Designing Your Own Knitted Garments – The “Cindy” Beach Cover-Up (Designed When I Couldn’t Find What I Wanted in the Pattern Books)

Before I went to the beach this summer, I dreamed of the perfect beach cover-up. It would be all cotton and a light color for high temperatures on the coast of South Carolina in June. It would be mini-skirt length and have kicky vents on the sides to show off my legs and for freedom of movement when I went on one of my long and meditative walks on the beach. It would cover my shoulders and prevent sunburn. It would have a rounded but modest neckline. It would feel loose and free and fit me perfectly.

Alas, I looked and looked through umpteen pattern books and magazines but found nothing even close to what I wanted. So, I designed my own. I’ve been knitting since I was a teenager, usually easy patterns that allow me to watch TV or just sit and think while I knit. I don’t go for anything complicated or patterns that have me glued to an incomprehensible piece of paper or that gives me eye strain.

Much to my surprise, for my first beach cover-up design, I came up with an incredibly simple pattern that fits me perfectly, covers my shoulders, and is flowy and comfortable to wear. Here’s the pattern (such as it is – it’s in plain English, no abbreviations, challenging techniques, or anything a moderately experienced knitter couldn’t pull off):

The “Cindy” Beach Cover-Up

General Concept:Knit two large rectangles and a drawstring. Knit holes below the bustline to insert the drawstring.  Adjust measurements to fit yourself. (I’m 5’4” and wear US dress sizes 10-12.)

Materials:

Bernat Handicrafter Cotton Yarn(Two 12 ounce skeins, you’ll have lots left over)

-Size 9 circular needles

-stitch holder for neckline

Front:

-Cast on 84 stitches (more or less if you’re bigger or smaller)

-Knit until you’ve got 21 inches (again, adjust if your waistline if longer or shorter)

-Put in holes in the next row. (I used a pattern of knit two + yarnovers to accomplish this)

-Knit until you’ve got a total of 30” (more or less, adjusting for your size)

-To make a simple rounded neckline, bind off about 20 stitches in the middle of the garment, decrease on each side of the neckline until you have about 22 stitches on each side

-Bind off each side

Back:

-Cast on 84 stitches (or same number you cast on for the front)

-Knit until you’ve got 21 inches (or same length to drawstring row as the front)

-Put in a row of holes for the drawstring (Knit Two + yarnovers)

-Knit until you’ve got a total of 31” (more or less depending on depth of back neckline)

-Cast off about 20 stitches, decrease each side until you’ve got 22 stitches on each side

-Bind off each side

Drawstring:

-Cast on 3 stitches, make an I-cord (look online for how to do this; use double pointed needles or circular needles – it’s easy)

-Make the drawstring as long as you want it (I’d make it 70” to 80”, depending on your waistline)

-Cast off

Construction:

-attach the front to the back by putting seams on each side between the drawstring row and about 8-10” from the bottom (leaving vents for ease of movement)

-if neckline is floppy, crochet one row around it to cinch it up a bit

-sting the drawstring through the holes and cinch for comfort

Extras: (These are what I did to personalize my own beach cover-up)

-for a cooler garment, make rows of holes (simple knit two + yarnover pattern) along the bottom few rows

-to add texture to the bottom of the garment, I used this pattern: Knit rows 1, 3, & 4; purl row 2

-to add texture to the top of the garment, I used this pattern: on reverse side, purl two, yarnover, purl 2 more, pull yarnover stitch over the last two purls (I added this pattern about every 4 rows)

For more info on basic stitches and construction of garments, I highly recommend the new Vogue Knitting book. It’s a huge book that covers it all.  If you had to buy one book on knitting, this would be the one. Available at: https://amzn.to/2sImZ7W

If you like to design your own projects, a good comprehensive stitch dictionary is invaluable. You might try Debbie Tomkies’ Knit Stitch Dictionary: 250 Essential Knit Stitches, available affordably in both paperback and Kindle editions at: https://amzn.to/2JzCJjS

In the next few months, I’ll be adding other simple knitting patterns for useful household items and garments to the Sycamore Cove Creations website.  Please subscribe to this blog or follow me on my author page on Facebook for free patterns and blog posts about knitting.

Blessings, Cindy

Copyright 2018 Cynthia Coe. All rights reserved!

 

What’s A Prayer Shawl? (And Do You Have to Literally Pray Over Each Stitch to Make One?)

One of my favorite spiritual practices is to knit prayer shawls.  I love to sit quietly and not think, letting my mind rest while I simply make loop after loop with my hands and two bamboo sticks.  When I donate my work to my local church, I feel something like a sense of relief.  The thoughts and concerns that worked themselves out during the knitting of a large project come to an end, given over to a higher purpose. 

I have been known to sit and knit during church services.  I knit in the early morning silence of my meditation and prayer time.  But I also knit while watching TV with my family, in the school pick-up line, and while waiting for doctor appointments.  So I’ve wondered, what exactly makes a knitting project a “prayer shawl”?

For me, it’s all about intent.  Some knitting projects are for specific people for specific purposes – a hat for my husband, a winter scarf for my son, a tote bag for my daughter, a sweater for myself.  But for me, prayer shawls are for someone I likely will never know or meet.

In donating a prayer shawl, I’m giving up to God an investment of my time – usually several weeks’ worth of knitting on a daily basis.  I use soft yarns I hope will provide comfort to someone going through a hard time.  Sometimes I choose peaceful, calming colors for my prayer shawls.  Other times, I choose cheerful, peppy colors I hope will provide a cheerful, upbeat presence in someone’s life.  Sometimes I have in mind a female recipient and knit in pinks and reds and pastels.  Other times, I have a male recipient in mind and knit a prayer shawl a guy wouldn’t mind draped over a favorite chair.  I’ve knitted prayer shawls large enough to serve as a blanket on a nursing home bed.  Others are triangular and meant to wrap around someone’s shoulders.

In any case, the purpose of the project is to share love, comfort, and peace with someone in need.  Occasionally, I know someone who has had surgery, has cancer, or is at the end of life.  When I knit these shawls, I very intentionally think about the person for whom I’m knitting and for their struggles.  But usually, I don’t know where my prayer shawl will end up.  And that’s part of the spirituality of the task – putting forth your best efforts, sharing a gift of love, and trusting in the work of the Holy Spirit to get your work where it needs to go. 

So while knitting a prayer shawl is a form of meditation at many points in the making of it, it’s more about the general intention of the whole project.  It’s about a gift of my own peacefulness, sending the finished project out into the world to serve as a visible, tangible reminder of the peace, love, and comfort that can be found in Christian fellowship – even if I never meet the person I find myself connected to with my gift. 

Cynthia Coe is the author of two novels and “Considering Birds & Lilies: Finding Peace & Harmony with the Everyday World Around Us.”  She is currently at work on a series of short stories about prayer shawls and those who knit or receive them. 

Recommended Reading:

Peggy Rosenthal, Knit One, Purl a Prayer: A Spirituality of Knitting (An excellent, succinct little book that covers lots of topics related to knitting-as-prayer)

Clara Parkes, The Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Knitting (Great light reading, a nice memoir that pleasantly meanders along at a calm pace)