Many people's thoughts turn to making things when it comes to the holidays, especially knitters. An unusual idea might be a turtleback sweater. This is a garment that is somewhere between a sweater, a shawl, and a shrug. It's a very versatile wrap for the winter weather. It can be dressed up for parties and evening wear, by being knit in fine yarn or with the addition of a fancy shawl pin to close it. Dressed down, it makes a great companion for jeans on a chilly night. Having no shaping, and very little piecing together, it is easy to make. A turtleback sweater is just a rectangle, folded in half, with a couple of short seams. Knitting a turtleback sweater for Christmas is a great option, because it doesn't take a lot of time or skill.
The secret to creating a nice garment in this instance is a ribbed stitch pattern. Plain knit two, purl two ribbing can be used, or a fancier pattern might be desired. Soft yarn is another factor; the turtleback needs to drape nicely if it is to look good when worn.
The supplies needed for this garment are very simple and easy to obtain. Chunky weight yarn-sometimes called bulky--is best, although an experienced knitter will be able to adjust the tension so that other weights of yarn can be used. Two sizes of circular needles are also needed; the recommended sizes for chunky weight yarn are 17 mm and 10mm, both at least 24 inches in length.
When knitting a turtleback sweater for Christmas, choose festive yarns in seasonal colors. There are many yarns from which to choose, available both in store, and online. The pattern for a basic garment in knit four, purl four, ribbing using chunky weight yarn is as follows. It is a fairly simple pattern, although some knowledge of knitting terms is needed. This pattern fits up to size extra large. For smaller sizes, cast on fewer stitches or use smaller needles.
Using the larger needles (yes, this is the opposite of most sweater patterns), cast on 108 stitches. Knit the first four stitches, and then purl four, knit four, until the end. For the second row, knit the knitted stitches, and purl the purled stitches as they present themselves, thus creating a rib. Repeat these two rows for ten inches.
Place a marker on the next row by adding a bit of contrasting yarn around the stitches at each end. Change to the smaller needles, and continue knitting in the ribbed stitch until the work measures 34 inches from the cast on edge. Place another marker on the next row, and change back to the larger sized needles.
Continue in the rib pattern for another ten inches (to be really accurate, a row counter can be used, but it is not necessary). Cast off in rib once the entire piece of work measures 44 inches. That's it! The garment has been made.
As the ribbing stitch really has not right or wrong side, this garment is fully reversible. Care must be taken when stitching the side seams in order to keep it reversible. To sew the turtleback together, fold it so that the cast off edge meets the cast on edge. Now, carefully and neatly, sew the first ten inches of the sides together with matching yarn and a tapestry needle. Start at the cast on / cast off edge and work up to where the marker has been placed. Sew tightly and neatly, paying particular attention to where the sewing finishes at the stitch marker. Once the seams have been sewn, remove the marker.
To wear the sweater, lay it flat with the cast off / cast on edge at the top. Pick up the top half of the garment with the right hand, and place the left hand through one of the side openings. Put the other arm through the second arm opening, and position the main piece of knitting across the back. The sweater can be worn as tight or as loose as is desired. Should a clasp at the front be preferred, use a decorative shawl pin.
It's neither time consuming, costly, or difficult to make this kind of garment. With a bit of practice, they can be made for all sizes and ages. As simple and as fashionable as these sweaters are, don't be surprised when people start asking about knitting a turtleback sweater for Christmas.
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