A few months ago Angela Hahn asked if I would review her new book ‘Knitted Tanks Tunics‘ (Stackpole Books, April 2018). It seemed like a great book subject for Angela as I think her Vogue Knitting Leaf Yoke Top is such a memorable and beautiful design. To find out a bit more about the books topic and how she thinks about sleeveless design and fit, I put a few questions together for Angela.
Where did you get the idea for a book of just sleeveless tops?
The idea came from an editor working for Stackpole books, Pam Koenig, who had just completed a similar book of crocheted sleeveless tops with Sandi Rosner. But she approached me because she noticed that I had already designed quite a few knitted sleeveless tops. I like them because they are less knitting than a sweater with sleeves, so you can either finish a project and wear it quickly, or you can try out a complicated stitch pattern or new technique without the commitment required by a full sweater. Plus they are versatile to wear- they can be layered over another top or under a sweater or jacket, if it’s not warm enough to wear a sleeveless top alone.
Is this a style you also like to wear yourself?
I do like to wear sleeveless tops, for a few reasons. Without sleeves, tops fit neatly under a jacket, especially if the jacket sleeves are fairly snug. Same thing for sweaters– unless the sweater is wool, which I find itchy if worn next to my skin. Worn alone, I like the simplicity and neatness of a sleeveless top. I also find sleeveless tops very comfortable in hot weather. I think many women, including myself, can be a little self-conscious about their upper arms, but at the same time have no problem baring their shoulders (look at how popular “cold shoulder” styles have become); on a hot and humid day, the balance definitely tips in favour of sleeveless! Maybe for a future book or series of blog posts, I’ll write about how to turn a sleeveless top into a “cold shoulder” sweater…some of the styles in this book would certainly lend themselves to that.
Are there any potential pitfalls to knitting sleeveless tops that knitters need to watch out for?
It’s always good to check the armhole depth on the schematic, to make sure that you’ll be comfortable wearing the finished top. An armhole that is too shallow will be tight in the underarm area, while an armhole that is too deep will reveal the bra band, or even the dreaded sideboob. Luckily armhole edgings can do a lot to adjust an armhole that is too deep or wide (see below), but if the armhole is too snug there’s really no solution except to add some more rows to the front and/or back and deepen the armhole.
If you don’t like having bra straps show, then you should also take a look at the back width, and consider whether a standard bra, cross back or sleeveless bra would work the best.
What kind of range of ease do you think works well for sleeveless tops?
Depending on the top style, I think the ease at the bust can vary from a few inches negative ease up to around six inches positive ease, as long as the shoulders and armholes fit well. The ease at the waist and hips can vary widely, anything from negative two or three inches up to 12 inches or more positive ease, especially if you are talking about an empire waist or A-line top.
With a sleeveless design the size of the armhole can be critical. Do you have any suggestions for knitters that have ended up with larger openings than they’d like?
There are several solutions for armholes that are too big, but to decide which solution is best, you need to look at the fit of the top as a whole. If the depth of the neck is fine and it’s just the armholes that are too big, then adding or changing the edging can make a big difference; the edging can be used to pull in the armhole edge slightly, as well as adding additional fabric around the armhole. I find a ribbed edging works especially well for this because it naturally draws in. If the upper part of the top is overall too long– if the neck, as well as the armholes, are too deep– then you may be able to rip back the front and/or back a few rows and re-seam the shoulders, decreasing the armhole and the neck depth at the same time. And then there’s always the option to layer the top over another.
This book is all about the little details. Do you have a special favourite detail in these patterns?
My favourite design tends to be the one I’m working on at any given moment! But I am especially fond of the pleated front and high collar in Astoria— I think the top has a fun retro feel to it, and I worked hard on its construction details, to minimize the bulk of the pleat, and to create the high rounded shape of the collar.
Thank you so much Angela for sharing your thoughts with us!
There are some details that I just love in this book. One of my favourites is the featured shaping details in the Bellingham Tank. I love the simplicity of allowing the structure of your knitting to become the focus.
And look at the great side ruching on the Memphis Tunic!
I’ve got a copy of this book to give away so if you’d like to be in with a chance to win let me know what top you’ll knit first from Knitted Tanks & Tunic? Answer in the comments below.
Prize drawing will take place Tuesday 17th of April.
Update: I just drew a winner – Rocksolana congratulations!!