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A few of my pals on the social medias are expressing wonderment at how quickly I sped through the knitting of my Shakerag Top. It clocks in at size XL, so it’s a 5-skeiner–not what I would generally think of as a Quik-E-Knit. But in the space of under three weeks in late April and early May, I traveled to the West Coast (for a knitting retreat aka lots of sit & knit time), then back to New York, and then got on a plane to France. I spent a week there with my ever-lovin’ Most Moisturized Mom, being transported around the countryside and in and out of Paris.  The whole time, I worked on my Shakerag Top to the exclusion of all other projects that were calling to me seductively (as projects do).

And so, early on in my stay in France, I got to plop a fully knitted Shakerag Top on an old herringbone floor.

The sweater doesn’t look like much, but the floor is great.

The finishing on the Shakerag top is simple:  two shoulder seams, and a simple faux crochet edging on the neck and sleeve openings. Just an hour or two of work.

An hour or two of work that I refused to do when I realized that I had not packed my Clover Wonder Clips. (Clover Wonder Clips are not only very practical, they have become my good-luck charm for finishing things.)  So I cast on something else from Field Guide 6. (More about that later.)

My first Monday home, I summoned all my Project Fidelity virtue, and worked those two seams and finished those three openings, and wa-la:

Looking at it straight on, the stripes are subtle, more of a texture than a surface design element.

But in the light, the transparency happens.

The Fit

I know knitters over in the Lounge have been curious about the fit of this garment. It’s a straight, boxy shape, so if you under-shoot the sizing, you risk the Woolly Bathing Suit Effect, but if you over-shoot it,  you could look swamped and sloppy. After a look at the finished dimensions on the pattern schematic, I chose to knit the XL, to reach the dimensions of my favorite boxy sweater, Relax.

It seemed like a good bet, but one can never be sure about fit until one finishes the sweater. That’s a hard truth about the whole sweater-knitting enterprise, isn’t it? You knit, and you learn, and you measure, and you make educated guesses, but the truth only comes out when you get it all finished and blocked and put it on your body.

I’m well pleased. My Shakerag Top fits exactly the way I wanted it to. It hits at the right spot: the hip bone aka the spot where my hip bone surely must be, down there somewhere. It blouses gently in the back, creating a kind of a swingy shape. It skims the Waist Area without landing or sticking anywhere.

I’m going to wear the heck out of it.

As you can see, it’s not exactly transparent, but you do get a hint of what’s underneath (delicate flesh). I think I’ll be getting a snug tank to wear under it, because that’s the way I was brought up by strong midwestern women, most of whom are up in Heaven clutching their pearls at what passes for a foundation garment in my wardrobe these days. I’m also going to try it Karen Templer style, with a longer shirt underneath. Shirt on shirt is always a good idea.


Clever Things in the Pattern

The big clever thing in this design, of course, is the way the beautiful tone-on-tone stripes are created by alternating double and single strands of the yarn. I had no real worries, because Amy Christoffers would not lead a knitter astray, but as I was knitting it I sometimes thought the fabric might turn out heavier than a spring/summer top ideally ought to be.

Not so!  It’s light and flotatious, with just enough heft to showcase linen’s trademark swing. I’m more in love with Sylph than ever. (The shade: Rustle.)

A smaller clever thing: the finishing of the neck and armhole openings. It’s done in the simplest way possible. Years ago, I finished an edge this way, and called it Cro-Kay, i.e., crochet for people like me who want to knit their crochet. You pick up stitches along the edge, and then, on the very first row, you bind them all off. It’s a snap, and gives much the same effect as working a single crochet edging.

Again, I trusted Amy, but at the same time I wondered whether this edging might feel too taut.

Not so! It’s just a clean, simple finish.

extra points for folding neatly, Kon Mari style.

Moral: trust Amy.


Do Not Worry About

If you’re knitting a Shakerag Top, you may wonder, when you get to the armhole instructions, whether the armholes are deep enough. I did. They seemed a bit shallow: 7 1/2 inches in the XL. I hate a tight armhole. I’ve got stuff to do, and a lot of it involves moving my arms.

Do not worry about this.

The wide shoulders of the Shakerag Top cause the armholes to sit halfway down the upper arm.  That’s why the top turns out short-sleeved and not sleeveless.  You have plenty of range of motion because, under your armpit, there’s absolutely no lower boundary; it’s still the body of the sweater. Think: batwing or Dolman, without the exaggerated silhouette usually associated with those styles.

See? It’s super comfy. Not sure this picture is showing it, but there’s no tightness even when I flap my arms around. Imagine if I’d knit the armholes an inch or two deeper: there’d be extra fabric dangling under my arm. (And I do not like the word “dangling” mentioned anywhere near my arm.) With Amy’s trim design, there is no danger of flashing your bra at anyone through the armhole. I find that comforting.


Clever Things Not in the Pattern

The Shakerag Top pattern is only a few weeks old, but at least one knitter has already thought of a  clever modification.

Look at Nashvillian Kelley Dew’s light and lovely green version, in Anzula’s Breeze, a silk/linen blend.

I was loving Kelley’s version already, and then she showed how she worked an afterthought split hem.

She patiently unpicked the cast-on, and knit down, back and forth, longer in the back than in the front.

This looks so lovely, and a long split hem is such a favorite fit of mine, that I contemplated doing it myself.

Then I came to my senses. My Shakerag Top is FINISHED. And now that I’ve tried it on, I like my hemline exactly the way it is. But my hat is off to Kelley for thinking of a neat modification to suit her own style, and having the temerity and engineering chops to execute it. (It would be even easier without the unpicking!)

Green Shakerag Top photos courtesy of Kelley Dew.


  • Your top came out absolutely perfect!

  • Gorgeous. Just gorgeous.
    Now I need one, unfortunately I don’t have any travel knitting time coming up.
    How much ease is there?
    How much bigger than you is the Shakerag?

    • 10-12 inches at the waist, about 6 at the bust.

      • That’s very useful, Kay, as I plan to knit one of these for myself, now that I see how beautiful it looks on you.

  • Your top is beautiful! Fit and shape is perfect.

  • I never would.have thought it ends up with sleeves. Although the styling in the book makes it look light and summer worthy, I was writing it off due to lack of needed upper arm coverage. You look fabulous in it and it has now gone into my queue, love the drape.

  • You and Ann are SERIOUS enablers. I no sooner get my yarn ready to swatch for Bristol Ivy’s Lida shawl when you go here.
    Like the Carbeth Revolution.

    Serious enablers.
    Are you both registered lobbyists?

    • So very true…..

  • Congratulations! You have knitted a lovely garment.

  • The fit is perfect. What size do you normally wear ? Very inspiring.

    • I normally would knit a large or medium, depending on the shape of the garment and what I ate for breakfast. Size 12 (US) dress.

      • “and what I ate for breakfast”

  • My beautiful Sylph arrived two days ago, Hush and Rain Shadow. While I admire it and ponder the correct size, I am working on a pattern called Still Squarish from last summer’s Chicago Yarn Crawl. It was from Nina Chicago, formerly Nina. It is the same concept, light and boxy. I am using Shibui for that. The yarn looks like a pair of worn jeans.

  • I love your top!!!!!!!!!! You look amazing in it! Hmm Dang I didn’t even want to knit one until now…..

  • Fantastic! Your top is amazing – it fits you so well! I love it! Should I add another WIP to my overflowing project bags?

    • Mini do you even have a hand knit summer top amongst all your sweaters? That is the question.

      • No I don’t! And that is why I am thinking so much about this top! Also my size changes too depending on what I ate for breakfast – typically more scrumptious on the weekends.

        • I have it on good authority (though I can’t remember where) that we weigh the least first thing on Friday morning and the most on Sunday night. Guess when I weigh myself.

  • I love this on you and am sorely tempted to knit one just for the sake of wearing a Shakerag at Shakerag. My main obstacle is trying to crank out a sweater in Nash Island yarn to wear at this year’s shearing in 10 days. This themed event knitting might be doing me in!

    • You could always cast on a Shakerag at Shakerag. That would get some good mojo on it and take off the event-knitting pressure. Have fun on Nash! Jelly!

  • Very nice! It’s hard to find a knitted garment that will actually work well in warmer weather. Must try that linen stuff! I have just one question: Is it pronounced “shake rag” or “shaker rag”? I kind of like the 3-syllable way.

    • Shake rag! But it sounds even folksier with 3 syllables.

  • I was not going to knit this cute little sweater……….but then when I saw your photos this morning I changed my mind. Yes, you are serious enablers!!!

  • Bravo! Both brave and beautiful! 🙂

  • This is perfect! The shape. The fit. The color. Now I want one.

  • Love it! Simple chic, comfy, classy, and looks great on you!

  • Absolutely stunning, Kay! I was watching you knit this during Bainbridge Island retreat and really wanted to start knitting it right away. Your photos are perfect and you look amazing in it. Love all your comments because we worry about all the little things you mentioned. Mind reader! Hugs, Karen

    • Let’s knit a Shakerag and show off at the knitting retreat.

  • You look wonderful in your new top. And of course, now I must knit one. Bad for fidelity to the sweater I’m knitting.

  • Oh I see now, sleeves! Those armholes had been puzzling me. Off to take another look at the overflowing queue…

  • The only reason one of these is not on my needles is that your stock of Sylph has been sadly very depleted. That’s a hint. When will there be more?

  • Gorgeous!! I’m working on mine now and hoping to be wearing it at Shakerag for the Knitting Getaway. Fingers crossed!

  • Absolutely love this sweater, and the fit is perfect on you! It looks gorgeous. I must have one too! Boy you two are really good at making people want to make everything!!!! Knitting enablers, as some others have said! I love it though! Thank you for sharing all your tips and worries too!!

  • You, and the sweater, look absolutely fabulous! My next sweater……

  • It looks fabulous on you! Just my style! I just need to get some things off the needles.

  • Beautiful and totally YOU! I had concerns about the sheerness beforehand, but as you write, and show, this level of sheer is just right. Thinking this would look beautiful in black or a dark blue.

  • Love it! And your pearl clutching ancestors would be pleased that the armholes don’t expose your “foundation” garment …gasp 🙂
    This one is definitely on my list!

  • This is so perfect, and so beautiful on you! The picture in the book had tiny cap sleeves, and I wasn’t sure how I fel about that. And now I’m wondering if my “less ease” version will be swingy enough, even in merino/tencel. But ONWARD because it’s so much fun to knit this carefree stockinette piece! It will fit how it fits, with some fussing during blocking. (and if I love it love it love it I might have to cave to the Sylph. You’re an enabler!)

  • This looks like a perfect summer top! And I love the modification that was made with the split hem. I just have to find yarn in my price range and have a go at this sweater myself!

    For what it’s worth, I don’t like words like undulating, swaying, jiggle, anything with that sort of loose movement mention with any of my body parts!

  • that does, I’m going in!

  • Cute top & nice fit. BTW, the sleeve is called a kimono sleeve or an extended cap sleeve. A true kimono sleeve forms a T shape from the shoulder; this seems more like a long cap sleeve. Both a batwing (wide cuff) & a dolman sleeve (tight cuff) are constructed & begin to flare from the waist up

  • For the past two weeks I have been searching high and low for the perfect top to make with linen that I bought at the end of last summer. Duh.

  • OMG! Kay’s got a finished object all her own! Hide this, before Carrie or MMM (or even Olive) decide to “borrow” it! (It looks great, BTW. You need one in every color.)

  • Kudos! Your Shakerag looks great! And BTW, you are a hoot to read. Keep up the good work!!!

  • I thought “Kon Mari” before I read your caption 🙂
    This top looks like something I would put on Every SigleSummer Day, and schedule laundering so that it would be drying while I sleep. Just perfect, that’s all.
    And I love Kelley’s hem modification, too!

    • *Single. Sheesh.

  • Looking pleased with yourself deservedly so. Your project is perfect in every way. Love when that happens!

  • Wow – Kay, that looks so lovely on you :).

  • Kay, your shaker rag is fabulous, a perfect fit. I was sure I didn’t like it, but seeing it finished on you, I’ve definitely changed my mind!
    Am I the only one to notice the embroidery on Kelley’s Field bag?! I love it! Please get the details from her! I feel a whole new obsession with the decorating of our Field bags!

  • Lovely. Looks lovely on the hanger, and even lovelier on the model (and the kon mari fold–I’m in heaven).

  • Okay, this post does it for me.
    I hereby SWEAR that I will make this for MYSELF using the Sylph and damn the expense!!!!

  • This garment is just super great. I love it…l wish I had the never to knitt this wonderful pattern.

  • This looks beautiful on you! I’ve been intrigued by this sweater from the first post, but can’t possibly afford the Sylph yarn. Breeze seems a much more doable option. Does it make any difference that Breeze is a lace weight yarn? Also (and I hope this is not too nosy) would you mind saying how tall you are? Just trying to get an idea about the length on my 5’2″ frame. Thank you for all the interesting and helpful information.

    • I’m 5′ 5″. Kelley seems to be doing just fine with the Breeze!

  • I am now more inspired than i was, i may need to make this before i start anything else – and this is why my queue never really gets worked on…

  • How much ease between the bust measurement and the finished measurement did you end up using?

    • Something in the neighborhood of 10-12 inches.

  • Is there a way I can buy the pattern for the Shakerag top without buying the whole guide?

    • No, we sell it as a book (print or ebook) only, but I would note that the price of the ebook, containing all 4 patterns, is $9.00.

  • Looking good, Kay! I love it when you post images of yourself modeling because we have similar body shapes! Yaaaay!

  • gorgeous! Love that you talk at length about the fit and why to trust this pattern – I will knit this!

  • It looks stunning on you!

  • I’m wondering how tight the arms are. I tend to have very German arms and have a problem getting tops to fit them. Can we just increase the arms to make them wider and longer???

    • Hi Pamela,

      My arms are very sturdy due to my foremothers who pushed the plow. If you look at the photos and note where the sleeve opening lands (halfway down the upper arm), you can measure and see if 15 inches is enough (in the XL, which I knit). For me, it’s perfect.

      You can then add length to the armhole if needed, but that will have the additional consequence of making the whole top longer, since the sleeves are integral to the sweater.

      I don’t recommend adding any more than you absolutely need. You don’t need extra room at the sleeve opening because the range of motion under your arm is absolutely free in this design; there is no bottom armhole, there is just the opening at the end of the sleeve.

      With a true armhole, I like extra room, as there is nothing worse than a tight armhole! But with this design it’s not an issue.

      Hope this helps!


      • I just thought of another analogy: adding to the sleeve opening here would be like adding to the wrist opening on a long sleeve.

        Meaning, in some cases it might be necessary, but usually not, as it’s not an opening where one typically needs “room.” One simply needs it to fit.

  • there is only one answer – knit it again and do the split hem – you know you want to!

  • Gorgeous! Both you and the top! Seriously, it seems a West coast knitting retreat and jaunting around France with Mom agree with you!

    I love how honest you are about knitting, this time about the unknowns of if a sweater will fit/look good on me. Knowing no one really knows gives me much needed courage!

  • Yours looks lovely. Bought some Juniper Moon Findlay Lace. Getting on the plane. When I get home, i will order Sylph. Knitting 12” all sizes…does that mean it’s cropped length? Did you knit longer to get it to your hip length? I want one, two, like yours

  • Just wondering after reading all the comments whether this sweater is clingy at the bustline? I have a large chest. 36ddd and I don’t like to accent it

  • I have to let you know how much I enjoy your tips and tricks. I love the Shakerag Top and when this is finished, I’m off to knit my Rowan Denim.

  • I wanna make one!
    I wanted to last year. Bought the book, looked at the pattern. Agonized over it then didn’t do it. I’m going to this year. It’s a new month! Hey!

  • I made a L/S sweater in the 80’s that used the alternating bands of single and double strands – One of my favorites ever! It was a Vogue Knitting pattern. I loved the sheer bands. Your version is lovely and am digging through my stash right now to see what might do. Thanks!

  • Love love the way the sweater looks on you. My concern is size. You made an XL (53) which is the size that I would normally make (49 bust). Should I go to the 2XL based on looking at you in our sweater? I don’t want it to look sloppy on me, but I son’t want it too tight. Help!

  • Planning one of these for the spring (if I can afford enough yarn, *cough cough*) and if I wasn’t sold already, the word “flotatious” would have sold me. It is part of my vocabulary forevermore.

  • Quite lovely, inspired to pick up my needles again

  • Beautiful and great photos. Thx. M going to knit it in celery green!

  • Hi Kay, I just finished my Shakerag top last nite. What a fabulous knit! I finished the edging around the sleeves, but was anxious to block the top. I tried it on before washing, and was not too thrilled…but I blocked the heck out of it, i.e. soaked in SOAK and then flat dried but pinned the armholes. It bloomed beautifully!!!
    I am now ready to finish the neckline, and glad I read your post on it and will p/u stitches and cast off.
    Deciding whether to do another one but need to finish other projects first. Thanks for your great advice on this sweater.

  • I came across the Shakerag on Ravelry and immediately fell in love with it! I clicked on the link for more information and was sent to one of your pages. Reading through the text, if I click on the hyperlink for the Shakerag, I am taken back to Ravelry . . . I feel like I am trapped in a revolving door! Where/how can I get the pattern for this top? Thank you!

  • A newbie question about gauge. Is the gauge stated for a swatch in-the-round or flat? Since the top starts in the round but then is knit flat.

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