The Ziggurat Method
the challenge was (and still is)
How do you start from one shoulder and wind your way down to the hem in one single piece of knitting, possibly while striping and with absolutely minimal cutting and joining of skeins? And also achieving symmetry? And no finishing left to do when you’re done?
the answer is
It’s a method I have honed and refined since 2012, when I knitted the first sweater with what has since become known as the Ziggurat method – and is explained in detail in my recent Ziggurat Book.
Here is an early sketch from 2012 outlining the steps as they were first imagined:
The basic principle is still the same: You cast on for back and shoulders, then work the back and front shoulders in turn while also creating sleeve caps. (There is an overview of the Ziggurat method in this video interview)
In most Ziggurat patterns this first Step (Step 1: Cast on and Right Back Shoulder) now looks like this:
A more recent sketch from drafts for the book (Ziggurats: 16 elegantly seamless knits):
The Ziggurat method is inspired by Tuulia Salmela’s Tailored Sweater Method but with everything knitted in one go, and with a trademark Helpful Table, the Ziggurat Steps, and photo tutorials.
The challenge is still on for I keep finding small and bigger ways of improving a detail here or working out a different stripe sequence there – striped garments zig and zag in different ways depending on the row repeat.
In the end, the sketch above was abandoned as I opted for step-by-step photographs. For an overview of the method, you may have a look at this segment of the Fruit Knitting podcast; coaxed and coached by the host, Andrea, I explain the steps and the virtues of Ziggurating.
Hallmarks of the Ziggurat Method
A tailored fit with set-in sleeves that is easily modified to
accommodate disobedient body parts.
The shoulders look almost sculpted, no?
Ziggurat is a true all-in-one-everything-built-in-as-you-go.
If you were knitting from a huge skein with yardage enough for the
whole sweater, you would have precisely 6 ends to weave in at the
- 1 at the top for the cast on
- 1 at the bottom hem after pulling the yarn through the final cast-off stitch
- 2 for each sleeve (1 at underarm pickup, 1 at cuff)
There are some exceptions for I realise that not all knitters are pigheadedly
adhering strictly to principles for principles’ sake.
There are several good reasons for leaving the collar until last, not
least that it’s nice to leave things open – you may while knitting
change your mind several times about what will look best. Moreover,
a collar added on last can easily be undone and reknitted.
That said, some Ziggurat designs begin with the collar.
I have nothing against sewing per se. I just like to keep sewing and
This is really in the interest of saving ends to weave in.
And also for the beauty of the challenge of sticking to principles.
And for the integrity of a treasured yarn – this is not just a silly idée fixe. No, for it leaves the yarn intact should you decide to frog (unravel) your sweater to start over.
There are no separate little pieces or schnipzels to join. You start at
the top, and then zig and zag in a rather clever (!) manner to the end,
creating a tailored look and fit along the way.
In my designs, you will find optional waist shaping, bust darts, a sneaky way of adding space for a prominent bootie, built-in pockets – or you can add your own details.
when it’s done it’s done
When done knitting, the garment is and looks finished, trims, button
bands, hems, cuffs. All of it. Well ok, except the collars on (most) pullovers – the collars on cardigans are, so far, built-in even when they’re a little pesky to get started.
And some very few ends to weave in. That’s it.
stripes & stitch patterns
One simply cannot have too many stripes. However, striped Ziggurats present an additional challenge.
For symmetry (intended asymmetry is good, unintended, well… often not so good) each version has to be worked out individually.The 6-row striped cardigan will have its turns in a different place than the 4-row pullover, and the 6-row pullover at a different place again.
The same holds for other stitch patterns. More on such later.
A word of warning: Ziggurating is a bit addictive. I will not be held responsible.
Ziggurat designs are adaptable and easy to modify, especially if you make use of the Helpful Table to guide you between sizes.
You may, for example, have narrower shoulders than normal for your standard size. Solution: cast on for a smaller size but follow increases and stitch counts for your usual size to accommodate bust and other measurements.
Try your sweater on as you go! The beauty of Ziggurating (and other top-down designs) is that you can get a good idea of the fit without sewing and before blocking and drying.
designers who wish to use the Ziggurat method
Please do! – with proper credit to Ziggurat method by Åsa Tricosa
(contact me if you wish permission to use also tutorial steps and/or graphics)
Designer Ann Kingstone features two sweaters using the Ziggurat method in her book, Lace Knits: Magical Methods for Openwork Knitting.
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