Jill Draper’s gorgeous farm-to-skein, hand-dyed yarns have been a cornerstone of the MDK shop from the beginning. We are delighted to welcome Jill herself as a contributor to MDK. Jill is an inventive dresser and fearless knitter. When we run into her (often in a booth at a fiber festival), she inevitably is wearing something that we want to find out more about. Today, Jill recounts how she transformed a beloved hap shawl pattern into a swingy cardigan.
—Kay and Ann
programming note: if you’re going to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival the first weekend in May, you can see for yourself what Jill’s wearing. She will be at the festival both days, in the Main Exhibition Hall, Booth C31.
I’m sorry about the pun in the title; it was irresistible.
I Love You, You’re Perfect; Now Change
When I first saw Gudrun Johnston’s Hansel Hap, I was in love. It hit all the right notes for me, it was so big and cozy looking, with enough going on to not be boring. The only modification that would make me love this amazing shawl more would be to add sleeves and make it a sweater.
(editors’ note: We know you want to know, what’s the yarn? It’s Olana by Jill Draper Makes Stuff, a light fingering-weight blend of 50 percent wool (Cormo), 30 percent alpaca, 15 percent cashmere, and 5 percent English angora from Jill’s mom’s rabbits.)
Of course, you can change almost any shawl into a sweater. The original shawl shapes will make for different sweater shapes, and some conversions are easier than others, but converting a shawl into a sweater consists of two basic mods: one, make armholes and two, knit sleeves. That’s it! (At this point I’ll mention that I’m giving broad strokes here for a couple reasons, to help you make any shawl you want into a sweater, and to not give away Gudrun’s pattern.)
The diamond shape of the Hansel Hap is among the most complicated to convert, so if you can follow this, you could modify almost any large shawl to be a sweater. The Hansel hap already has generous proportions, being just over 54 inches from point to point. I did a gauge swatch with one of my yarns, Beacon, on US 9 needles, and got a slightly looser gauge than directed, but I liked the fabric. My garment would end up 6 inches wider, which would work out perfectly.
Insert Armholes Here
I looked at the Hansel schematic illustration, and took some measurements. I sketched into my schematic where I wanted my armholes to be. I decided this by measuring the cross back of a well fitting sweater (this is the width from armhole to armhole where your shoulder blades are). Then, I cast on as directed by the pattern, and followed the instructions until I had reached the length where I wanted to start the armholes.
- Using my gauge swatch, I calculated how many stitches should be between the armholes by taking the cross back measurement multiplied by stitches per inch, that marks the ‘inner edge’ of the armholes. I made a note of this number.
- I wanted about an inch of underarm stitches, so I added those. You can be fairly conservative with underarm stitches. I like a close fitting sleeve, but I think most people should not go over 2 inches here.
- Subtract the number of cross back stitches plus the underarm stitches from the total current stitch count, and divide the remainder by two. This number is how many stitches you should knit before you start your armhole bind off.
- Work to that stitch, join a new ball of the main color, bind off the first underarm, work across the cross back stitches, join new yarn, bind off the second set of underarm stitches, and work to the end of the row.
You now have 3 balls of yarn attached for what will become the fronts and back. You could work each section separately, but I prefer to work all three at once, to ensure that they all end up exactly the same length. Continue following the directions as written, increasing and then decreasing as instructed, making sure to “count” your missing armhole stitches when checking the stitch count against pattern. Continue working until the armhole measures the length desired. (You are basically creating two big vertical button holes.)
Not sure what length you desire? Revisit a favorite sweater & measure the length of the armhole or check out a schematic of a sweater you’ve knit and loved. After the armhole has reached the desired length, as you work across use a thumb loop cast on to replace the stitches you bound off at each underarm, breaking the additional balls of yarn. Continue following the pattern for a few more inches.
Forming the Shawl Collar
The number of inches you work after the armholes will determine how generous your shawl collar is. With Hansel, you knit an edging onto the initial diamond shape, so take that into account. I worked about 5.5 inches after completion of the armholes.
Because Hansel is a diamond, and I didn’t want the top point hanging down the back of my sweater, I bound off here instead of continuing to decrease down to a point as instructed to make the shawl. For a rectangular or circular shawl, you could just finish the pattern as written.
Binding off before completing the diamond shape left me with a shield shape (think the Superman logo), so I needed to adjust the edging a bit to make this work.
My fix for working the edging around a shield shape versus a diamond was this: I placed markers at the corner points of my shawl, which are 5 now, instead of the 4 in the Hansel pattern as written. Luckily, since two increases were worked for each of the original four corners, I could split the double increase meant for my now non-existent top point between the two points that will be my collar edges. I chose to make these single increases “inside” the two corner markers, to give the collar extra width to wrap. That meant I increased after my first marker and before my second marker on the top of the sweater, but on both sides of the other 3 corners, as written. Use 3 colors of marker, one to mark the beginning of the round, one for the other collar corner, and then three matching markers for the points to be worked exactly as written. Trust me: this will save your sanity.
Apart from splitting the top corner increase as explained above, I worked the edging exactly as instructed.
Don’t Forget the Sleeves
I blocked my piece before adding the sleeves, because once you add the sleeves, the shape is no longer flat and can be somewhat awkward to block. While the body was blocking, I knit the sleeves. You can knit the sleeves in any way that you prefer. You know how many stitches you will need at the bicep as you have the measurement of the hole you made, multiply that by stitch gauge. To decide how wide to make the wrist, go back to that favorite sweater, and measure the wrist diameter and sleeve length.
Whether you knit the sleeves top down or bottom up, you will need to transition between the wrist count to the bicep count or vice versa. My ideal wrist was 10 inches, my bicep 17 inches, and I wanted my sleeves to be 18 inches long, so over those 18 inches I needed to increase 7 inches. I multiplied this by my stitch gauge to figure out how many stitches I needed to add as I went from wrist to bicep; if you’re knitting the sleeves from the top down, you’ll need to decrease by that amount. You probably want a few straight inches at the top and bottom of the sleeve, so account for that in your calculations.
Block your sleeves and attach them to the armholes. I prefer to knit sleeves separately and sew them on, because with such a generous sweater it can be quite awkward to manipulate the entire sweater while knitting sleeves.
That is it! I now have a lovely garment I’ve been calling a Hapigan. Every time I wear it, someone stops to ask where I bought it, which really is the best compliment, isn’t it?