Big Jimmy Jab knitalong week 1 – German short rows

One of the things I really love about the Big Jimmy Jab jumper is how sneakily simple it is.

I say “sneakily”, because it looks like it’s going to be a bit of a fancy knit, what with that colourwork yoke and all. I’ll talk soon about how the colourwork is actually infinitely easier than it looks, but today, in the very first week of the knitalong, I’m going to talk about German short rows.

I’ve talked about German short rows before, see because I absolutely love them. I use them all the bloomin’ time, for all sorts of things. But in the Big Jimmy Jab, they’ve got a very simple purpose. And they appear early on in the knitting, which is why I’m talking about them now.

Short rows sound scary. What are they?

What short rows are is, in fact, not at all scary. The simplest way to explain them is this:

Short rows are where you only knit part of a row, before turning your work and knitting back the other way.

Not scary, see? You have to do a little bit of jiggery-pokery after you turn your work, but it’s the easiest jiggery-pokery you’ll ever do.

The point of that jiggery-pokery? It stops a hole forming when you go back to knitting across the full width of your work.

How do you work a German short row?

Handily, I’ve already done a little video tutorial on YouTube showing exactly how to work German short rows. So, when you get to that point in the Big Jimmy Jab pattern, watch it and you’ll know exactly what to do.

Plus the video features our dear old cat Matilda. So if I can’t entice you with that then…well. I’m not sure we can be friends.

What do the German short rows do in the Big Jimmy Jab?

They serve a very simple purpose – and one that you’ll find in a lot of sweater designs. Working these short rows at the back of the neckline raises that back neckline a bit.

Take a look at the start of my Big Jimmy Jab in the photo above. See how the circle of knitting is a bit thicker at the top than the bottom? That’s because of the short rows. They’ve added a lovely little wedge of extra fabric at the back of the neck.

And that wedge of fabric may seem unimportant, but it makes a big difference to the fit of your jumper. It has the effect of of creating a bit of a slope to the neckline, so it’s not coming up too high at the front and getting a bit uncomfortable on the neck.

And it makes it easier to work out which is the front and which is the back. Which is always helpful.

Want to join in with the Big Jimmy Jab knitalong?

It’s really easy to come join the fun. All you need to do is post a photo of your project with on Instagram with the hashtag #bigjimmyjabKAL

Everyone who uses the tag will get entered into a draw to win free patterns, with a big prize of a £35 voucher to use at lovely yarn shop No Frills Knitting.

The knitalong is running til the end of May, so you’ve got plenty of time to join in.

Picking a size for the Big Jimmy Jab jumper

The Big Jimmy Jab knitalong is kicking off in just over a week, so I thought I’d share some handy tips on how to pick a size. For the Big Jimmy Jab is not, you see, like other circular yoked jumpers. (I’m trying and failing to resist the urge to say “it’s a cool jumper” here, because many, many jumpers are cool. But MEAN GIRLS REFERENCE. Got to be done.)

You see, I’ve always had a bit of an issue with circular yoked jumpers. Not such a big one that I’ve stopped knitting them, or a big enough one for me to attempt to start a campaign against them. But they’ve always just…got on my tits.

Specifically, they’ve got on my tits wrong.

Why don’t boobs and circular yokes get along?

There’s a simple problem with a circular yoked jumper; they’re the exact same width on the front and back. That may be fine for some, but if like me you are “blessed” (I use the quotation marks because of back pain) with what is referred to in polite company as a “full bust”, then you might find this fact a bit troublesome.

Because you choose the size to knit based on your full bust circumference, plus the intended ease, you often end up having to pick a size that will fit your boobs but not the rest of your body. It can make for a jumper that totally swamps you, which is…well, annoying. A bit of waist shaping might take it in and do away with some of the “boob tent” effect, but it’s never going to be a properly good fit.

And how does the Big Jimmy Jab jumper fit boobs better?

In short; because I’ve stolen a concept that has long been used in sewing and have decided to apply it to knitting. The bust adjustment.

The basic principle is simple: you knit a sweater that fits the rest of your body, and then make extra space for your boobs. It solves all your annoying fit problems in one; the shoulders are the right size. The upper back doesn’t gape. The sweater doesn’t make you look several months pregnant.

So how do I pick a size for the Big Jimmy Jab?

The simplest way to explain it is to give you a look at the size chart. Because while you’re often told to pick a size based on your bust measurement, things are a little different for the old Big Jimmy Jab.

See that second column there, “actual upper bust”? That’s the key measurement for the Big Jimmy Jab. You want to be measuring that on yourself (here’s a handy tutorial on how to do that), and then picking the size that’s closest to that. Obviously, the normal rules of fit apply here; if you’re between sizes and want a looser fit, then go for the bigger size. If you’re looking for something a bit more fitted, then go down.

Once you’ve got your upper bust measurement and picked a size, you need to decide whether to work the bust adjustment. I’ve put two measurements in for the finished chest circumference of the jumper – with, and without the bust adjustment. Think about whether you want/need the additional space that the bust adjustment gives you, and then you’re golden.

But what about wearing ease?

Well, that’s all factored into the sizing table; the jumper is designed to have 4-6in (10-15cm) of positive ease, so that it’s got a loose, comfy fit to it. That means the finished chest measurements for the jumper are that 4-6in (10-15cm) bigger than the actual chest measurement of the body they’re intended to fit.

So, let’s take me as an example. I have an upper bust measurement of ~39in, and a full bust measurement of 46-47in. So I’ve knitted myself both a size 5 without a bust adjustment to get a boxy, cropped sweater, and a size 4 with a bust adjustment to get a slightly more “classic” fit.

And when it comes to my jumper for the knitalong, I’m going completely rogue and knitting myself a size 3 with bust adjustment, for a close-fitting jumper that for once will be relatively close-fitting all over.

The lesson here? You can make pretty much whatever fit you want, but for once your boobs will have been factored into the equation. Nice, hey?

If you want to know more about adjusting jumper patterns to fit your boobs, I run an online workshop all about it.

Big Jimmy Jab Knitalong

I published my new sweater pattern, the Big Jimmy Jab jumper, at the start of February. And to celebrate, I’m hosting a knitalong (or KAL, if you’re down with the knitting lingo). It’s all kicking off on Monday 28 February with a zoom cast-on party at 8pm (UK time) – although you can join in at any time.

What the heck is a knitalong and how do I join in?

Simply put, it’s a bunch of people knitting the same people at the same time and sharing their progress. I’m hosting this one over on Instagram, using the #bigjimmyjabkal hashtag. To join in, all you’ve got to do is post a picture (or reel, if you’re feeling a bit fancy) of your project using that tag.

If you need to grab a copy of the pattern then you can do that on Ravelry or Payhip.

Why the Big Jimmy Jab?

I really bloomin’ love the Big Jimmy Jab jumper. It’s pretty much the ultimate in “way easier than it looks” – it has all the appearance of a fancy colourwork jumper, with none of the actual stranded colourwork.

It’s top-down, it’s seamless, it’s size-inclusive, and it’s got an optional bust adjustment that means you can knit a jumper that properly fits even if you’ve got massive norks.

And there’s a miniature version in the form of original Jimmy Jab Jumper (fun fact: if you buy both the Big Jimmy Jab and the original Jimmy Jab then you get a 27% discount on the patterns).

Frankly, why wouldn’t I host a knitalong for it?

But I’m a beginner knitter. Is the Big Jimmy Jab jumper simple enough for me to knit?

Oh, this is one of the great joys of the Big Jimmy Jab Jumper. It’s an exceedingly straightforward knit, and a great choice of first sweater.

If you can cast on, cast off, knit, purl, increase, and decrease, then you can knit this. You’ll need to work in the round, but that’s actually infinitely easy than it sounds; all you do is just keep knitting. Plus I’ll be sharing lots of hints and tips along the way so that even if you get stuck, you’ll have help and support to get through it.

It looks like it’s got colourwork. Is that actually easy to knit?

Here’s the (not actually secret) secret about the Big Jimmy Jab jumper; that’s not stranded colourwork.

The yoke is worked using a technique that’s officially called mosaic knitting, but I like to think of it as stripes with ideas above their station. You’re only ever knitting with one colour at a time, you see, and all the fancy-looking effect is created by slipping stitches. Which is just moving a stitch from one needle to the other without actually doing anything at it at all.

So if you can join in a new yarn – which you can, because you just start knitting with it and then sew the ends in later – then you can totally knit that not-actually-colourwork-colourwork. And if you still don’t believe me, then I’ll be sharing some tutorials during the KAL to just really prove my point.

What yarn do I need?

The Big Jimmy Jab uses DK-weight yarn, so you’ve got a whole load of options to pick from. I worked my red sample in DyeBath Merino mix 250 from Wool in Bath, which is a spectacularly good value hand-dyed yarn. I knitted the size 4 with the bust adjustment, and only needed two skeins.

My pink sample was knitted using West Yorkshire Spinners Croft DK, but any yarn that knits to gauge will do.

And those little stripes are great for using up scraps; the pattern even gives you a breakdown of exactly how much you need for each stripe in each size.

Are there any prizes?

Why yes indeed. Once the KAL comes to an end at the end of May I’ll be holding a random draw of all entrants to win free patterns, or a £35 voucher from No Frills Knitting. Because obviously the thing all knitters always need is more yarn. Always. There’s never enough yarn.

Fancy joining in? Then you can sign up for the Zoom cast-on party now – or just post on Instagram using the #bigjimmyjabkal

And yes, if you’ve already started your version then you can absolutely just start tagging your posts with that and I’ll very much allow it. I’m just so very kind.

The Day off Badge Tee is a lazy knitter’s dream

A few weeks ago, on an absolute whim, I decided to do some polls on Instagram to find out what bits of knitting people hated the most. You know, all those fiddly little bits that we just really can’t be bothered with because inherently, it seems, a lot of knitters just like knitting and hate all the other bits that come along with it.

What started out as my being bored while trapped in the playroom turned into a bit of a contest where I pitted all those fiddly knitting skills against each other until we’d found the worst part of knitting. The thing everyone hates. The absolute pariah of the yarncraft world.

Seaming.

Why do so many knitters hate seaming?

Results from my little insta-poll

OF COURSE it’s seaming that knitters hate the most. OF COURSE it is. There is nothing worse than finishing knitting a garment and then realising that you still have to spend bloody hours sewing the whole thing together before you can wear it. That sense of achievement at casting off is immediately ruined by the realisation that you still have a metric butt-tonne of work to do before you can block your work, let alone wear it.

Trust me on this. I have many a project that has been abandoned somewhere in a pile of yarn because it had the audacity to require a bit of seaming.

I mean, if I wanted to sew then I’d sew, wouldn’t I?

We’re all kind of lazy knitters

If there’s one thing that did surprise me a bit from the results though, it’s the realisation that almost every knitter is, at heart, a bit of a lazy one. Nobody seems to universally love all parts of knitting. There’s always a corner that you want to cut, or a technique you don’t want to do, or a bit of the process you’d rather just avoid.

It goes back to something else I said on my Instagram stories; my driving instructor used to say you had to learn to drive two ways. The way that means you pass your test, and the way that people drive in the real world. I swear knitting is JUST like that. There’s how you’re meant to do it, with swatching and mattress stitch and using the suggested yarn, and then there’s how a lot of us actually do it.

Erm…I thought this was about the Day Off Badge Tee?

White woman standing in front of a plain wall wearing a lace handknit tee.

It is. For it occured to me after I’d finished posting these polls that I’d accidentally done a bit of a guerrilla marketing campaign for my newest design, the Day Off Badge tee (Ravelry link). For this pattern is the lazy knitter’s dream.

When I was designing the Day Off Badge tee, I basically did it in a way that avoided all the bits of a project that I hate doing. Obviously, since I hate seaming, it’s knitted in the round (although, fun fact, it’s very easy to convert to knitting flat if you fancy because as well as being full charted, the lace panel is written out for knitting both in the round, and flat).

Going the extra mile to avoid seaming

But the technique avoidance didn’t stop there. I get annoyed by seaming shoulders, because…well, it’s sewing again, isn’t it? So I decided to join the shoulders on this one with a three needle bind-off. I could tell you that’s because doing it that way gives a lovely stable seam for such a light and floaty garment to hang off. I could. But while the statement about the stability of a three needle bind-off is true, any claim that that was why I used it would be an outright lie.

Another thing that came up a lot as being absolutely awful to knit: picking up stitches. I know from chatting to people on my online knitting workshops, and in my Patreon knit nights, that people really hate picking up stitches. Knowing how to space them is a nightmare.

So I minimised that as much as possible; the Day Off Badge tee has a lovely wide boat neck, where almost all of the neckline stitches are placed on hold while the shoulders are shaped. Then you just have to put them back on your needles, pick up a measly 6 stitches on each of the tiny little sides of the neckline, and then do a bit of garter stitch.

Because 1×1 rib is also annoying to knit.

And there’s definitely no picking up stitches to finish off the armholes; you just knit the garter stitch edges at the end of each row as you work the main top.

You see? Super lazy knitting. But I’m not done yet.

How will you wear yours? (Answer: however you happen to put it on)

Because – and here’s the truly genius thing about the Day Off Badge tee – that boat neckline means that the shaping of the front and back are totally identical. Yep, you don’t even need to bother working out which side is the front and which is the back; you can just throw it on whichever way it comes and wear it with that statement lace panel in either the front or the back.

Which means you can get two totally different looks from one top, thus enabling you to wear it on consecutive days without anyone even realising.

And when you’re a lazy knitter, things don’t get much better than that.

The ultimate Scrappy blanket – a how-to guide

I’ve got a bit of a thing for mini skeins. If by “thing”, you mean “hoarding problem”.

Over the years I’ve had various subscriptions, and calendars, and just random purchases. My mini skein collection has grown. And grown. And then grown a bit more, until I looked at it the other day and realised the shelf it’s stored on was starting to overflow, and I had to take action.

Enter: the Ultimate Scrappy Blanket.

What is the Ultimate Scrappy Blanket?

Put simply (and this really is a simple one), it’s a great big blanket that I’m knitting to use up all those lovely mini skeins, and the various scraps and bits of leftover yarn I’ve got from all my projects. It’s a stashbusting marvel. It’s knitted entirely in garter stitch, using three strands of fingering weight/4ply yarn held together. It is perhaps the easiest thing you will ever knit.

How I made my Ultimate Scrappy Blanket

The “pattern” for my blanket is about as easy as you can get:

  • Gather together all your fingering weight mini skeins, scraps, and partial skeins
  • Decide which 3 yarns you want to hold together first
  • Using those yarns, cast on 140 stitches on a long 8mm circular needle (I used the cable cast-on, but you could do whatever)
  • Knit every row, introducing a new yarn each time one runs out
  • Cast off when you run out of yarn.

Dimension-wise, my blanket is roughly 50in/126cm wide. Length wise, I’m not sure how long it’ll be because I’ve not dared count how many mini skeins I have, but basic calculations tell me 60 mini skeins held triple throughout should make it about 70in/175cm long.

A few marling hints and tips

Depending on what kind of person – and knitter – you are, you may want to think about the order of your yarns. I’ve largely gone with whatever I’ve grabbed next, but there are a couple of things I’m finding work best.

While the obvious thing may be to think about the colours and try to work in some kind of fade, what I’ve focused more on is how the three yarns I’m working with go together. I’m trying to keep one semi-solid, one variegated, and one with a few speckles going at any one time.

And to avoid having a big load of stripes, I’m staggering my yarn changes so I’m not switching them all out at the same time. The easiest way to do this is through adding in some partial balls and scraps of varying lengths.

How to customise your Ultimate Scrappy Blanket

Before I get heavily into some knitting maths, I’m going to caveat everything that follows: the Ultimate Scrappy Blanket is by its very nature a bit haphazard and improvised. Using scraps and different mini skeins from different places means it’s more of a vague art than a precise science.

That said, you can do some maths to get a bit more of an idea of what you’re aiming for, and actually plan out how to get the best blanket out of the yarn you’ve got. So here’s how you can do that:

Yarn weight

I’m knitting my blanket with 3 strands of fingering weight/4ply yarn held together for some super-squishy marled garter stitch. Depending on what’s in your stash, you could faff about with this a bit. For example:

  • Hold one strand DK with one strand 4ply
  • Hold one strand aran with one strand laceweight
  • Hold one strand DK with two strands laceweight

The whole point of the blanket is that it’s using up what you’ve got, and even amongst yarns that are the same weight you’re going to find slight variations in thickness and length, so don’t be afraid to muck about a bit.

Gauge and yardage

My blanket is coming out at a rough gauge of 11 stitches and 22 rows to 4in/10cm. That’s pre-blocking, so I could open up the row gauge in particular by giving it a good old stretch; but I want to be super snuggly, so I’ll be doing my best to keep it as squishy as possible. I’d say 11 stitches and 20 rows is a good gauge to aim for.

Now, yardage is a little more tricky. Since I’m using all the little bits and pieces, it’s hard to be super-precise. But what I can tell you is this:

An 80m mini skein lasts around 14 or 15 rows.

Working out how far your yarn will go

It’s time for a little bit of knitting maths, I’m afraid. Don’t worry, I’ll be gentle.

The best way to match blanket dimensions to yarn stash is to get into the nitty gritty and work out how many stitches you can afford to work.

There are 3 stages to this:

  • Working out how many stitches worth of yarn you have
  • Dividing that by 3 (because you’re holding your yarn triple)
  • Using that to figure out the best number of stitches to cast on.

So. Let’s walk through this, shall we?

Matching the dimensions of your blanket to your stash

I said before that an 80m mini skein will do around 14/15 rows of my 140 stitch blanket. To work out how many stitches that is, just multiply the number of stitches per row by the number of rows.

For simple maths, I’m going to say it’s 2000 stitches, which falls handily somewhere between the 14 and 15 rows.

Next, look at how many skeins you’ve got. Say you’ve got two advent calendars’ worth: a mere 48 skeins. Times that by the number of stitches per skein, and you’ve got a whopping great 96,000 stitches.

BUT. You’ll be holding those skeins triple, so to account for that you need to divide by 3. That gives you 32,000 stitches. Still not bad.

Now’s where you get the faff about a bit until you hit on something that feels right. Say I want my blanket to be 60in/150cm long. To work out how many rows that is, I want to:

  • Work out how many times bigger my desired length is than the gauge measurement – so divide desired length by gauge measurement: 150/10 = 15
  • Times this number by the number of rows in my original gauge measurement: 15 x 20 = 300

So that means I’m aiming for 300 rows.

What you want to do now is take your 32,000 stitches, and divide it by those 300 rows. This will tell you how many stitches wide your blanket should be. In this case it comes out at 106.667, so let’s just call that 106 stitches.

If you then want to really go for it and work out how wide that makes your blanket, divide that 106 by the 11 stitches of the original gauge, and then multiply it by 10. This blanket would be 96cm wide, which seems not bad at all to me.

OR, if you can’t be bothered with all that maths you can just wing it and hope for the best. Always a great excuse to buy more yarn if it turns out too short, hey?