Smiling Jen modelling the strawberry red Unite sweater with indigo jeans and accessorised with a navy neck scarf.  Image credit: Jesse Wild
Smiling Jen modelling the Unite sweater. Image credit: Jesse Wild

With the warmest of New Year wishes, I present to you the Unite sweater! This the first of two pattern releases this week for the Something to Knit Together: Winter Edition, and the first of two posts about the collection from me this week. By now you’ll know about the Assembly scarf and Fond mittens, and the latest addition to the crew is equally cosy, a dream to knit, and easy to style. Grab a drink, read on and let me take you on a little tour inside my designer mind 🙂

One of the first things I mentioned to Jen when beginning the design work was whether she’d be up for including a two-in-one garment pattern that allowed for variation. I’ve spent a few keystrokes on pattern hacks, which is definitely one kind of variation, but what I really wanted to do was give people the opportunity to choose whether they want to knit a sweater or cardigan. As time has crept on, knitting patterns (and sewing patterns, to an extent) have developed a degree of inflexibility that takes away from the knitter’s capacity to customise. Recolouring fairisle knits is one thing, but textured patterns have suffered a bit. Older knitting patterns were a different story.

Vintage knitting patterns from my personal collection. Look at the inherent variation!

When I was a little girl, my grandma lovingly knitted from patterns like these and over time, I got used to seeing how much depth could be wrought out of one basic idea. Sometimes, as with the Bellmans pattern in the top left corner, this can be as simple as offering different neckline options. At other times you’d get one garment offered as a jumper, cardigan, and hooded tunic, like the Studley pattern in the top right corner. The mileage you could get out of these patterns was incredible, and this formative influence runs through a lot of my work. What works for me has to work for other people, and I always try to incorporate thoughtful details into my designs.

Back view of the Unite sweater. Image credit: Jesse Wild

I’ll mention two fitting details I built in to make the Unite sweater a wardrobe go-to. The first is the A-line shaping, which you can see in the photo of Jen immediately above. This not only skims the figure beautifully, but also makes the jumper more comfortable to move around in. For example, how many times have you sat down in a cosy warm jumper, only to have it ride up and give you a draughty back? All humans spread out a bit when they sit down, so why not factor in extra width to accommodate this? Especially when you’re wearing a yarn like Something to Knit with Aran, which is a beautifully warm blend of Highland wool and superfine alpaca.

It’s also important to talk about grading, or the process by which a full size range is generated by one (sometimes two or more) master patterns. In this case, there are ten sizes, ranging from 80cm/31.5in to 150cm/59in around the bust; the master or sample pattern, modelled by Jen, is in the middle of the range at 100cm/39.5in. What kind of fit can you expect from the Unite sweater? Based on my practice and experience, I opted for proportional grading through the bust. What this means is that the ease or comfort built into the pattern increases in relation to the bust size in question. Smaller sizes in the range have less ease around the bust, whereas larger sizes have more ease around the bust. This helps to maintain the intended styling proportions of the garment no matter what size is being knitted, so if you’re looking to knit the cardigan (hint hint!), don’t worry about gaping or overstretched fabric – Jen and I have (quite literally) got you covered!

A close-up of Jen modelling the strawberry red Unite sweater with greater focus on the sleeve and shoulder detail.  Image credit: Jesse Wild
Close-up of the Unite sweater showing neck, shoulder and shaping details. Image credit: Jesse Wild

As far as stitch patterning, I knew I needed to create a texture that had a smidgen more drape than the basketweaves and ribs of the scarf and mittens, and this super-sized waffle stitch was my pick of the six or so textures I knitted during design development. The waffle-esque texture variation I used on the Unite sweater is related to the earlier basketweaves, but repeats over a shorter number of rows. More stocking stitch was included to attain the extra lightness and drape, but the shorter pattern repeat confers the same easy rhythm so many knitters have appreciated whilst knitting the Assembly scarf and Fond mittens. One lovely and enthusiastic knitter happily messaged me to say she’d completed her mittens within 24 hours of downloading the pattern, and to my knowledge she was also the first to complete her scarf! Granted, she is an experienced knitter, but I hope that snippet encourages newbie knitters thinking about dipping their toes in. Go for it!

Jen playfully modelling the strawberry red Unite sweater with indigo jeans and accessorised with a navy neck scarf.  Image credit: Jesse Wild
Jen in a playful pose! Image credit: Jesse Wild

I’m itching to share the pattern hacks now (they’ll be in the next post), but as some of you might have guessed: all the textures in this collection are designed to be interchangeable! You needn’t be bored if you want to reknit any of the patterns for yourself, or fancy changing things up a little bit if you’re making gifts.

This design feature is handy if you decide to make both the sweater and the cardigan at some point. Rather than knitting twins, you can knit first cousins, so to speak. Now that three of the four – four of the five? – patterns have been released, you can appreciate that the cable textures are unifying and cohesive, yet distinctive in their own right. This is great news for knitters who’ve chosen Unite as their first sweater project; they can, if they want to, make a second garment knowing that it’s a familiar pattern. Sometimes it can be difficult to choose a second project after you’ve completed your first garment: Will the instructions be as easy to understand? Will it come out as nicely as the first? How can I find help and tutorials? are some of the MANY questions I’ve heard from fledgling knitters over the years. That’s why lots of love and care has gone into this collection – from me on the design front and the A-C Knitwear team behind the scenes, we all wanted to make it as accessible as possible, and a joy to knit besides.

A close-up of the neck detail on the Unite sweater, set off by a navy neck scarf and worn by Jen.  Image credit: Jesse Wild
Neck detail of the Unite sweater. Image credit: Jesse Wild

By now you’ll know that Jen, Jim and Co. are bang on the money when it comes to tutorials and pattern support, and the Unite sweater is no exception. The pattern features detailed line drawings, written and charted instructions, is packed with photo tutorials on finishing, there’s access to video tutorials on YouTube, and the Knitalong Hub is lively with helpful, friendly knitters.

The collection is available to buy online now, and you may also have noticed that there is currently 20% off Something to Knit with Aran in the A-C Knitwear shop! If you’ve already bought an Everything kit and are thinking of making two garments, now is the time to snap up some more discounted yarn. As I write, there are relatively large quantities of Mustard, Lawn, Jade, Sky. Ginger and Mist. Strawberry (photographed here) and Cornflower have completely sold out, and there are only four skeins of Pool left. Everything kits are down to Green Lovers and the last five in the Natalie’s Modified Choice colourway. If you were one of the lucky early adopters who got Strawberry and Cornflower in your kit, well done for having fast fingers!

It remains for me to say – apart from well done on making it to the end of this bumper post! – that I hope you enjoy this pattern as much I do. I’ll be back later this week with pattern hacks and an introduction to the next pattern, so see you again soon! 🙂

Smiling Jen modelling the strawberry red Unite sweater with indigo jeans and accessorised with a navy neck scarf.  Image credit: Jesse Wild
Jen modelling the Unite sweater. Image credit: Jesse Wild