I’ve got big Swarfalong news: my Swarf is done. True to form, I did the sewn bindoff on the neck about an hour before our Swarfalong kick-off zoom with Cecelia Campochiaro last Friday. Where would I be without deadlines?
I’ve also got small Swarfalong news: I made a Swarf for Olive. It’s a Swarf, all righty—but with two short seams and the deployment of a sturdy rustic wool, I turned it into a hearty and hardy little dog coat for my snarly little best friend.
This is one of those ideas that comes to you while you’re letting your mind wander as you knit something soulful and satisfying like the Swarf.
The front of the Swarf is a long piece of sweater-y fabric—like the back of a dog coat. And the back of the Swarf is a smaller, shorter piece of ribbed fabric—like the chest/front of a dog coat! So just by following the Swarf pattern, with stitch count adjustments for doggy dimensions—I was nearly all the way there!
The only modification would be two short seams to secure the front and back, leaving openings for Olive’s front legs. I had to try it!
From Swarf to Swoof: How to Do It
I will never write a dog sweater pattern. Dogs are too variable in shape and size!
But for knitters who think Olive’s Swarf, aka the Swoof, would work for a dog they have in mind, I’ll sketch out how I did it, and I’ll answer any questions in the comments as best I can.
My starting point was Cecelia Campochiaro’s Swarf pattern for humans, so it will make most sense if you know the Swarf, and perhaps it makes the most sense of all if you’re knitting a Swarf for yourself. (Look at all the beautiful Swarfs on Ravelry.)
Olive’s Vital Statistics
For frame of reference, here are Olive’s particulars.
Chest: 16 inches/40 cm
Length from collar to tail: 16 inches/40 cm
Weight: 11 pounds soaking wet
Size in store-bought dog clothes: Small.
Style: If Mrs. Maisel were a dog.
I love Olive, but I was not going to devote a yarn as elegant and soft as Woolfolk Tynd to this project. I wanted something heavier and harder-wearing. [whispers] She’s a dog.
I had recently rummaged through my Léttlopi stash (hmm wonder why), though, so the léttbulb lit up in my brain. I picked five colors that suited Olive. She’s an Autumn, she looks good in warm earthtones and also jewel colors—we’ve discussed this, Ann.
Quantity: I used less than half of the total yardage of the five skeins. If you’re not doing as many colors, you could get by with two to three skeins (for Olive’s size).
I used a US 9 needle and two strands of Léttlopi for marling. Did this give me a pretty firm fabric? Yes, intentionally. Note that I’m a loose knitter, so if you’re not, you’d want to go up a needle size or two.
Dog Coat Back
I cast on 36 stitches. I divided the Swarf’s stitch sequence to divide into 3 sets of 12 stitches, alternating stockinette and reverse stockinette.
Each section is 10 rows long.
I followed the pattern, changing the marl colors as I went and as I wished, until I was getting close to the collar.
Then I made an opening for a leash/harness attachment by binding off 4 stitches in the center of the center section, and then, on the next row, casting on 4 stitches over those bound-off stitches.
Then I finished the last 10-row repeat, cut the yarn, and left the back stitches on their needle while I made the front piece.
Dog Coat Front
I cast on 36 stitches again and worked K2, P2 ribbing. I worked out how long I was going to make the front by starting with the marl sequence in the middle of the back of the coat and just copying those 10-row marls all the way up to the collar. This was not necessary but it made it easy to match up the pieces for the little seams.
Dog Coat Collar
I joined the back and front to work in the round, continuing in the ribbing pattern.
I did not do any of the yoke decreases that the human Swarf pattern calls for, nor did I work the neck in plain stockinette like the Swarf. I just started right in on the collar, and ribbed it for neatness and easy on/off-ness.
I ended with the sewn bind off, because Olive deserves a sewn bind off. This is not her first dog coat, she has Standards.
Then I tried it on her for fit, sewed those two little seams under her front legs, wove in the ends, and voilà!
Here’s our girl, warmly be-Swoofed.
What I’d Change
I was so taken with this notional project that I raced through it. Olive is not one to sit still for multiple fittings, and I figured I could treat her first Swoof as a wearable muslin, and make any modifications to the next one.
My edits, for Olive, would be:
Make the fit a bit snugger, chiefly by narrowing the ribbed front, maybe down to 24 or even 22 stitches. Maybe make the back a few stitches narrower, too, but I like the way it lays like a blanket on her back.
Make the front an inch or two longer for enhanced belly warmth.
Decrease 8 stitches or so before starting the neck ribbing, so the front of the collar isn’t quite so open. (It needs to be fairly open to slip easily over her head, but it could stand to be a bit snugger.)
The way I did it, it’s almost a cowl neck. Easy to get over her head, and Fine for city walks, but could catch on sticks when she’s tearing through the underbrush.
No false modesty here: This is one of the best ideas I’ve ever had.
Olive’s Swoof is marled, and so is the coat she was born with.
Dog sweaters are tricky. Even though the sweaters I’ve knit for Olive have been quick knits, they have sometimes been a bit too complicated for my liking. The Swoof is a breeze to knit—two flat, straight pieces that are easy to alter to fit—and it’s a comfy, functional dog coat.
I made Olive’s Swoof in a matter of hours, and did the finishing in minutes. No buttons! No shaping! No guessing where to place leg holes!
I would definitely not change the yarn. Léttlopi, doubled, is dense and warm. I bet it will felt a little with wear, and Olive loves that sheepy Icelandic flavor—she lays her head on the skeins while I’m knitting.
If anyone else makes a Swoof, would you please please please let me know so I can admire it? Pinky swear?