Pattern Review+ Bonus Button-up Nursing Addition: Megmadewithlove's Homebody Sweater
It's also time for a confession! Meg's pretty and polished crochet blog was the final inspiration for me to start my own needlework blogging adventures.
I simply adore all of Meg's tips and and tricks, free patterns, and general blogging advice. Sometimes it surprises me how I can share so closely in the interests of a human who lives across the continent in another country, but then again, it takes all kinds to make this world go 'round.
I have another confession; In all my years of knitting and crochet, up until this past December, I had never made a single sweater. Unbelievable, right? Being a huge fan of comfy, cozy winter apparel, it seems like a pullover, cardigan or bunny-hug might have been one of my top priorities in my early needlecraft endeavors. Alas, I gravitated towards quick accessory patterns, well knowing myself and my pesky unfinished project tendencies. But when a coworker shared Meg’s quick and cute Homebody sweater, I knew my time had finally come.
This pattern is just the best! I love how the author/artist starts everything off with all of the best things you could pair with the Homebody, including leggings, lazy Satrudays, and bedhead, all of which I can totally groove to. Then, we dive right into materials and sizing, where I opted for the largest of the three…for maximum comfort, of course! I selected the remnants of a big old ball of Oxford Grey worsted weight Lion Brand yarn that I had lying around from my So Love blanket, and I was on my way.
Beginning with the ribbing at the base of the base of the sweater was like jumping blindfolded off of a diving board, only to happily recognize that I was swimming in strangely familiar waters. As much as I have taken to crochet, I am first and foremost a knitter, so creating ribbing without the usual knit, knit, purl, purl technique was initially an unusual experience. It didn’t take long to catch on to the back-loop-only crochet variation and a before I knew it, I had two strips of pleasantly stretchy edging for my sweater.
Building up the body was unexpectedly straightforward (another reason I held off making sweaters for so long was an unfounded fear of shaping), with plenty of back and forth rows of gently slanting hdcs, and a few appropriately placed increases. Once finished with the construction of both front and back, I found myself having difficulty believing that the two inverted polygons would make a human-shaped sweater form, but once I started sewing the two pieces together, it became quite clear to me how it would all work out.
The only other challenge that came up during remainder of the pattern was at the seam of the sleeves. Not the seam where the sleeve attaches to the sweater, but rather where each round begins and ends. This seemed like a basic crocheting technique that I really should have mastered early on in my career, but my first seam picked itself up and traveled all the way around the sleeve. Not at all what I intended! I almost held off this pattern review for another blog entry detailing my sudden and vast frustration at the traveling-seam phenomena, but it is perhaps better suited for another day. In the meantime, there is an excellent video tutorial by Bethintx1 that will help beginners avoid that wandering seam!
And now for my third and final confession; I neglected to do a gauge check before starting this pattern, because I’m just one of those people. Ironically (or maybe not), this ended up being one of those times where it really, really would’ve helped me. It turns out I am a much tighter crocheter than Meg, because even though my sweater turned out absolutely adorable, it ended up being about two sizes too small. No matter. My first Homebody was clearly meant to be a gift, and was therefore a huge success. I passed my little creation onto my very hip (and more-petit-than-I) aunt, who completely adored its comfy, casual, off-the-shoulder feel.
For my next attempt, I decided that I rather liked a more holey-loose stitch, so rather than adjusting my working tension (which maybe I should look at doing for my overall wrist and shoulder health), I picked out my thicker “L” hook (11-8.00mm) to complete my task. I compensated for the significant change in hook size by dropping down to Meg's instructions for the smallest size. This time, I was delighted with a well-fitted Homebody of my own, with a slight modification. I added an additional 6 rows before the increase on the back piece, creating a really cute mini-low-rise. Highly recommended!
Then, just in time for Christmas, I gathered with my fiancées family to draw names for our annual gift exchange. I was assigned to my soon-to-be-sister-in-law, who is also a new mother. I learned that she was looking for a warm, wide-necked sweater that would allow her to easily nurse her 11-month-old daughter; my sweet little niece. I obviously had the Homebody on my mind, and set about to compose my third Megmadewithlove garment.
As I got underway, I found myself wondering if I could modify the pattern so that I could make it even more comfortable for both mother and child. It took a several days of strenuous mental visualization to figure out how the layers would actually sit and overlap one another, followed by a bit of frogging and unfrogging when I finally got down to making them!
Please read on for my Homebody sweater MOM-ification for nursing mums! (Thank you, I'll show myself out.)
Sizing adjustments for Hook Variation
Using my "L" hook resulted in larger stitches, and less of them. I ended up with 60 hdc's across the bottom edging of the sweater, upon 20 "ribs", both front and back. I went 40 rows up on the front piece before the increases, with an additional 10 rows on top of that for the low-rise back piece. I increased as per Meg's pattern (+10 Rows), and then completed another 12 full rows of hdc's to complete both the font and back pieces (Front - 62 rows total, Back - 72 rows total, both 70 stitches across at the top). This made for a L-XL sweater for maximum comfort for my particular postpartum mum, measuring 22 inches across at the breast and 20 inches across at the belly on the front side (44 inches and 40 inches around respectively).
My modifications to the front piece of Meg's Homebody sweater
On the 4th last row of the front piece (Row #58 on my sweater), I included 3 button holes per side (6 total). Placement will depend largely on the dimensions of your finished sweater; I placed the first (outermost button) 4 stitches in from the shoulder and then dispersed evenly heading towards the neck opening. I made the button holes by chaining 2 and skipping 2 stitches, although this may vary depending on the size of your buttons. Mine were approximately 1 inch in diameter!
Sewing the Seams
Once your front and back pieces are formed, sew the side seams up to the "armpits" or increases as per Meg's instructions on her Homebody pattern, but do NOT sew the shoulder seams. Lie the sweater right-side up and fold the front piece down so you have access to the upper portion of the back piece.
The sleeves are built up from the side of the back piece. Begin by drawing your yarn through the top of your side seam, and them hdc'ing across up to the shoulder (22 hdc's on my sweater). Now, create a chain of the same number of stitches to create the front half of the sleeve (22 ch) and slip stitch to your first hdc at the top of the side seam. Be careful not to twist your chain!
*Ch 1, turn and hdc into the bottom of your chain. Continue all the way around the chain and across the hdc's in the back piece (44 stitches total).* Repeat 28 more times (30 rounds total), or until desired length of sleeves is reached.
Repeat for the second sleeve.
This is where the modification takes a big side step from Meg's original pattern. We need to create a support for the sleeves and upper sweater while the front piece is opened up. This helps to keep the sweater together, and the wearer warm and cozy! Please note that this cross section was made to fit in the space between the two sleeves of my sweater; it is 68 rows wide, which is just smaller than the width of the upper back piece (70 stitches), to allow for minor stretching. Please adjust the width of your cross-section by either reducing or increasing the number or rows in the middle (where there are no increases or decreases) to best suit the size of your sweater.
Row 1: Start by pulling your yarn through the "armpit" or base of the left sleeve (while facing the sweater), then hdc across to the shoulder (Row 1: 22 stitches). Then, ch 2 and turn.
Row 2: Hdc 20, and then decrease. (21 stitches)
Row 3: Hdc across. (21 stitches)
Row 4: Hdc 19, decrease. (20 stitches)
Row 5: Hdc across. (20 stitches)
*Repeat alternating rows of hdc with a decrease at the last 2 stitches, and hdc across 8 more times (10 decreases total, 16 stitches on 20th row).*
Row 21-Row 46: Hdc across. (16 stitches)
Row 47: Hdc across, increase in the last stitch. (17 stitches)
Row 48: Hdc across. (17 stitches)
*Repeat alternating rows of hdc with an increase in the last stitch, and hdc across 9 more times (10 increases total, 22 stitches on 68th row).*
Cut your yarn, leaving a good length for sewing. Line the free end of your cross-section up with the corresponding stitches on your right sleeve. Sew together, starting from the "armpit", or base of your sleeve, finishing at the shoulder.
Once your cross-section is attached, you may finish by sewing in the shoulder seams (upper cross-section to back piece). Sew as far as you wish, I went about 7 inches in as per Meg's suggestion on her pattern.
Lastly, sew your buttons to the front of the upper cross-section! I achieved this by folding up the front piece and pinning markers to the cross-section below through the button holes. I double checked their placement by counting the stitches below, just to make sure they were even!
And there you have your nursing modification to Megmadewithlove's Homebody sweater! I hope both mum and babe get many hours of comfort from wearing it!