The Over The Ocean knitting pattern has taken me on what feels like the LONGEST journey!! It was the first jumper design I played with after my debut patterns, Garter Squish Kids, and then Adults, which I released in September and December 2021, respectively. I may have been knitting at a high competency for a while and was pretty adept at altering patterns to my liking, but actually designing from scratch proved to be a completely different ball game!
Being able to knit well and come up with design ideas is one thing. Grading a pattern over several sizes is a completely different skill in itself. As I mentioned in my last post, math hasn’t been a strong point of mine. I got a C in my school GCSE math and I never believed people when they said that math is an essential life skill. Who needs to know algebra? What on earth am I going to use that for? Well as it turns out, math is kind of useful after all!
Another super complex aspect of knit design is the actual writing down of instructions. I did not appreciate this until I started doing it! Even as an experienced knitter who has followed many many patterns, I found it a challenging experience to write my own… maybe that’s just me! There is plethora of blogs, articles and books that go a long way in simplifying the process, but it’s not until you sit down and attempt to explain the nitty gritty details of your pattern that you can appreciate how complex it is. How exactly do I want to write this? Will it make sense to everyone else? Have I included enough detail? Have I written too much and it’s lost its context? What abbreviations do I want to use? Have I listed them all/have I used then regularly throughout the pattern? Are the numbers correct and have I included enough stitch counts? This is just a few of the things you may come across when pattern writing but the hardest thing I have found by far is being able to write instructions that work and are accurate across the full range of sizes. That and layout! For most of my patterns, I have probably spent just as much time playing with the way they look as I have writing the actual text. Nicely spaced information that flows from one section to the next makes a real difference to the knitters experience. I also hate having unnecessary gaps in a document because the information doesn’t fit where I need it to!
Anyway, that was a major digress from what I am meant to be writing about, so I hope you found that interesting… apologies if you didn’t! The point of that was to explain to you how much I have improved as a designer over the last 2 years, and I have no doubt that I will continue to improve every time I release a new design!
The original Over The Ocean pattern was released in Knit Now Magazine (Issue 144) in August 2022. At the time is was released my mum was knitting the pattern for me again as I wanted a second sample to photograph. I very quickly cast on a jumper myself too when it was published as my mum informed me that her short rows weren’t quite working in pattern as it was written… ARRGGGHHHH!!! I had to check for myself and yes. There were mistakes. Literally a few days after publication I released an errata not only fixing the short rows but also fixing an issue with the underarm cast on, Ill come to that in a bit!
Long story short, the lesson here was that this pattern wasn’t ready for publication at this time. Magazine deadlines are short. My babies were younger than they are now, were more demanding of my time. It was rushed and I was inexperienced. But I am not writing this to punish myself for all the ways in which I failed. I actually want to talk about all of the things that make this pattern all the more better now I have time I have spent putting it right!
Knit Now have a exclusivity timeline of 4 months from the date of publication. So I could have re-released this pattern in December 2022. At the time of writing this post, it is now February 2024, over a year later. Why has it taken so long? Some of the reasons are due to working on other things, but the main one is because I have taken my time making sure I GET IT RIGHT this time!
So why is my self-release version of Over the Ocean LOADS better than the magazine version?? Let me tell you!
1. The yarn.
Now there is nothing wrong with cotton yarn. Especially the cotton that was supplied for the sample knit. It was Rowan Summerlite DK which is definitely the nicest cotton yarn I have worked with – not that that is as a grand a statement as it seems as I can probably count the amount of times I have worked with cotton on one hand. It’s just not for me.
It was also not the yarn I was meant to receive. I can’t remember what the agreed yarn was now (something else Rowan) but it was a 100% superwash wool. NOT 100% cotton. Not to mention that the supplied yarn was a bight summer yellow when it was meant to be a calm sea green/blue.
As you will probably know, cotton yarn has very different fabric properties to woollen yarns which had to be accounted for in the design process. I did raise this as an issue at the time but it had already taken weeks to get the yarn to me and getting more would cut my time even shorter so I decided that I could make it work. This was probably my first mistake as the gauge changed which in turn meant I had to alter my grading, and then mistakes were made.
Anyway, I knit the jumper with the cotton and it came out alright, considering. the stitch definition was nice and the drape added an extra element to the garment but it also lost some of the squishy texture that is so great about the woollen version.
Obviously, when re-designing the new version I could pick whatever wool I wanted and I think it’s obvious how much difference it has made. I had so much more confidence with the fibre I was using and I think this shows in the finished garment. Cotton just wasn’t what I had in mind for this knit.
2. The basic way of working the textured ‘Over The Ocean’ pattern has changed.
The textured fabric is created by cabling slip stitches; to the left, then to the right. For the original pattern, this was achieved by ‘doing something’ every round. In round 1 and 3 (if remember the order correctly), stitches were slipped, then in round 2 and 4 the slipped stitches were cabled to the left or the right. in the new pattern this has changed slightly. Now the stitches are slipped at the same time as working the cable. Take a look at this video where I demonstrate how the slipped cables are worked!
This minor change has done two things for the pattern; firstly it means that every other round is just a plain knit round, a break from working in pattern. Secondly, and most importantly, the plain knit round made the neckline short rows significantly easier to work whilst maintaining the pattern. Which leads nicely onto the next point…
3. The short row neckline shaping has been significantly improved.
The vision for the neckline of this jumper has always been strong. I believe that all top down (knit in the round) jumpers (depending on the intended style, of course) should have some sort of short row neckline shaping. In my opinion it is essential in creating a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing neckline.
But what I really dislike is a short row neckline that interrupts the pattern or texture of a yoke. I have been put off so many patterns by short row sections that create a blank, empty space at the back of the neck where there would have otherwise been a pattern. A classic example of this is the Cicada Pullover (Ravelry link as I can’t find it on her website) by Justyna Lorkowska which I have knit in the past. In my opinion the pattern at the back should sit closer to the neckline rib like it does at the front, but it doesn’t because of the short rows and it annoys me.
It was very clear in my mind that if the Over The Ocean pattern was ever going to be published, it needed to achieve invisible short row shaping. I am pretty confident I achieved this. Both in the magazine pattern and in the new pattern. However, the way this is achieved is quite different.
The magazine version of the pattern uses German Short Rows. German Short Rows are by far my favourite short row technique but they were incredibly difficult to achieve between a pattern that was worked on every row. It was almost impossible to place the double stitches between the either the slip stitches or the cables without them interfering with the pattern. I honestly couldn’t tell you how many attempts it took to get right (or not, as was the case with the magazine pattern!).
For the new version of the pattern I sort of cheated and didn’t really use a short row method at all. Or if you do want to refer to it as a method, it is similar to how short rows are worked on the heel turn of a heel flap and gusset sock just without the decreases. After turning, the only action worked is to slip the first stitch on the left needle before continuing with the row. No double stitches, no wraps and turns (I hate that technique, anyway). Just a simple slip stitch. Usually, this would result in gaps in the knitting where the turn occurred. However I spent A LOT of time (like so many attempts that I nearly gave up several times) making sure the turns were placed precisely so that the short row holes were hidden within the slipped cable pattern. I think I did a good job.
Actually, I am really so, so bloody pleased with how this came out. This is where my perfectionist Virgo tendencies become apparent. I was like a dog with a bone. I was not giving up!
4. Improved grading = better sizing.
When I say better sizing, the new pattern actually has one less size. I omitted the 12yr size as many of the measurements overlap with the smallest size of the Adult version of the pattern which will be following on from the Children’s, later this year. However, the sizes are better graded to the measurements they are meant to be which creates a better fitting garment.
One big, and pretty obvious thing, I have learnt through developing this design is that when using patterns, it is helpful if they fit together well in regards to both overall stitch counts but also pattern repeat counts. That doesn’t really make sense but this is what I mean. The slipped cables are worked over a 4 stitch repeat. Therefore, to be seamless, the overall stitch count has to be divisible by 4 at any given point. For example, on the sleeve or body, it doesn’t matter so much on the yoke as the sections are separated by the raglan cables.
That is obvious right.. well in the original pattern, the main pattern repeat was worked over 4 stitches, great. but the raglan cable was a 3 stitch cable. this was fine when I accounted for all 4 raglan cables in the yoke.. 3 x 4 = 12. 12 is divisible by 4..
Once the sleeves are split from the body, the raglan stitches become body stitches. Stitches are also cast on for the underarm, so all of a sudden you have the already established body pattern to match across the raglan stitches and the underarm cast on. there are 2 raglan cables on the body section which are separated by the underarm cast on stitches. 2 x 3 = 6 and 6 isn’t divisible by 4. Now this is where it got complicated. Trying to pattern match across the entirety of the body whilst making up the numbers with the underarm cast on was pretty challenging and got it wrong in the magazine version. This is the second thing the errata fixes.
In the new version of the pattern, the raglan cable is a 4 stitch cable. No prizes for guessing why that changed!!! Joking aside though, I actually think it looks better as well as solves a logistical nightmare!
5. My own pattern means I can write whatever I like in as many words as I like!
A major downside to publishing with a magazine it that space is limited. I was having a conversation with a friend just the other day that I dislike overly lengthy patterns that use too many word to describe ‘a thing’. But I also believe that a designer knows best in regards to what is most relevant to include in their pattern. The new version of the Over The Ocean pattern includes more charts than the original and more instructions that are size specific. Many knitters may not like this but it links directly to the previous point about sizing. Writing my patterns in this way gives me the ability to grade the pattern as closely to the intended measurements as I can. I don’t like ‘one instruction fits all’ if that single instruction results in some sizes not fitting as well as others. Even though I use size specific instructions, I do it in the clearest way possible and I think I do a pretty good job.
A perfect example of this is standard raglan shaping vs. compound raglan shaping (which is what the adult version is and I am procrastinating by writing this blog instead of attempting to write it up). A compound raglan creates a better fit by spacing the required increases at different rates depending on the size being knit and the body it needs to fit. However, they are more complicated to write up as many sizes require different instructions depending on the increase rates required. These patterns are usually pretty lengthy and unlikely to be squeezed into a magazine publication.
So in conclusion…
There are other reasons why the new version of the pattern is inherently better than the last. The elephant size reason being that this time round it has not only been tech edited again, but also tested! There wasn’t enough time for testing first time round. The feedback I would have received would have been difficult and embarrassing to deal with, no doubt. But it also would have never been published as was if it had gone through testing.
However, on the flip side of that, I also probably wouldn’t have reworked the pattern as drastically if it wasn’t for the learning that took place as a result of the magazine version being published. I probably would have fixed the bits that I needed to (which was done with the errata) and left it at that. I wouldn’t have regraded it. I wouldn’t have changed the raglan cable or the way the short rows were worked. At best I probably would have knit a new sample and that would have been that.
It’s taken over 3 years to get this pattern where it is now. It has taught me so much and I am super proud to be able to release it the way I intended it to be.
I believe in this pattern and it was worth every minute!
I hope you think so, too!