In which we mess around with Norah Gaughan’s Swirled Pentagon Pullover

Note from Steph: I’m almost done, I swear it. This is the last of That Laurie’s phenomenally interesting guest blogs, and it will (almost) coincide with me running out of time to write the book. If anyone cares, the “writing” part is definitively done, and I’m onto all of the revisions and re-reading and organizing…and writing the introduction, which for reasons I have never been able to reconcile, I always do last. (Dumbass, but true.) I’ll be back soon. Perhaps a hollow shell of my former self…but back.

My sincerest thanks to That Laurie for the blog rescue mission. Those of us who blog can guess at how long it took her to put these together…and I’m very grateful.

By now you may be tired of spirals, You may not even be interested in moving onto swirled pentagons, even though the construction is really quite different. This sweater design appears in Norah Gaughan’s delectable book, Knitting Nature. There are several projects in this book that I have in my sights, but my absolute favorite is the swirled pentagon yoke sweater. I found this pullover even more appealing when Grumperina knit one without the turtleneck, and I realized that the yoke all by itself looked pretty cool.

So once again I was knitting a yoke, but this time I wanted to have my color ranges WITHIN the six individual pentagons. Off to do more dyeing, but this time I did it by space dyeing relatively small rovings, 1.5 to 2 ounces. And I even spun and swatched to see if I was getting the color array I wanted:


Once I was SURE that the pentagons would look the way I wanted, I spun up all my little skeins and began knitting them sequentially onto each other:


And here is my completed yoke:


One of the nice things about working this way (top-down) is that you really get to take a good look at what the crucial section of the sweater around your neck and head. And, of course, you can manipulate the shaping to fit your body as snugly or loosely as you wish as you knit your way down the body!

However, from here I had to do some moderately challenging things in order to knit DOWN from the yoke. I used three-ply yarn from roving dyed the same color as the Myrtle Green in the pentagons. And I used Barbara Walker’s book shamelessly, taking a lot of her advice to make the top-down set-in sleeves.

My first step was to use short rows in order to knit down on both the front and back edges to the depth of sleeve listed for my size. Please note: I did the back first and then, trickster that I am, rechecked my gauge to make sure that the total stitches I was planning for the body would really, truly fit my particular shape well before knitting the front down the same way.

Then, at each edge of the front side and back side, I cast on the same number as the original pattern indicated for the bind-off for the sleeves. I joined the front and back and knit a couple of inches so I would have a totally stable sleeve opening before the challenges of a top-down set-in sleeve.

At the upper edge of each sleeve I picked up, relatively closely together, the same number of stitches that Gaughan lists as the bind-off AT THE TOP of her sleeves in my size. I centered these around the “shoulder seam.” Then I placed a marker so I would know where the top stitches of the sleeve were. Then I took note of the total number of stitches her sleeve reached BEFORE the first bind-offs as the knitting moved UP the sleeve. That number was my target for picking up the stitches around the sleeve opening. When I reached the place where I had started picking up, I put another marker. That set of stitches at the top of the sleeve served as the center stitches for my shortrowing. Basically I knit short rows all the way down the sleeve cap, picking up one more stitch with every row until I reached the stitches that I had cast on when knitting down the front and back. Those I picked up all together.

I actually picked up the stitches around the sleeve opening for BOTH sleeves before starting to knit either sleeve. Then I began to knit down on both of them simultaneously so I could match and check shaping. That way I could try it on!


PLEASE forgive the extraordinarily smug expression; it is actually a grimace because my husband takes pictures while offering a running commentary about how strange it is that I want pictures of things before they are completed!

To finish the project off, I reiterated the shirttail hem from the Quiggle sweater…. And here you go:


I hope my explanation of top-down set-in sleeves was not too confusing; it really does make sense when you try it!

Just to answer a few of the questions that have come up over the last few days, I offer the following information.

The Charlotte Quiggle pattern uses the shirttail hem and gives a nice description of how to achieve it with shortrowing. You can manage the same effect in knitting on the way down by beginning short rows once you reach the sweater length where you want your shirttail to begin. By that point you have a really good sense of your row and stitch gauge! Sally Melville has a super, detailed description of how to get the exact curve you want in Great Knits: Texture and Color Techniques (82-85). This essay also appeared in Threads 47 (June 1993): 34-37. The book is a wonderful collections of Threads articles, but it is now, alas, out of print. You can usually find it via interlibrary loan.The basic principle is easy–you want steeper shortrows in the upper third of your shirttail hem, achieved with single stitches between turns, and you want less steep–that is wider spacing– between short rows in the lower parts of your shirttail hem.

On the raglan issue and yokes for narrow shoulders, I have some suggestions. Raglans look dreadful on my narrow shoulders because of the strong diagonal line of the increases (or decreases as you knit UP the sweater); however, I can significantly counter that effect by creating some kind of strong color contrast in a stripe that falls at or near my shoulder width. If you are knitting the raglan in the round, this strategy is particularly easy. The stripe then makes a square (or rectangle) that actually emphasizes my shoulders and makes them look wider. Along the same lines, if I place my yoke design so that the color work (whatever it is) ends at or near the edge of my shoulders, the design makes the most of the limited space I have from shoulder edge to shoulder edge and makes that area look larger.

To do the offset spinning, I arrayed my colors (roughly) as follows for the different plies:

ply #1 — .5 oz. purple, 1.5 oz raspberry, 1.5 oz. aztec gold, 1.5 oz. golden ochre, 1.5 oz. aztec gold, 1.5 oz raspberry, 1.5 oz. purple

ply #2 — 1 oz. purple, 1.5 oz. raspberry, 1.5 oz. aztec gold, 1.5 oz. golden ochre, 1.5 oz. aztec gold, 1.5 oz raspberry, 1 oz. purple

ply #3 — 1.5 oz. purple, 1.5 oz. raspberry, 1.5 oz. aztec gold, 1.5 oz. golden ochre, 1.5 oz. aztec gold, 1.5 oz raspberry, .5 oz. purple

This array makes .5 oz pure purple, 5. oz rasp/purp/purp, . 5 oz rasp/rasp/purp, .5 oz rasp/rasp/rasp — and so forth.