino, so I knew the finished result would look a little different, but it turned out to be harder than I’d anticipated to get it right.
The grey and yellows kept blending and turning into green. I got there in the end, but along the way, I ended up with quite a few skeins of a rich, mossy, olive green which I loved so much I decided to keep it for myself.
I worked out I had enough to make a cardigan or sweater, but couldn’t find a pattern I liked, so I decided to make a very simple boxy shape, worked sideways in half double crochet (that’s US terminology, half treble in UK terms).
If you’re not already aware, there are two standard naming conventions for crochet stitches, British and American. I’m going to use American terminology from now on just to keep things simple. Even though I am British, I find American terms more logical.
I really don’t like maths and gauge swatching so I am not going to write a pattern for this, but for other experienced crocheters, I have created a schematic which will explain the process and you might just find that it’s something you could make yourself.
The front and back are worked in one piece, with stitches running sideways. The starting point shown in the diagram (click to enlarge) will end up being the bottom of your garment, sitting on your hip directly under the armpit.
I would recommend using a foundation stitch instead of a chain as it gives you a neater edge later when it comes to seaming.
A foundation stitch is an alternative to making a chain then turning and working into it. You effectively make the chain and the stitch at the same time.
This approach to making a garment means you can use any stitch you want. The yarn I used is a DK weight and I used a 4mm hook and started with a foundation half double crochet (fhdc).
You work the initial foundation row until it is the length you want. Fold it in half to get the centre point and place that on your shoulder to see where it comes to. Let it hang naturally and don’t stretch it. When you reach the length you’re happy with, I like to count the stitches and make it an even number.
Make a note of the number of stitches – you’ll need to divide it in two to get your half way point for later.
So you’re working from the bottom, up the front, over the shoulder and down the back.
Turn and continue to work in your chosen stitch until the work is the width you want for your front. To test it, fold in half and use safety pins (or locking stitch markers) to connect the sides together in a couple of places, leaving room to put your arm through and try it on. It needs to reach the side of your neck.
Count the number of rows you have at this point and make a note of it – this is how many rows you will stitch after you’ve finished the neck rows.
You will then work from the bottom of the back to the half way point (you made a note of it earlier, remember!), and work a few rows to cover the width of your neck.
When you are ready to come down the front again, stitch as normal to the end of your short row, then continue with foundation stitches to get back to your original length. That foundation row counts as row 1, so continue for the same number of rows as you made on the first side before the neck.
That’s the body of the cardigan done!
Fold in half, right sides together and use stitch markers to mark where the armhole starts. If you’re not sure how big the armhole depth should be, get out a sweater that fits and use that as a guide.
Count the stitches up from the bottom of both the front and back and put your stitch marker through the same stitch of both layers. Do the same on both sides of the cardigan then seam your pieces up the sides, either sewing or crocheting the two layers together.
Open the cardigan up and single crochet along the bottom, working into the edges of your rows. This might be the trickiest part as it can take a bit of trial and error to get the right number of stitches when working into row edges. If your work starts to frill, you’ve got too many stitches (unless you want a frill), if it puckers, you have too few.
You could stop at this point or you could add ribbing or a decorative band. I worked a decorative band (hdc, sc into the same stitch, skip a stitch, repeat), but had to go up to a 5mm hook as it was pulling in too tight.
You can work the bottom band separate to the front band, but I chose to work right round the bottom and up the front, across the neck (again working into the row edges) and down the front to where I started. I put three stitches into the bottom corners to keep them square.
My front band is about 4.5 inches wide and creates a stand up collar at the back. I have enough room to add buttons if I want to, but for now I’m happy with it being an edge to edge cardigan.
To make the sleeves, you will need to do a little maths. The depth of the armhole will be much bigger than the depth you need at the wrist, so you will need to do some decreasing. To guess how many stitches I would need at the wrist, I wrapped the fabric round my wrist loosely and counted the stitches.
So my armhole depth was 90 stitches and I needed to get down to about 56 stitches, so I needed to loose 34 stitches along the length of my arm. I decided, the simplest way was to decrease one stitch on each round until I got to 56 stitches, then continue without decreasing until the sleeves were the length I wanted. The rate of decrease will depend on the shape and length of your arms and the stitch you are using.
Once my sleeves were an inch or two from the length I wanted, I switched to my decorative stitch for the last 8 rows to match the neck and bottom band. This time I didn’t go up a hook size as I wanted the cuffs to pull in a little.
Because the body was worked back and forth, I decided to turn at the end of each round when working the sleeves. Half double crochet is flatter when worked in the round, but has a slightly ribbed texture when worked back and forth in opposite directions. This did cause me a bit of a headache with stitch counts, so I ended up marking my first and last stitch on every round so I knew exactly which stitch to slip stitch into at the end. I made my decrease by crocheting two together immediately before the last stitch of the round.
The beauty of crochet is that you can lay it flat and measure it as you go along and try it on once you reach a certain point. This is a lot harder to do with knitted garments, but the schematic and principles of this construction would certainly work for a knitted garment as well. You’d just need to do a gauge swatch and work out the maths in advance.
The real clever clogs amongst you will also have worked out by now that you could start at one cuff and work the whole thing through to the other cuff, then seam from the cuff under the arm and down the sides. I might try that some time!
So as I said at the start, not a pattern or even a set of instructions, just some notes on how I made my cardigan. But if you’re anything like me (an experienced, but maths-shy crocheter), you might find this is enough to get you motivated to create a garment.
Good luck and if you do make anything from this, please let me know, I’d love to see!