Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Summer Poncho

So, it's summer, and hot, and I'm pregnant.  I have a LOT of maternity tank tops, but I don't like just wearing a tank top cause then I feel like my armpits are on display.  So I thought, what can I knit to make me feel a little less naked, but that will let the breeze through.  Oh, and I don't want it to be SPECIFICALLY maternity, because if I'm going to spend the time to knit something I want to be able to wear it a LONG time.  Not just this summer.

I have several light summer sweaters that I wear with tanks when I'm not pregnant, of course they don't fit right now, but they're cotton, and very open.  So why couldn't I do the same thing with a poncho?  Ok, so it looks quite a lot like wearing a tent at the moment, but then I'm pregnant so EVERYTHING looks like a tent.  This is what I came up with.

It's sized for me, but everything looks better on her!

The Design

There are a LOT of poncho designs out there that are just, knit two identical long rectangles and sew them together like such:
But I hate having to seam things together.  I'd much rather knit things together all in one piece, so I got to thinking about the geometry, how these really simple shapes fit together and I came up with a plan.  Instead of two identical rectangles, I think of it as one rectangle that's extended by a square from the other rectangle, and the remaining part of that rectangle is the piece that goes over the shoulder.  And instead of knitting two separate pieces, you knit the section over one solder first, and then go straight down the other side.
Not a big change, I know.  This is how it works.

The Pattern

Note: I'll give every measurement in inches as well as stitch and row count, just to make it easier for you to adjust your gauge or size.
Yarn: I used a DK yarn of undetermined fiber that I picked up in a blind bag, but since this is an open weave, feel free to go with a lighter weight yarn.  My poncho is a tough warmer than I'd prefer so I'd recommend a yarn with a high cotton or silk (yeah, I have dreams of buying nice silk yarn) content.
Needles: Circular needles in two sizes, one about double the size of the other (you won't be knitting in a circle, but the poncho is to wide to fit on any of my straight needles, and it helps to be able to knit around the curve of the sholder).  I used size 7 and 15.
(optional) another circular needle in a smaller size than the smaller needle above, for provisional cast-on.
Gauge: 17 stitches, 19 rows = 4 inches on the smaller (size 7) needles, this one works best if you knit a gauge swatch and use that to divide the measurements you want.  Don't look at my gauge, use your own!
Yardage: This is a VERY loose guess, 700 yards
Sizing: I based mine off a couple body measurements.
Mid-shoulder (not to tight to the neck) to wherever you want the poncho to fall on the side, on me this is just a touch past elbow, about 19 inches.
Neckline circumference, not neck, but how far out I want the neckline to fit.  You don't want this to be any tighter than fits comfortably over your head, but feel free to make it looser if you'd like a lower V.  My neckline is about 22 inches.

Stripe pattern is achieved by switching from small, to large, and back to small needles every few rows.  Over the shoulder I used this pattern:

Two rows large needles
Three rows small needles
Two rows large needles
Three rows small needles
Two rows large needles
Six rows small needles

When I got to the body I wanted a more open pattern so I doubled the number of rows on large needles.

You may want (or need) to vary your pattern if your gauge or measurements are different from mine.
  • Cast on 80 stitches on your smaller needle (size 7) or the stitch count that is appropriate for your arm length.  I like to use this provisional cast-on, but instead of waste yarn I use the cable part of a smaller circular knitting needle.  That way when it comes time to knit off the provisional end you can just knit off that needle without having to pick up the stitches and remove the yarn.  If you don't have a provisional cast-on you like, feel free to use any cast-on, just remember how many stitches you'll need to pick up later.
  • Knit one row back to where you started casting on with the smaller needle (size 7).  Place a marker on this edge so you know where you started knitting.
  • Switch to larger needles (size 15) and begin pattern above.  Knit pattern three times, or until you reach one half the length you want for your neckline (for me, 11 inches).  On the last repeat of the pattern, don't knit all six rows of the final set on the small needles, just do two rows for that group.  (you should now be on the same side as the marker you placed where you started knitting)
  • I re-measured my gauge here and found out I was getting closer to 14 stitches per 4 inches due to the fabric's tendency to stretch across the knitting (to be expected when alternating with a larger needle).  I used my new gauge measurement when calculating the stitch count for the next step.
  • Continuing on the small needles cast on 38 stitches (or the count that matches the length you've already knitted, this will be the other side of your neckline) using a single yarn cast on that's fairly stretchy.  I like this one but if you have another that you like better use it, just be sure it gives enough stretch to fit over your head comfortably.
  • If you used a provisional cast-on, just pick up and continue knitting from right by the marker where you started knitting (this is where provisional cast-on to the cable on a circular needle comes in handy), or pick up the same number of stitches you originally cast on along your starting edge and knit along them (this won't leave quite as neat a seam).  Be careful not to twist your just cast-on edge, you don't want to be knitting a spiral along your neckline (unless you think that would add a decorative touch, what do I know).
  • Knit the remaining four rows on small needles all the way across to complete that repeat of the pattern.  Note: I intentionally started the other side of the neckline on the smaller needles so that I would have a more stable edge and so that the measurements of the neckline would match more closely, otherwise you run the risk of the stiches stretching out at a very different rate from the rows, resulting in a lopsided poncho.  An alternative solution to this would be to come back and pick up stitches all around the neck hole and knit/purl a few rows to finish things off and keep them even.  If you're an overachiever you might even do that around the bottom of the poncho as well and use some kind of decorative bind-off, but I digress...
  • Knit one more full repeat of the first pattern, the one with only two rows each time you use the larger needles.  
  • Then switch to this pattern:
Four rows large needles
Three rows small needles
Four rows large needles
Three rows small needles
Four rows large needles
Six rows small needles
  • Knit this pattern three times, or until you are nearing the length you measured from your shoulder down your arm.   
  • This is where your pattern may get a little creative. You want to end your pattern at the right length to match the other side of your poncho, which may mean another full wide pattern, one or two narrower ones.  Or just add enough rows on the smaller needles to end at the right length.  Here's what I ended up doing:
Four rows large needles
Eight rows small needles (I lost count, meant to only do six)
Two rows large needles
Three rows small needles
Two rows large needles
Four rows small needles
  • Bind off loosely, you don't need a particularly elastic bind off, but you don't want your bind off to be so tight that this side of the poncho ends up drawn up shorter than the other.  I tried a couple of different bind-offs, first the one that goes knit two together (my favorite bind-off to do, but tends to be a little tight), then pass it back.  That one turned out to tight, so I went back and did the yarn-over bind off, which seemed to allow enough room to keep the edge loose.  I could have used my favorite bind-off with the larger size needles, but I didn't think of that until I'd already done a fair bit with the yarn over bind-off so I just kept going.
  • Finally, weave in the end
Here's another gratuitous picture of my supermodel and her unicorn: