Birdseed: A Free Pattern and My First Full Grade

We added multiple bird feeders to our yard this past year, and watching the birds eat and play at the feeders brought me some joy during what was an otherwise cold, depressing winter. As Covid deaths were mounting, I turned to creativity for a small amount of comfort.

Jamie is wearing a gray Birdseed sweater that features lots of seed stitch and gazing out the window.

About the Pattern

A seed stitch yoke has always held great appeal to me, and it’s an idea that I’ve wanted to explore for some time. With Birdseed, the yoke fades uniquely from seed stitch to stockinette, and with a loose gauge the body knits up quickly. The long sleeves subtly balloon out at the wrists, but a short sleeve option (pictured below) is provided. All techniques in the pattern include video tutorials, which can be found here.

Closeup of a gray hand knit sweater with a seed stitch yoke

Birdseed is available in 19 adult sizes, ranging from a finished circumference of 28.75 – 64 inches / 72 – 160 centimeters. More detailed pattern info can be viewed at any of my shops below. ¡También está disponible en español!

DOWNLOAD FOR FREE IN MY WEB SHOP, ON RAVELRY OR ON PAYHIP.

Closeup of the arms of a gray hand knit sweater. The arm are both bent upwards with the hands almost together. Seed stitch at the shoulder and cuffs can be seen.

The gray sample above uses Oysters and Purls Alpaca/Corriedale DK (non Superwash) in the colorway Air. The sample below uses Serendipitous Wool Agni DK (baby alpaca, merino and silk non Superwash) in the colorway Lacewing. Both are divine! Please note that I worked a mod for the short sleeved version by knitting the body 1 inch shorter, and I made the hem 4 inches long. I’m soooo ready for spring. Can you tell?

Side view of Jamie wearing a minty green hand knit sweater with short sleeves and seed stitch at the yoke, hem and cuff.

My First Full Pattern Grade

I’m both ashamed and proud to announce that Birdseed is the very first full pattern grade that I completed by myself. It’s a bit embarrassing that it took me this long to gain the confidence to grade a pullover pattern all on my own, but doing it for Birdseed helped me to push through my fears, tackle the math and feel confident in grading all of my patterns here on out.

Prior to Birdseed, I subbed out most of the grading of my sweater patterns to my technical editor, Sarah Walworth. I struggled to feel confident grading a pattern to fit a body size other than my own (or other than my daughter’s), but through each design that Sarah graded, I learned more and more about how to do it properly. Many thanks to Sarah for giving me the nudge I needed to grade on my own!

The number one concept to keep in mind is that each design needs to be examined differently and thoughtfully when grading for a wide range of body sizes, and in each instance we must be willing to improve our process. This concept is in line with my “knit-osophy” that there is always more to learn and improve upon in the knitting industry, and in line with my general philosophy that we as human beings ought to be works in progress until the day we die. There is no point that we should reach where we decide we are finished learning and growing because continuously achieving a greater understanding of the world around us helps us to feel compassion, which in turn leads to the improvement of everyone’s lives. (I believe this philosophy applies to government as well, but that’s another story.)

The bust measurement forms the foundation of grading for each design. When designing Birdseed, I decided to keep the repeats of the yoke small to make it easier on myself. The greatest repeat of the Birdseed yoke is 8 stitches, which is quite short, even for a DK weight sweater. I also decided to give this pattern very little ease, which made the grade less complicated. I already have decent experience working in Excel, and after loading all of the numbers into a spreadsheet I realized that I could grade the pattern to fit the 19-size chart that my editor had shared with me. I prefer to load the size standards into the spreadsheet as well so that I can constantly compare the measurements following each increase or decrease throughout the pattern and maintain the appropriate ease. Birdseed features a chart that ends a good bit before the sleeve separation, which is useful for adding increases after the chart in order to get the final measurement just right. As with all sweater patterns, the yoke chart needs to end at roughly the same location for all sizes in order for the style to look consistent. How many yokes have you seen where the colorwork ended in the lower bust region for smaller sizes while ending in the upper bust region for larger sizes? This is something I try to avoid.

Yet, after constantly comparing ease throughout the grading process, I screwed up. I had decided to keep the increases of the ballooning of the lower sleeves the same for all sizes because I envisioned that this is how it needed to be in order for the style to look the same. However, one of my testers pointed out that the upper wrist ease was far greater for the latter third of the size range than it was for the rest. I was comparing ease within the sleeve itself rather than the ease of the actual fit at the top of the wrist, so the ballooning was much too big for the upper sizes. I saw the error of ways, and that is now corrected!

I hope that I get better at grading and make fewer mistakes for my testers to uncover, but just like my tech editor, I am committed to learning more. If you are a designer who is interested in learning how to grade, I am happy to answer a few simple questions. You can also visit Sarah Walworth’s site, where you can sign up for grading courses or take advantage of her free resources.

Closeup of a gray hand knit sweater with seed stitch in the yoke.

Why did I make this pattern free?

I’ve always wanted to eventually offer several free but quality patterns to my shops because I think it’s important for financial accessibility. Patterns do not typically cost much, but when you throw the cost of yarn and other materials into the mix, a free pattern can go a long way. However, while I absolutely did inform my testers that I wanted to give back to the community by releasing Birdseed for free, I totally understand that this free pattern will likely increase my sales of other patterns by bringing attention to my brand. So while I do want to gift Birdseed to the community, I recognize that a free pattern is also a marketing tool. Lastly, since this pattern is my first full grade, and because the techniques are well suited for beginners, it was a good fit for the free price point.

Tester Roundup

Below are some of the testers’ photos. All and more can be viewed on Ravelry!

I hope you enjoy the pattern! Please stay safe and wear a mask.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Edna says:

    Congratulations Jamie! Well done. I know there are a lot of happy knitters today who are downloading your free Birdseed pattern.

    It’s a beautiful design and I can’t wait to knit a long sleeved version! I’m always delighted to be among your test knitters. Thank you for your confidence in me.

    1. Thank you, Edna, for using your time to help test Birdseed. I’m so grateful to you!

  2. LaineeMakes says:

    Thank you so much for this generous gift, I appreciate your commitment to supporting crafters through providing more financial accessibility. It’s also welcome for a returning knitter to access modern patterns as well as learning more about the process of designing and grading. Thank you once again.

    1. You’re welcome! 💖

  3. Shelah says:

    This is just beautiful. The seed stitch is simple yet lovely. I like both the long and short sleeves. Will definitely be considering this for my first sweater project!

    1. Thank you so much! The simplicity makes it so wearable for me. I love it, too. 💖

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