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Dear Ann,

Out here on the internet, there are so many finished knitting projects popping up all the time that a person can forget how much sheer strength of character it takes to take even the simplest knit all the way across the finish line.

Here’s the truth about me (that you already know): If we didn’t write about our knitting on this website, I’d specialize in making almost finished projects. I’d have a whole stack of sweaters needing just their shoulder seams, ends woven in, and/or button bands. I’m a process knitter, dammit, and the process that I like is the knitting-and-watching-TV part.

There are so many shiny objects that get in the way of me doing those last little things that make a project wearable.

So I’m very grateful to present: a completely finished Shakerag Top.

I love this soft and sturdy, budget-friendly cotton yarn:  Summerlite 4ply. This shade, Navy Ink, was created especially for me. (Narrator: It was not created especially for her.)

Just like with my last one, as I was making it, I had doubts about the depth of the armhole, which for my size is 7 inches (18cm)—which doesn’t seem deep enough. But I followed the pattern, and just like with my last one, when I tried it on, I absolutely loved the depth of the armhole. It provides plenty of comfort and ease of movement, yet covers the armpit region. It’s a magic armhole!



This is my second Shakerag Top, but not my last. I still dream of a linen version of the Shakerag Top. I’ve seen a few of those in the wild, and they are deliciously cool and drapey.

Thoughts on Stepped Shoulders

The Shakerag Top’s shoulders are shaped with a stepped bindoff that occurs over 14 ever-shortening rows. I recently heard from a knitter who doesn’t like stepped bindoffs, who wondered whether it wouldn’t be better for the shoulders to be sloped using short rows.

Maybe it would be better, and I think if one is confident with short rows, it’s probably an easy modification. To me, there’s a tradeoff, though, because I like the ease of working the bindoffs, and also the way the stepped shoulders make it easy to nail the mattress stitch seam on the first try.

My faithful friends, Clover Wonder Clips, are always there for me.

I clip each step of the seam before I start, and then unclip as I go. This way, the shoulder seam gets broken down into 6- or 7-stitch units, thus neatly avoiding a problem I sometimes have of my edges getting out of alignment on a longer mattress stitch seam. Thanks to the steps, and the clips, I was able to seam each shoulder in one go, no do-overs.

Shoutout to our brand-new baby, the Skill Set video app: I watched the mattress seam videos on the Skill Set App before I started, even though I made miles of mattress stitch seams in my Mitered Square Blanket days.  But seeing the Magnificent Hands of AllisonTM work those seams so neatly gave me a moment of clarity and got me in the mood for mattress stitch.

The Neckline

The neckline is wider and roll-ier than on my first Shakerag Top, for this reason: I didn’t do the pick-up and bind-off edging as instructed in the pattern. For summer wear and layering, I like a bigger neck opening—not the full Flashdance, but wide. To loosen the neckline, I worked single crochet all around the opening, using a sawed-off crochet hook keychain that I keep in my bag for picking up dropped stitches. This was hilariously awkward, but there were no witnesses, and it worked out fine.



P.S. Don’t yell at me for not having a modeled shot—it’s just me and Olive at home right now, and she is no help. It’s not so much lack of opposable thumbs as her attitude, frankly. I’ll post one as soon as I can, and for now just trust me: it fits just great.


  • Okay, I did briefly wonder how many people would get the Flashdance reference — is that firmly enough set in popular culture that the young whippersnappers would know to what you are referring? (Here I am channeling Mrs. Bagot the canteen lady in “Brief Encounter” who says snootily to the amorous station master “I don’t know to WHAT you are referring, Mr. Godby” — how’s that for a geezer reference?)

    In a “team-building” exercise with a DiSC enabler at work, the perky DiSC chick referred to herself as being our “Julie McCoy.” Only two of us got the reference. (Aside: my DiSC assessment says that I am a bitch and I hate everyone. Nothing I did not know.)

    I may have already had a lot of coffee this morning.

    • I love the sweater and the color. I’m confused though. Does the yarn self stripe or do you use two colors? Thanks

      • She is holding the yarn single, then double which gives it the darker color. Only one yarn, not a MC and CC. (at least I think but I’ve not knit the Shakerag)

    • This comment thread has me creasing up. I haven’t come across a disc assessment either, but I’m sure it would also find that I’m a bitch who hates everyone. I’m about to go back to self employment for this very reason. I’m old enough to get the flashdance reference, one of my three teenagers would have too, but not the love boat one. And Kay, your top looks awesome, I can’t wait to see the modeled pictures.

    • Got both references, being a Person of Certain Age. And to my credit, retired from public libraries exactly on the cusp of Too Crabby To Work Anymore. Thanks to Kay I am now in possession of Clover Wonder Clips, indeed a wonder. Yes, Kay, make a linen Shakerag. I love mine. Perfect fiber.

      • Did you modify the pattern in any way for the linen yarn? Which yarn did you use?

        I’ve been wanting to make a linen version myself and just wasn’t sure about the yarn. I look forward to your response. Thanks very much.

        • I’m curious about which linen too. I don’t like the look of Sparrow doubled in stocking stitch. I tried a swatch last week. Haven’t tried Antigone yet.

    • Marvelous sweater! Don’t know what DiSC is but I’m sure I’d hate doing it. Instantly got the Flashdqnce and Julie “Loveboat” McCoy references. Geez! now that theme song is stuck in my head.
      BTW Why are all of you up and physically able to comment so early?

    • Flashdance sure, but DiSC and Julie McCoy mean nothing to me, la la la . . .

    • Kay’s new sweater is terrific! Thank you for the enjoyable comment thread this morning…I can relate. There seems to be quite a few of us, around the same age, feelin’ grumpy today…

    • Howling! Love you, Wendy!

    • I got the Flashdance reference, not the Julie McCoy reference (never saw that film) but mostly sighed a huge sigh of relief that I have never encountered this DISC assessment because I don’t hate everyone but I’m a bitch and and a rebel and I would have slammed it, whatever it is. All hail retirement! BTW, BITCH stands for Boys I’m Taking Charge Here. Carry on!

      • Love that!

    • Your comments obviously resonate with a few of us this morning lol Took me a minute to get the Julie McCoy reference;) Perky People make me especially bitchy!

    • I, too, got the Flashdance reference and am a bitch and hate just about everyone. for the record, I dislike (so much) the DiSC profiling (or anything like it) and frequently answer questions incorrectly to skew results which really makes me a bitch.

    • I got the Flashdance reference AND I too am a bitch and hate everyone!!!! Years of retail I guess- love your sweater Kay!

  • Bravo!
    And always a thrill to come across a fellow ‘armhole depth is important’ believer.
    And I now also own some Clover Wonder Clips – and they are indeed a wonder!

  • Now I know I’m REALLY old: I got both references right away! I own some Wonder Clips, too, but haven’t used them, yet. I need to knit something that requires them for finishing!

  • Beautiful sweater! I am so glad to see your comments on stepped shoulders. I have not been able to get the hang of short rows, despite a class and numerous attempts, over the years. I have ruined almost finished sweater pieces and had to rip out more than one shoulder. Short rows seem to be in fashion these days but I use stepped as a guilty secret. They are easy and straightforward and I don’t worry throughout the knitting process about short rows. Enjoy your summer!

  • …and a lovely thing it is too! (As was the first). I am envious but this would be very challenging for me for both finer gauge and techniques. Nevertheless may have to try one just for the proper armhole depth. When I find a garment like that in the wild (i.e., at the Mall). I hold onto it until it’s in shreds. Of course these days I often feel required to layer it over an elbow-length tee, but that’s another story. I wish you happy wearing! (As the reward for doing the finishing.) Chloe

  • I’m right there with you! I love the process, not the things I need to do to finish. I have two sweaters right now that only need weaving ends in and two easy blankets that are garter stitch, but just sitting there staring at me.

  • I’m with you on the “process”. I currently have 3 projects next to my chair in process, 2 on guest bed awaiting blocking, and another 3 bagged and staged to start next .

  • If we could figure out to get the dog to do our photoshoots, wouldn’t that be a game changer. Love your shake rag!

  • Bravo to you! — you finished, and it is still summer! I think you are going to love it. ❤️

  • Very nice!

  • I just finished my 2nd Shakerag too with Rowan Summerlite, and I absolutely LOVE it. It fits perfectly too! I will definitely be making another one of these sweaters!

  • I have what may be a silly question, but it’s something I’ve wondered since Transparency came out. How do you pronounce Shakerag? Is it “Shake Rag” or “Shaker Ag?”

    • Thanks for asking! I alternate in my head, and have often wondered which is correct.

    • Shake Rag!

  • May I humbly suggest that anyone try a short row/three needle bind off for shoulders. Takes concentration but it yields a beautifully finished shoulder seam that slopes instead of steps!! Anything to avoid mattress stitch….

    • I agree with you. I like the strength the three needle bind off seems to give shoulders. Whether stepped or three needle though, I get stepped holes or gapes that I find unsightly. How do others disguise this unlovely look?

      • Completely agree. I hate mattress stitching stepped shoulders and much prefer fussing and ripping back short rows till I get them right. And it’s hard to do my favourite shoulder finish, Patty Lyons’ awesome shoulder join, on a stepped shoulder.

      • Have you tried German short rows? To me they are the smoothest. And with the wrap and turn, be sure you work back one row after the shaping and pick up all your wraps. I also like the stability of being able to do a 3 needle bind off.

    • I did that on my second Shakerag (made in Holst Garn Coast, which I highly recommend) and it worked beautifully (I also hate mattress stitch).

  • You struck a chord with me, Kay. I have so many UFOs it’s practically an alien invasion.

    If it weren’t for test knitting over the past 15 months and sample knitting for a few years before that, I would have nothing finished. Except for tiny projects like hats. I guess I need deadlines and accountability in everything!

    • ” I have so many UFOs it’s practically an alien invasion.” Best knitterly punchline I’ve ever heard!

      • I second that lol

  • Of course Olive has an attitude! She’s a supermodel! Besides, she’s got jet lag, what with fashion shoots all over the world and trips for fittings for her Met Gala gown. It’s a tough life being so posh, sweetie darling!

  • “not the full Flashdance”… crack me up, Kay, and thanks for that instant visual and earworm! I still have a relic leotard at the bottom of my drawer from the days of Dancercize, when I and my peers attempted to be Flashdance cool. Those were the days…..

  • “The Full Flashdance”, snort!

  • Congrats on the FO Kay. I completely fall into the same realm… knitting and Netflix. Is that KnitFlixing??!! And thanks for the fun references and all the laughs from the other comments. I, too, have my own UFO alien invasion going on. I needed this bright spot!

    • KNITFLIXING for the win!!!

  • Am i really the first, at procrastinating-dinner-o-clock to request a pic of this crochet hook? I need some new keychain fobs…

  • Ok, I might have some Euroflax of a certain vintage for shake rag. I do like my Sylph one, but when it is hot it is bit too warm. I’m making a baby sweater in Summerlite and it is a dream!

  • I knew, even though I’m not going to knit a Shakerag (and I’ve been reading it as shak-er-rag all this time), that it was going to be worth reading the comments!!

  • Love your Shakerag – I am making my second one but decided to make it with 2 colors, so using fun speckled yarn in yellow and light green – really fun – will actually finally pay Ravelry to post it I believe…just now finishing the front of it…

  • What size needle did you use with the summerlite yarn? Thank you.

  • I love that navy color in the summer, with white on the bottom? BTW I’m happy to share a photo shoot day w you, I need a photographer here in my backwoods too! Say when! Say cheese!

  • Would the sloped bind off work on the shoulders?

  • I identify with every word of this from the process knitting to the love of all things Navy. I read the post to my husband and he said “are you sure you didn’t write this article?” You are my new hero.

  • Has anyone written out the instructions for the short row shoulders? I also hate mattress stitch and would rather avoid it, but don’t have the confidence to try short rows on my own.

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