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Norah’s Knits: Top-Down Knitting (or Never Say Never)

Over the years I’ve designed a lot of  sweaters with seams and I can still think of a slew of reasons to like pieced and seamed knitting, but that’s not where this discussion is heading. As I’ve mentioned previously, I started out preferring to knit in the round. The first few sweaters I ever designed were seamless, following Elizabeth Zimmerman’s bottom-up and percentage method.

There is a lot to like about bottom-up knitting.  I love that the piece gets smaller and smaller as you approach a project’s conclusion. I like that stitch and color patterns can be established before you start shaping into them,  and I tend to prefer the look of decreases over the look of increases in a yoke or raglan. Citing these reasons, I have steadfastly clung to bottom-up construction when designing circular seamless sweaters – UNTIL NOW.

Below, bottom-up seamless designs from previous volumes: BreenaCalciteZolfo, and Kindra.


I couldn’t help noticing the extreme popularity of top-down knitting on Ravelry. Designers have gone well beyond the basic top down patterns I remember from way back.  I guess I was a bit jealous, but I also didn’t want to compromise the look I was going for.  Finally, after letting the idea rumble around in the back of my head for a while, I started sketching ideas for shapes that I thought would be interesting candidates for top-down knitting.  As is usually the case when I do something new (to me) the ideas started flowing and I sketched more and more things to try.  The result is Norah Gaughan Vol 13, Top-Down.

Below, a few top-down seamless designs from volume 13: Merle, Gibson, Lowry .


I’ve got loads more to say about the different approaches I took and how much fun it was knitting the ones I knit myself and how my whole way of thinking has changed, but I’ll save some for another day…

Are you hooked on top-down yet?

Volume 13 is printed and shipping to stores (note that some stores request delivery of booklets earlier than others). The PDF is available to stores who can sell PDFs on their website.  You can also get the booklet PDF in LYSs through the Raverly In-Store program.  Ask you local retailer if they participate.

Oh, and if you haven’t seen the audio slide show yet…link.

24 thoughts on “Norah’s Knits: Top-Down Knitting (or Never Say Never)

  1. Very nice. I especially like Lowry. I haven’t tried any top down knitting but it’s on my list. I’ll look for the booklet when it arrives at my LYS.

  2. Up, down, or sideways, I love the sculptural details of your designs. When ever I see that type of detail I look to see if it is one of yours! Thank you for sharing them with us!.

  3. Personally I prefer top down, gives me a chance to put short rows exactly where I need to for a full bust whether the designer added this feature or not. Wish more knitting patters were like Annie Modesitt’s patterns for A,B,C & D cup women!.

  4. I love to knit top-down – much less sewing in the end. Absolutely love Merle – the stand up collar and cables are awesome. I’m going to have to knit this one soon!

  5. I have not tried top-down yet but I’m very excited to try the designs with the raglan that doubles as set in sleeves. Especially Merle, so incredibly beautiful!!!! Thanks so much for all 13 of your wonderful pattern books!!

  6. I’ve done top down raglan before and liked them. I have broad shoulders so raglan looks best but I’m intrigued about top down with set in sleeves. I read knitting patterns like some people read cookbooks.

    1. These raglans are little different (and more flattering) because they start with a point at the shoulder and don’t cut across the bust as much as a traditional raglan.

  7. Not only do I love this collection, but also the location!!!!! The de Cordova never looked better. 🙂

    And I can’t remember the name of the design, but I really like the pullover with the “twisted” high neckline and buttons in the back. Just super.

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