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Joji Locatelli’s Grace Notes Pullover for Field Guide No. 22: Grace is a wonderfully wearable sweater—casual enough for everyday, and made special with those delicious cables.

Grace Notes features drop-shoulder construction and a boxy body with unshaped armholes—the join where the sleeve meets the body is straight, not curved or raglan. This elegantly simple construction is designed to be worn loose, comfy, and casual. Kay shared her sizing tips here.

It’s worked top down and seamlessly, meaning you can make the sleeves and the body as long as you want, and you don’t need to worry about running out of yarn. But it’s not your usual top-down, so we thought it might be helpful to explain how it works.

Begin at the Back

Top-down sweaters are usually worked in the round right from the neck, but this one starts differently.

The first piece worked is the upper portion of the back: You cast on for the full shoulder width as indicated by the orange line below.

the white arrow shows knitting direction.

The design uses short rows to create sloped shoulder lines. Though you cast on for the entire back at once, the body isn’t straight across at the shoulder.

Once the short rows are done, work back and forth in rows until you hit the depth of the armhole, marked by the blue line above. Place the back stitches on a holder and return to the cast-on edge.

Divided Front

Hold the back piece with RS facing and the cast-on edge at the top. For the right front, start at the right edge. Pick up and knit along the shoulder line, between the right side and the marker (that was placed while casting on) to indicate the start of the neck.

Knit down the right front, first working short rows to shape the shoulder slope, then increasing stitches along the inner edge (the end of the RS rows) for the neckline. Once the piece is the same length as the back—the depth of the armhole—place the stitches on a holder.

Next comes the left front. Again, hold the piece with RS facing and cast-on edge up. Start from the marker (that was placed while casting on) to indicate the neck opening, and pick up and knit stitches working towards the armhole edge.

The shaping is the reverse of the right front, and the neckline shaping takes place near the start of the RS rows.

Once the back, right front, and left front are the same length, follow instructions for joining each front to the back and working further neckline shaping before joining to work in the round.

It’s fun and easy from here, no increases or short rows. Just work the cable patterns as set to your preferred length (keeping in mind the 2.5″ or about 6.5 cm for the hem). If you’ve worked a top-down sweater before, you’ll know how great this is—you can even try it on as you go.


Starting at the underarm, pick up stitches all along the armhole and work in the round.

It can be a challenge to get those picked-up stitches evenly distributed. Top tip: use removable stitch markers to divide the armhole into four equal sections, one at the center of the underarm, one at the shoulder join and one each halfway down the sides. Those markers will help you distribute the picked-up stitches evenly; aim for a quarter in each section. And if you can’t quite get exactly the right stitch count, if you have a couple more or less than you need, just work increases or decreases as required on the first round!

As with the body, you can try the sleeve on as you go, to make sure it’s the length you want. Sleeve length adjustment tips are right here if you need them.

Here’s the best part: When you’ve bound off the second sleeve you’re just a good blocking and bit-of-ends-weaving away from a fabulous new addition to your wardrobe!

There When You Need It.  Here’s how to save this article in your MDK account with one click.

About The Author

Kate Atherley is a teacher, designer, author and technical editor. She’s also the publisher of Digits & Threads, a magazine all about Canadian fibre and textile arts.


  • Thank you for this wonderful explanation to a beautiful sweater. What you did not talk about is picking up around the neckline for the twisted rib finish.

    • Yes, this article was about getting started. You’ll find a link in the article to Kate’s tips on picking up stitches.

  • Thank you!! I was reading and rereading on the start of the sweater. This confirms what I thought it was supposed to be.

  • What an ingenious way to start a top-down sweater! Thanks for the explanation!

  • I haven’t tried knitting a top-down sweater yet and have been nervous I wouldn’t understand what to do. This article shows me that this sweater may be a good one to start with. Thanks so much for the explanation. I’m a big admirer of Joji.

  • Just the information I needed!! Thank you!

  • Bless you, Kate! I’m swatching and simply could not visualize how this came together.

  • I started the pullover 2 weeks ago and had a few false starts finding a good gauge and deciphering the pattern. I found it helpful at first to write out the directions, line by line to get it going. After that it’s an easy way to get into cables. I am down to the “join the front and back section and was waiting on Kate’s column before going further. Looks like it will be easy sailing from this point. It’s actually an enjoyable knit.
    Because we have milder winters (I hope) I’m making it in cotton for a transitional sweater.
    Thanks Kate,

    • I found I had to write out the instructions line by line for the first set of the cable also, so much going on, short rows, starting the cable, and then incorporating the cable twist. Now that I’ve got the first couple of inches under my needles it’s smooth sailing.

    • I wish I would have written out the instructions line by line….See my comment

  • Brilliant!

  • Thanks for breaking down the process into manageable pieces- now it’s less intimidating. What a gorgeous sweater!

  • When I knit something like this – where lengths have to match, I make sure to count rows, not just measure. On this, you’d need both fronts to have the same number of rows as well as the same length. Such a pretty sweater!

  • Drop shoulder and arms: Dividing opening into quarters and portioning out the stitches to be picked up—so sensible! Thank you Kate. I have always looked for a pattern: pick up 2, skip 1 or pick up 3, skip 1, but this involves pulling out and trying for the right ratio again (and again).

    Although the pictures show a very feminine sweater, I’ve been mentally stripping away detail and thinking that it could be unisex.

  • This is a great guide! I’m 4” past the join now and in the easy part and love how it’s working up. One other tip I would add – I got disoriented on right vs left cables once I joined and had used all the same stitch markers. I made sure which was which, then daisy-chained an little lilac stitch marker for the left cables so I didn’t have to reorient every time. (For the front, it’s at the end stitch marker of the cable section) So far that has been enough – If I find I need it later I’ll add a red one for the right cables too!

  • So helpful! I have been confused and hesitant to get started – Onward!

  • I’ve made many sweaters this way. It’s been around quite a while. I agree that that fit and wearability are great.

  • Great description! Thank you.

  • Thanks for that great explanation! I’ve swatched and ready to CO. I was trying to imagine the construction, and this helped enormously!

  • WONDERFUL walkthrough! Thank you so much! I knit a lot of tops/sweaters, so I’m always curious about the process before I purchase a pattern. Thanks again!

  • I love knitting topdown sweaters, so I started this one confidently. The challenge that I experienced was that there is soooooo much going on while knitting the back and then the front – short rows, cables, increases….ARGH! It seems like I missed something every other row and had to undo. It is definitely NOT a knit where you can multi-task. I have now reached the point where I have joined the front and am knitting in the round. NOW it’s soooooo easy! My only problem know is that the cables definitely have a different “look” now that I am knitting in the round. I hope that all of that will look better after blocking.

  • Thank you so very much for this explanation. Just getting started and almost to where I reach the armhole length on the back side. Perfect timing!

  • I want to share a tip from my experience. When picking up the stitches at the top (cast on edge) for the shoulder it’s always difficult for me to figure out the beginning cast on stitch. I was off by one and fudged it by picking up a stitch in an odd place thinking that would be OK. WRONG! If you are not stitch for stitch joining the back to the front then your cable pattern at the shoulder will be off and not meet up exactly as it should. Luckily I didn’t get too far along before I realized this. If I were joining stockinette to stockinette this wouldn’t have been a problem.

  • I am confused with the RIGHT FRONT instructions. I have picked up the stitches for my size along the back CO edge from the right armhole edge as directed, but the next row, short Row 1, is suppose to start on the WS. But doing this puts the working yarn on the neck end, so you’d have have to join new yarn if I am going to have a WS row first. As it is the Row 1 would be a RS row.

    Confused. Thanks.

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