Whether browsing project pages, or watching podcasts where knitters show their finished sweaters, I have noticed the recurring problem of the floppy/ overly wide neckband. (And I call it a problem, only because the knitter themselves will usually complain about it; if you intentionally wish to make your neckline wider than intended in the pattern, obviously that is your choice and perfectly fine.)
I posted a shorter version of this in the Woollinn 2019 Make-Along group (which features my Inse pattern), but thought it might be useful to also write about it here.
The cause of this is so obvious and easily avoidable, that I wanted to share - especially now that so many folks are starting my Inse pullover pattern as part of the Woollinn 2019 Make-Along, which incorporates a K1,P2 ribbed neckband section into the top-down yoke. When a garment is constructed in this manner, it is especially important to get the neckband right, because re-doing it after the fact is not as simple as it would be with a neckband that’s picked up around the neckline and worked at the end.
So. How do you avoid the loose neckband problem?
Short answer: Work the neckband on smaller needles than the rest of the yoke. Even if the pattern does not state a different gauge for the neckband.
And here is why:
The majority of knitters work ribbing at a looser tension than they do stockinette. Therefore, if they use the same set of needles for both, their ribbing (once stretched flat) will have a looser gauge than their stockinette. Some patterns assume this, and simply tell you to go down ‘1 needle size’ or something to that effect, for the ribbed sections. Other patterns tell you to swatch separately for stockinette and ribbing, and determine what needle size you need to meet gauge for each.
But regardless of how the pattern phrases it, it has been my experience that a good portion of knitters gloss over such recommendations, and simply knit the entire sweater on the same set of needles. Which means that, unless they are in that minority of knitters who knit stockinette and ribbing with identical tensions, their ribbed sections (i.e. the neckband) will be too loose.
Of course the opposite problem is also possible. Say a pattern assumes you are like ‘most knitters,’ and tells you to go down a needle size when working the neckband. You diligently follow this advice, only to discover you’ve made the neckband too tight. This is because you are in fact not like most knitters, and knit your ribbing as tightly (or tighter) than you do stockinette.
This is why, the best course of action is, always to swatch separately for different stitch types. If your pattern features stockinette, garter, and ribbing, be sure to swatch for all of these to determine what needle size you need to use for each to meet gauge. It could be, you can do them all on the same set of needles. It could be, you need to use three different needle sizes. You will not know unless you swatch.
So, alas, dear reader, this entire post was apparently just to trick you into more tiresome swatching advice! But the truth of the matter is: If you want your garment to fit according to the measurements provided in the pattern, you need ensure that you meet gauge. And if the stitch pattern used for your neckband is different to that of the rest of the garment (i.e. ribbing, or picot), you need to swatch for it separately. .