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Dear Ann,

Remember the cotton version of the Shakerag Top I had on my needles, and how I was going to finish it before the Knitting Getaway at Shakerag Workshops in June?

Yeah. Didn’t quite happen. My head was turned by another deep blue project I just had to cast on. (Karida Collins’s Simple Swoncho from MDK Field Guide No. 18.)

But look how close I am!

Do you think it would jinx it if I said I am planning to wear this on vacation next month?

It probably would jinx it, now that I think of it. But I’m so close.  Just the front neck and shoulder shaping and 3 simple edgings on the openings, and I’ll be prancing around in this lovely top on every warm day from now through autumn.

A Couple of Tips

Tip 1

Sometimes when I’m knee-deep (or shoulder-deep) in a project, I start to doubt my choice of size. In this case, I had my first Shakerag Top as a handy reference and reassurance. I’ve checked my WIP against that beloved sweater a couple of times, just to make sure I was on track for a fit that I like.

Sylph on the left, Summerlite 4ply Cotton on the right.

Here’s the thing, though: it doesn’t have to be the exact same sweater. Any sweater that has a fit you like can provide reassurance that the sweater on your needles is going to fit well. (Or a warning that it will not, before you put more time into it.)

Tip 2

This tip is specific to the Shakerag Top. The lighter/darker stripes of the Shakerag Top are formed by alternating 6 rows with a single strand of yarn and 6 rows of a double strand of the same yarn.

On the single-strand stripes, the strand-not-in-use just dangles on the edge until you need it again. If you keep using the same strand for all 6 rows/rounds, you end up with a snaggy loop of the strand-not-in-use on the inside of the garment when you go back to double-stranding.

I thought the solution to this would be to cross the strand-not-in-use over the working strand whenever they met, as one does when striping different colors, but I kept forgetting to do this and getting the loop. I was also annoyed (mildly, but in hot weather a mild annoyance can get on my last nerve) that it meant that the 2 balls of yarn would not run out at the same time. These are the kinds of problems I tend to ponder while knitting round after round of stockinette: not significant in the scheme of virtually anything, just how my mind works.

Then, far too recently, it hit me:  I should actually alternate the 2 skeins of yarn within each single-strand stripe. For some reason, this is easier for me to remember to do—when I get back to the strand-not-in-use, I pick it up and start knitting with it, and drop the other strand.  No loop! And it also makes the 2 skeins get used up more evenly.

This probably seems obvious! But I mention it here in case there is anyone else missing this one as I did.

See you in August!




  • brilliant!!!

  • This is really helpful, Kay! I haven’t even started my top yet but aim to this week. Your description of how to avoid the looping problem is so spot on that even I, pretty much a novice, get it. Thank you! Beth

  • Oh that is clever! And the top is so cute!

  • Good idea! It seems obvious after you mention it, but things like that often take time to make themselves known. This could be useful in other stripe projects.

  • Love it. Clever Kay!

  • Happy vacation to you Kay! Your tips are great and the sweater is gorgeous.

    I, too, am still working on that sweater I was hoping to have for Shakerag…so easily sidetracked…

  • What a fantastic idea, thank you !

  • So helpful to point out ways to work with the way one’s own mind works. Sometimes that is half the battle. Thank you, Kay!

  • I’m going to do that on mine, just separated the back from the front. About halfway through the lower body when the knitting was in the round, I realized that the single-strand stripes could be done helically, and it worked very well!

  • That is what I did oh so many years ago, but my yarn was speckled so it made me do it!

  • I need to finish my Shakerag sweater! Just have shoulders and edges to go and it will be done! I got sidetracked with Laura Nelkins’ MKAL which I just completed. Huge but beautiful project!

    • Question – if it’s cotton, won’t it shrink when you wash it? I would think you need to make it bigger to account for that but presumably you swatches and blocked and I’m wrong.

      I have some black denim yarn and I’m thinking this might be the perfect application for it!

  • Such a timely post – just started mine and started to realize I needed to figure out how manage the strands as I started the single striping (and how to get the balls to run out at the same time). Thanks for the tips!

  • How much ease does this pattern call for. My upper chest is 39 3/4” and full chest is 42”. Not sure which size would be best. I don’t like things real loose Thanks

  • Funny this comes up now. I made 2 Shakerag tops, one solid in Sylph and another in Rowan Cotton. The cotton one just feels too tight through the armholes ( I blame Operator Error). My plan, as soon as I finish Sunshine Coast is to pull the Shakerag top apart at the should seams and frog it down and redo that section.
    The neckline was wide and I’ll take a tip from NellKnits to make the opening a tad smaller too.
    Y’all keep me in your thoughts. This is terrifying knitting surgery.

    • Lucy, you’ve got this! Your plan is sound and your goal is noble.

  • Brilliant!

  • Is this like the way one would carry the yarn up the side of the normal scarf when alternating the 2 different colored skeins every 2 rows for making stripes? If so, then I understand. If not, I will re-read until I do. 🙂

    • Should have read Noro scarf

      • Exactly.

  • Oh, the timing of this! Kisses and hugs sent!! I’m having the same issue with forgetting to twist the loose strand. I’m on the 3rd stripe so easy to start doing this. I’m making mine in unison with my friend who is a newer knitter. I figured if I stayed just ahead of her I could help with her questions.

  • The pattern is written with stepped bind off at the shoulder. Has it been rewritten for short row shaping? I’m not an experienced knitter, but know that would seam better.

    • That *is* is a great idea. I had so much trouble seaming those shoulders I ended up using my sewing machine!

    • That is a great idea!

      • I agree!

  • So glad for tip 2. I’m about to start that top and would never thought to alternate. Thanks Kay!

  • A (belated) stroke of genius!

  • I was alternating the skeins in the single thread section, but wasn’t happy with the inconsistency of the stitches running up the that side and had wished I had used a distracting decorative stitch up the side. Then after knitting 9”, I saw that it was going to have too much ease. I decided to rip it out and start over using a top-down pattern (Danae Sweater from Cast-On Summer 2016) as a guide. I’m using an I-cord cast-on instead of ribbing and will use I-cord bind-offs. I haven’t decided on what to use for the side stitch yet. It’s a journey!

  • What an awesome idea!!! I have been struggling with this as well! Thank you!

  • Genius! I KNEW there was a reason I had to put off knitting a Shakerag for so long!

  • I just started a baby sweater in the Summerlite 4 ply and a top of my own in it seems like an excellent idea! It is soft and drapes beautifully!

  • Great ideas! And I love both those fabrics your 2 yarn choices made.

  • Oh, phoo! I just invested in beautiful yarn to make a two color top, like Ann did. The problem remains!!

  • That made me laugh. Funny and true. Brain hiccups….

  • How can I save this like the articles that can be saved on my MDK account?

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