As a result of my background in fashion design and particularly machine knitting, the Zen Variations sweaters are constructed slightly differently from some of the other top-down sweater patterns.
Whereas many patterns call for matching short rows on both the front and back shoulders to create a shoulder slope, with machine knitting, the knitter works as many straight bits of knitting as possible to increase the speed at which a sweater can be produced. By pushing all of the short rows to the back shoulders, a steeper shoulder slope is created and the front can be knit straight–in other words very quickly.
I hadn’t really thought through this construction as a hand-knitting technique until I noticed the work of Linda, aka the Gauginator, on Ravelry. Linda has had an impressive career to date working for major yarn companies and developed a recipe for what she calls the ‘ESS’ or European Shoulder Seam. She has been perfecting this recipe with some beautiful sweaters:
These details from a couple of Linda’s designs showcase the beauty of the design: above the ESS (European Shoulder Seam) and below: Martina.
I wanted something that mimicked a set-in sleeve, where the sleeve cap seam was in closer to the proper chest width.Also, having the shoulder seam positioned further back on the shoulder provides for a much better hang to the sweater. As we know, a proper fit in any garment emanates from a perfect fit in the shoulder.At the time there were a few commercial patterns out there that pushed the shoulder seam toward the back of the shoulder, but they were very cumbersome and bulky; simply sewing the seams together to force them to fit. I’ve seen this construction referred to as English-, Italian-, French-shoulder seams … I decided to call it European Shoulder Seam (“ESS”) to encompass all the countries 😉So I took to my drafting paper and literally created a sewing sloper to achieve the three-dimensional shoulder portion. From there I applied my knitting gauge and off I went.The magic of it all lies within the Front shoulder section which, surprisingly, is just a straight piece with no shaping. The way that piece “torques” over the shoulder is what causes the perfect fit. I had to go on faith, because I can’t “quantify” that torque. All I know is that it works in all gauges. Since that’s the case I’m happy to not be able to explain ‘how’ it works, just that it does 😉
While I had appreciated the idea of the set-in sleeve construction for its simplicity and for the speed at which a sweater could be produced, I had never considered the ‘torque’ aspect of the shoulder and how that makes it equally as relevant to hand-knitting as machine knitting. I am indebted to Linda for bring it to my attention!