image of three knitted turtlenecks in cream, ribs and cable

Dear Knitter,

In her preface to EZ’s third book, Knitting Workshop, Barbara G. Walker wrote: 

“The first of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s writings that I ever read told me how to make a ribbed turtleneck: pick up a multiple of 4 stitches around the neck and work in knit-two purl-two ribbing until you are sick of it. When I finished laughing, I realized that Elizabeth is more than witty - she’s right.”

As I knitted a number of turtlenecks over the decades, through trial and error, I became aware of another truth: it is quite easy to fall into the trap of finishing a t-neck that will not fit over the wearer’s head. 

While neck neck itself is usually very elastic, it is the casting off that presents a tight and inelastic edge. If you cast off loosely enough, it is liable to be sloppy. And even EZ’s most stretchy Sewn Casting Off might be a bit snug.

I have knitted several versions in which I changed to a larger-sized needle in the middle of the neck (two images below). 

three turtenecks rib and cable

Sweater on left is knit from 2-ply Istex Plötulopi/Unspun Icelandic; Sweater on right is knit in Briggs & Little Regal Wool, both of which we stock.


three turtlenecks in cream with folded down necks

I find that I get “sick of” (k2, p2) much faster than this neck (image below) in which I included 1/1 cables every 4th round. Two of the turtlenecks in the images above have asymmetric ribs, and below is a close up of an increase snuck into the middle of each cable about 3 rounds from the top. 

The added diameter should allow you to use your favorite cast off method. I think I used “regular-old-cast-off” for all three of these... in knit, so purl would show when the neck is turned down.


close up of cabled turtleneck in cream

I’m sure you can think of many other a diagonal rib, or seed stitch instead of purl.

Just be sure to have your decorative stitch-pattern on the inside, so it will be revealed when the neck is turned down.

Knit On... Meg

P.S. Dear Knitter,  this is a Post Script to my most recent Blog #40.

 In a brief video, I described and showed the shallow shawl collar cardigan featured in our most recent Wool Gathering #109. I also provided photos and sources for a number of my mother’s other unique collars. However, as soon as Michelle hit send to post the Blog, several other of EZ's collar designs occurred to me: 

  Elizabeth’s stand-up collar on her very popular garter stitch Ribwarmer may be knitted in as you begin your way down the first front side, and is very handsome. 

  The other collar I remembered is the rather obscure, but quite ingenious double-sided open collar knitted from the top in stocking stitch, on a short-sleeved, pullover. The construction is described in the October Chapter of Elizabeth’s second book, Knitter’s Almanac, which begins on page 105. 

pointed collars on sweaters black and white image

  (Please keep in mind that this book was published in 1974, when Provisional cast on was called Invisible cast on, and e-wrap increasing was called M(ake) 1, and k1b meant Knit One Back instead of Knit One Below…etc.)

  I was still in high school, and remember the birth of this design. EZ’s first version was a polo-shirt for me; I chose turquoise. It had a relatively straight forward, single-layer open garter stitch collar. However, the open neck required considerable knit-over-and-purl-back. Not my mother’s fave. She ruminated for several weeks trying to figure out how she could achieve that open-collar design in the round, and eliminate the necessity to purl. When she eventually came up with the solution, she excitedly described it to my father…

  He said, They will sue you. She said, Why? He said, They will be bald. She said, WHAT? He said, They will tear out their hair

  But - she had solved the dilemma and knitted the second version in Acorn Shetland Jumperweight wool. The instructions are unique and fairly complex, but follow EZ’s prose...