With some designs you have a clear vision in your head and the project turns out exactly as planned. With others, you start with one idea but your brain insists on going on a wild tangent after another. What you get in the end is not all what you pictured in the beginning. Chai Misto is one of the latter ones.
Earlier this spring I had a hankering for a cozy, sweatshirt-type, run-of-the-mill raglan sweater, perhaps in some lovely gray wool. Is that too boring? Maybe a bit of lace down the front. But everyone does basic raglans these days — how about something else? Before long I found myself knitting a top-down set-in sleeve sweater in using the contiguous method in a decidedly not-gray yarn.
Chai Misto is a top-down sweater pattern with contiguous construction and delicate lace detailing. The sweater is knit seamlessly from the top down, mostly in stockinette but with a wide lace panel at the front. The round neckline, cuffs, and hem are finished with ribbing for added structure and a classic look.
The contiguous method, developed by Susie Myers, is a way to knit seamless, top-down, set-in sleeves. There are of course other top-down set-in sleeve methods, such as Åsa Tricosa's Ziggurat, Barbara Walker's Knitting from the Top method, or Tuulia Salmela's The Tailored Sweater, but all these are done either piecemeal, involve breaking yarn, or picking up stitches. With the contiguous method none of this is required. Everything is knit in one piece, seamlessly, and using a continuous length of yarn. That's a major advantage if you ever have to rip back.
On a typical top-down raglan sweater, increases are made always in the same spots, increasing at the same rate on both the body and sleeves (which can result in weird sizing issues). This yields a straight raglan seam that runs from the neckline down to the underarm. On a contiguous sleeve, however, increases are made in four stages with varying placements and rates as you progress down the armscye, resulting an S-curve that more closely follows the contours of the human anatomy.
As with every sweater design, getting the shoulder width right is the crux for a well-fitting garment. On a contiguous sweater it's even more crucial because it's easy to overshoot the shoulder seam in the first stage of increases. If the shoulder seam is just right, the sleeve cap done in stage two hugs the round part of your shoulder bone. But if the shoulder seam is too long, the sleeve cap hangs too low on the upper arm, resulting in puff sleeves.
This is why Chai Misto includes 8 fit checkpoints — starting with shoulder seam width — so you can customize the fit to your body. Fit checkpoints 1 through 4 correspond with the four stages of the contiguous sleeve shaping. The remaining four from 5 through 8 help in making sure the rest of the body fits to your measurements, starting with upper torso, around the bust, waist, and finally the hips.
Speaking of bust, Chai Misto includes bust shaping in the form of two diamond-shaped bust darts made on two sides of the lace panel. The pattern is graded based on Kim McBrien Evans' representative size chart with varying cup sizes: B-cup in sizes XS–M, D in L–4X, and F in 5X–6X. If your bust measurements deviate from this sizing, additional guidance included in the pattern walks you through calculating your own custom bust shaping. Bust shaping can also be omitted as many of my test knitters did.
The waist shaping on Chai Misto is more subtle than you might be used to. On a sweater with no bust shaping, the body circumference after sleeve separation needs to account for the full bust. When you incorporate waist shaping into the pattern, you're decreasing from the full bust to the waist. The bigger the bust, the sharper the rate of increases.
With this sweater, however, body size is based on upper bust circumference. As explained above, extra space is added with bust darts. By the time you get to the waist decreases, you've already decreased some or all the stitches needed for the full bust. The ground left to cover is the difference between your upper bust and waist measurements — a much gentler slope.
And while all of this shaping is happening, a wide lace panel is worked on the front of the sweater, all the way from the neck down to the hem. It's a rhythmic pattern with diamond-shaped motifs made with yarnovers, K2togs, SSKs, and CDDs… and plenty of rest rows in between. As always, both charted and written instructions are given for the lace pattern.
Once you get to the sleeve it's all just pretty mindless knitting. The sleeves are just plain stockinette in the round but, like the hem, they end with a single purl ridge separating stockinette from ribbing. The neckband is done last by picking up stitches around the cast-on edge and then working ribbing in the round.
For my sample sweater I used Hobbii Tweed Delight (85% wool, 10% acrylic, 5% viscose, 100 m/50 g, 109 yd/1.76 oz) in the almost-nude colorway #20 Chai Latte. As I wrote on Instagram, initially I wanted to call the design Dirty Chai but that name is already taken. I decided on something else instead but still kept it in the tea family: chai misto is a hot beverage made by mixing half steamed milk, half brewed spiced black tea (chai is Hindi for 'tea' and misto Italian for 'mixed').
Being a single-ply yarn, I expected Tweed Delight to bias when worked in the round but I was happily surprised that it doesn't. The yarn is very soft to the touch and nice to work with — the phrase "buttery soft" comes to mind. But the single-ply structure also has its downsides: I've worn my sample sweater for a few days and already it's pilling quite intensely. As lovely it was to knit, how cuddly soft it is to wear, or how amazing the color palette is, I don't think I'll buy this yarn again.
Chai Misto comes in 10 sizes from XS (81 cm or 32" full bust circumference) to 6X (183 cm 72¼"), and is intended to be worn with approx. 5 cm or 2" of positive ease. I recommend choosing the size based on cross-chest distance (to get the shoulder width right) and upper bust circumference, then adding bust darts if necessary based on your body measurements and desired ease. To knit the sweater you'll need worsted-weight yarn, approx. 800–1850 m or 870–2030 yd. You can find size-by-size yardage requirements and the schematic of finished measurements on the pattern page.
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