This is a tutorial to accompany this pattern, though it could be utilized in a number of ways. While this tutorial is written for a particular baby sweater (that is what this website is all about, after all), I used the same technique when I made this adult sized sweater (and it was actually way easier to do on the adult version.) I don’t have the pattern drafted for the template for an adult size, but there is no reason you couldn’t apply the same principles using whatever motifs you deem appropriate using whatever gauge of yarn you like the best. This is basically a bastardized version of Irish crochet. It is a pretty advanced crochet technique, so I’d really only recommend it if you’re either very experienced with crochet or very confident and like a challenge. If you’re like me and you don’t really like reading through lengthy, wordy tutorials then I at least recommend that you read what comes just after the bolded heading below so you can get a basic idea of what this process entails. Otherwise, there is pretty in depth information and lots and lots of pictures for you to follow along with.
-Yarn (I used Cascade 220 Sport)
-A Fine Gauge Crochet Hook (I used a Size 1 (2.25 mm)
-Something to pin into such as a blocking board, puzzle mats, or cardboard
-If you’re making the baby pattern, you’ll need the Lacy Back Cardigan PDF
First print out the pattern sheets. Make sure that the pattern is to scale by measuring the box. Cut and tape the two pages together, matching lines, and cut out the pattern for the size you are making. Next you need to crochet some motifs. For this pattern, you make 7. You basically want enough to give the back some visual interest, but leave enough space to allow it to still be lacy. The pattern includes charts for the motifs used here. Pin the motif pieces on top of this pattern, placing the motif pieces roughly in the same place as in the schematic in the pattern or use the picture here. They will be closer together for the smaller sizes and further apart for larger sizes.
The basic concept is to begin creating chains to match the grid of the pattern piece. As you do this you will also slip stitch into motif pieces when it makes sense to do so. There is not hard and fast rule of when to turn, where to connect, and when to break your yarn. It’s kind of like a puzzle, you have to figure it out as you go and you may have to back track a few times. Pour a glass of wine, take your time, and don’t be afraid to re-do parts that don’t look right. As long as you have that, you can kind of get an idea of the whole process by just looking at all the photos below. There is further explanation for some things if you get stuck, but if you’re feeling confident, that is the most important thing to know. Begin working the grid by creating a chain of stitches that is the same length as the bottom of this pattern piece. Work more chain stitches and begin to fold the chain along the grid lines, slip stitching into the foundation chain. You’ll also slip stitch into the motifs as you encounter them on the grid. This is a pretty finicky process, and it is more than okay to lift parts of your work up while you are going along. You just need to put it back down now and again to make sure that everything is lining up and looking sort of even. When you run into a motif, turn and go the other way back along the grid. Slip stitch into the motif to connect it, of course. In general, you want to work along in rows slipping into the points of the grid as you go back and forth. If this was a bigger piece, there would be a lot more of that happening. Because everything is sort of crammed together for this baby sweater, the whole process is a bit more organic. Go with whatever seems logical. You are going to have to break the yarn whenever you run into a dead end. Go into it expecting you’ll have some weaving in to do, and let it happen. It’s also good to note that there are a lot of instances in which I pinned things in place in the picture to better show how the whole thing was progressing in relation to the chart. The pins really get in your way when doing this, so I really don’t recommend using as many of them as is seen in these pictures. You do need a few in place to keep the motifs down and keep things blocked out as you go, but if a pin is in your way and it’s not really helping you, get rid of the sucker. Here are a bunch more photos documenting the process of working your way up the grid. The two pictures that follow are a good example of going with the flow of things. When I got to the right side of the piece I realized it made more sense to go at it from the side than zig zag my way up. This is one of many reasons why this is a total bastardization of Irish crochet, which I’m pretty sure has a lot more regularity to how you go about it. Again, just keep working chains to cover the grid and connect motifs where it makes sense to do so. You may also find that there are places that the grid is covered by motifs, but the motifs don’t connect. At the end, go back and connect these parts with slip stitches. You can even slip stitch along the edge of the motif to the next connection so that you don’t have even more tails hanging out everywhere. When it’s all said and done you’ll have a messy lump of ugly like this. You’ll now need to weave in all those ends. Pull them to the back when you do so so that when you secure them, or if they pop out, they won’t show. I really like to use Fray Check to secure ends, especially in situations like this where they have a lot of potential to pop out. A little dab’ll do ya. By the way, you don’t need to weave in any ends that are on the outer edge, as you can just crochet around them later. It is very, very important to block at this point, because it makes the whole thing be the shape it needs to be to be a back of a sweater (in this case a sweater with set in sleeves and a nice looking neckline) and fit with the pieces that will later be knit. It also gives you a chance to open up the mesh, fudge with any irregularities, and fix anything that needs to be tweaked. This reminds me of another point– you will probably be a lot happier with this process if you use a natural fiber that can be blocked. Acrylic may give you some troubles, cotton and wool will be a lot more cooperative. Get the whole piece wet and pin everything in place, paying special attention to the corners and curves on the outside as well as any place inside the mesh that needs to be opened up. After it has dried, a row of single crochet needs to be worked around the outer edge to stablize the whole thing and give you something to knit and seam into. This is something you also just need to feel out. Do enough stitches along each edge to allow it to lie flat. If it’s folding in on itself, you probably need to add more stitches. If it is ruffling, you’ve done too many. It’s also a good idea to do a chain stitch around the corners. It’s okay if this step isn’t perfect, because the knitting and seaming will generally even it even if it’s a tad wonky. (Also, if you are following the pattern, it’s a good idea to crochet the same number of stitches along the bottom that you’ll be picking up for the back.)
And that is it! Now you just pick up stitches along the bottom to finish the back piece. The fronts and sleeves are knit separately and seamed into place. The knitting for this project is pretty straight forward and easy, it’s all just stockinette stitch with basic increasing and decreasing.
I hope this encourages you to create something beautiful. I can just picture the smug (but also, of course, humble) look on your face as you hand it over to an expectant mother and she gushes with delight at how gorgeous and complicated it looks, and all the while you’ll be thinking, “Thank you Stephanie, for 100 Baby Sweater Patterns (dot com) and for this moment. I am going to tell all my friends about your spectacular baby patterns and helpful knitting and crochet tutorials.” That is exactly what you will be thinking. Right?