I've been knitting furiously. I blame it on this yarn - an amazingly soft cotton that comes in these rich saturated colors. And the best thing about it as that it's sport/fingering weight which is great for the stuff I feel like making these days. Here's an example:
Pattern: Layered Ruffle Sweater by Kristina McGowan
from her book Modern Top-Down Knitting
Yarn: Knit Picks Simply Cotton Sport in Duchess Heather (100% cotton)
6 skeins or approx 950 yards for a size medium
Needle: US 4
The pattern is originally for a thicker yarn with a gauge of 5.5 stitches per inch. When I swatched with the Simply Cotton I got a gauge of 6.25 stitches per inch. Since the garment is knitted top down, I figured I would cast on for the 3XL and keep trying it on to ensure a decent fit.
Here's my thinking (skip this part if knitting math bores you): The original cast on for a size Medium calls for 94 stitches that results in about 17 inches across the back at the shoulders. Makes sense: 94 stitches divided by 5.5 stitches/inch gives you 17 inches, right? So if I wanted to get 17 inches with my new gauge, I had to cast on 106 stitches (17 inches x 6.25 stitches/inch gives me 106 stitches). Looking at the cast on instructions for the different sizes, I saw that the 3XL at 102 stitches came closest to 106 stitches. So that's how I decided to follow the instructions for the 3XL. I took a leap of faith and cast on 102 stitches. And lo and behold, it worked out just right at 16 3/4 inches. Definitely not an exact science but good enough for me.
And that, I think, is the beauty of top-down garments. You can try it on and modify as you go depending on the fit. Too loose? Rip back and decrease some more. You can't do that with garments knit flat and then seamed together. By the time you've discovered that the neck is too tight, it's too late to add stitches without picking apart the seam and reknitting the whole darn thing.
Anyway, back to this particular garment. I didn't really have to modify the pattern except to leave out 8 stitches across the front neck as I am modestly endowed in that area. Which brings me to the ruffles - strategically placed to give the illusion of volume. Very flattering to someone like me - probably wouldn't work out so well for the bustier ladies out there.
I liked knitting it but I like wearing it even more. It fits me just fine and I love the color. More important, I love the feel of the resulting fabric. It's not too thin, not too thick. It's not at all scratchy and because it's cotton, it's breathable and not too warm. Perfect for what passes as Autumn here in South Florida.