The tutorial(s) for this project will be coming to you in parts... Because I wanted to cover many areas that you can adjust to make the proper fit, the entire project has over forty pictures (so far; I'm not done yet). That's a few too many to put in one post along with the Granny-Spiration Challenge, so for now you'll just get the main idea of the how-to.
You won't believe how easy it is to start (and finish) this top... Excuse me while I get excited and yell: IT'S A SQUARE! (Or maybe a rectangle.) It's a square with a BIG hole in the middle, and then you join it together to begin working in the round. Just. One. Square. And no sewing or joining pieces? Is this a dream? Can it be true? YES! And it's easy to adjust no matter what size or shape you are! Can you tell I'm excited about this project? There will be a separate tutorial for each of these tops, but I'd like to cover parts of the two main designs to get you started. Let's get to it:
Where to start:
The neckline is where it all begins, which means it's top-down for ease of fitting. Keep in mind that you'll be able to work around the armholes and neckline to tighten them up if your top is too loose, but there's not much you can do to make it bigger if it fits too tightly. Bigger is better if you're not sure. Here are a few variations you can combine to change your design:
For a higher neckline or wider sleeves (don't go too wide!)...
-Start with a square.
For a lower neckline or thin/tank top sleeves...
-Start with a rectangle
Which beginning to choose?...
-The main version (top picture) starts with a large ring of chain stitches, and then turned into a square with even sets of granny stitches around four sides. This only allows for as much stretch as the stitch you choose, but it prevents the project from stretching out of shape and you know where your neckline will be.
-The second version (bottom picture above) uses a series of (chain-2, half double crochet) "rows" that are joined into a beginning chain. (Exactly how to do it will be covered in one of the upcoming tutorials.) This method creates a super-stretchy neckline for easier fitting, and it adds a little character to the lacy design.
*Honestly, after I worked this design using the chain/stitch method, I don't think I would make another top with the solid-chain neckline. It's awesomely stretchy and looks so much better. But, let's move on to how the first one was made...
You can take some of the guessing out of your fitting by measuring another top. The circumference (the distance all the way around the armhole) will be the outside width of your square.
The rest is pretty easy until you get to joining the armhole. Keep working rounds until you (almost) reach a length that can be joined under your arms - OR - just work to the desired width for your sleeves (see explanation below). If you started with a square and it's not wide enough to join yet, don't worry! I'll show you what I did on the rectangular version to widen the armholes.
Now, let's get more technical: By "sleeves", I mean the distance between the neckline and the outside of your shoulder. Real sleeves are better added later if you want them... Extending the square to try to create a sleeve will create a bat-wing shaped baggy sweater. (So, I guess you could do that if you wanted one!)
When you reach the desired width, you'll need to work across one more side. This adds just a little bit of width depending on the height of the stitch you are using, so you might want to plan on joining when it's almost the width you want across your shoulder.
Creating the armholes:
Now, fold it in half with the right sides out. There you go! There's the true beginning of your top. Until now, it was just a square (or maybe a rectangle). But do you see it now? So simple. We'll just flip it over and start working stitches across the opposite side. But first, what to do if it doesn't reach around your arm yet?...
For wider sleeves / armhole reaches around:
On the first version, I ended the first side in the corner space with a regular granny stitch; not a corner. Because the sleeves end at the outside edge of my shoulder, I didn't work an increase before joining. You would think the larger armhole would be more roomy, but it's not... It makes a stiffer armhole.
For narrow sleeves / armhole doesn't reach yet:
I worked corner stitches in the corner spaces before joining the second version. This one started with a large rectangle for a super-low neckline, but I also wanted thin tank-top sleeves. I gained the length/width needed for shape before it was wide enough to join under the arms. Remember we're working in the round now, so a corner stitch makes an increase. Chains can be worked to reach any additional width if necessary.
*Working the corner stitches makes a better shape with more stretch, too. Just like with the neckline, I prefer this method over the way I created the first version.
However you decide to join the armholes: You'll do the same across the next side... And this side will end with joining the other two corners. I like to avoid having to slip-stitch over, so for the join I use a single crochet instead of (chain-1, slip stitch).
If you needed to chain 2 - use a half double crochet... Chain 3 - double crochet... And so on. (For more chains, you can combine chains and stitches, or you can check out my tutorial for extra-tall stitches.)
It's a good idea to check for fit before you continue... Next up are a few problems I ran into after joining my armholes.
Adjusting for fit:
Depending on what length/width your beginning square is, the stitches you use, and your shape, you may need to adjust size as you work in the round. The bottom of the armhole is in line with the fullest part of the bust when the project is flat... But when you're wearing it, the fullest part of the bust won't be flat! (Duh, right?)
With version 1, the armhole had a rectangular shape that pulled the the front and back out of shape and caused it to ride higher than I thought it would after joining - Just above the fullest part of the bust. The armholes fit, but I needed to make some increases on the next round to stop it from becoming too tight.
So, I added an extra pattern stitch in the chain-1 space of each armhole. How do I say this gently... I didn't need to make too many increases for it to fit me. For a larger bust, I can see how you may need to rip back and adjust the width of the armhole if the fit is too tight, or you'll need to find some strategic places to throw in extra increases without causing a noticeable bulge.
For my shape and size, all I would have needed to do from there was keep working rounds. I got pretty lucky and ended up reaching all the color changes in Caron Cakes somewhere near the joining seam!
I knew that continuing in the granny stitch would make this top way too warm, so I broke the pattern (not the yarn!) just under the bust and changed to a V-stitch variation that gains height every two rounds. The fabric was already stretchy, but the new stitches increased the stretch of the pattern so much that I had to throw a few decreases along the sides... But that was as simple as leaving out a few chains on one round, and skipping over the decrease the next round.
Seriously. It's so stretchy that I was able to extend the dress form out two sizes, and it still fit. That was before I shrank it in the dryer so it would fit me better, but I bet it would still stretch up one size.
Like, really. The taller stitches are so seriously stretchy that I was able to dummy-up the dress form to show that it would work as a maternity top, too...
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