Case study: recreating Lyra’s red sweater coat from the Golden Compass
Before you start:
- It is impossible to get a really good close look at it. The pictures online are too small and the film itself moves around too much, and no one wants to wait for the DVD so it could be paused.
- The yarn/other materials that went into making it will be difficult to come by, and one can’t really be sure what they were. I have read (here) that the coat wasn’t even made out if yarn, but fabric strips, twine etc. This is going to be very difficult to duplicate because costume makers are just better equipped. For all my moaning, I am an amateur in the field of having materials to hand.
- I am not sure how much yarn this will take, but I know it will be a lot. If anyone actually wants to do this with yarn, I think it will take at least 2-4lbs (1.5-2kg) to make it.
If you still feel the coat is worth pursuing and you think you have enough yarn, you should make a generous swatch to make sure you can get colour and texture that pleases you. Then you should work out your gauge. I would say that you need super bulky or comparable different yarns held together, and the gauge should be around 7-8 sts to 4inches/10cm.
- The colours work better when the added colour is either lighter or darker than the main colour, having both darker and lighter strands together made it look odd.
- Any time you want to add another colour or strand you just hold it with your group. It’s not going to unravel as the other threads will hold it.
- When you need a thread to go through to the back, you can poke it through with your finger.
- arm circumference
- neck circumference
- distance from shoulder to shoulder (from where you want the sleeves to begin, or to end of clavicles)
- distance from base of neck to shoulder (where you want the sleeves to begin, or to end of clavicle)
- distance from top of shoulder to line where underarm of sweater should be (an inch or two under the armpit)
- distance from shoulder to knee or preferred length
Here are my measurements in case you need an example or happen to be a women’s medium, in which case you can knit the same pattern as me, though I think that takes away some of the fun:
- bust – 38 inches [97cm]
- arm circumference – 12 inches [30cm]
- neck circumference – 13 inches [33cm]
- distance from shoulder to shoulder – 14 inches [36cm]
- distance from base of neck to shoulder – 5 inches [13cm]
- distance from top of shoulder to line where underarm of sweater should be – 9 inches [23cm]
- distance from shoulder to knee – 42 inches [107cm]
If you are making this coat for a person whose belly or hips are much wider than her bust, you will need her measurement at her widest part as well, otherwise for most children or people without much difference in measurement you can knit straight. I have about a 4 inch difference between my bust and my hips, and I plan to just switch to larger needles after I get past my waist.
- First work out and knit the collar for the coat.
- After the collar, pick up and knit stitches for the body of the sweater.
- Then knit down in one piece to the divide for the shoulders.
- Next knit the two fronts and back separately to the base of the armholes at which point, cast on some stitches for the underarms and continue knitting in one piece.
- Either at this point or at the end, pick up and knit stitches for the sleeves and work them straight to desired length.
- Continue knitting the body straight to the desired length.
- Then attach appropriate closures and show our lovely creations to the world (I am not including button holes in the pattern as the original didn’t have any, if you want them, I suggest placing YO button holes at your discretion).
Note: I have decided to go with a dropped shoulder and a square sleeve join like this sweater I knit from Vintage Knits: 30 Exquisite Vintage-Inspired Patterns for Cardigans, Twin Sets, Crewnecks and More, by Sarah Dallas, as I think this will be easier for everyone to make fit. It also looks like the original was shaped quite like this.
We are now ready to work out and knit the collar. You will need the following information:
- Neck measurement (in inches or cm) = A
- Number of stitches per inch (or cm) = B
- Desired height of collar (in inches or cm) = C
Collar option 1:
Note: This option is cast on and worked from side to side making a stand up collar.
Equation: (A + 1 inch [2.5cm]) x B = number of stitches to cast on
Using the long tail method, cast on the number of stitches from the equation above and work until the collar is the desired length bind off.
Collar option 2:
Note: This option is worked from side to side then folded double lengthwise. This appears to be the way the original sweater was made, but I prefer the previous option for my sweater and my swatch appears to be a little thicker and stiffer than the original, so this option wouldn’t work as well for me.
Equation: (C x B x 2) = number of stitches to cast on
Using the long tail method, cast on the number of stitches from the previous equation, work until piece measures (A + 1 inch [2.5cm]), bind off.
My collar (option 1):
- Neck measurement = A = 13 inches [33cm]
- Number of stitches per inch = B = 7 sts /4 inches = 1.75 stitches / inch [0.7 stitches / cm]
- Desired height of collar = C = 2.5 inches [6.5cm]
(A + 1 inch[2.5cm]) x B = (13 inches [33cm] + 1 inch [2.5cm]) x 1.75 stitches / inch [0.7 stitches / cm] = stitches
I need to cast on 25 stitches, work until piece measures 2.5 inches [6.5cm], and bind off.
Pick up stitches around the collar:
If you chose collar option 2, fold over collar and tack the two long edges together.Pick up and knit stitches from the long edge of the collar, for option 1 pick up along cast off edge, add a few stitches evenly spaced along the collar for the body. You don’t need overlap for buttons as the closures are with loops and toggles.Count your stitches, divide your number of stitches by two, round your numbers to make sure that the number for the front is divisible by 2.Divide your number for the front by 2, work this many stitches, place marker, work stitches for back, place marker, work to end.
- A = number of stitches picked up from collar
- B = number of stitches for each front
- C = number of stitches for back
(A / 2) ≈ C ≈ (B x 2)
Pick up and knit 31 sts (from 25 sts on collar). Turn. Work 8 sts, place marker, work 15 sts, place marker, work 8 sts (31 sts).
Increase for shoulders:
Work to 1 st before first marker, pick up the stitch beneath the next stitch on the row and knit into it, k1 (keep marker before this stitch), pick up the stitch beneath the previous stitch (same st as you increased into previously) and knit into it, (2 sts increased). You can increase any way you like as long as you increase 2 sts in a line each row at each shoulder marker.
Work to next marker and pick up the stitch beneath the next stitch on the row and knit into it, slip marker, k1, pick up the stitch beneath the previous stitch (same st as you just increased into) and knit into it, (2 sts increased).
Your increase stitches should look like this:
Work the previous row increasing for shoulders in a line until the line along the increases equals your measurement from neck to shoulder plus 1 inch [2.5cm], or a little longer if you want more of a dropped shoulder.
You can take this opportunity to take it off the needles and try it on and see if you like the way it is going. It’s really not too late to frog it if you don’t like the fit.
I increased as described, for 11 rows, I started with 31 sts: 31 + 44 = 75 sts, distance from base of collar is 5.5 inches [14cm].
Knitting the body to the underarms:
We have knit our yokes and are now ready to knit the fronts and back separately to the underarms, when we will cast on some stitches for the underarms and work the rest of the sweater in one piece.
I am posting before I have this whole step finished this time because I don’t want to make you wait.
Divide for fronts and back:
Count your stitches, divide the number of stitches by 2, making sure the number for the front is even.
Divide the number of stitches for the front by 2 (if you increased evenly from the collar this shouldn’t be a problem).
If you prefer an equation:
(A / 2) ≈ C ≈ (B x 2)
Where A = the total number of stitches, C = the number of stitches for the back, and B = the number of front stitches.
Place the number of stitches for one of your fronts onto your needle and the rest of the stitches on holders. Work even until your piece measures the measurement you took of the distance from the shoulder to the line with the underarm. Repeat for other front.
Place the back stitches on your needle and work even as you did for the fronts. If you want to get fancy you can work your back slightly longer than the fronts to help it fit better.
Total number of stitches at the end of the yoke: 75.
75 / 2 = 37.5
Number of stitches for the back = 37
Number of stitches for the front = 38 or 19 for each side
Put 19 stitches at side onto a needle, work for 9 inches [23cm] straight.
Repeat for next side.
Put 37 stitches for back on needle and work 10 inches [25cm] straight.
Your sweater should look something like this at this point:
Take the measurement of your arm and add around 4 inches [10cm] ease to it (I am adding 4 inches [10cm] to my sleeve, when my arm over my sleeve is 12 inches [30cm], add a little more if you are knitting a larger sweater or less if you are knitting a smaller sweater).
Measurement of arm = A
Ease = B
Gauge = C
Number of stitches to pick up for sleeves = D
(A + B) * C = D
With right side of piece facing you, pick up and knit the number of stitches you just worked out in the previous step along the arm rise, from right (so that your first row will be a wrong side row).
Knit to approximately 2.5 inches [6cm] after the middle of the arm rise, turn and make a yarn over over the right needle (you will knit this yarn over together with the next stitch on the next row). Knit for approximately 5 inches [12cm], turn working yarn over as for last row, work to end of previous row, knit yo with next stitch, work 3 more stitches, turn with yarn over as for previous row.
Continue with short rows, working 3 stitches further each row and using short row yarn overs to close the holes until all the stitches you picked up are worked.
Work straight until sleeve is desired length, bind off.
A = 12 inches [30cm]
B = 4 inches [10cm]
C = 1.75 stitches / inch [0.7 stitches / cm]
(12 inches [30cm] + 4 inches [10cm]) x 1.75 stitches / inch [0.7 stitches / cm] = D
16 inches [40cm] x 1.75 stitches / inch [0.7 stitches / cm] = 28 sts
Pick up and knit 28 sts.
K18, turn, yo, k8, turn, yo, k11, turn, yo . . .
Work until all stitches are picked up, work until sleeves are desired length.
At this point my sweater looks like this:
If anyone has questions or suggestions on how to proceed please let me know. I will be adding to this page as I post regularly on my blog.
Cast on stitches at underarms and work body of sweater:
This is about what your sweater coat should look like at this stage.
The sleeves are completed and it is now time to put the live stitches from the body back on your needles and cast on some stitches for the underarms.
The first thing you need to do is measure how large your sweater is without casting on for underarms. This means you should measure your two front halves and the back. These numbers combined are how large the sweater is now.
Next, you will need to work out how big it should be. I think I want 6 inches [15cm] ease. This is because I want the sweater to drape like a coat, and coats tend to be bigger, and because the fabric is so thick the inside will be smaller than the outside. (thank you Elizabeth Zimmerman). If your sweater is much smaller, i.e. child’s size, you may want to have slightly less ease (4-5 inches [10-12cm], but that is up to you.
Subtract how big your sweater is from how big you want it to be, this will give you how much you need to cast on for. Divide this amount by two for each underarm and multiply it my your gauge, this will give you the number of stitches to cast on under each arm.
Put all the live stitches onto a long needle (I think you will need a circular needle for this), which will fold the sleeves in half. If you find that you didn’t end one end in the right direction and you will not start your garter stitch on the same (right side or wrong side) row, work one row to make it even.
Starting at the beginning of the row of the stitches you have on your needle, work to the first sleeve, cast on the number of stitches you worked out in the previous step; repeat for the second underarm. You will now have enough stitches on your needle for the complete body of the sweater.
At this point you can decide to work straight until the end of the garment, in which case, you can bid farewell to my instructions, such as they are. Just keep going until you are happy, bind off, sew on your preferred method of closure, sew the sleeve seams, wash the sweater (if you are using old stash yarn and your sweater smells a little fusty), block/dry it, and enjoy.
I however, have decided that I want pockets, I know the original didn’t have any, but I want them and it’s my sweater. I also plan to add a few stitches for a little increased room for my hips and walking stride. If you want either of these things, work to the point at which these things would be appropriate and I will try to catch up to you as soon as I can.
My sweater without casting on at underarms is as follows:
(11 inches [28cm] x 2 fronts) + 23 inches [58cm] = 45 inches [114cm]
If you think back to the measurement stage, my bust with clothes is 38 inches [97cm]
45 inches [114cm] – (38 inches [97cm] + 6 inches [15cm]) = -1 inch [-2cm]
My sweater turned out to be big enough already, so I will just start knitting the body, but if you need any added under the arms, follow the directions here.
This is what my sweater looked like before I joined for and started working body:
This is what my sweater looked like after I worked a few rows and sewed the sleeve seams with mattress stitch:
I found that sewing the sleeve seams made the knitting easier, so I did that now, but that is a matter of preference.
If you added stitches under the arms, sew the beginnings of the sleeves to the underarm stitches, then sew the rest of the sleeve seam straight.
Of course pockets in all knitting projects are optional and the original didn’t have any, but I have more or less dispensed with accurately recreating the sweater exactly (though this pattern could easily be done that way), I also love walking with my hands in my pockets, so mine will have some.
Work your sweater in garter stitch until you get to the part where pockets should be. I suggest trying it on (if you are anything at all like me this will be just the next in a succession in many tryings on) and figuring out where you want pockets.
At this point my sweater looks like this (click to see full size):
I am also adding a few stitches for hip shaping here, which is also optional and will depend on the body shape of the person who will wear it. I have already added 2 stitches in one row and will add 2 more a little later, this will add about 2 inches. I chose to do this staggered, so it wouldn’t suddenly bulge – I spend quite a bit of mental energy in clothing selection trying to make my hips not look like they bulge.
The next step is to figure out how wide you want your pockets. I figure I want mine about 6 inches (18cm) wide. Change the width of the pocket to align with the size of the sweater you are making and/or your preferences: smaller sweater = smaller pocket and vice versa.
The next step is to go back and work how wide each front side was. Then I suggest taking the number of stitches on each front side, subtracting the number of stitches to make your pocket the size you want, and dividing the remaining number by 2 and placing your pocket that many stitches from the edge.
Now you know how wide your pocket will be and where to put it, on the next right side row (so the garter pattern will work better) work as many stitches as will be the edge of your pocket, take as many stitches as make your pocket and put them on waste yarn or a stitch holder, CO as many stitches as will make your pocket (I suggest backward loop cast in this situation), work until you are the number of stitches between your pocket and the edge plus the number of stitches for your pocket and repeat the process with the holder and the cast on. Work to end, turn and work as usual.
I plan to work the pockets at the end with one strand of whatever yarn I have left so it will not be too bulky. I will K1, yarn over, K1, yarn over . . . , so the difference in gauge will not be such a problem, and in the next row I will knit through back loop, so there will not be holes from the yarn overs. I will post about this too, but I am outlining it now in case you want to change order of knitting or get ahead of me.
My two fronts are 19 sts each. My gauge is 7 sts /4 inches (10cm).
(6 inches (15cm) for each pocket) x (7 sts / 4 inches (10cm) gauge) = 10.5 sts (say 11 sts) for pocket
(19 sts / front) – (11 sts for pocket) = 8 sts / 2 = 4 sts from edge
Knitting of course is amenable to fudging and now I see that I don’t like the distance from the edge that my calculations came up with, so am am changing it to 6 sts from edge.
So I need to K6, put 11 sts on holder, CO11, K to 16 sts from end, put 11 sts on holder, CO11, work to end. In the next row I work in garter stitch as usual.
This is about what it should look like at this stage: