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Knitting a Mandala Baby DK sweater from a schematic

by Cynthia MacDougall

Yesterday, I went over 4 key points to keep in mind when planning for a knitted project using long-span, variegate yarn, like Lion Brand Mandala Baby DK.

Have you ever looked at a pattern and thought, “I have the perfect yarn for that, but it’s the wrong weight”? Well, if the pattern has a diagram with it (also called a schematic), you can use whatever yarn you want, including Mandala Baby DK.

A ball of Mandala Baby DK in crayon-bright colors sits atop an antique picnic table with a lake scene in the background.

I’ve chosen Rainbow Falls to make a sleeve-to-sleeve child’s sweater.

I looked for a pattern for a child’s sweater worked from sleeve to sleeve. The only one I could find was for a worsted weight yarn, but my yarn is DK weight. So, I’m going to show you how to make a sweater using only the schematic in any weight of yarn you wish!

I was lucky enough to find a pattern that has a lovely, large schematic with lots of room for notes, and I will make notes! The two most important things for this technique are good note-taking and accurate tension.

When a pattern has a tiny schematic, photograph it, enlarge it, and print it out or take it to a copy shop and have it enlarged until it’s big enough. If you are good with a pen and straight edge, you can just sketch it out.

The first thing I do with the schematic is isolate the information for my size. You can strike out the numbers with a marker, but it’s cleaner to use a correction roller (see photo) – it makes more room for notes. If you have access to photo editing or graphics software, you can scan the diagram, erase the unnecessary information electronically, and print out a clean copy.

A diagram/ schematic of a child’s sweater showing the measurements for various sizes. Some have been crossed out with a permanent marker, and others have been blanked out using a correction roller. Both the marker and the roller appear in blank areas of the schematic.

I’ve isolated my size and made sure my diagram is large enough to write in almost all the notes I will need.

Next, I need to choose the size. Although I’m on a deadline, I want to give this yarn a good test drive. The pattern has 7 sizes from 3 months to 10 years, so I’ve chosen the middle size, 4.

Then, I want to be sure I’ll have enough yarn. For this, I referred to my knitting library. There are many books and on-line resources that offer approximate weight and yardage for sweaters. I checked two references. One said that a size 4 sweater worked at a normal DK gauge of 24 sts to 4” [10cm] will take 250g. Mandala Baby DK comes in 5.3 oz [150g] cakes, so, two cakes should be enough. The other reference said I need 860 yds for that size and gauge. Each cake of Mandala Baby DK has 590yds [540m], so again, two cakes should be enough. Still, I’m glad I have a third one: an extra ball can always be used to make hats and mitts, and, if I add a contrasting color, I might even squeak out another sweater in a smaller size.

The plan is coming together!

The next step is very important. It’s the gauge swatch. I know, I know: knitters balk at doing a gauge swatch, but…

Because this sweater is knitted sideways, from sleeve cuff to sleeve cuff, the first sleeve can act as the tension swatch. Feel better now? The gauge on the ball band is 22 sts to 4” [10cm] over size 5 [3.75mm] needles. For me, a “true” DK yarn will give me 24 sts over 4” [10cm] using size 6 [4mm] needles. That’s a good place to start. If I need 5 or 6 more or fewer stitches at the top of the sleeve shaping, I can do that there and adjust my other numbers as needed. Plus, if my plan doesn’t work, a child’s sweater will still fit a child…at some point!

Next, I spend some quality time with a calculator. For every measurement I’ve isolated, I write the number of stitches involved (approximately), based on my gauge, preferably in a different color ink (I might also use another, different color to keep track of my rows.)

This is basic algebra. You can do this! If 24 sts = 4”, there are 6 sts to 1”. If the gauge is 22 sts to 4” [10cm] there are 5.5 sts to every inch. Multiply the number of inches by the number of stitches per inch. For example, with my anticipated gauge of 6 sts per inch, I’ll want about 48 sts above the ribbing on the sleeve cuff, which measures 8″ (8” x 6 sts/in = 48) I can cast on 36 sts for the ribbing and increase 12 stitches at the top of the ribbing – perfect!

The front and back sections are each 7” (excluding the 2” ribbing, which will be worked later). So, I estimate a need for 42 stitches for each (7” x 6 sts/inch = 42 sts) – as long as my sleeve proves my gauge to be accurate. Again, if my gauge is even slightly different, I may need to change that.

Now, I can start adding this information to my diagram. I like to use an erasable pen so I can adjust as the work proceeds, but to make it easier for you to read, I added the information on my computer.

The schematic has been mocked up with important notes and approximate stitches to match each measurement.

Again, all these numbers could change once I’ve knitted the first few inches of that sleeve. If it does, I’ll adjust things as I go.

This post contains enough information for you to cast on and start knitting the first sleeve, so if you want to knit along, please do! In fact, there’s enough information for you to knit as far as the front and back, as long as you note the rows for the straight section of the sleeve.

I’m going to cast on… in my next post, I’ll explain how I work the neckline and finish off this child’s sweater from a pattern created for a different yarn using Mandala Baby DK..

This is part 3 of 5 in this series

Go back to part 2: How to plan a knitting project with a long-span, variegated yarn

Go to part 4: Knitting a Mandala Baby DK sweater from a schematic – part 2


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